WWE’s 10 Most Fascinating People of 2019: Becky Lynch, CM Punk, and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So I think I’m just going to claim this “Most Fascinating People” thing as my own. Barbara Walters doesn’t do it anymore. And I’ve been doing it on WWE personalities for years now…

Speaking of which, we’ve got some repeaters this year, as we always do. One of which I never thought we’d see again. (You’ll know him when you see him.) I’m sure a lot of them are obvious choices when you think about it. But I’d say two or three of them aren’t.

So once again, let’s get fascinating!

No? Not a good catch phrase? Just trying it on…

1. CM Punk
So yeah, this is happening.

After years of bad blood between Punk and WWE, including a lawsuit filed by WWE doctor Christopher Amann (Punk won), the old adage of “Everyone comes back eventually” was once again proven true. Well, kinda…

After weeks of speculation, on November 21 Punk did indeed become a part of WWE Backstage on FS1, serving as a frequent guest analyst. However, Punk’s deal is with Fox, not WWE. Ergo, he finds himself in the unique position of being able to critique the product as he sees fit, with seemingly no repercussions from the company. He’s already managed to stir things up with Seth Rollins. There’s no telling whose feathers he may ruffle next. Which is, of course, the point of bringing him on in the first place.

Naturally, this opened the floodgates for fans to make assumptions about an in-ring return. Truth be told, there is an aura of inevitability about it. It’s all guesswork as to when it could or would happen, but a Wrestlemania seems like an obvious choice. I wouldn’t expect “clobberin’ time” to come in 2020, though.

Punk is in a position to do things on his terms. That’s not a dynamic WWE is used to in 2019. But if there’s one person who’s been able to make this company squirm in recent years, it’s CM Punk. Seeing him do it again, even if it’s only in a storyline, would make for interesting TV.

This is CM Punk’s third appearance on the list, having been on it in 2012 and 2013.

2. Dean Ambrose
Before Jon Moxley became one of AEW’s hottest acquisitions, Dean Ambrose had perhaps the most amicable departure in WWE history.

In January, WWE put out a press release announcing that the real-life Jonathan Good would not be renewing his contract when it expired in April. The release continued: “We are grateful and appreciative of all that Dean has given to WWE and our fans. We wish him well and hope that one day Dean will return to WWE.”

This was, in many ways, unprecedented. WWE barely, if ever, calls attention to one of their top guys leaving the company. But there it was, right out in the limelight. Ambrose reportedly turned down a significant offer from WWE, citing all the “hokey” material he’d been given as of late. If you go back and watch some of what he was doing at that time, it’s not hard to see what he means…

The announcers usually danced around it on Raw. But most fans knew it was happening. To the further surprise of many, Ambrose wasn’t buried or jobbed out during his remaining months with the company. Yes, he was left off the Wrestlemania card. But he was also given a proper send-off via one more Shield reunion with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. WWE even made a network special out of his last night, calling it The Shield’s Final Chapter.

When you get right down to it, that’s got to be why they were so nice to Ambrose on his way out. Despite being open about his frustrations with the WWE creative process (including a scathing appearance on Talk is Jericho), the Shield has become one of their most bankable commodities of the last decade. They want to keep that door wide open for Ambrose to come back someday However, as Moxley has signed a multi-year deal with AEW, don’t expect that to happen any time soon.

This is Dean Ambrose’s second appearance on the list. He appeared on it last year.

3. Shayna Baszler
This year, Shayna Baszler became one of the key components in elevating NXT to cable television, and thus the same level as Raw and Smackdown. But before that happened, she dominated the entire NXT Women’s Roster. With the exception of a brief hiccup last year, Baszler has been the most dominant NXT Women’s Champion since Asuka.

We recently heard her run down the list of names herself. But this year alone she beat back Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, Mia Yim, and Candice LeRae. But her true crowning moment came at Survivor Series, when she defeated Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley in a Triple-Threat Match. And although she just recently lost her NXT Title to Rhea Ripley, Baszler has a legit claim to being the top female wrestler in all of WWE.

Furthermore, there’s no shortage of bad blood between Baszler and Lynch. While it may trace back to Lynch toppling her friend Ronda Rousey at Wrestlemania, Baszler has been adamant that she’s not Rousey. She has her own legacy to create. My guess? That legacy continues with a victory in the 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble Match, and a title match against Lynch at Wrestlemania this spring.

4. Baron Corbin
Simply the name “Baron Corbin” is enough to make some people’s skin crawl. People hate this guy. Some fans think he’s boring. Others say he can’t wrestle. While some just see him as the smug prick he’s trying to come off as.

Either way, he may very well be one of the only true heels in all of wrestling. In an era where everybody wants to be a cool heel, a la Bray Wyatt or Adam Cole, Corbin isn’t afraid to draw legit heat from a crowd. And one of the oldest rules in the book is that if you can get people to hate you, they’ll pay to see you get beat up. That’s why they had him beat Kurt Angle in his final match. That’s why they had him win the King of the Ring. That’s why he’s feuded with the likes of Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns this year. They see him as a commodity. Or at least a commodity in the making.

Granted, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Corbin in 2019. The program with Rollins didn’t exactly leave us wanting more. Quite the opposite, in fact. And older fans have balked at some of the more childish antics he’s employed against Reigns. But mark my words, folks: At this rate, Corbin will be a Heavyweight Champion down the road. Possibly even this year.

5. Rey Mysterio
It’s no coincidence that Rey has been featured much more prominently since Paul Heyman became Raw‘s executive director. He brought Rey into ECW in the mid ’90s. Years later, when Heyman was writing Smackdown, he gave Rey a key role. So this is clearly a winning combination, and it was no different in 2019.

Rey obviously wants to set up some kind of “passing the torch” moment with his son Dominic, who is currently in training at the Performance Center. Father and son would share a sentimental moment backstage, when Dominic convinced Rey not to retire after a disheartening losing streak.

But there was nothing sentimental about the beating they’d both take from Brock Lesnar. After a brief detour involving Cain Velasquez, we got the obvious match: Brock vs. Rey for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series. Like so many before him, Rey failed to defeat Lesnar. But regardless, Rey Mysterio was once again in a marquee match at a major WWE pay per view. And to his credit, he did some damn good mic work along the way. The promo where he’s looking into the camera and has the pipe in his hand was simply awesome.

6. Rhea Ripley
Ripley has created her share of headlines. She was part of the infamous Mae Young Classic match where Tegan Nox’s knee exploded, and then famously mocked her on Twitter. She would go on to become the inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion, and ultimately stay tucked away on that show for more than half the year.

Then in August, she made a surprise return to Full Sail, confronting then-NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler. It was a moment that created instant buzz and speculation about Ripley challenging, and possibly becoming the one to finally dethrone Baszler.

In November, Ripley would lead her team to victory in the first-ever women’s War Games Match, defeating a team led by Baszler. Ripley would close out the year by doing what many expected, and defeating Baszler for the NXT Women’s Title on December 18.

Over the years, a select few have not only held that title, but in essence become the face of the NXT Women’s Division. Bayley played that role, as did Asuka. And for about two years now, Baszler has been the face of the division. Now, Rhea Ripley has an opportunity to make her mark on the ever-growing legacy of the NXT Women’s Title. I’ve got a feeling she won’t disappoint.

7. Bray Wyatt
This could have gone really, really wrong. Thankfully, it all worked out. Mostly…

C’mon, this is WWE we’re talking about. They could easily have fumbled the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde persona Bray took on when he finally returned to television with his “Firefly Funhouse” segments. Wyatt would take on a Mr. Rogers-like demeanor, complete with a red sweater and puppets. But there were obvious sinister overtones, which would lead to the debut of Bray’s new alter ego, “the Fiend.” Sporting a mask designed by famed horror and special effects guru Tom Savini, the character quickly became a hit, despite still playing a heel. After years of repetitive promos, and being virtually booked into oblivion, Bray Wyatt was experiencing a full fledged career resurrection.

WWE’s first major misstep with the character came when they rushed him into a title match with then-Universal Champion Seth Rollins. A Hell in a Cell Match, no less. To make matters worse, the match inexplicably ended via ref stoppage, resulting in a massive uproar among fans. WWE attempted to correct the misstep by putting the title on the Fiend at Crown Jewel. But the match would leave a stink on both Rollins and Wyatt for weeks.

Bray continues to reign as Universal Champion, as both he and the title have been moved to Smackdown. He’s once again embroiled in a feud with Daniel Bryan, which fans seem to be into. I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll come face to face with a certain Big Dog come Wrestlemania season. But in any event, Bray Wyatt has become what so many of us knew that he, with this character, could be: A top guy. He’s the Heavyweight Champion on a show that airs weekly on Fox. Now that’s a comeback story.

8. Kofi Kingston
Kofi had a comeback story of his own in 2019. One that, ultimately, would end in disaster.

Kofi Kingston was not supposed to be challenging for the WWE Title at Wrestlemania. My guess is he and the New Day would have been involved in some sort of multi-team tag match on the undercard. But fate stepped in when Mustafa Ali was injured in February, and Kofi replaced him in the Elimination Chamber Match for the WWE Championship. The fans fell in love with him all over again as he came within an eyelash of finally winning the big one after 11 years in WWE. He became an instant underdog sensation, as “KofiMania” was born. To WWE’s credit, they altered their storyline plans, and at Wrestlemania 35 in New Jersey, Kofi would steal the show with WWE Champion Daniel Bryan. The match culminated in an emotional victory celebration in the ring.

Kofi would keep the championship longer than many anticipated, retaining it against the likes of Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, Dolph Ziggler, and even his old rival Randy Orton.

Then, along came Brock Lesnar. On October 4, in the main event of Smackdown’s debut broadcast on Fox, Lesnar would squash Kingston in less than 10 seconds to win the title. He hasn’t even sniffed a Heavyweight Title since then, having returned to tag team competition.

It’s debatable whether Kingston could  have played that top guy role longer. In the end, the real injustice here is that he’s seemingly been swept under the rug. Could Kofimania rise again? Perhaps. But it doesn’t seem likely, does it?

9. Seth Rollins
This was supposed to be Seth Rollins’ year. And in a lot of ways, it was. He won the Royal Rumble, and went on to defeat Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at Wrestlemania. Shockingly, he’d beat Lesnar a second time at Summerslam. As if that weren’t enough, he got engaged to Becky Lynch, and the two would become an item both on and off screen.

But oh, the power of social media. Of all things, it was a series of ill-conceived tweets that started to turn the fans against Rollins. Throw in a post-Wrestlemania feud with Baron Corbin that went far too long, and the finish to his Hell in a Cell Match with Bray Wyatt, and he was dead in the water as a babyface. What’s more, I don’t think the pairing with Lynch did either of them any favors. The closest thing I can think to equate it to would be when they put The Undertaker’s wife Sara with him on television. It just wasn’t a side of him that people wanted to see. Ditto for both Rollins and Lynch here.

WWE would, once again, do the right thing by changing their plans and turning Rollins heel. Now aligned with AOP, he finds himself jockeying for the top heel spot on Raw against AJ Styles, and ironically enough, WWE Champion Brock Lesnar.

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

This is Seth Rollins’ second time on the list, having made it in 2015.

6. Becky Lynch
As far as I’m concerned, Becky Lynch was the face of WWE in 2019. And there isn’t even a close second.

Lynch rode a wave of momentum into the Royal Rumble, where she would tap out to Asuka, but then win the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. After an injury forced her to miss out on her chance to wrestle Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, fans desperately wanted to see those two collide. To their credit, both ladies made it feel like there was legit bad blood between the two. It was a match worthy of the Wrestlemania main event. To the dismay of many, Charlotte Flair was added to the match, and it became a three-way for both the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships. Becky would pin Ronda (albeit clumsily) to win both titles, victorious in the first women’s match to headline a Wrestlemania.

In the months that followed, we learned just how much a great hero needs a great villain. With Ronda gone, and the Charlotte feud played out, Lynch was put with Lacey Evans. With respect to Lacey, the matches were about as thrilling as they sound. Thankfully, the freshly heel-turned Sasha Banks would come to Becky’s rescue. Their program would culminate in an excellent Hell in a Cell match in October.

At Survivor Series, Becky wrestled Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley and NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler in a Triple-Threat Match. During the build-up, we saw some really nice tension between Lynch and Baszler that was reminiscent of what Lynch had with Rousey. Baszler was adamant that she is not Ronda Rousey, and I suspect she’ll be in a position to prove that to Becky in the near future. But for now, Baszler is licking her wounds after losing her title to Rhea Rhipley, and Becky wants to avenge her loss to Asuka at last year’s Royal Rumble.

Becky was always extremely likable. A natural babyface. Ironically, it was when they tried to turn her heel last year that the fans truly rallied behind her. Becky got angry, and they got angry with her. From a storytelling perspective, there were a lot of comparisons to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s rise to the top. That’s not entirely unjustified. But I think the similarities are superficial at best. I think one of the reasons fans got behind Becky so much is because she showed us something most modern babyfaces don’t: Legitimate passion and fire. So many wrestlers are struggling to memorize lines, and make the schlock written for them into passable television. All Lynch really had to do was go out there and be herself.

In the end, I think that’s something almost everyone has to do if they want to get over to any large extent. You show people who you are, albeit with the volume turned up and certain things exaggerated, and either they like you or they don’t. It’s not nearly as complicated as it seems, or as WWE makes it.

That’s something to keep in mind as we head into 2020…

This is Becky Lynch’s second time on the list. She was on it last year as well.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

WWE Survivor Series Predictions: A Massive Mess in the Making?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This show could be, in large part, an absolute mess. Triple-Threat tag team matches are a jumble already. How the hell they’re going to use that concept with a Survivor Series Match is beyond me. That’s 15 wrestlers to keep track of. And how does it even work? Do you have two in the ring at once? Three? I just don’t have a good feeling about this. Looping NXT into the normal Raw vs. Smackdown dynamic is a good idea, given the show’s move to USA Network. I just hope that if they do this again next year, they don’t make the entire damn show into three-way matches.

As NXT is the new kid in town in terms of national television, I expect them to come out of this show looking strong. I don’t expect them to sweep the show, but I think they’re the show that will get the most wins.

NXT also has a built-in excuse if they don’t win. Something I’ll call the “War Games Factor.” NXT Takeover: War Games is tonight, and they’ve got all these high-stakes matches at Survivor Series less than 24 hours later. I assume that’s why we don’t know who’ll represent the show in the two respective Survivor Series matches.

Still, the show isn’t without bright spots. Particularly when it comes to the main event. So let’s go ahead and dive in…

NXT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:
Adam Cole (c) vs. ?

At War Games, it’ll be Pete Dunne vs. Killian Dane vs. Damian Priest to decide who gets to challenge Cole. Another Triple-Threat Match. Because that’s what this weekend needed.

I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be Pete Dunne challenging Cole here. Of the three guys in that match, he’s the babyface. Cole vs. Dunne would also make for the best match. But either way, Cole has been on a roll as of late with that NXT Title. War Games or not, he’s not losing it here.

PREDICTION: Adam Cole

TRIPLE-THREAT TAG TEAM MATCH:
The Viking Raiders vs. The New Day vs. The Undisputed ERA

I’m well aware I’m not the first person to talk about this, but man oh man, they’ve just dropped Kofi’s push, haven’t they? It’s only been a month and change since he was utterly humiliated by Brock Lesnar on Smackdown‘s big Fox debut. And in response, he’s done nothing. It’s basically back to business as usual with the New Day. If you’d been out of the loop for awhile, you’d never known the whole “Kofimania” thing ever happened. What’s worse, now that Brock is on Raw, a continuation of any Brock/Kofi storyline seems pretty unlikely.

I’m going to go with the Viking Raiders on this one. Though apparently I want them to be the big dominant wrecking crew of the tag team division more than WWE does. But a big win like this would do them good. Plus, it’s logical. The War Games factor cancels out Fish and O’Reilly. And honestly, what else do the New Day have to gain at this point? Let Erik and Ivar have this one.

PREDICTION: The Viking Raiders

TRIPLE-THREAT SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Charlotte Flair, Natalya,the Kabuki Warriors, & Sarah Logan

vs.
Sasha Banks, Carmella, Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans, & Dana Brooke
vs.
Team NXT

Based on how the Raw and Smackdown teams stack up against each other, it’s seems obvious Charlotte’s team has the edge. It’s hard to bet against her, the Kabuki Warriors, and Natalya. The only weak link would seem to be Sarah Logan. But we haven’t seen her on a regular basis in so long that even that’s hard to tell. Frankly,the presence of not just Logan, but Dana Brooke, is an indication of how much recent injuries have effected the depth of the women’s division on both shows. Consider who’s out right now: Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Ruby Riott…is Liv Morgan injured? Where the hell has she been?

Either way, keeping in mind the War Games factor, I’m going with Team Raw.

PREDICTION: Team Raw

TRIPLE-THREAT SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre & Richochet
vs.
Roman Reigns, Baron Corbin, Braun Strowman, Mustafa Ali, & Shorty G
vs. Team NXT

So he’s back to being Mustafa Ali now, I guess? Well, if Ali can get his first name back, can Shorty G go back to being Chad Gable? Please? Pretty please….?

I’ve got a gut feeling about Team NXT on this one, despite not knowing who’ll be on it. Looking at the War Games card, it wouldn’t shock me to see Matt Riddle out there, as he’s not in the cage anymore. Finn Balor is a possibility, though less likely given his “NXT has gone down the toilet” attitude. We might also look for the two men who aren’t challenging for the NXT Title. Given who I’ve predicted, that would leave us with Killian Dane and Damian Priest. Say, how’s Velveteen Dream feeling these days…?

All else fails, I suppose they could just throw Triple H in there. They did that a couple years ago.

PREDICTION: Team NXT

AJ Styles vs. Roderick Strong vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Now we’re talking, ladies and gentlemen. Given enough time and freedom, these three could easily steal the show. It might even help erase some of the bad memories from the Styles vs. Nakamura feud.

They could easily give this one to Styles or Strong. But I’m picking Nakamura, for no other reason than Smackdown needs a win on this show. It’s been a year, and I still can’t believe they got swept by Raw last year, and that there was no follow-up whatsoever. Plus, it’s a nice notch under Nakamura’s belt, especially as the Intercontinental Champion.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Daniel Bryan

This struck me as more or less a throw-together match to give Bray someone to wrestle. Not the worst choice, though. These two have some meaty history WWE can dip into if they want to get creative…which knowing these people, means we won’t hear about it at all.

The Fiend wins here. Because he must. Hopefully we get an interesting match, though. My only request? And I ain’t the only one saying it: No more red light. We didn’t need it at Summerslam. We don’t need it now.

Oddly enough, originally it was apparently it was originally supposed to be Miz challenging Bray, but the wrestlers getting stuck in Saudi Arabia after Crown Jewel meant they couldn’t shoot the appropriate angle. Could have worked, I suppose. But I think the general consensus is we’re better off with Bryan.

PREDICTION: Bray Wyatt

Becky Lynch vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Bayley

Becky had a great line Wednesday about Bayley’s “old lady haircut.” For the record, I think it’s more of a soccer mom haircut. I think she went to the same stylist AJ Styles goes to.

Sadly, Bayley’s job in this match is to take the fall, most likely via tap-out. Becky vs. Shayna is a money match. Possibly even for Wrestlemania. So we get a little appetizer here before they eventually go one-on-one.

I say give Shayna the victory here. That way, there’s no doubt that she’s on the same level as the Raw and Smackdown champions. She can even start calling herself the “champion of champions,” or something like that, just to stick it to Becky.

This could, and should, be a career-defining moment for Shayna Baszler. Let’s see it!

NO HOLDS BARRED MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Rey Mysterio

I like this main event. Quite a bit, actually.

It doesn’t even need the title, really. The personal issue between Brock and Rey is enough. Brock beat up Rey’s son. Rey is here to avenge him. Simple. Easy to understand and relate to.

And that’s before you get into the size difference between the two. Rey proved he can knock Lesnar down to size when he’s got an equalizer in his hand. So this no-holds-barred stip is to his advantage, at least in theory. But then again, this is Brock Lesnar we’re talking about. The last thing you want to give him is more ways to maim you…

It’s no secret: Brock has better matches with smaller guys. AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Finn Balor, etc. Between that, and the tension between these two men, this could wind up being really good. Still, I think Brock wins in the end. That doesn’t mean Rey can’t get a rematch as soon as next month’s TLC pay per view. But Survivor Series belongs to Brock.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

WWE Draft 2019 – Fox vs. USA Network…vs. TNT?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As we all know, WWE is holding a draft on Smackdown tomorrow night, for which I suspect the sole purpose is to beef up the star power on Team Blue. That network TV spotlight demands marquee talent, which I have no doubt WWE will provide.

I like the Fox vs. USA Network angle they’ve taken with this. While it’s obviously just hype, it makes the whole thing feel a little more real. This, as opposed to all the Raw vs. Smackdown “brand supremacy” talk we usually get.

Conspicuous by its absence among all the draft talk is NXT. That’s odd, considering there’s an actual battle for viewers happening between NXT on USA and All Elite Wrestling on TNT. Even if they’re not official draft picks, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few main roster names pop up on Wednesday nights. I think NXT has a sufficient amount of star power. But if nothing else, a few moves would beef up the roster.

Presented below are my mock draft picks. Seven for each show. Some are rather obvious, and some aren’t. But let’s start with the most obvious one of all…

Brock Lesnar to Smackdown.
Brock is, of course, the new WWE Champion. If WWE really wants to draw eyes to Smackdown, they need their biggest marquee player on that show. Even on a part-time schedule, Brock Lesnar brings a lot of value to Smackdown. Even if they only have him wrestle on television a few times a year.

So who do you match Brock up with under the spotlight of network television? Cringeworthy as it seems, Roman Reigns is an obvious choice. There’s also a redemption story they can tell with Kofi Kingston. I’ve got a couple other ideas you’ll hear about as we move forward…

Shayna Baszler to Raw.
One thing I don’t see changing any time soon is Becky Lynch’s status as one of Raw‘s top stars. But since Wrestlemania, she’s been lacking strong villains to face. She found one in Sasha Banks. She can find another one in the ultra-dominant Shayna Baszler. Especially if they have even half the chemistry Becky had with Shayna’s pal Ronda Rousey.

There’s an obvious conflict here: Baszler is the NXT Women’s Champion. There are two ways they can handle that. She can compete on Raw with the belt, much like Kevin Owens did with the NXT Heavyweight Title. Hell, if they want to jump right into things, they can have her face Becky in a Raw vs. NXT match at Survivor Series. On the other hand, they can go the Asuka route, and have her surrender the championship unbeaten.

Dolph Ziggler to NXT.
Over the last few years, it’s been Dolph’s job to help NXT talents transition to either Raw or Smackdown. Baron Corbin, Shinsuke Nakamura, Drew McIntyre, and even his current tag partner Bobby Roode all started with Dolph in some form. It makes sense, as he can have a damn good match with practically anyone. But now that we’ve entered the “Wednesday Night Wars” era, it may be advantageous to have some of those matches on the black and gold brand. Ziggler vs. Johnny Gargano? Adam Cole? Matt Riddle? My interest is piqued. 

Sasha Banks to Smackdown.
Banks is undeniably one of the big trailblazers in the so-called “women’s evolution.” Thus, in introducing the product to a new audience, it’s to WWE’s advantage to move her front and center. It opens her up for feuds with her fellow NXT “Horsewomen” Charlotte Flair and Bayley, as well as less established names like Ember Moon, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose.

Asuka and Kairi Sane to Raw.
I don’t mind the Kabuki Warriors tag team as much as some people do. But it’s no secret that Asuka has been largely lost in the shuffle on Smackdown. And as she holds a tap-out victory over Becky Lynch, that’d be an easy  pairing. Not to mention a quality one. Also, main roster fans barely know Kairi Sane at all. So this could be a nice fresh start for her.

EC3 to NXT.
If you wanted to rank the various NXT personalities that have been wasted since their main roster call-ups, EC3 is near the top of that list. He never even got past the starting gate on Raw. So let him go back to NXT, get some actual TV time, then maybe consider moving him to Raw or Smackdown next year. Maybe.

The Revival to Smackdown.
Smackdown Tag Titles aside, the Revival’s alliance with Randy Orton has come off surprisingly natural. I’d opt to keep them together. Plus, on Raw Dash and Dawson essentially play the same roles as Gallows and Anderson: The no thrills, no BS bruiser team. Let them go to Smackdown and be the new centerpiece of the show’s tag team division.

Daniel Bryan to Raw.
I don’t know that Bryan necessarily needs to jump to Raw. It’s more a case of Raw needing him, what with so much marquee talent jumping to Smackdown. And whether he’s a heel or a babyface, it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of seeing Bryan against the likes of Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Ricochet, and even Braun Strowman.

Natalya to NXT.
No matter what show Nattie goes to, she essentially always fills the same role. She’s the resident veteran. The “elder statesman,” even. She’s worked with just about everyone there is to work with on the main roster. She’s not likely to meet a lot of new dance partners, until they get called up from NXT.

So instead of waiting for the likes of Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, and Bianca Belair to come to her, why not go to them? As the AEW women’s division continues to take shape over on TNT, Natalya can be a valuable asset, not to mention a mentor, to the ladies of NXT.

Rey Mysterio to Smackdown.
Cain Velasquez notwithstanding, Brock Lesnar brutalized Rey Mysterio’s son on national television, and made him watch. There’s no way Rey can let that go unanswered. So as Smackdown ascends to it’s largest stage yet, I say
give us the ultimate David vs. Goliath match, as Rey challenges Brock for the WWE Championship. Want to add more fuel to the fire? Put Rey’s career on the line. That’s a Wrestlemania-caliber match right there.

Shinsuke Nakamura to Raw.
This move not only gets Nakamura on the same show as his new mouthpiece Sami Zayn, it gives him a new sandbox to play in. Nakamura has been on Smackdown since he was called up in 2017. Since we’re using Zayn to freshen up his presentation, let’s keep that trend going by giving the “Artist” a new canvas to work on.

Yes, Nakamura is the Intercontinental Champion. But that’s an easy thing to work around. Either have him take the IC Title to Raw and switch the US Title to someone on Smackdown, or have Nakamura drop the title while he’s still on Team Blue. Ali is an obvious candidate.

Apollo Crews to NXT.
Either they had no clue what they were doing with Apollo when they called him up several years back, or he simply wasn’t ready for the main roster, or both. Either way, they’ve tried various times to push this guy, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. The most success he found was in a tag team with Titus O’Neil. He recently went back to NXT for one night to wrestle Kushida. I say we send him back there full time, and see if we can find him a personality. Winning smile aside, I think it’s time for a good ol’ fashioned heel turn.

The Miz to Smackdown.
Miz is one of those guys that’s been there so long, there’s a spot for him no matter what show he wrestles on. But given how savvy he is with media appearances and what not, I figure WWE wants him on Fox. At least for a little while. 

But make no mistake about it, Miz needs another facelift. Something akin to Maryse joining him a few years ago. And if the rumors are true, he might just find one alongside an old friend… (Keep reading for more.)

Aleister Black to Raw.
It’s fitting that Aleister Black’s entrance makes him appear to rise from the dead, as he’s basically been a ghost these last several weeks. He’s done some great work since being called up, most notably an awesome match with Cesaro at Extreme Rules. But I get the sense they’re struggling with him creatively. So let’s get him over to Raw, where that extra hour of TV time will allow him more opportunities to be on television. I get the sense he’ll do better on a Paul Heyman-directed show.

The Ascension to NXT.
Honestly? What do Konnor and Victor have to lose at this point? It’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t simply cannon fodder for new teams on the main roster. But at one point, they were the most dominant tag team in NXT. Then they got called up and buried for…what? Getting too much heat? I never understood that. Either way, let them return to where they once thrived and see if they can get their mojo back. Like Tyler Breeze, their presence can harken back to the show’s early days, and educate fans about its history.

John Morrison to Smackdown.
Here’s one out of left field. Apparently John Morrison, a.k.a. Johnny Mundo, a.k.a. Johnny Impact, among other names I’m probably missing, has once again signed with WWE. And who can offer an easy bridge back in for him? His old tag team partner the Miz. I say we re-unite Miz and Morrison, if only for a little while, and let them challenge for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Miz can help reintroduce the WWE audience to Morrison, as he wows fans with his unique in-ring style.

Elias to Raw.
Elias has a higher ceiling than a lot of us realize. Going to Smackdown was essentially a lateral move for him. But I don’t like that he’s been playing Shane McMahon’s lackey lately. His in-ring guitar segments are better suited Raw‘s three-hour format anyway. And by the way? Let him go babyface again. They cut that too short for my taste. 

Dana Brooke to NXT.
I’ve been calling for this move for years. Dana Brooke was called up way too soon, and that was in 2016. Since losing her role as Charlotte Flair’s sidekick, she’s been mostly lost in the mix. But there is something there with her. She’s got a great look, she can work the mic, and she’s improved in the ring. But, and note this is a recurring theme amongst NXT draft picks, she desperately needs a clean slate to re-establish herself, and gain some credibility. She’s not going to draw any viewers away from AEW. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be a viable player on the show. 

Cesaro to Smackdown.
If it’s true that Fox wants more of an athletic, sports-like presentation for Smackdown, you’re not going to find a better fit than Cesaro. It goes without saying that he’s one of the best pure athletes in the entire industry. If he has a few more classic matches with big name stars, he may finally be in a position to be a big name himself.

Buddy Murphy to Raw.
After toiling in obscurity for awhile, Buddy Murphy has finally started to establish himself on Smackdown. He’s had awesome matches with the likes of Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, and Ali. But with this move to Fox, he’s going to be fighting for TV time with much bigger stars. Like Aleister Black, a move to Raw would mean a better chance of getting screen time.

Plus, Murphy got a plethora of intriguing opponents to work with on Monday nights. AJ Styles alone might be worth the jump. Consider the performances Styles has put on with guys like Ricochet and Cedric Alexander. He can easily do the same with Murphy.

Bo Dallas to NXT.
One last “NXT OG” move. Because honestly, does Bo have anything better to do? Like so many others, he was called up to the main roster with seemingly no plan for him. Thus, he floundered. He stumbled on to tag team success with Curtis Axel. But at this point, B-Team act is dead and buried. So send him back to NXT and see if he can make us Bo-lieve again. It seems like a lifetime ago, but Bo once held the the same NXT Championship that’s synonymous with names like Adam Cole, Finn Balor, and Shinsuke Nakamura. It seems unlikely he’ll reach that pinnacle again. But stranger things have happened…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A WWE Royal Rumble 2019 Preview – Who’s Going to Wrestlemania?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Everybody comes back for the Rumble.

Well, maybe not everybody. But a lot of fans who are turned off by whatever crap WWE starts shoveling at us after Survivor Series, will inevitably check in for the Royal Rumble. If you’re a longtime wrestling fan, it’s ingrained in you. We’re trained to anticipate the Royal Rumble. Specifically, the Royal Rumble Match.

This show could be damn good, all things considered. It’ll be at Chase Field, which could potentially make for a magical vibe. We’ve also got a hot card, including what many consider to be a pair of dream matches. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor and Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks.

So let’s dive in…

FATAL FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Kalisto vs. Hideo Itami

If it hadn’t been relegated to the pre-show, then this could easily have opened the Rumble. It’s got great car-crash potential. It also gives the challengers a well-deserved chance to shine on a big stage. Particularly Hideo Itami. The days of KENTA seem so very long ago…

Since Mustafa Ali is now getting a push on Smackdown, that throws a monkey wrench into my predictions for the Cruiserweight Title at Wrestlemania. Now it’s anybody’s ball game. A match like this presents a good opportunity to take the belt off Murphy without actually pinning him, which makes me think we’re getting a title switch.

With that in mind, I’ll go with Itami on this one. He seems like the best choice out of the three challengers. Also, I’d be curious to see when his current deal is up. With the big All Elite Wrestling announcement, he might be someone they want to keep happy if there’s a risk of losing him to a budding competitor.

PREDICTION: Hideo Itami

WWE UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Rusev (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Last year, Nakamura wins the Rumble Match. This year, he’s on the pre-show. If that’s not a statement for how his big push went, I don’t know what is.

That’s really all I’ve got for this one. While I can certainly appreciate two immigrants wrestling for the United States Title in these turbulent times, Nakamura essentially spun his wheels with that belt. Here’s hoping he can find his footing again this year. In the meantime, I see no reason why Rusev should drop it back to him.

PREDICTION: Rusev

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Bar (c) vs. Shane McMahon and The Miz

Aw hell, why not? Put the belts on Shane and Miz. It beats putting the Bar against the Usos and the New Day over and over again. Plus, this is obviously a means to an end. They put the titles on Shane and Miz so they can lose them, break up, and have a Wrestlemania match.

Also, giving the titles to Shane and Miz gives a less established team a great opportunity to take them via a screwjob finish. Heavy Machinery, perhaps? Maybe even SAnitY?

PREDICTION: Shane McMahon and The Miz

WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Asuka (c) vs. Becky Lynch

This is the match that threw a monkey wrench into a lot of Royal Rumble predictions, mine included. Common sense seemed to indicate that Becky Lynch would enter and win this year’s Women’s Royal Rumble Match, and go on to challenge Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women’s Title at Wrestlemania, possibly with Charlotte Flair in there to make it a three-way. But then they went ahead and put Becky in this match. A match that, creatively speaking, it doesn’t make much sense for her to win. Unless they want to move Ronda over to Smackdown as Becky’s challenger. Come to think of it, that might be easier than somehow moving both Becky and Charlotte over to Raw

Granted, being in this match doesn’t mean she can’t compete in the Rumble later in the night. It’s certainly been done before on the men’s side of things. But this match has fans guessing, and all things considered, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It would be a shame to see Asuka lose here, as they just got her back on track. But assuming she is indeed about to headline Wrestlemania, Becky doesn’t need to eat a pinfall either. So I can only assume this match ends with some kind of screwball finish. Maybe Charlotte comes out with a kendo stick and starts beating on people. Either way, I’m thinking this one ends in a disqualification and Asuka goes home with the belt. Where that leaves her at Wrestlemania is anybody’s guess. But I imagine she’ll be walking in with the title.

PREDICTION: Asuka

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. AJ Styles

This one could go either way. Ever since Bryan got that WWE Championship back, it feels like the Smackdown title picture for Wrestlemania has been anybody’s ball game. There’s no reason AJ Styles can’t win it back, and walk into New Jersey as champion.

But somehow, I just don’t see it. With this new character, it feels like Daniel Bryan’s time. There’s a certain poetic quality to the idea of Bryan walking in with the WWE Championship five years after his big moment at Wrestlemania XXX. So one way or another, I think Bryan keeps the title. It’s just a question of who he defends against…

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Sasha Banks

It feels like Ronda Rousey is a lot bigger than Sasha Banks, doesn’t it? Physically, I mean. But she really isn’t. Ronda is 5’7, Sasha is 5’5. Ronda supposedly weighs 134, Sasha weighs 117. So while Ronda is indeed larger, I don’t necessarily expect her to chuck Sasha around like a rag doll.

That’s not to say Sasha won’t fly. I expect we’ll see her take more than a few wicked bumps in this match. For better or worse, they’ve become a trademark of hers. One way or another, she’ll pull out all the stops for this one. I don’t know if we should call this one of the biggest matches of her career. But it’s definitely the biggest one she’s had since all those wars with Charlotte.

My opinion about Ronda losing before Wrestlemania has not changed: It ain’t gonna happen. Mind you, it would be a lot of fun to see Sasha pull off a surprise win, possibly due to interference from Becky or Charlotte, and defend against Bayley at Wrestlemania. But in the end, I really think Ronda wins here.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Finn Balor

They pulled a fast one on us here. For whatever reason, Braun Strowman is out and Finn Balor is in. Hell, I ain’t complainin’. This is a match people have wanted to see for a long time. And like Brock’s matches with AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan, I expect it will deliver.

But as it was with the Styles and Bryan matches, the outcome isn’t in doubt here. Brock wins. Still, this is a valuable opportunity for Balor. Since he came back after forfeiting the Universal Title, he’s been struggling to earn himself a full-time spot in that upper echelon of talent. He can use this match to take a giant step forward in that regard. This one should be good.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2019 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

Please, for the love of God, keep Stephanie McMahon off commentary this year. They actually put the Women’s Rumble Match from last year on YouTube, but I couldn’t force to sit through an hour of her piss poor attempt at announcing. Just put Michael Cole or Tom Phillips with Renee Young and Beth Phoenix.

I count 23 announced participants in this match so far. If you count Trish Stratus and Lita, who will likely be unannounced entries, that brings it to 25. I’m sure we’ll see a few women from NXT and NXT UK. Maybe an entry or two from the Mae Young Classic. And of course, let’s not forget about Becky Lynch. She’s a prime candidate for the number 30 spot.

One woman who deserves to win, but almost certainly won’t? Ember Moon. I wanted them to put her over in the Battle Royal at Evolution. But alas, her number simply hasn’t been called yet. But one day it will. And then she’ll show the world just how damn good she can be. Ruby Riott is in that same boat. With or without the Riott Squad, she’s capable of an amazing performance at a show like Wrestlemania.

As much as I think we’d all love to see Becky enter and win this match, in making my prediction I have to assume that’s not what’s going to happen.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

2019 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE MATCH:

One of the caveats going into this match is that John Cena may not be in it anymore. Something about an ankle injury. Maybe it’s a work, maybe it’s not. Kinda sucks, but it’s not like he was winning it anyway.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bray Wyatt pop up in this match. He’s been gone long enough that he’d qualify as a surprise entrant. Especially if he’s somehow the “new and improved” Bray Wyatt, with a freshened up look or something. Also, while he’s not listed as a participant, it would be a shame to leave EC3 out of this thing. A good performance in a Rumble Match would give him some nice momentum.

Interestingly enough, news broke this week that Abyss and Sonjay Dutt have left Impact Wrestling for WWE. While it doesn’t seem like he’s signing on to be a full-time wrestler, could the “Monster” of TNA wrestling wind up with a surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble Match? Sure. Why not? If AJ Styles can do it, Abyss can.

About a month ago I speculated about the winner of this year’s Rumble, as people do. The names I gave were Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, the Miz, Drew McIntyre, and the Rock. Out of those five men, only Rollins and McIntyre are actually in the match. Granted, Styles and Miz could end up in it, just like Becky could on the women’s end. But Rollins and McIntyre are apropos, as I wouldn’t be surprised if they were among the last four men in this match. Maybe the two of them, EC3, and…Rey Mysterio? Andrade? God forbid, Randy Orton?

In the end, Rollins is my pick. I would have loved for it to be Braun Strowman. But between the heel turn after Summerslam, and his frequent losses to Brock Lesnar, he’s simply not the guy right now. That doesn’t mean Strowman can’t wind up in the Rumble Match. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty likely he will be. But for my money, Lesnar vs. Rollins is the match.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Strowman is Out, Balor is In, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Yeah, I had fun last week, so I’m back this week. Not a bad night for it either, as the Royal Rumble got a hell of a shake-up….

Braun Strowman opens the show, and announces he’s “all healed up.” Baron Corbin interrupts to taunt him. Strowman chases Corbin backstage, ripping apart Vince McMahon’s limo in the process. As punishment, McMahon cancels Strowman’s Universal Title Match at the Royal Rumble. When Vince and Braun had their scene next to the wrecked limo, I was literally saying out loud: “Braun, please don’t back down from the 73-year-old man who’s half your size.” Thankfully, he didn’t…much.

I’m wondering how much of this had to do with that horrible segment Braun and Brock had last week. Another Brock vs. Braun match wasn’t exactly red hot. But that segment practically put it on ice. IF there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Braun won’t have to lose to Brock again. At least not yet. Plus, it made this show that much more interesting.

Perhaps fittingly, Braun had yet another verbal flub here. He referenced “WWE World Cup” instead of WWE Crown Jewel. Although given all the nasty press that show got, maybe they actually scripted him that way.

Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks def. Nia Jax and Tamina. Rousey and Banks get into a verbal spat after the match. After last week, I couldn’t help but be nervous when Sasha went up for that ‘rana on Nia early on. That image of Sasha going splat on the floor is going to stay with me awhile.

They did pretty well with the post-match verbage. Sasha managed not to come off like an obnoxious brat, which is always a plus. Expectations are high for them once we get to Phoenix.

The Revival def. Lucha House Party. I had flashbacks of “Lucha House Rules” Matches when the Revival’s music hit. Frankly, I didn’t ever need to see these two teams wrestle again. But at least this time, the right team won. And at least Dash and Dawson have a story nowadays.

John Cena, Drew McIntyre, Baron Corbin, and Finn Balor all pitch themselves as Brock’s new opponent at the Rumble. Vince McMahon makes a Fatal Four-Way Match later in the show to decide the new top contender. We got some pretty good mic work here. Cena played his veteran role to perfection, transitioning into McIntyre’s angry stuff. The stuff between Vince and Balor was interesting. They played right into the whole “Vince loves big guys” stereotype. Not bad at all.

Nikki Cross makes her Raw wrestling debut, teaming with Bayley, and Natalya to defeat The Riott Squad. So they’re letting this new crop of call-ups wrestle on both shows until they decide where to put them? That just tells me they still haven’t decided what to do with them yet. Some of them, at least. That’s somewhat understandable, given how abruptly they were apparently summoned. But they announced this a month ago. You’d think they’d have figured it out by now.

All that said, Nikki had a good outing here. Kudos to Ruby Riott for selling her ass off for her. And on a related note…

EC3, Lacey Evans, and Heavy Machinery have cameos during the broadcast. EC3 and Lacey both wrestled dark matches before Raw last week. At least this week they made TV.

I’m sure EC3 will be fine on the main roster. Though hopefully they don’t do what they did with Bobby Roode, and bring him in as a babyface when he’s such a natural heel. Heavy Machinery should do well too, so long as they don’t make Otis a comedy act. As for Lacey Evans, I’m curious to see how her persona plays on a national level. It could go either way.

Finn Balor def. Jinder Mahal to retain his spot in the Fatal Four-Way Match later in the night. When they made this match, the story for the four-way became pretty obvious. But it’s a good story, so I can’t fault them for it.

I can’t imagine what it feels like to take that double stomp off the top rope. Balor stuck that landing right in Jinder’s stomach. Ouch.

Bobby Lashley def. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in a Triple-Threat Match to win the Intercontinental Championship. Really good match. For my money, they could have had this as the main event and been perfectly fine. Great work by all four guys, Lio Rush included. And a great rub for Lashley.

I like this move. It’s got a bit of an old school WWF feel to it, with the big muscular champion and his mouthpiece. It’s a hell of an endorsement not just for Lashley, but for Rush, who literally helped turn the big man’s career around. Let’s face it: Lashley was floundering as a babyface. But they’ve slowly turned him into a commodity on that show.

On “A Moment of Bliss,” Alexa Bliss announces that at Elimination Chamber, six teams will compete to become the first WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. Paul Heyman is interviewed. Otis Dozovic makes a bizarre interruption. They went a little Attitude Era with that guy walking in on Alexa changing. Not complaining. Just saying…

So the big news here is, of course, the Women’s Tag Team Titles. I can’t say I’m a fan of the Elimination Chamber being used to crown the champions. You’d think this would be the kind of thing they’d save for Wrestlemania. Nevertheless, here we are.

Now it’s just a question of who the six teams are. I’m going to guess Sasha Banks and Bayley, Nia Jax and Tamina, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, the Riott Squad, Naomi and Carmella as a throw-together team, and let’s say…the Bella Twins? If they were doing this at Wrestlemania, I’d have pitched doing something with Trish Stratus and Lita. But that seems unlikely here.

Finn Balor def. John Cena, Drew McIntyre, and Baron Corbin to earn a Universal Title Match against Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Cena endorses Balor after the match. Mrs. Primary Ignition, like everyone else, was appalled by Cena’s hair. She actually called it upsetting. I mean, people used to make fun of Shawn Michaels’ bald spot. But Cena’s got him beat by a mile and a half.

I said this finish was obvious after the match with Jinder was made. But actually, it was probably when Balor and Vince had that back and forth. Either way, I’m glad we’re finally getting this match. Not that I think Balor’s going to win. If anything, I think this is confirmation that Lesnar is indeed going to Wrestlemania, where hopefully he’ll drop the title to Seth Rollins.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Hulk Hogan’s Return, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I couldn’t resist the chance to do a Raw write-up this week for old time’s sake. It’s the first show of the year, and the name of the game (supposedly) is shaking things up. Making Raw a fun, entertaining show again after its ratings fell to record lows during the holiday season. As the first show of the new year, this was an ideal opportunity for them to make good on that, and really give us something to remember.

Long story short, while I would consider what we got this week to be a good show, the Earth didn’t exactly move for me. We did, however, get two big returns and a touching tribute to an icon that we lost last week. So let’s take a look…

The show opens with a backstage pull-apart brawl between Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley. John Cena returns to Raw, enters himself into the Royal Rumble Match, and then gets challenged by Drew McIntyre. A larger brawl then erupts, which turns into a Six-Man Tag. Cena, Rollins, and Finn Balor defeat McIntyre, Lashley, and Dean Ambrose. Good opener. Kick things off differently with an angle to grab their attention, then go right into Cena’s entrance to keep them. The segue into the six-man was kind of a groaner, as that’s been a staple of their lazy writing over the last decade or so. But the crowd was happy to see Cena, and the babyfaces got a nice win. So no harm done.

Hulk Hogan makes his first TV appearance for WWE in several years, paying tribute to Mean Gene Okerland. First and foremost, nothing but respect for the life and legacy of Mean Gene Okerland. His iconic voice was a huge part of many of our childhoods, and he’s forever linked with the global expansion that made the World Wrestling Federation into the juggernaut WWE is today.

WWE continues to be in an awkward position as they try to bring Hulk Hogan back into the fold. It feels fairly to say they used Okerland’s death as a chance to bring him back to TV in a relatively safe fashion. But that’s more or less what they did. They even got a bit of backlash for plugging his merchandise on Twitter.

But on the flip side, if you’re going to do a live tribute to Mean Gene, you almost have no choice but to bring in Hogan. When you think of Okerland, Hogan inevitably comes to mind. “Well let me tell you somethin’ Mean Gene,” and all that.

In the end, what they did ended up being really nice. The video package was great. And even though it seemed like much of the crowd didn’t know how to react to Hogan given the controversy, I didn’t hear any booing. So I’d say this went about as well as it could have gone.

When Hogan mentioned all those names from the golden age of WWE, it really hit home just how many of those guys left us too soon. Randy Savage. The Ultimate Warrior. Roddy Piper. Mr. Perfect. Andre the Giant. Gorilla Monsoon. Bobby Heenan. Now Mean Gene. Make no mistake about it, if you were a wrestling fan in the ’80s, those names are indelibly etched in your heart. Thank you for the memories, gentlemen.

Bobby Roode and Chad Gable def. The Revival in a Lumberjack Match to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. I can appreciate that they didn’t just toss the tag titles on Dash and Dawson right away. Based on the screwy finish they’re going with, this is clearly going to be a drawn out thing. We may even get a Bobby Roode heel turn in the process. So I’m on board.

Baron Corbin def. Elias. Baron Corbin has…something. Yes, he has his critics. But he’s also extremely easy to dislike. So while WWE used him as the on-screen scapegoat for the crappy shows we’ve been getting, I’m pleased they haven’t tossed him by the wayside completely. The “constable” role was great for him. Now lets see if he can transition some of that into the ring.

Brock Lesnar refuses to get in the ring with Braun Strowman. This was just brutal. The awkwardness was palpable almost from the get-go. It felt like Braun forgot his lines or something. What the heck happened?

This match was already tarnished going in, as we’ve already seen it several times, and Strowman has yet to pick up a win over Lesnar. But this segment just added insult to the whole thing by making him look like a moron.

I’m getting pretty nervous for Strowman here. If he doesn’t beat Brock at the Rumble, I’m not sure what you do with him. We’re venturing dangerously close to Ryback territory…

Apollo Crews and Ember Moon def. Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox. Happy to see Ember Moon get a win. But while I’ve always loved Apollo Crews’ athleticism, until he either gets a mouthpiece or a personality, I’m not interested.

After Ronda Rousey appears announces she wants to prove herself against Sasha Banks, Banks defeats Nia Jax to earn a Raw Women’s Title Match at the Royal Rumble. That botched Powerbomb spot from the apron didn’t do Nia any favors. There was also a spot in this match where she dropped Sasha on the top rope. It looked like Sasha took a bad fall. But in all honesty, Sasha takes a lot of bad falls in these big matches. I can’t even tell which ones are accidents and which ones are on purposes. Either way, not the best showing for Nia.

I’ve talked a lot about my distaste for Sasha’s attitude. But I won’t deny I’m very curious to see what she and Ronda do at the Rumble. It could be a lot of fun.

Dean Ambrose def. Seth Rollins in a Falls Count Anywhere Match to retain the Intercontinental Title after Bobby Lashley interferes. Really good main event. Enjoyed Ambrose’s heel work here, particularly the Three Stooges eye poke to Rollins, and they way he sold the Curb Stomp.

The finish to this match was plain as day the second they announced the match. Even before the Falls Count Anywhere stip came into play. They opened with Rollins and Lashley, and they closed with them. It was the right move. Lashley had some nice heel fire during the beatdown here too. They may have beaten that “Almighty” nickname into the ground. But don’t count heel Lashley out just yet.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Top 10 Raw Moments of 2018: Stone Cold, John Cena, Becky Lynch, and more!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how Raw sucks. Not just from the fans, either. Last week, the McMahons themselves had to come out and, in so many words, admit their creative failures of late. For all this talk about “shaking up” the show, it seems like very little is actually going to change. Which is a damn shame, as the show desperately needs a revamp. Like, this sucker needs major renovations from the top down.

But as we’re taking time to look back on 2018, it’s only fair that we pay tribute to the things Raw got right. One of their buzzwords is “Raw moments,” i.e. moments or matches on the show that fans continue to look back on with fondness, awe, sadness, or whatever emotion it happened to evoke. Stone Cold and the beer truck, Eric Bischoff’s debut, that game-changing CM Punk promo, etc. The moments that made us love Raw in the first place, and are the reason we stick with it, despite all the frustrations and disappointments.

And so, with the disclaimer that these are all based on my personal opinion and viewing experiences, these are my top 10 Raw moments of 2018, in chronological order.

A few honorable mentions..
– January 29: Asuka vs. Sasha Banks.
– July 30: Brock Lesnar puts his hands on Paul Heyman.
– August 6: Ronda Rousey’s first match on Raw.

1. January 22: Austin’s got McMahon!
Raw 25 kicked off old school. Shane and Stephanie McMahon came to the ring to present a plaque to their father. What followed was classic Vince, as he proceeded to heel on the Brooklyn crowd, and then take all the credit for Raw‘s success. The crowd even broke out in an “Asshole!” chant, just like old times.

Then the glass shattered, and the crowd erupted as Stone Cold Steve Austin emerged. In a skit that included Vince throwing Shane to the wolves, Stone Cold Stunners to both McMahon men, and the throwing back of a few Steveweisers, suddenly Raw was great again. Just listen to that crowd. While I wish Austin would have gotten on the mic, in the end this segment was exactly what it needed to be: A quick nostalgia trip. It was also a reminder that even in his 70s, Vince can still deliver gold on the mic.

2. February 19: Seth Rollins steals the show in a Gauntlet Match.
This match featured all seven of the men who’d be involved in the Elimination Chamber Match to decide Brock Lesnar’s Wrestlemania opponent. We had John Cena, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, The Miz, Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, and Elias. Strowman would be the eventual winner. But the man everyone was talking about after this match was Seth Rollins.

Entering at the number two spot, Rollins wrestled for over an hour and five minutes, pinning both Roman Reigns and John Cena in the process. That’s a stellar accomplishment in and of itself, on par with Chris Jericho pinning Steve Austin and The Rock in one night back in 2001. By this point, Rollins had noticeably cooled off as a babyface. But this match was the catalyst for his reemergence as a contender for the top spot on Raw, if not the entire company.

Rollins didn’t get his shot at Lesnar in 2018, but this year might be a different story…

3. February 26: “Ladies and gentlemen, Braun Strowman!”
WWE loves to try their hand at comedy. Emphasis on the word “try.” While certain performers have natural comedic timing and abilities, most of WWE’s attempts at humor feel lame, forced and awkward.

But once in awhile, you get one out of left field that inexplicably works. The Vince McMahon “Are you ready for some wrestling?” skit, that first Daniel Bryan/Kane anger management skit, and now this. Braun Strowman coming out and strumming a bass on stage to make fun of Elias. And to make matters worse/better, mere seconds in, the instrument breaks. So Braun has to go on without it. For what it’s worth, the big guy’s voice isn’t so bad.

To cap it all off, the ensuing beatdown ended with Strowman lifting the bass up by the neck, and smashing it over Elias’ back. For yours truly, this segment embodied almost everything there is to love about Braun Strowman. It gave us his charisma, along with the brute strength and violence that he allows us to live vicariously through. This is the guy who could have headlined Wrestlemania.

4. March 19: The Ultimate Deletion.
This was the moment we’d been waiting for since the Hardys returned to WWE. A lawsuit with Anthem, the parent company of Impact Wrestling, had prevented Matt Hardy from using his “Broken” persona for most of 2017. But late in the year, we were introduced to “Woken” Matt Hardy, i.e. Broken Matt with one letter swapped out. He feuded with Bray Wyatt, culminating in this match, the “Ultimate Deletion.”

Akin to the other “Deletion” matches we saw on Impact, the match had a more cinematic, campy presentation. Most of the trademarks of the Broken universe were there. It took place at the Hardy compound. Matt’s wife and son made appearances, as did his real-life father-in-law, “Senor Benjamin.” Jeff Hardy also made a cameo. Hardy would win by sending Wyatt into the “lake of reincarnation.” Wyatt would not emerge again until the Wrestlemania pre-show, where he helped Hardy win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

The Ultimate Deletion belongs on this list because, like the Broken/Woken universe itself, it dared to be different. It was also great validation for Matt. Not just because of the Anthem lawsuit, but because WWE once tried to do their own version of this match. You’ll recall the time the New Day visited the “Wyatt Family compound.” The results looked a lot like what the Hardys were doing on Impact at the time. We haven’t seen a match like this on Raw since, and we may never see one again. But it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

5. John Cena’s scathing promos on the Undertaker.
Undertaker no-showing the build-up to Wrestlemania 34 was extremely frustrating at the time. But in hindsight, it was the right way to go. Cena’s desperate, angry attempts to bring the Dead Man back made for great drama. The highlights of which included…

– “…stop hiding behind your lame excuses. You are not too old. You are not washed up. You are not broken down, ’cause if you was broken down, you wouldn’t be posting workout videos on your wife’s Instagram.”
– “You are not the god that [the fans] made you. You are the man you’ve allowed yourself to become. And that man, Undertaker, is a coward. The Undertaker is a coward.”
– “Hey Undertaker. It’s obvious that you left your hat in the ring. But it’s clear to everybody here that you left your balls at home.”

Then the match went two minutes, with Undertaker going over. I interpreted that as being because, in storyline, Undertaker surprised Cena. That’s why I think these two have unfinished business, and should go another round at Wrestlemania this year.

6. April 9: Paige announces her retirement.
Calling this one of Raw’s best moments feels a little weird. Obviously, if I had my way Paige would still be wrestling. But I have to tip my hat to the pure honesty, emotion, and bravery exhibited by Paige here.

Many of us were expecting this. The previous November, Paige had returned after a lengthy absence that included neck surgery. But just over a month after her return, Paige suffered another neck injury, forcing her to stay out of the ring. So the word “retirement” was being thrown around by fans online.

Still, it’s never easy to hear confirmation like this. Paige spoke very eloquently, and the crowd showered her with “Thank you Paige!” chants. But while retired, Paige wasn’t gone long at all. She showed up the very next night as the new general manager of Smackdown.

7. April 30: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor
Seth Rollins was Raw‘s resident artist this year. If you look at the best matches in this show in 2018, he’s the one constant in most of them. He turned in epic performances with Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre, among others.

But in many ways, this was the best TV match Rollins turned in all year. It earned 4.25 stars from Dave Meltzer, was for the Intercontinental Title, and the two men had a loaded history together. They were, of course, wrestling to become the first Universal Champion when Rollins injured Balor, forcing him to give up his newly won title.

Champion and challenger gave us a combination endurance/chess match. It was a collection of counters, dodges, kicks, and kick-outs from big moves in a prolonged game of “Can you top this?” Rollins would ultimately pin Balor using the Curb Stomp. Both these men can easily slip back into the Universal Title picture in 2019, and this match is one of the many pieces of evidence we have.

8. October 22: Roman Reigns announces he has leukemia, Dean Ambrose turns on Seth Rollins.
We got two shockers on this show. One was a storyline. The other was very, very real.

I had no idea Roman Reigns had ever battled leukemia, or any kind of cancer. So when he walked out at the top of the show and announced he was relinquishing the Universal Title because his leukemia had returned, I was floored. I think we all were. To their credit, the fans in Providence, many of whom had been booing Reigns when he came out, immediately switched gears. On his way out, Roman got the support that some would say he’s deserved all along.

Naturally, emotions were running high when Roman’s Shield brothers, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, challenged for the Raw Tag Team Titles in the main event that night. Which made what happened next all the more explosive…

After winning the titles, Dean Ambrose made his long-awaited heel turn, nailing Rollins with the DDT. The fans watched in stunned silence as he continued to destroy his partner. Ambrose had unraveled, and the Shield was no more.

9. November 5: Drew McIntyre destroys Kurt Angle.
This was Angle’s first match on Raw in over a decade. To his credit, it was memorable. Just not for the reason we thought it would be.

In a battle to decide whether Angle would captain the Raw Men’s team at Survivor Series, the Olympic Gold Medalist and WWE Hall of Famer put up a fight, even catching McIntyre with the Angle Slam. But in the end, McIntyre was simply too much. The “Scottish Psychopath” would hit an Angle Slam of his own, and later end the match by tapping Angle out with his trademark Ankle Lock. The match will no doubt go down as one of the definitive performances of McIntyre’s current WWE run.

What makes this a little bit more special is that supposedly this was Kurt Angle’s idea, at least partially. The two had worked together in Impact, and Angle wanted to put McIntyre over for the WWE audience. It’d call the attempt successful, wouldn’t you?

10. November 12: Becky Lynch invades.
Yes, technically it was the entire Smackdown women’s roster that invaded. But the part everyone remembers is Becky, blood on her face, standing victorious in the crowd.

This is an angle that’s been done time and time again. Wrestlers from Smackdown invading Raw, or Raw invading Smackdown, or whatever it is. But a wild punch changed everything.

It started out strong, with the camera rushing into the locker room to find Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey in Becky Lynch’s Disarm-Her. Lynch would then go to the ring to confront the Raw Women’s Survivor Series team. Lynch’s Smackdown cohorts would then ambush from the crowd. In the ensuing battle, Nia Jax would punch Becky in the face, breaking her nose and concussing her. WWE would later simply call it a “broken face.”

But the then-Smackdown Women’s Champion would find victory even in injury. The ensuing footage of Becky fighting with blood on her face only rallied fans to her cause. She had to bow out of a match against Rousey at Survivor Series. But this angle may very well have opened the door for her to be one of the first women to headline Wrestlemania. So all in all, I’d say things worked out for her…

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