Will Jinder Mahal Shock the World? Plus Ponderings From WWE Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

it looks like business just picked up. WWE and Jim Ross announced this week that the Hall of Fame broadcaster will lend his famous voice to the shows WWE recently taped in Norwich, England. The shows will be centered around the new WWE United Kingdom Division, of which the center is UK Champion Tyler Bate. Ross will work alongside Nigel McGuinness.

This is a hell of a selling point, not just for these UK shows, but for the WWE Network in general. JR’s voice is desperately missed on WWE television. He’s one of the best overall storytellers they’ve ever had. He could bring you inside the ring, break down the psychology, and put talent over in a way that most announcers today just don’t do. That’s a disservice to both the wrestlers and the fans. As many network subscribers will still be unfamiliar with the UK talent on that show, Ross’ name also has tremendous value.

I’m hopeful WWE will continue to bring JR in to call matches on the big shows, specifically Summerslam, the Royal Rumble, and Wrestlemania. We don’t need him to call every match. But he added some nice extra garnish to that Undertaker/Roman Reigns match. When WWE wants a match to feel special, they can always plug JR in to knock one out of the park. He’ll do it every time.

After WWE inexplicably let him go a few years back, it’s tremendous to see these two sides rebuilding that bridge. Let’s start making up for lost time.

Ponderings From Smackdown:

Randy Orton appears for the first time since the House of Horrors Match. A brawl ensues with the other main eventers. A Six-Man Tag is made for later in the night. Jinder’s mic work had some heat to it. It wasn’t necessarily well-delivered. But if they keep working at this little experiment, they could have something here. The real question is what happens to Jinder after Backlash

By the way, does this grouping of Jinder Mahal and the Singh Brothers have a name? It seems like they should.

Natalya def. Becky Lynch. A Six-Woman Tag Match is made for Backlash, pitting the “Welcoming Committee” against Charlotte Flair, Naomi, and Lynch. Speaking of factions, can we get another name for this Nattie/Carmella/Tamina tandem? The Welcoming Committee is really damn lame.

Not a huge fan of the SIx-Woman Tag route they’re taking for Backlash. That’s a match for Smackdown, not a pay per view. The Welcoming Committee isn’t exactly the Shield.

Erick Rowan def. Luke Harper. Did Harper sleep with somebody’s wife or something? What does he have to do to get a substantial, sustained push?

Harper and Rowan are running into the same problem they had the last time the Wyatt Family broke up. They can’t seem to break out and distinguish themselves outside of being Bray Wyatt’s former henchmen. Harper has been close. But we still don’t know much about him. And the only thing we’ve ever really known about Rowan is his affinity for sheep masks. Why does he even wear it anymore?

Shinsuke Nakamura confronts Dolph Ziggler. A match is made for Backlash“You treat me like a contagious disease.” I like that line. I actually might steal that someday. Good mic work by Ziggler.

Be ready, folks. That Chicago crowd is going to go absolutely nuts for Nakamura.

In a WWE.com, Aiden English explains why he’s so emotional. Last week, Dave Meltzer speculated that WWE had English cry on television because they were mocking Mauro Ranallo. I’m not sure I buy that. I’m more curious why English is calling himself an “artist,” when that’s also Nakamura’s moniker. Apples and oranges, obviously. But still.

Breezango def. The Ascension, after another edition of “The Fashion Files” airs earlier in the evening. The Usos come out to cut a promo. So are Tyler Breeze and Fandango babyfaces now? They’re seemingly being shifted to a more comedic role. That suits their wit and delivery, so long as WWE doesn’t overdo it. Which they will, of course.

Another great promo from Jimmy and Jey. Where the hell have these guys been for the last seven years?

Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin, and Jinder Mahal def. Randy Orton, AJ Styles, and and Sami Zayn. Mahal scores the pinfall on Orton. Last week Jinder beats Sami, this week he pins Orton. I don’t know if it’s officially my prediction yet, but Jinder Mahal could very well shock the world at Backlash. They could position him as the beatable champion who needs his run-in buddies to retain the title. Stranger things have happened. In that sense, I can’t help but continue to think of him in the same vein as JBL circa 2004.

Randy Orton isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire as a babyface WWE Champion. Granted, he hasn’t had a lot of time yet, nor a particularly hot feud. But right now, anyone not named AJ Styles is going to have an uphill battle if they want to be the top babyface.

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Chris Jericho’s Date with a Cage, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE United Kingdom ChampionshipBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

With the announcement of the crowning of a United Kingdom Champion on the WWE Network next year, there’s naturally been a lot of buzz. The idea, reportedly, is for the network to have weekly UK show similar to what 205 Live is for the Cruiserweights. So there’ve been questions about the continued oversaturation of content, WWE potentially trying to create its own territorial system, what this means for other promotions across the world, etc. All valid questions.

Quite frankly, I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to see any of this UK content. There are only so many hours in a week. But for now, I’m taking an optimistic approach. This tournament has a big upside. The UK is in the midst of its own wrestling boom right now, and I’ve been able to see very little of what’s going on over there. All these guys now have a chance to wrestle in front of a whole new audience, and educate a lot of American fans about British wrestling.

One of WWE’s big drawbacks in the last several years has been its inability to create new stars. Using the Cruiserweight Classic tournament, they’ve been able to bring guys like Rich Swann, TJ Perkins, and Cedric Alexander to the main roster. Whether they’ll become big stars remains to be seen. But they’re commodities. They’re fresh faces. As somebody who watches Raw and Smackdown every week, it’s tough to complain about a potential new source of fresh faces.

Mick Foley, WWE Raw, December 19, 2016Ponderings From Raw:

Mick Foley announces Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns for the Universal Title at the Royal Rumble, with Chris Jericho suspended from the ceiling in a shark cage. Poor Mick. He tries so hard. And he’s still got some of his trademark charm despite being forced to recite scripted dialogue. But then he makes an embarrassing mistake like he did here, saying they were in Pittsburgh instead of Columbus. I love Mick Foley, I really do. But I’m glad he’s reportedly got a couple weeks off. He needs a break.

Some guys who need a break from each other? Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Chris Jericho. It feels like they’ve been working together nonstop since September. The Jericho stipulation notwithstanding, the Universal Title Match announcement was a disappointment. If I’m Roman Reigns, I’m expecting a dome full of boos at the Rumble, justified or not.

Rusev def. Big Cass via disqualification. Enzo later attends sensitivity training. Shorter is probably better with Rusev and Cass right now, so I won’t complain about what we saw here. I’ll credit Cass with one thing: He looked legit pissed at Rusev.

One of the stories on this show involved Enzo being sent to sensitivity training after being “naked” on the show a few weeks back. This didn’t do much for me. It seemed like they were trying to mimic the success they had with the Daniel Bryan/Kane anger management skits a few years ago. But once again, I credit them for doing something different, breaking up the monotony, and extending a plot thread through much of the show.

WWE Raw, December 19, 2016, Sasha BanksNia Jax interrupts Sasha Banks. Firstly, mad respect for Sasha for her performance at Roadblock. She doesn’t have to take the risks she does. Often they’re unnecessary. But you can’t doubt her passion. That always shines through.

That being said, I turned the volume down when she started talking. This might be unpopular, but her promos now officially annoy me. It’s not entirely her fault. She’s just written as a white meat babyface right now. I will credit her with looking into the hard camera, though. Eye contact = connection. She can also put on a great boo-hoo face (shown above).

Champion or not, it wasn’t hard to figure out Nia Jax and Sasha were going to be partnered after Roadblock. Again, lack of roster depth. Given their obvious size difference, I’m intrigued. I liked Nia calling Charlotte a “little girl.” This program will be good for her.

Austin Aries makes his Raw debut at the announce desk. Cedric Alexander def. Noam Dar. I’ve got high hopes for Cedric Alexander in 2017. He’s so damn explosive, and that Lumbar Check is awesome. I also think this is the first time we’ve seen Cedric and Alicia come out together on Raw.

After the match, Noam Dar got on the mic and essentially said he wanted Alica. I’m certainly not Shakespeare, but here’s a writing tip: When another man says, on national television mind you, that he wants to get with your girlfriend, you kick his ass. You don’t just stand there and get angry. It makes you look like a chump.

Noam Dar, WWE Raw, December 19, 2016If I’m not mistaken, this was Austin Aries’ Raw debut. A little understated, considering what his status was in other promotions. But at least he’s there. He’s not a good announcer yet. But I like that they’re having him tag in for Cruiserweight matches. It’s a little bit like what Mike Tenay used to do on Nitro.

Sheamus, Cesaro, and the New Day def. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson, and the Shining Stars. I never hated the “penny” tag belts the way some fans did. The tag titles they used on Raw during the first brand split looked so generic that I was just grateful for something different. That being said, the red belts Sheamus and Cesaro got on this show look better.

The pre-match dialogue with New Day, Sheamus, and Cesaro was actually pretty good. Then Gallows and Anderson came out and spoiled it. Then the Shining Stars came out and killed it dead. No interest in the eight-man tag. I assume the New Day will get a tag title rematch soon.

Also, Big E’s little ad lib about Charlotte becoming a 16-time champ by next month was on point. I tip my hat to you, sir.

A commercial airs for John Cena’s return to Smackdown next week. I don’t normally comment on these things, but this spot for Cena’s return was really well done. It was like a super-condensed career retrospective, and played up Cena as the elder statesmen and legend they want him to be.

WWE Raw, December 19, 2016, TJ Perkins, Rich SwannAfter turning on Rich Swann at Roadblock, Neville cuts his first heel promo on Raw. He and Brian Kendrick lay out Swann and TJ Perkins. Neville’s delivery was pretty good here. I don’t really see him as a big promo guy, but he surprised me. I was really skeptical about him turning heel. But if he switches up his in-ring game a little bit, this heel turn just might work for him.

Lately TJ Perkins has become the Dolph Ziggler of the Cruiserweight Division. Lately all he does is lose to Swann and Kendrick. Plus, he ran out there to save Swann, and immediately ate a kick from Neville. Thanks for coming, idiot. He needs to write a sternly worded letter to creative.

After Foley refuses to give him another shot at Sami Zayn, Braun Strowman decimates Sin Cara and Titus O’Neil. There was something very cathartic about seeing Braun Strowman rip apart that hokey Raw Christmas set. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for years.

I really dug that lingering shot of Mick Foley standing there looking over the body of Sin Cara, observing Braun’s damage and pondering the consequences of his actions.

WWE Raw, December 19, 2016, Bayley, Charlotte FlairCharlotte Flair gloats after her Roadblock victory. Bayley interrupts. Bayley pins Charlotte in controversial fashion. Corey Graves called Charlotte the “Iron Queen” as she came out. I like that. That’s different. As with Sasha, I give Charlotte a world of credit for the effort she put into that Iron Man Match. She’s the best female talent they have right now, and arguably the best overall heel in the company.

Good line: “Well, you are dressed like a fifth grader. So let’s go to school!”

Bad line: “Every month … you subscribe to the WWE Network thinking this is going to be the month that Charlotte loses, and every month I disappoint all of you.” Um, Charlotte has lost the title to Sasha three times now. I don’t need to buy the network hoping to see her lose. I can see it for free. Hell, I saw it this week! I get what she was going for, what with the pay per view winning streak. But there’s something to be said for clarity.

Based on what we saw here, I’m optimistic about what we’ll get from Charlotte and Bayley. This could lead to Bayley’s best in-ring performances since her main roster debut.

Braun Strowman interrupts the main event, attacking Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. This might not be a popular opinion, given WWE’s obsession with three-man announce teams these days. But the Michael Cole/Byron Saxton/Corey Graves dynamic is growing on me. Specifically with the role Saxton is playing as the cheesy, aw-shucks babyface announcer that Graves hates. They had a little sarcastic exchange about Graves getting Saxton the night off next week, with Cole adding that Saxton should spend time with his family. Saxton’s reply: “You guys are my family!” I won’t lie, I laughed.

Brain Strowman, WWE Raw, December 19, 2016After sitting through yet another Raw main event with Owens, Jericho, Reigns, and Rollins (or some combination of said four), I was really pleased to see Strowman out there. Not only does it do him good to rub shoulders with the main eventers, but it did Sami Zayn a bit of good to have the announcers mention his role in all this during a main event segment.

I honestly never through I’d see the day Braun Strowman would be the best part of a Raw main event. But here we are.

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Kevin Owens Stands Tall, More Cruiserweights, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, Lince DoradoBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Question: How much content is too much? Is there such a thing?

Last week, we got the announcement of WWE 205 Live, a WWE Network exclusive show featuring the cruiserweights. The show will air after Smackdown on Tuesdays. Mauro Renallo and Corey Graves will call matches featuring the likes of Brian Kendrick, TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, etc. Talking Smack will now move to 11 p.m. Eastern.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Obviously, WWE’s number one priority right now is the network. From a business standpoint, there are few things more important than getting those subscription numbers up. Obviously the network appeals primarily to die-hard wrestling fans. So what better way to entice them than with more wrestling? Called by Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves, no less.

But even the geekiest of pro wrestling geeks have lives, don’t they? Is WWE going to burn out their dedicated core audience by giving them too much? Factoring in RawSmackdownNXT, and now this 205 Live show, that’s seven hours of fresh content a week. And that’s not counting supplementary shows like Main Event and Superstars. That’s also not accounting for pay per views, of which there are now 19. I don’t care how big a fan you are, that’s a lot of wrestling.

WWE Raw, October 31, 2016, Brian Kendrick, TJ PerkinsPerhaps its a matter of variety. For years we’ve heard talk about the Raw brand, the Smackdown brand, etc. But in reality, it’s pretty much all been the same stuff. In a lot of ways, NXT changed that. NXT isn’t simply about different talent. There’s a different look and vibe to the entire product. It’s an alternative, and you can only get that alternative by forking out 10 bucks a month for the network. Is 205 Live going to be it’s own unique alternative? What can we see on that show that we can’t see on Raw?

I understand the on-demand nature of the WWE Network, and that you can essentially take in this content at your own pace. But with all this content coming out from WWE, at what point to we stop being surprised that Raw ratings are going down? It’s not rocket science, folks. The more content you give, the less urgent it is to see it. When all we had were two hours of Raw every Monday, we couldn’t wait to take it in. Now there are weeks where we simply can’t take it anymore.

At the very least this show will give the guys who aren’t on Raw every week, i.e Cedric Alexander, Lince Dorado, and Jack Gallagher another stage to perform on. I just wonder if and how the audience will divide as WWE continues to expand and diversify its offerings.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, November 7, 2016After a volatile start to the show, a fatal five-way match is made between Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, and the newest member of Team Raw, Seth Rollins. I hate these fatal five-way matches. It’s an awkward number. Somehow four wrestlers work, and six wrestlers work, but five is don’t.

A pretty standard segment for a “Can these teammates get along?” story. I wish we’d had more definitive consequences. Stephanie told them to fight like their jobs depend on it, “Because they do.” Does that even mean anything? They also missed an opportunity to make the winner the captain of the team.

Rich Swann & Sin Cara def. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar. Assuming these rumors of a fight with Chris Jericho are true, it’ll be interesting to see if Sin Cara remains on television. It’s not like they don’t have plenty of cruiserweights. Though he earned mad respect for me after that senton to the outside on Noam Dar.

This was my first exposure to Noam Dar. We didn’t get to see much of him. But a nice little introduction. Brian Kendrick deserves a lot of credit for helping establish some of these guys in front of the mainstream audience. I expect he’ll face Rich Swann for the title at Survivor Series.

Bill GoldbergA retrospective vignette on Goldberg airs. I was hoping they’d do something like this, as they usually do for Brock Lesnar’s matches. These are always good.

Since Goldberg has resurfaced, WWE has made a point to market him as a WCW star, WCW legend, WCW Champion, etc. That’s fair enough. He’s as much a WCW guy as anything else. But he wasn’t just a WCW guy. He was a champion in WWE as well. They’ve almost glossed over that. Perhaps it’s fitting, considering how forgettable most of Goldberg’s WWE run was.

The New Day rally Team Raw for their match at Survivor Series. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson knock off the champions in a non-title match. The crowd really pulled this segment out of the ground. When you’ve got so many guys out there, I understand having to script the dialogue. But this was the same canned verbiage we always get, and it seemed like it went on forever. At least the Scotland fans were having fun.

Imagine my shock to see Anderson and Gallows get the win here. So do they now fight Cesaro and Sheamus to see who gets the next title shot?

WWE Wrestlemania XX, Bill Goldberg, Steve AustinBrock Lesnar talks Goldberg via video package. This one was even better than Goldberg’s, considering how politically incorrect Brock always is. “At Wrestlemania XX in Madison Square Garden, I didn’t give two sh*ts about wrestling.” HA!

This was another awesome line: “I don’t give a damn what his 10-year-old son is gonna think. I’m not gonna show any f@#kin’ mercy on Bill Goldberg.”

Finally, someone on this show has some balls. No wonder Brock is so over. Look at how he talks, compared to how everyone in that New Day segment talked. There are no chains on Brock. He’s allowed to be himself.

The Shining Stars def. Golden Truth to get their spot in the tag team elimination match at Survivor SeriesI zipped right through this one on the DVR. Here’s what I will say: At least they kept the Shining Stars out of the third hour.

Not sure why they did this. To even the babyface-heel ratio on Team Raw? Why? What’s the difference either way? I’d much rather see Goldust and R-Truth in a pay per view match than Primo and Epico. I don’t know what it is about these guys, but I don’t know if an act has ever had as much channel-changing heat with me.

Bayley, Charlotte, WWE Raw, November 7, 2016Michael Cole interviews Raw‘s female team. Sasha Banks and Alicia Fox are revealed as the remaining two members. The Scotland fans serenade Bayley.  The crowd didn’t exactly make it easy on them, did they? The girls couldn’t even get their lines out. As off-putting as it may have been, it’s always great to see a crowd that enthusiastic. Especially for the women’s division. Bayley might have been the one person more over in Scotland than Noam Dar.

The Alicia Fox portion of this segment was painful. Not because of Alicia, but because of that Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie reference. They really shoehorned that line in there.

Bayley, Sasha Banks, & Alicia Fox def. Charlotte, Nia Jax, & Dana Brooke. My favorite part of this match was when Bayley and Nia were in the ring together. They have to do some kind of program between them soon.

I’m not thrilled that Charlotte took the fall on this one. After Gallows & Anderson beat the New Day, that means two champions were beaten on this show.

WWE Raw, November 7, 2016, Sami Zayn, RusevSami Zayn def. Rusev to earn an Intercontinental Title Match at Survivor Series. I breathed a sigh of relief on this one. After all the love triangle stuff last year, I’ve had my fill of Rusev/Dolph Ziggler stuff for awhile. Ziggler and Zayn should also have a hell of a pay per view match.

Rusev hasn’t had a great couple of weeks. He lost to Roman Reigns at Hell in a Cell, he got punched out by Goldberg last week, and now he loses to Sami Zayn. I’m hopeful we can get Rusev back on track as a monster soon.

Kevin Owens def. Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, & Braun Strowman in a fatal five-way match. The right person won this one, especially on a show where the New Day and Charlotte were pinned. And he pinned Jericho, which was a nice touch.

To WWE’s credit, they’ve done an excellent job making protecting Braun Strowman since the roster split. I once cringed at the thought of him challenging the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. It’s still not a match I’m dying to see, but at least now Strowman is a commodity. Until now he’s just been large.

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

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

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

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

Pondering From WWE Raw:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Big Show, Kane, Complicated Monsters, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not much to write home about on this show. As it turns out, WWE may be falling into their autumn slump after all. Though it won’t be for lack of trying. We’re getting two Brock Lesnar matches in the next few weeks, appearances by plenty of WWE icons, and the return of John Cena’s US Open Challenge. But the way they’re building to some of their big matches is confusing and frustrating.

In fact, let’s dive right into that…

The Big Show, Mark Henry, Raw, September 28, 2015Ponderings From WWE Raw:

The Big Show def. Mark Henry, will face Brock Lesnar Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Show has been booked like a monster lately to make us believe he’s got a chance of beating Brock Lesnar. But considering how Show is booked on a regular basis, it’s too little too late. It wasn’t long ago that he got pinned by Ryback on free TV. Now we’re supposed to believe he can beat Lesnar? Hell, Cesaro was able to suplex him over the ropes last week. Why exactly are we supposed to believe he’s not going to “Suplex City” at the Garden?

The decision to put Brock with Show is a weird one anyway. The Beast in the East special had decent viewership, and Brock’s opponent on that show was Kofi Kingston. The idea behind these Network specials with Lesnar, or so I thought, was to play him up as a special attraction. You watch this special, you get a rare opportunity to see the “Beast Incarnate” in action. So does it really matter who he wrestles?

The Big Show, Raw, September 28, 2015 With that in mind, there are a bunch of other guys you could have put him against, and avoided having to go back to Big Show. Two off the top of my head: The Miz and Stardust. You’re not going to go to pay per view with any of those matches, so you’re not missing out on anything. Plus, the fans get the thrill of seeing Brock tear some poor guy to shreds. It’s a win-win. And I guarantee you, it’d be more fun to see Brock in the ring with any of those three guys than The Big Show.

On the subject of Mark Henry, here’s been some talk lately about “The World’s Strongest Man” hanging up his boots. The man himself has publicly stated that retirement is imminent, and that he’d like to have a retirement match. But considering the hideous losing streak he’s been on lately against the likes of Rusev and Sheamus, the value of a Mark Henry retirement match plummets with each passing week. This squash match with The Big Show certainly didn’t help things.

Paul Heyman, WWE Raw, September 28, 2015Paul Heyman talks MSG match, does not mention The Undertaker. Sorry Paul. Even you couldn’t sell me on this one. All that talk about The Big Show being complacent and unmotivated would be fine…if he hadn’t been losing to Ryback, John Cena, and half the other guys he’s been in the ring with lately.

Still, Heyman put Show over strong, and that doesn’t surprise me. In all the years Show has been with WWE, he was at his best when he was being booked by Paul Heyman on WWE’s version of ECW. There aren’t many good things to remember about ECW on Syfy, but that was one of them.

And yet again, we got no hype for Brock/Undertaker at Hell in a Cell. That’s so damn weird. Since when can we only promote one show at a time? This is THE UNDERTAKER we’re talking about! You know, that guy that usually wrestles once a year? That guy you relied on to sell Summerslam, and are now going to again for Hell in a Cell? And yet, they’re not even casually mentioning him. If I’m Big Show, my key talking point is that Brock Lesnar won’t make it to Hell in a Cell to face The Undertaker. This Madison Square Garden show is worth a fraction of what Hell in a Cell is, based on that one match alone. So for God’s sake, talk about it! Sell me on it!

Kane, Raw, September 28, 2015Kane gets a “Performance Evaluation.” This segment started at the 1 hour and 51 minute mark, and ended at the 2 hour and 8 minute mark. Yet another segment in which Seth Rollins is sent out there to kill time with a drawn out speech. What’s more, the pay off for the whole thing was hokey. “Corporate Kane” gets hauled off in an ambulance, and then magically transforms into “Demon Kane.” And when the change happened, the crowd hardly reacted. They seemed as tired of the whole thing as we were.

Why are we overcomplicating this with the whole multiple personality angle? What’s wrong with Kane being a sadistic monster that’s out to get Rollins every week? It would paint Rollins as a coward, and position Kane as the demonic presence they need him to be. If this three-hour Raw era has taught us anything, it’s that longer and more complex doesn’t always equal superior.

John Cena’s US Open Challenge returns, results in a six-man tag featuring The New Day and The Dudley Boyz. Happy to see Xavier Woods, who’s mostly cast as a manager these days, get a chance to actually wrestle. I don’t think anybody actually believed he would win, but it was a nice little exhibition for him. And that’s really what these open challenges are supposed to be about, until somebody actually upsets Cena and wins the belt. Can’t say I was a fan of the finish, though. Nothing against the Dudleys, but I can’t say I ever had dreams of seeing them aligned with Cena.

John Cena, Xavier Woods, Raw, September 28, 2015Interestingly, Heath Slater was campaigning on Twitter to be the guy facing Cena, calling this “Heath Slater Appreciation Night.” He might have been a little over the top with all that. But if Zack Ryder can get a match with Cena, why not Slater?

Roman Reigns and Bray Wyatt brawl in the main event. This was by no means a bad choice for a main event. But damn, the crowd was sitting on their hands. They had a strong finish, too. Reigns even got a couple of good lines off on the mic. I’m telling you, if they just let this guy be himself…

The Bella Twins & Alicia Fox def. Charlotte, Becky Lynch, & Natalya. Before this match, we had another Miz TV segment with the girls. Paige ran her mouth again, and I’m still not sure what to make of it. She’s obviously trying to be a heel, and she’s good at the whole brat persona. But anyone who calls out the Bellas for sleeping their way to the top is going to get cheers. So if they want to keep going the villainess route, her promos need to be more focused on her rivals: Charlotte, Becky, and Natalya.

Wade Barrett, Raw, September 28, 2015Wade Barrett returns to attack Stardust and Neville. Why should I care? There, I said it. When we last saw Barrett, he was essentially in the position Mark Henry is in now. He was the resident jobber. On top of that, he was walking around wearing a silly looking crown and robe. And now he’s back. So what? And where do we go from here? A triple threat match maybe?

Hornswoggle suspended for violating the WWE Wellness Policy. I can only assume this was for marijuana or something. Tough break. Or maybe not, considering WWE hasn’t done anything with him in quite some time. Unless you count that Swerved show on the Network.

Images courtsey 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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Billy Corgan, Roman Reigns vs. Big Show, and Other Mid-Week Wrestling Ponderings

Billy CorganBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan joins TNA as a “Senior Producer.” Yet another baffling choice made by the higher-ups in TNA. Corgan may be a star in the music industry, but what sort of track record does he have that merits him being brought into the creative end of a wrestling company? Yes, he’s been involved in some indie promotions, and is apparently a life-long fan. That’s great. But why would TNA invest in him of all people? What great success of Corgan’s can we point to and say, “He made that happen. Imagine what he could do for TNA!” Is he going to produce an A&E reality show about Impact that gets scrapped and never airs?

This just seems like yet another attempt by TNA to hitch their wagon to a star and grab headlines in a feeble attempt to seem relevant. I have no desire to see TNA fail, nor should any wrestling fan in their right mind. But Billy Corgan? Come on…

Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, TNAI hate to beat a dead horse here, but it bears repeating. To me, TNA sold its soul in 2009 and 2010 when they brought in Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, and that whole crew. If you look back at the company between 2004 and that early 2009 period, there was no shortage of established stars (Jeff Jarrett, Sting, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, etc.). But TNA was also the place you’d see these newer, fresh talents like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Jay Lethal, James Storm, Robert (now Bobby) Roode, etc. You could also see some of the best women’s wrestling in the United States. The creative wasn’t fantastic, but the performances of these awesome wrestlers were sufficient to put eyes on the product. TNA, despite its flaws, was a cool place to be.

But Dixie Carter and the TNA higher ups were seemingly so fixated on reaching WWE’s level of popularity that they sold their soul in a feeble attempt to re-create the Monday Night Wars and boost ratings. Guys like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Eric Bischoff wound up drawing attention away from the new stars, which left us with an awkwardly focused product.

TNA, Destination AmericaAnd now, five years later, where are they? TNA’s deal with Spike is gone, and many fans now have to fight to even find them on Destination America. Hogan, Bischoff, and Flair are all gone, as are many of the talents that helped build the company in the first place. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Joe, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Velvet Sky, Madison Rayne. Gone, gone, all gone.

That’s not to say TNA is incapable of producing good television. In fact, during their last several weeks on Spike, and thus far on Destination America, they’ve produced some pretty good shows. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. But God knows it’s better than most of what they’ve been giving us over the last five years.

As for Corgan, I’ll now direct you to an interview he did with Josh Matthews (via Skype) a few days ago…

Whether Corgan is this creative genius or not, people need to remember that one person can’t single-handedly change the course of a wrestling promotion. As an organization, you’ve got to have a a vision and a direction you want to go in, and you’ve got to have talents on and off camera that can put make that vision a reality. One man isn’t going to change that, no matter how many records he’s sold…

WWE Extreme Rules 2015, The Big Show, Roman ReignsRoman Reigns and The Big Show earn praise for their Last Man Standing Match at Extreme Rules. After hearing all the buzz about this match, I went back and re-watched it on the WWE Network. It was easily the best match the two have ever had, which granted isn’t saying much. At times it was, as expected, slow. But the psychology early on was interesting, with Show drawing heat from the crowd by breaking all the weapons. Also, I’ll always give credit to show for taking a lot of big bumps that he really doesn’t have to. Reigns throwing him off the top rope to the canvas was one example. But think about all the superplexes he’s taken over the years.

We got to see some nice stuff from Roman Reigns here. He had some nice ferocity with those hose chair shots he gave to Show, and of course, that spear through the table. Plus, hopefully that bump through the table got him some respect from the smarks.

All in all, it was a good match. Not a classic by any means, but a much better match than what I expected from those two.

Mick FoleyMick Foley’s Cheap Pops special airs on the WWE Network. The network seems to be hitting its stride these days. Specials like this one, the Chris Jericho interviews, and Renee Young’s new Unfiltered series are enough to keep me subscribed for at least another month.

Foley is such a great wordsmith. Even though he’s not really doing stand-up comedy anymore, when you put a mic in his hands he always manages to be entertaining. I’d certainly be open to another Foley special. Heck, with talents like Jim Ross and Shawn Michaels doing one-man shows of sorts, I’d say give them the platform as well. This is the sort of thing devout wrestling fans want to see, and will keep people watching the network.

Image 1 from riffyou.com. Image 2 from wrestlingforum.com. Image 3 from miamiherald.com. Images 4 and 5 from wwe.com.

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