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 Elimination Chamber Preview – A Wrestlemania Pit Stop

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It feels weird to be having a pay per view without Seth Rollins or Becky Lynch on the card. Especially after they won their respective Royal Rumble matches. Ruby Riott, Lio Rush, and the IIconics are all booked on this pay per view. But our top contenders for Wrestlemania aren’t.

And I’m okay with that. It’s weird. But not bad weird.

Obviously, WWE has the most expansive roster in all of wrestling. If they’re going to continue to give us all these pay per views, it only makes sense that they stagger the featured performers and championships. For instance, Fastlane, which is just over a month away, should make a point to include not only Rollins and Lynch, but a Raw Tag Team Title Match, a Smackdown Women’s Title Match, and a US Title Match. Anything that gives these shows a sense of difference and distinction from one another is a positive. That’s definitely something to keep in mind as we continue into 2019.

Now let’s dive in…

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Akira Tozawa

Welp, so much for Hideo Itami becoming champion

The four-way that these two had with Itami and Kalisto on the Royal Rumble pre-show was actually pretty damn good. Lots of loud kicks. I don’t doubt that Murphy and Tozawa can give us something else in that ball park here.

While Tozawa is still very likable on 205 Live, I don’t see a reason why he should have the title instead of Murphy. So I’m picking the champ to retain here. The Cruiserweight Title picture still looks wide open as we move toward Wrestlemania. So who gets the shot when we get to New Jersey? Cedric Alexander? A babyface Sami Zayn, maybe?

PREDICTION: Buddy Murphy

Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin

I didn’t want to see this match in December when they were going to contest it under TLC rules. I can’t say I’m dying to see it now. Best case scenario, these guys surprise us and turn in a hot match. But I’m not betting on it.

The rehabbing of the Braun Strowman character must continue here. Thankfully, he didn’t have to lose to Brock again at the Rumble. Now he needs to put this Baron Corbin stuff behind him once and for all.

PREDICTION: Braun Strowman

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Shane McMahon and The Miz vs. The Usos

This makes sense from a story perspective. The new, thrown-together tag team against the veteran team with the titles up for grabs. In theory, the champions are outmatched. But in the end, they somehow manage to pull it out. It’s not exactly an awesome spot for the Usos, considering how long they’ve been around and how much they’ve given to the company. But it’s all in service of the story between Miz and Shane. Obviously, I don’t think the Miz’s big turn on Shane happens here. I think the earliest they do it is Fastlane.

PREDICTION: Shane McMahon and The Miz

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Bobby Lashley (c) and Lio Rush vs. Finn Balor

The only reason to add Lio Rush to a match like this is to give fans hope that Balor will pin him to win the title. The only question is, do they do it?

Taking the title off Lashley so soon after he won it doesn’t exactly do him any favors. On the other hand, all those months of Balor getting thrown around by bigger guys didn’t do him any favors either. But he’s been on the rebound lately. Especially after nearly beating Brock at the Rumble. Balor can be a big star for WWE, and this is the next step in that process. He pins Lio Rush in this match, then pins Lashley in the rematch to make him the undisputed champion. As for Lashley, he and Rush are still a winning act together. Title or not, he’s still a player.

PREDICTION: Finn Balor

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Ruby Riott

You know what kinda sucks? Ruby had this same spot last year. A filler match against the champion on the way to Wrestlemania. Only it was against Charlotte Flair at Fastlane. Granted, the company has more invested in her now. The move to Raw has been good for Ruby and her squad. Her time will come. Hopefully soon. She deserves it.

As it was with Survivor Series, TLC, and the Royal Rumble, Ronda will win here. As she should. All the pieces are falling into place for her match with Becky Lynch at Wrestlemania. The only real question is whether Flair finds her way into it as well.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH TO CROWN WWE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS:
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose vs. Naomi and Carmella vs. Nia Jax and Tamina vs. the Riott Squad vs. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce

This feels like it’s going to be messy. And not in the bloody brawl sort of way. Rather, the Botchamania sort of way. Not to take anything away from the talent each of these ladies has. But whether they’re men or women, 12 bodies inside an Elimination Chamber is too much. Some of these women aren’t exactly ring generals, either. On Raw, we learned Sasha and Bayley will be one of the first teams in this match. I’d wager that’s not an accident. Not only does it work from an underneath babyface perspective, but Sasha and Bayley can guide some of the less polished teams through the match early on.

I’d actually really like to see the IIconics take the titles home. I dig their act, and this would be a nice distinction for them. But in the end, I think they’ll go with Sasha and Bayley. They’re the biggest babyface team in this match, and It’s a new piece to add to the “Four Horsewomen” story. Plus, they deserve it. If nothing else, for all the crappy segments and writing they’ve been subjected to in the last couple of years.

PREDICTION: Sasha Banks and Bayley

ELIMINATION CHAMBER MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy vs. AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe vs. Kofi Kingston

If I’m in charge, this is the match that main events the show. The sad thing is, I can’t even remember the last time the WWE Champion was in that position. But you’ve got to end with a chamber match, right? And while they might be tempted to end with the first ever Women’s Tag Team Champions, is there any doubt these guys are going to give us a better match?

So Mustafa Ali was pulled due to injury, and replaced by Kofi Kingston. I don’t think that changes the outcome, as I wouldn’t have picked him to win. But that’s a rotten break for him either way.

Either way, I think you let Bryan retain here. Let him get a huge win like this under his belt to maximize his credibility going into Wrestlemania. I still dig the idea of him walking in as champion five years after his big moment at Wrestlemania 30. Who he defends against is still anybody’s guess…

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan

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.

TLC is Over…Now Who’s Going to Win the Royal Rumble?!?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

With TLC in the books, it’s now officially time to look ahead to the Royal Rumble. Or in our case, the Men’s Royal Rumble Match.

Strictly speaking, a Royal Rumble Match victory isn’t what it used to be. Looking at the winners of the last 10 Royal Rumbles, only three have gone on to win a Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania.

Still, winning it is still a hell of an accomplishment. And as they love to say every year, the road to Wrestlemania does indeed begin at the Royal Rumble. So until that fateful night in Phoenix, the pressing question shall remain: Who’s walking away with that precious golden ticket to the show of shows?

On the men’s side of things, I’ve got five names running through my head. The smart bet is that the winner is on this list…

1. Seth Rollins
The obvious choice. Rollins has been verbally jabbing Brock Lesnar for awhile now, and there’s a pretty damn good chance Lesnar walks into Wrestlemania as the Universal Champion. Having dropped the Intercontinental Title at TLC, Rollins is now free to once again set his eyes on the big red belt. A belt he’s never won, by the way. He’s also never won a Rumble Match. So they’ve got a chance to brave a new frontier in the coming weeks. And if there’s one thing WWE desperately needs right now, it’s that aura of freshness. Perhaps what they need to do is look at the status quo…and burn it down.

See what I did there?

2. AJ Styles
With Daniel Bryan now firmly on the heel side of things, AJ Styles has a firm grip on Smackdown‘s top babyface spot. So it makes sense for him to be in this conversation. He’s now had his championship rematch with Bryan. So the Rumble Match may be his quickest way back to the title picture. Based on the match these two had at TLC, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it again at a Wrestlemania level. But rumor has it Styles is looking to trim his schedule down in 2019. Chances are, that means he’s not getting the title. That doesn’t mean he can’t win the Rumble, of course. But having already been WWE Champion for a year, it might be time to move on to someone else.

But who?

3. The Miz
Obviously, Miz has been paired off with Shane McMahon lately. So the more likely path seems to be a Miz vs. Shane match at Wrestlemania. That’s not a bad spot to be in, all things considered. But early in the year, there was a good amount of buzz about Miz once again becoming WWE Champion. It wasn’t unjustified, either. Look at how much he’s upped his game in the last few years.

Miz does his best work as a heel. If nothing else, he’s proven that. If you need evidence, look to his ill-conceived babyface run a few years ago. But the fan respect factor has increased quite a bit since then. A Miz/Daniel Bryan Wrestlemania match seemed likely for several months. If WWE wanted to somehow use Shane to steer Miz’s character in a different direction, we might just get it after all.

4. Drew McIntyre
I was blown away when McIntyre lost to Finn Balor at TLC. It was odd enough that he lost to Dolph Ziggler a few weeks back. Now he’s losing a pay per view match to Balor? Very strange.

Still, McIntyre has been one of the few brights spots in a series of really, really dim and grim Raw broadcasts. His ascension to the top seems inevitable at this point, and the Royal Rumble is the perfect time to start. While it seems more likely that he would go on to challenge a newly crowned Braun Strowman for the title at Wrestlemania, let’s not rule out a possibly Brock vs. Drew match. In that scenario, I’d cast drew as the babyface. I don’t know that it would take much to get fans to cheer McIntyre. Especially if they put him against Brock.

5. The Rock
And now, a word from way out in left field.

This one requires you to buy into the rumor that up until recently, WWE was courting The Rock for a match with Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania. Hypothetically, he’d have entered the Rumble Match, won it, and challenged Reigns for the Universal Title. Rock vs. Roman has been a dream match, at least in WWE’s eyes, for years now. But obviously, plans have changed.

But you know what else would be a dream match of sorts? Rock vs. Brock. It would have exponentially more drawing power than Brock vs. Rollins, or Brock against anyone on the current roster, for that matter. We’d also get to see Rock go back and forth with Paul Heyman on the mic, which is by no means a bad scenario.

Of course, you’d once again run into the issue of a part-timer being in the title picture. Though you really can’t even count Rock as a part-timer. He’s more of a celebrity guest star than anything else. Plugging Rock in would be a good short-term solution to draw up interest. But that does absolutely no favors for guys like Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman.

It was a long shot to begin with. But we’ve seen them pull wild moves on the way to Wrestlemania. Stranger things have happened.

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

Wrestling Headlines: CM Punk in Court, Enzo’s “Consensual Penis,” and More!

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I actually thought this was going to be a slow news week. Turns out, not so much.

The Dr. Chris Amann/CM Punk/Colt Cabana case goes to trial. Like so many others who heard it, I was enthralled by the now infamous CM Punk/Colt Cabana podcast on Punk’s departure from WWE. So all these years later, it’s fascinating to see the fallout involving WWE’s Dr. Chris Amann. I’ve been following the coverage on WrestleZone.

Amann was treating Punk in the months prior to his WWE departure, and is suing for defamation. The real-life Phil Brooks said Amann misdiagnosed a staph infection, which lead to months of suffering. Amann refutes the accusation, and is seeking $1 million in damages.

WWE officials and personalities such as Kane, referee John Cone, and WWE’s Senior Director of Talent Relations Mark Carrano all testified via recording about Punk’s participation in the 2014 Royal Rumble Match the night before he walked out. It’s incredibly surreal to read their recollections, as they use all this pro wrestling jargon in a legal setting. Kane mentioned eliminating Punk from the Rumble “illegally.” Carrano described Punk after the Rumble as “one angry superstar.” It’s so weird…

In a bit of bizarre hilarity, the jury actually had to watch footage of Punk being eliminate by Kane in the 2014 Royal Rumble, which took place the night before his famous walk-out. When the judge said he didn’t know who Kane was, someone reportedly told him: “The big guy without a shirt on.”

Also, it’s now on record that the “CM” in CM Punk stands for “Chick Magnet.” So that’s a thing now, I guess…

Meanwhile, Punk’s next UFC fight is on June 9. It should be interesting to say the least.

The former Enzo Amore releases a rap video, calling himself Real1. Enzo isn’t exactly Jay-Z, and I’m not exactly sure what to make of what I’m seeing here. But this video does have over a million views. So he’s got that going for him…

Silly imagery aside, he’s rapping about a very real situation. Earlier this year the real-life Eric Arndt was the subject of a rape investigation, and ultimately fired by WWE for not cluing them in on it. The investigation was ultimately dropped due to insufficient evidence.

I hope to God I’m never in the position this guy was in. But if I am, I probably wont release any kind of public statement, rap or otherwise, that talks about “gripping my consensual penis.” It’s also probably not a good idea to alienate wrestling fans, many of whom were chanting “We want Enzo!” at Big Cass not long ago.

But hey, that’s just me.

John Cena says the Velveteen Dream might be “something special.” Cena was at MegaCon in Orlando this week, and someone asked him a question about facing wrestlers from NXT. While he also mentioned EC3 by name, the one he really put over was the Velveteen Dream.

“You know how in the Star Wars movies the old Jedis can look at the rookie Jedis and be like, ‘I think that’s the one,’” Cena said. “I kinda have a weird, odd Midichlorian feeling about Velveteen Dream. I think there’s something special there.”

That’s a hell of an endorsement for the real-life Patrick Clark Jr. But if you’ve seen the guy, you know it’s not exactly unfounded. I highly recommend his match with Aleister Black from NXT TakeOver: War Games.

Sasha Banks wins Women’s Gauntlet Match to take final spot in Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. This match didn’t do much for me, mostly because the quick eliminations of Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan left a bad taste in my mouth. I understand wanting to give the women a spotlight like this. But if you’ve got younger ones on the roster that can’t hang in a match like this, keep them out! Morgan and Logan could have stayed on the outside and helped Ruby Riott beat Bayley, Mickie James, and Dana Brooke, only to have Sasha overcome the odds at the end.

Ruby ended up being the star here. She’s obviously a good hand in the ring. But she also has such a unique look, and can cut a decent promo. They obviously thought enough of her to give her a group named after her. I’ve got high hopes.

Samoa Joe def. Daniel Bryan and Big Cass to take the last spot in the Men’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. So Cass wasn’t really hurt? Or at least he’s well enough to keep wrestling? Good. In terms of being a singles star, he doesn’t quite have it yet. But he might get there. Working with guys like Bryan and Joe certainly won’t hurt him.

Cedric Alexander def. Buddy Murphy to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. I haven’t had a chance to watch a lot of 205 Live lately. But I heard some good buzz about this Cedric Alexander/Buddy Murphy match. Damn, I forgot how good 205 Live has become. Not being on Raw every week has also done Cedric a lot of good. He still comes off pretty bland. But he’s athletic as hell. And the development of Buddy Murphy as a character has been a pleasant surprise. This one’s worth checking out, folks.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Predictions. Plus: This is the XFL…again.

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

He’s really going to try this, isn’t he? I can’t believe it…

As most of you reading this already know, Vince McMahon announced this week that the XFL will be revived in 2020.

This revamped version of the league, which hosted one season in 2001, will attempt to come at the game from a different perspective. McMahon noted the league will emphasize safety, be non-political, and exclude players with criminal records.

Professional football has never been my thing. But even I can see that Vince is once again aiming for disenfranchised NFL fans. He still doesn’t wish to compete directly, as the XFL season will kick-off after the NFL season has wrapped up. The league will supposedly not effect McMahon’s role as chairman and CEO of WWE.

As facepalm worthy as this is, I do give Vince credit. The guy wants a football league, and he’s going to try again regardless of the inevitable criticism and ridicule. There’s a lot to be said for that. He’s also not using WWE money this time. He’s started a new company, Alpha Entertainment LLC, specifically to pursue outside entertainment endeavors. Did we mention he’s 72 years old. That old catchphrase rings true: Vince really does have balls the size of grapefruits.

That said I have virtually no interest. I’m a pro wrestling guy. Vince McMahon is also a pro wrestling guy. WWE has always been his bread and butter, and almost every time he’s tried something else it’s ended badly. The original XFL obviously comes to mind. But he also tried the World Bodybuilding Federation in the early ’90s. In 1998 he bought the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for $10 million, which nothing came of. WWE Studios hasn’t exactly set the movie industry on fire, though at least it’s still alive after more than 15 years. You might even lump Linda McMahon’s senate campaign in there. So despite what WWE would have you believe, Vince McMahon is not a genius.

But let’s not miscast him as a fool, either. At his core, Vince McMahon is a gutsy and stubborn entrepreneur who takes calculated risks and is willing to endure failure. Most of his greatest successes are things he’s willed into existence. The global expansion of WWE. The creation of Wrestlemania. His ratings war with Turner Broadcasting. Now he’s trying to will the XFL into existence once again.

Part of what makes Vince so successful is his penchant for both spectacular success and spectacular failure. So in the end, win or lose, this XFL resurrection will be a sight to behold. It’s hard not to root for the guy sometimes. Even when it seems like he’s stubbornly beating a dead horse.

With that, let’s take a look at the Royal Rumble. I’m skipping the kick-off show matches this year, as we’ve already got a lot to cover on the main show…

2/3 FALLS MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

I’m going with Benjamin and Gable on this one. The Usos have had the belts for awhile now. As babyfaces, it might do them good to chase a heel team. Benjamin and Gable have also been growing on me as complaining heels. Gable in particular has done some really nice mic work, which is a good sign as far as a potential singles run is concerned. So let’s give ’em the belts and see what happens.

By the way, do Benjamin and Gable have a team name? I was never a fan of the “World’s Greatest Tag Team” name. Nothing like that, please.

PREDICTION: Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (c) vs. The Bar

A win for Sheamus and Cesaro might help everybody here. I’d wager the Bar are on their way to a babyface turn. The respect factor is getting tougher to ignore as the weeks go by. On the flip side, Jason Jordan is starting to come into his own as an annoying heel. A loss to the Bar can easily transition into a feud with Rollins, who could sorely use a program with some heat to it. An audience clamoring for Rollins to curb stomp Jordan doesn’t sound so bad.

I can’t say I’m any less tired of seeing Rollins wrestle Sheamus and Cesaro. But even so, this one could be the dark horse to steal the show.

PREDICTION: The Bar

HANDICAP MATCH FOR WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

If the Raw Tag Title Match doesn’t still the show, this one probably will. These three have all proven they can turn in epic pay per view matches. The 2-on-1 format also lends itself to good storytelling. So I’ve got high expectations.

I don’t see why Styles wouldn’t retain here. Though it doubt it’ll be without controversy. Expect to see Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan during this one, leading to a confrontation or a dispute that allows Styles to pick up a win. Something is obviously going to happen with Bryan and Shane at Wrestlemania. It’s just a question of what, and whether it involves Bryan lacing up his boots again…

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

TRIPLE-THREAT MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman vs. Kane

In terms of match quality, these three are fighting an uphill battle. Brock’s matches are hit or miss depending on who he’s in there with. His match with Strowman at No Mercy was a groaner. And despite his status as a WWE icon, Kane’s matches tend to be slow. It might be better if they got this one over with quickly.

On the other hand, Brock’s multi-man matches have historically been pretty great. The fatal four-way match at Summerslam, the triple-threat with John Cena and Seth Rollins a few years back. If Brock, Strowman, and Kane can pique the audience’s interest early, they could overachieve

Either way Brock wins, hopefully pinning Kane. He’d better pin Kane. So help me God, if he pins Strowman again…

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

2018 WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

I was pretty excited for this until I read that Stephanie McMahon will be on commentary for it. From a publicity standpoint, I get it. They want her to be heavily associated with the “women’s revolution.” But I have no desire to hear that woman talk for an hour. Especially when there are multiple women they could plug in who’d be a better fit. Lita comes to mind, as she did commentary for the Mae Young Classic. But there’s also Renee Young. What about Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss? They’re the two champions and they’re not wrestling that night. So have them lend some insight to the match. Yes, a five person announce desk is overkill. But it beats having Stephanie out there.

You know who really deserves to win this match? Becky Lynch. Crowds love her, and she deserves a big match at a Wrestlemania. They’ve also played up her friendship with Charlotte for awhile now. That could set up a great reluctant opponents storyline. But I have very little faith they’ll do the right thing with her.

Nia Jax is a possibility. Notwithstanding the beatdown Asuka put on her, they’ve established her as a dominant force from the start. She and Alexa Bliss have been connected as far back to their NXT days. A match between them could be intriguing, but I don’t see it for Wrestlemania. More likely she gets ganged up on and eliminated, or someone surprises her.

The big favorite is Asuka. She’s finally starting to pick up speed on the main roster as an undefeated, unstoppable force. In that respect, winning the first Women’s Royal Rumble Match could be like tossing gasoline on a fire. But it seems so obvious. It feels like they want us to think it’s her just so they can swerve us.

There are 30 women in this match. As of this writing, only 18 have been announced. So I’m making this prediction with more than a third of the participants unknown. As I’ve said, I’m inclined to think some of the women we saw at Raw 25 will be here. Trish Stratus, Jacqueline, Nikki Bella. Maybe Torrie Wilson and/or Kelly Kelly. They need bodies in this thing. We almost have to see some NXT names. Ember Moon, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Nikki Cross, etc. Maybe Shayna Baszler.

It should be noted that Ronda Rousey has denied she’s in this match. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. It just means she’s denying it.

In the end, I’ve got to go with Asuka. Yes, it’s obvious. But they’ve gone the obvious route with Rumble Matches before. Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss is one of the more intriguing matches they can do on the main roster right now. For that matter, so is Asuka vs. Charlotte. They really can’t lose with her.

PREDICTION: Asuka

2018 MEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE:

Oddly enough, there are only 17 names announced for the Men’s Royal Rumble compared to 18 for the women. You wouldn’t think that’d be the case, as they’ve obviously got so many more male wrestlers.

Like the John Cenas and Randy Ortons of the world, Roman Reigns is always a top contender for the Rumble Match. The buzz since Wrestlemania 33 has been about him headlining this year’s show with Brock Lesnar. So in theory, he could take this one home….*shudders*

I doubt it, though. I can’t see them wanting the Rumble Match drowned out by boos again. So we’ve got to look elsewhere. So with Lesnar occupied on the Raw side, we’re looking for a challenger for the WWE Championship on Smackdown. Going into Wrestlemania, your champion is probably going to be AJ Styles. Who do you put with AJ?

Finn Balor’s name jumps out immediately. Yes, he’s on Raw. But we’ve seen guys win the Rumble and jump ship before. Balor is with Gallows and Anderson now, and we’ve established that they have a history with AJ in Japan. And of course, AJ was with Gallows and Anderson in WWE for awhile. I’m not sure how much they’d want to go into all the New Japan/Bullet Club stuff. But they can always touch on it and then branch off into their own story. Remember, Finn pinned AJ in that throw-together match at TLC. Balor can be a marquee player for WWE. He just needs the right story. This could be it.

They could do AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton. But the match Orton had with Bray Wyatt left a bad taste in people’s mouths. Plus, Orton just won it last year. So I’d steer clear of him.

The only other name that makes sense is Shinsuke Nakamura. That’s a bigger risk than some would admit. Nakamura is clearly special and obviously a star. I can’t complain about most of his matches. (The Jinder Mahal stuff notwithstanding.) But I don’t know that he’s connecting with the audience at a level that justifies a Rumble win. The language barrier is part of it. But I still don’t feel like I know anything about this guy. Yes, he’s a legend in Japan. But why? What makes him such a “Rock Star” or an “Artist” or whatever they want to call him?  I’d like to see Nakamura win the title. I’d like to see him work with AJ. But if they still don’t have a solid grasp on how to portray him, maybe now isn’t the time.

Then again, they put the title on Jinder Mahal. If they can take a risk with Jinder, they can take a risk with Nakamura. A win for him win would get a big reaction. It could also make for a feel-good story about the Japanese legend who comes to America and wins the title. I’m not overly confident with this pick. But Nakamura has a shot this weekend.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

MISCELLANEOUS RUMBLE MATCH PREDICTIONS: 

I expect Elias to eliminate Cena, and going on to face him at Elimination Chamber. He’s essentially getting the role Samoa Joe was supposed to have.

There’ve been rumors about EC3 making his debut in the Rumble Match, now that he’s left Impact Wrestling. More power to him. It did wonders for AJ a few years ago.  He went somewhere else and made a name for himself. He deserves another shot.

As they’re in Philadelphia again, a surprise ECW entrant seems likely. Tommy Dreamer, maybe? They could always throw Rhyno in there. But as an ECW fan, I’m still not over Rhyno dressing up like Mrs. Clause.

So does Tye Dillinger have to come in at number 10 every year now?

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

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Enzo Amore’s Release, Plus Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It was only a matter of time before the #MeToo movement touched pro wrestling. I can’t say I expected Enzo Amore to be the one effected. But here we are.

The real-life Eric Arndt was suspended and subsequently released by WWE this week after rape allegations against him emerged via Twitter. Supposedly Enzo was fired not because he was accused, but because he failed to alert WWE that he was being investigated.

Either way, it’s a rotten situation. If he did it, then he deserves everything that’s coming to him. If he didn’t, and simply failed to be transparent with WWE about it, then this whole thing was needless. Arndt certainly isn’t the best in the ring. But he’s still incredibly talented, and can go far. If he is innocent, then hopefully he’ll be back. Perhaps a little wiser for the experience.

Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown:

Vince McMahon is honored by his children, Shane and Stephanie. Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupts, hitting the Stone Cold Stunner on Shane twice, and once on the chairman himself. This Raw 25 show as a disappointment for a variety of reasons. But we can’t say they didn’t start strong. At 72, Vince is every bit the showman he’s always been. And of course, it doesn’t get any hotter than Steve Austin.

Remember the days when Austin could hit the Stunner on Stephanie? Ahhh, good times…

Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James def. Nia Jax, Alicia Fox, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Asuka throws her teammates over the top rope afterward, in a preview of the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Asuka is obviously a heavy favorite in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match this Sunday. But she’s also a little obvious. Who’s the dark horse candidate? Nia Jax? Becky Lynch, maybe?

The Undertaker returns to the Manhattan Center, says it’s time for those who’ve fallen to “rest in peace.” Lots of fans holding up smartphones during the Undertaker’s entrance. I’ll never understand that. Be in the moment, folks. Put your damn phones away.

Filming at both the Barclays Center and the Manhattan Center was a complete waste. I feel for the fans at the Manhattan Center, who obviously felt cheated with what relatively little they got. Watching current stars on that throwback set is such a great visual. Why not just do the Manhattan Center? Just jack up the ticket prices. The die-hards will pay.

There was a ton of speculation about an angle being shot for Undertaker vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania. I’m not necessarily disappointed we didn’t get that. But we didn’t get much of anything from ‘Taker. He said some drawn out stuff about his old enemies, and then he left. Again, seeing him back in the Manhattan Center was cool. But in the end, this was a big disappointment.

The Miz def. Roman Reigns to win the Intercontinental Championship. Loved the finish to this one, with the exposed turnbuckle pad being a surprise. Miz cheats to win, and gets his belt back in a match that the crowd was pretty into. Take note future champions: For the Miz, that IC Title is every bit as important as the WWE Title. That’s how you lend prestige to a championship.

Christian hosts Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan on the Peep Show. Jason Jordan’s got heat. Bar babyface turn? Sheamus and Cesaro interrupt. A brawl ensues. and Rollins accidentally takes out Jordan. A babyface turn for Sheamus and Cesaro is probably inevitable. They’ve got that cool factor going for them. Especially when they’re up against someone like Jason Jordan, who’s definitely coming into his own as a heel. He’s gettin’ there. Slowly but surely…

Bray Wyatt def. Woken Matt Hardy. Another opportunity they missed with the Manhattan Center presentation? Howard Finkel. That had him announce Undertaker’s entrance, but they switched to Greg Hamilton for the remainder of the night. The never even showed Finkel on camera. Why? What’s their aversion to letting this guy be on TV?

On the plus side, it’s always great to hear Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on headset. Lawler alluded to us one day finding out who/what Sister Abigail is. I’d like to think that means the whole Bray in drag thing is being forgotten. More likely, they’re not as familiar with the recent product.

Chris Jericho appears in a backstage segment with Elias. Again, a total waste not having Jericho appear in front of the live crowd. Though at least for this one they have an excuse, what with the whole New Japan thing. He was even wearing his “Alpha Club” t-shirt. Did they just miss that?

Elias is interrupted by John Cena. A fight breaks out. Elias low blows Cena, and smashes him in the back with a guitar. Very cool to see Jimmy Fallon in the front row. Like him or not, he’s the host of The Tonight Show. That means something.

One thing I love about Cena? His love for spontaneity. He’ll go with the crowd. Even if he’s just pointing out the stupid beach balls. That lends an energy to things that’s been sorely lacking for a long time.

Mark Henry finds out the Godfather is “grown up,” and now a married man. Of course the Godfather can’t have hoes anymore. That was an edgy gimmick back in the ’90s. I’m almost surprised they even let him be on TV nowadays.

The Dudley Boyz interrupt a tag team match. Heath Slater takes the 3D through a table. Why exactly couldn’t we get that Bubba Ray heel run last year? Hell, why couldn’t the Dudleys even get a token tag team title run? This seems to be a recurring theme, but what a waste…

Shawn Michaels, Triple H, the New Age Outlaws, X-Pac, and Scott Hall celebrate Raw’s 25th anniversary with the Balor Club. Gallows and Anderson defeat the Revival. The legends beat up Dash and Dawson. It tugged at my heartstrings to hear Hunter name-drop Chyna. It’s such a damn shame she never got to come back and take a bow. She absolutely deserved it.

Supposedly, this Revival stuff was supposed to have been done by Enzo. Dash and Dawson did just fine, of course. And somehow it wasn’t as bad as what the Ascension got from JBL and the gang a few years back.

The “Too Sweet” bit with the Balor Club felt like an unofficial passing of the torch moment. BNow if only Balor hadn’t lost to Seth Rollins last week.

A confrontation between Brock Lesnar, Kane, and Braun Strowman ends with Strowman Powerslamming Lesnar through an announce table. They did this table spot at Summerslam, right? Still a good spot. Now if only Strowman were winning the title this Sunday.

Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn open Smackdown. AJ Styles agrees to face them in singles matches later in the show. They really want us to get behind the “Kami” nickname for Owens and Zayn. Coming from AJ, it almost feels like a dad joke. Good thing he’s the best in the damn world…

Chad Gable def. Jey Uso. Gable’s roll-through German Suplex somehow never gets old.  He’s so smooth in there. But at 5’8, his height could work against him in terms of a singles push. Granted, guys like Eddie Guerrero have been Heavyweight Champions at around that height. So it’s not unheard of.

Naomi def. Liv Morgan. The women’s locker room empties in anticipation of the Women’s Royal Rumble Match. Charlotte Flair wishes them good luck, “especially to the winner.” Saw someone on Twitter say that Liv Morgan looks like a Bratz doll. I’m not even sure what that means. But somehow I know it’s true.

We haven’t heard anything official about past stars coming in for the Women’s Rumble Match, which seems odd. I would imagine everyone they trotted out for that little hello on Raw is a candidate. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Nikki Bella show up. I’m sure Jacqueline would be happy to get in there. Trish Stratus seems like a must. I’ve also heard Molly Holly’s name mentioned. You’d think at least a few names would have been announced. Especially with them in attendance like that.

Randy Orton interrupts a match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Baron Corbin. Hits the RKO on both. Baron Corbin’s entrance music may be the best thing he’s got going for him right now. True story.

Hell of an entrance by Orton. He friggin’ flew into frame with that first RKO. His wife went on a little Instagram rant about how he was left off Raw 25. At least he didn’t miss much…

Bobby Roode, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods def. Jinder Mahal, Rusev, and Aiden English. That “Keap of Faith” Kofi does over the top with his back turned is damn crazy. Talk about a trust fall…

AJ Styles def. Kevin Owens quickly after Owens seemingly injures his knee. After a pre-match beatdown, Sami Zayn pins the WWE Champion. The best part of all this? Zayn finally won a match with the Blue Thunder Bomb. It’s the best move he’s got, but he’s always used it as a set-up move.

The dead giveaway that Owens wasn’t really hurt? They kept showing him on camera during the match. Typically if somebody gets hurt, they don’t do that if they can help it.

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Women’s Royal Rumble Match, Plus Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been gone for a few weeks. As such, I haven’t gotten the chance to talk about the upcoming women’s Royal Rumble Match.

Like almost everybody else, I’m cool with the match itself. I just wonder if this isn’t the beginning of WWE continuing to water down their big pay per view shows. Historically, there’s only been one Rumble Match each year. Now we’re getting a second. I imagine we’ll get the women’s Rumble at the top of the show, and the men’s Rumble as the main event. I’m very curious to see how that Philadelphia crowd reacts to two of these matches on one show. Does the novelty wear off for the second one?

I’m also curious to see how they fill those 30 slots. Almost every eligible woman on the main roster is now in the match. Factoring in Dana Brooke and Alicia Fox, who haven’t been announced yet, you’ve got 19 main roster names you can put in there. Thus, they have 11 spots they have to fill with either NXT talent or returning wrestlers. That’s a pretty big gap…

Obviously all of this is still very much in the experiment phase. Growing pains for the Women’s Division, which continues to grow. Much of what goes wrong (if anything) this year can be corrected in the years to come.

Ponderings From Raw and Smackdown:

Jason Jordan interrupts Roman Reigns’ opening promo, talks about a three-man group between Reigns, Jordan, and Seth Rollins. Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson interrupt. A six-man tag is made for the main event. This Shield reunion was apparently snake bit from the start. First Reigns has to bow out of their first main event together, and now Dean Ambrose goes down with an injury that’ll put him out for nine months. That’s a rotten break. But as these things sometimes are, it may be a blessing in disguise. Going away for awhile will hopefully freshen Ambrose up, and maybe even lead him back to heavyweight title contention.

Jason Jordan came off really well here from the standpoint of being a hokey, lame daddy’s boy trying to insert himself into the Shield. On the flip side, it’s great to see Balor teaming with Gallows and Anderson at long last. But the cool vibe they’ve got going for them gets undercut real quick when they have to recite that contrived WWE dialogue.

Sasha Banks and Bayley def. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. After a few weeks off, I still find Sasha Banks annoying. Absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder.

On Wrestling Observer Radio last week, Dave Meltzer mentioned that WWE has given up on Bayley. I’m inclined to believe him. But they’ve got no one to blame but themselves for that one. They wrote Bayley into a hole that she still hasn’t been able to escape.

Matt Hardy def. Curt Hawkins, stares down Bray Wyatt. Memphis was pretty quiet for this one, unless Matt was prompting them to chant. Then they had that weird staredown. Not the best night for the Woken one…

The Miz returns on Miz TV, announces he’s coming for the Intercontinental Title. This was pretty by-the-book. Good to see Miz back, of course. Raw missed him.

So apparently Miz and Maryse are getting a reality show on the USA Network. That’s actually a pretty big deal. I’m not a Total Divas fan at all, but that show caters to an audience that Raw and Smackdown obviously don’t. Given Miz’s background as a reality TV star, not to mention the couple’s work on Total Divas, this could be an awesome thing for them.

Cedric Alexander def Enzo Amore via count-out. Enzo retains the Cruiserweight Title. Ouch. Kudos to Enzo for finishing the match after getting busted open by a kick. Also, he was either selling really well, or he legit hurt his ankle. Did they have to call an audible on the finish?

Got a chance to catch Enzo on Straight to the Source, Corey Graves’ interview show on the WWE Network. Enzo spouted off a lot of catchphrases, but he still did damn good with that platform. He also seemed to set up a feud with Big Cass when he returns.

Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews def. Seams and Cesaro. So Dana Brooke is obviously with Titus and Apollo now. That business casual look actually suits her. It’s sort of a throwback to Debra’s old look. I would never have pegged “statistician” as a good role for Dana Brooke. But for now it’s working.

Kane ambushes Brock Lesnar after a Paul Heyman promo. Braun Strowman surprises them both, and then brings a lighting rig down on his Royal Rumble opponents. Firstly, since I didn’t get to say it last week, Brock sitting up and laughing at Kane’s Chokeslam was awesome. A really nice nod to the Undertaker.

So…that lighting rig obviously didn’t touch either Lesnar or Kane. That was pretty clear even on television. But still a pretty cool stunt for Strowman. And I liked the juxtaposition of Kane pulling himself back up with Lesnar getting loaded into the ambulance. I just wish the match stood a chance of living up to this hype.

Samoa Joe def. Rhyno, announces he’s targeting John Cena at the Royal Rumble. Crowd was dead for this one too. But in all fairness Rhyno has essentially become an enhancement talent. The final ECW Heavyweight Champion, ladies and gentlemen.

Finn Balor, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson def. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Jason Jordan. The Miz and the Miztourage ambush Reigns after the match. Teaming with Gallows and Anderson is already producing results for Balor. He got to score the pin and beat a team that’s not the Miztourage!

AJ Styles is interviewed at the top of the show. A Handicap Match is made for the main event. AJ’s end of this promo was weird. For one thing, he actually said “smart booking” on WWE television, which feels like something he’s not supposed to say. He also seemed legit flustered at one point. That’s sort of where he was supposed to be coming from in the promo. But I’m not sure he’s that good an actor…

Becky Lynch def. Ruby Riott. It was confusing that Charlotte and Naomi came out after Becky. Neither of them were in the match…

During this match I tweeted: “If Absolution is Coca Cola, then the Riott Squad is RC Cola.” That’s to say, Ruby and her crew seem like a cheap knock-off. That’s a shame, as Ruby’s look is so distinct. The big difference is Paige. Between Absolution and the Riott Squad, she’s the only established WWE name. We’re still getting to know everyone else.

Mojo Rawley def. Zack Ryder to advance to the semi-finals in the United States Championship tournament. This was hardly a shock. Ryder was always going to end up putting Rawley over. Though I still maintain a heel turn would have worked for Ryder.

There’s not much suspense in this tournament, as it’s obviously going to be Bobby Roode against Jinder Mahal in the finals at the Rumble. I’m assuming they’ll give it to Jinder as a way to rehab him after his WWE title run.

Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable demand justice for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles. Daniel Bryan puts them in a Two-Out-of-Three Falls Match at the Royal Rumble. Gable and Benjamin were alright on the mic here. The big reason Benjamin was never able to reach that top echelon was he never had much of a personality. I think his opportunity to be a main-eventer has come and gone But if Gable can help bring a little more charisma out of him, he could still reap some big benefits down the road.

Breezango def. Rusev Day. Despite their loss here, Rusev and English should be tag champs before the year is through. For whatever reason, this Rusev Day thing is over.

AJ Styles, Randy Orton, and Shinsuke Nakamura def. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a Handicap Match. Shane McMahon adds stipulations to the match when Owens and Zayn try to get counted out, and then disqualified. I’m never a fan of the babyfaces outnumbering the heels in Handicap Matches. It throws the psychology out of whack. You can make a legitimate case that Shane is the heel here. He’s essentially trapping Owens and Zayn in this match. But that seems to be what they’re going for. This Shane McMahon/Daniel Bryan thing is all about shades of gray. It’s interesting, but confusing at times.

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Samoa Joe Finally Arrives, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Samoa Joe, WWE Raw, January 30, 2017By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not much use in leading with anything but Samoa Joe, is there?

What we saw on Raw was over a decade in the making. After so many years of speculation as to whether he’d even be considered by WWE, Samoa Joe finally arrives on the main roster. What’s more, he’s going into a program with one of their top stars in Seth Rollins. I can’t even tell you how surreal it was just to hear Michael Cole say Joe’s name.

Many were disappointed that we didn’t see Joe in the Royal Rumble Match on Sunday. Would I have put him in there? Sure. That way the mainstream audience has a better idea of who he is before he shows up here. But then again, does that chip away at the surprise element? If Joe is in the Rumble, maybe this moment isn’t quite as special.

Either way, this was about as good a debut as we could have wanted for Samoa Joe. After years of stealing the show elsewhere, he finally gets to do it on wrestling’s biggest stage. Congratulations, good sir. You deserve it.

Ponderings From Raw:

Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho open the show. Braun Strowman demands a title shot. Mick Foley announces Owens will defend against Strowman later in the show. Decent opener. The best part of this segment was Strowman demanding his shot, “or I’ll break you in half.” You know what? I believe him.

Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho, WWE Raw, January 20, 2017Interesting that Mick Foley came to Raw dressed as the Riddler. Where exactly does one get a suit like that?

Sami Zayn def. Chris Jericho. Supposedly Jericho’s current run will wrap up in May so he can go back on tour with Fozzy. Some have said this has been the best run of Jericho’s career. I wouldn’t go that far. But it’s definitely up there. He’s consistently been one of the best parts of Raw, and the show will miss him when he’s gone. The guy is 46 and he can still hit Sami Zayn with a Frankensteiner (shown right). Amazing.

This was good stuff. For the second consecutive week, Zayn is in the best match on the show. Really dug the exploder duplex into the corner. I still wish he’d start beating people with the Blue Thunder Bomb. It’s his best move.

Mustafa Ali def. Tony Nese. Raw needs more of both these guys. I adore Ali’s reverse 450 splash. It’s a damn shame we didn’t get to see it this week. It’s also a damn shame that the fans still don’t give a damn about the Cruiserweight Division. Maybe one of the reasons Neville’s run in the division has worked so well is that we’ve known him the longest. Most of these other guys are still working to establish themselves in front of the national audience. Rich Swann and Jack Gallagher have started to do it. But that’s it.

Seth Rollins calls out Stephanie McMahon, who announces Triple H is on his way to RawThis seemed very choreographed and scripted, as these talking segments often do. Still, I love how irreverent Rollins is toward Stephanie. While much of his dialogue still comes off contrived, it’s refreshing. No one has talked to her this way in so long.

Stephanie McMahon, Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, January 30, 2017Having him mention coming to her front door and having one of their kids answer was a little edgy. I get why they did it. It makes the whole thing more personal. But I’d avoid approaching that topic again. Even Stone Cold never talked about going after little kids…

Bayley, Cesaro, and Sheamus def. Charlotte Flair, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson. This one didn’t do anything for me. Once again, Bayley pins Charlotte. She’s somehow unbeatable on pay per view, but extremely beatable on television.

The new Cruiserweight Champion Neville addresses the crowd. Rich Swann interrupts. Scripted promos can work if you present them believably. You forget they’re saying lines. Neville did that here. Where the hell has this guy been? Pissed off Neville is the best Neville.

In contrast, any time somebody says “WWE Universe,” any integrity the scene has is lost because no one would actually say that in the heat of the moment. Sorry Rich.

Last night at the Rumble, they showed some pictures of Neville and Swann earlier in their careers. I guess they came up together? Why not go that route for this promo and make things a little more relatable?

Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, January 30, 2017Braun Strowman def. Kevin Owens via disqualification after Roman Reigns interferes. After Strowman’s interference in last night’s Universal Title Match, the finish to this one was obvious. I’m happy Owens was able to be a little competitive here, while Strowman was still kept strong against both of them.

Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman challenge Goldberg to a match at WrestlemaniaA very predictable outcome. But yet another masterful promo by Paul Heyman. The “Yeah, but…” lines worked well.

The mentioning of Hulk Hogan beating Andre the Giant is yet another indicator that Hogan is likely on his way back. They’re planting the seeds.

Nia Jax def. Sasha Banks via referee stoppage. Byron Saxton: “How scary a sight is that? To have Nia Jax smiling, knowing that she’s gonna have her way with you.” That’s not the verbiage I would have used, Saxton…

What happened with the bell here? It rang, but the ref clearly didn’t call for it. Still, Sasha did a fine job putting Nia over, both tonight and on the Rumble pre-show. The full nelson swings into the ring post looked good.

Triple H, WWE Raw, January 30, 2017Enzo and Cass def. Rusev and Jinder Mahal in a Tornado Tag Team Match. I’ve got no use for this program anymore. Now that Enzo and Cass won this match, can we please move on?

Triple H: “Seth Rollins was a failure.” Samoa Joe ambushes Rollins. Awesome promo. I actually preferred this one to the Heyman stuff. The spinning of the narrative to where Seth owes him an apology. Hunter calling Seth an abject failure. The stuff about not being “that guy” anymore, and wearing the suit. Awesome. When Hunter is on, he’s on. I just wish we’d gotten this promo months ago, so the whole story didn’t cool off so much.

By and large, this was a strong show. Literally the best they’ve put on in months. Now we have a new face on Raw, and we’ll be seeing some of the bigger stars more regularly. Raw has been tough to watch lately. They didn’t so much fall into an autumn slump this year as a winter slump. But as always, things are picking up as we get closer to Wrestlemania.

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