Tag Archives: WWE Smackdown Live

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

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WWE’s 10 Most Fascinating People of 2018

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

What we have here is a bit of a tradition here at PI.

It started as a take-off of something Barbara Walters used to do. She’d choose and profile the 10 “most fascinating people” of the year. I’ve borrowed that concept several times over the years, and the lists can be found in our archives.

(For your convenience: 2012. 2013. 2015. 2016. 2017.)

So once again, we’re back. On this year’s list, we’ve got a UFC Hall of Famer turned WWE Champion, a heroic underdog turned monster heel, a new hot babyface taking the company by storm, among several others…

1. Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey was always going to be a marquee player for WWE. That was blatantly obvious from the get-go. And why wouldn’t she be? But realistically, Ronda could have put in half the effort she does, and made less than half the appearances, and still gotten by. She could have coasted on her name, a few suplexes, and some armbars. She could have taken many would consider to be the Brock Lesnar path.

Instead, Rousey has consistently over-delivered. Whether it was her debut match at Wrestlemania, her match with Charlotte Flair at Survivor Series, or even her title bout with Nia Jax at TLC, this has unquestionably been the best-case scenario.

Rousey has her critics, who would have you believe she doesn’t deserve the spot she has. While so much of wrestling is relative based on one’s personal taste, many of those critics need to be reminded that much of the so-called “Women’s Evolution” can be attributed to Rousey’s success in the UFC. If she doesn’t become the box office draw that she does, WWE has no reason to revamp its own women’s division. Without Rousey, women like Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Asuka wouldn’t have the chance to headline pay per views or steal the show at Wrestlemania.

What’s more, Rousey may be about to knock down yet another door. It’s looking more and more like she’ll be part of the first women’s match to headline the show of shows…

2. Daniel Bryan
This is Bryan’s third time on the list, and it’s not hard to see why. His performances spark a ton of emotion, and fans definitely ran the emotional gambit with him this year. In March, we were thrilled to hear he was cleared to return to the ring after more than two years in a WWE-imposed retirement. The move raises a number of questions regarding other wrestlers thought to be permanently retired due to injury. Among those names is Paige, who thanked Bryan in her retirement speech, adding “…you give me hope.”

Bryan made his emotional and genuinely inspirational return to the ring at Wrestlemania. For several months, Bryan was once again one of the company’s most popular acts. Then, less than a week before Survivor Series, Bryan shocked the world by winning back the WWE Championship, turning heel on AJ Styles in the process.

Since then, Bryan has condemned fans for their consumerism, and lack of regard for the environment. In one of the year’s most talked about promos, he promised to replace the leather strap on the WWE Title belt. He’s literally gone from one of the company’s top babyfaces, to perhaps its top heel. At this rate, it’s likely he’ll once again find himself back in the WWE Title Match at Wrestlemania this year.

3. Asuka
Asuka is also returning to this list, having made it last year. The “Empress of Tomorrow” started her 2018 at the highest of highs. Since arriving on Raw in October 2017, she’d kept her fabled undefeated streak alive. She would go on to win the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble Match, earning a title match at Wrestlemania. She would face Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair in a match that, for my money, stole the damn show.

But that’s where her luck began to change. Flair shocked the world when she ended Asuka’s undefeated streak. A strange move in hindsight, as she’d simply drop the title to Carmella. The same Carmella that would later defeat Asuka in back-to-back pay per views. Mere months beforehand, it had been unthinkable that Asuka could lose to anyone. She’d beaten the likes of Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James. But suddenly, here she was losing title matches to Carmella, and subsequently being mired in mediocrity, forming an alliance with Naomi. The two would lose to Peyton Royce and Billie Kay at Super Show-Down.

And yet, Asuka’s popularity has endured. Apparently, that’s what prompted Vince McMahon to add her to the Smackdown Women’s Title Match at TLC. Now, Asuka can add Smackdown Women’s Champion, and winner of the first Women’s TLC Match to her resume. It’s like the last 10 months never even happened…

So at last, Asuka has made it to the top. It didn’t happen the way any of us thought it would. But she is there. Now it’s just a question of whether she can stay at the top, or she’ll be lost in the shuffle again. One way or another, we’ll get our answer in 2019.

4. Shawn Michaels
It’s tough to remember HBK coming out of retirement, isn’t it? As big a deal as it is, it was drowned out by all the controversy surrounding WWE Crown Jewel. Not to mention the announcement that Roman Reigns would be stepping away to fight leukemia.

But indeed, Degeneration X reunited in Saudi Arabia to face the Brothers of Destruction. While many cried that Triple H, the Undertaker, and Kane showed their age out there, even after eight years away Shawn still managed to look pretty damn good. And while Shawn himself indicated he’d be going right back into retirement, there’s been plenty of speculation about “Mr. Wrestlemania” making yet another appearance at the show of shows. Another Undertaker match seems like the obvious route. But Shawn has no shortage of other options. I myself floated six of them.

In hindsight, I still wish Shawn hadn’t done this match. I really wanted him to be the one guy that stayed true to his word. But what’s done is done.

5. Tegan Nox
This one hurt. Like, it really hurt. You just wanted to reach through the screen and comfort this poor woman. She’d already been through hell, and now she was going to have to do it all over again.

Tegan Nox, whose real name is Steffanie Newell, was supposed to be in the first Mae Young Classic. But a torn ACL kept her out of the ring. For this year’s tournament, they were telling that story with her. In fact, she was one of the favorites to win the whole thing.

Then, mere seconds into her second-round match against Rhea Ripley, her other knee goes out. We later learned she’d torn that ACL as well. It was a legitimately heartbreaking moment for not only Newell, but everyone watching.

The only upside in all of this? We seem to be on the road to yet another redemption story for this character. In the aftermath of all this, Rhea Ripley, who has gone on to become the NXT UK Women’s Champion, started a war of words with Nox on Twitter. So assuming Nox will indeed be back in the ring, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see her wearing that title in 2019.

So get well soon, Miss Newell. Great things are waiting for you.

6. Johnny Gargano
As cliche as it is, I’ve got to go with the classic Harvey Dent quote from The Dark Knight on this one: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Former tag team partners Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have put on some of the best matches in all of wrestling this year. But the feud has transformed Gargano, arguably one of the last old school babyfaces in the business, into a man consumed with destroying Ciampa. So when Ciampa wrestled Aleister Black for the NXT Championship in July, Gargano attempted to interfere and cost him the match. It ended up backfiring, as Gargano hit Black with the belt, and essentially handed the title to Ciampa.

A Triple-Threat Match was made for the championship at NXT Takeover Brooklyn IV, but a mysterious attack took Black out of the match. Gargano failed to win the title, at it was later revealed the he was the one who attacked the former champion. Naturally, a feud ignited between the two, culminating in a steel cage match this past week on NXT, which Ciampa would help Gargano win. This has lead to rampant speculation that this blood feud between Gargano and Ciampa has ultimately led them to team up all over again.

This slow journey of Johnny Gargano’s, from victim, to heroic avenger, to fallen hero consumed by revenge, to villain, is a textbook example of pro wrestling done right. Deep, emotional stories, told through amazing in-ring action.

7. Dean Ambrose
Ambrose was absent for much of 2018, healing from a torn triceps. But when he returned in August, he was once again part of the Shield. But seeds of dissension were quickly planted by rivals Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. We all sensed a turn was coming. But there was no way we could have predicted what actually happened…

Mere hours after Roman Reigns announced he was stepping away from the ring to fight leukemia, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins successfully challenged McIntyre and Ziggler for the Raw Tag Team Titles. With emotions still running high after the Reigns announcement, Ambrose shocked Rollins with a DDT, and then a brutal beatdown. While many would cry foul over the timing, for my money it was ultimately one of the best things WWE did all year. It did what pro wrestling is supposed to do: It sucked us in. Got us invested in the characters and their stories. It sparked raw emotion in the audience.

However, WWE’s handling of Ambrose since the turn has been hit-or-miss. While I actually like the new Bane-inspired gas mask look, Vince McMahon’s influence on some of his promos has been quite evident. He’s talked about how the fans smell, how they’re all lazy and unmotivated, etc. Very little with any emotional weight to it.

Still, Ambrose is an awesome performer. Given the right material and the right opportunities, he’s as capable of delivering the goods as anyone. And they have a potentially hot storyline practically gift-wrapped for them, as Ambrose’s real-life wife Renee Young is sitting there on commentary every week. She might just be the ticket to him becoming the vile, despicable heel we all know he can be.

8. Drew McIntyre
Daniel Bryan may have had the comeback of the year, but Drew McIntyre had an epic comeback story of his own. McIntyre reinvented himself after being released by WWE in 2014. He found success in Impact Wrestling, Evolve, and PWG. When he returned to WWE via NXT in 2017, he was almost unrecognizable.

When McIntyre finally returned to the main roster this past April, he formed an unlikely alliance on Raw with Dolph Ziggler. The pair would ultimately up each other’s game, and be a dominant force on the show for most of the year. McIntyre would prove to be one of the show’s most consistent performers, both in the ring and on the mic.

Now a solo act again, the “Scottish Psychopath” will almost certainly challenge for the Universal Championship in 2019. McIntyre’s near five-year journey from the bottom of the wrestling may culminate with him standing at the very top. Frankly, it would be foolish to bet against him at this point.

9. Shinsuke Nakamura
Nakamura is back on this list this year, but unfortunately it’s for the wrong reasons. He and Asuka were very much on parallel journeys this year. They each won their respective Royal Rumble Matches, but failed to win gold at Wrestlemania. While Asuka failed to win the Smackdown Women’s Title from Carmella on two different occasions, Nakamura was unable to take the WWE Title from AJ Styles several times before finally dropping out of contention. He found a little bit of new life as a heel, and won the US Title from Jeff Hardy as a consolation prize. But his run has been fairly unremarkable, highlighted by a losing effort against Seth Rollins at Survivor Series. And while I won’t spoil this week’s Smackdown, the odds of Nakamura walking into 2019 with the belt are slim to none…

It would be easy to blame Nakamura’s failure as a main-eventer on WWE creative. The guy didn’t book himself to lose, after all. WWE also didn’t seem to know how to convey his unique persona, other than simply calling him “the Artist.” Losing multiple title matches to Jinder Mahal in 2017 didn’t help either.

But at the end of the day, Nakamura simply didn’t connect with mainstream American audiences well enough to justify the push he got. Yes, he’s a bona fide legend in Japan. Yes, he did very well in NXT. But on Raw and Smackdown you’re catering to the casuals and the average joes. And while we saw flashes of Nakamura’s greatness, over the long haul we never really got a good reason to invest in him emotionally, be it as a heel or a babyface. You can’t chalk all of that up to creative. Much of it, in fact, a majority of it, is about what happens in when the cameras are rolling.

Supposedly, Nakamura’s contract is up next month. If I’m in his shoes, I’m headed back to Japan. Because I’m at something of a loss as to how you build him back up at this point.

10. Becky Lynch
Up until recently, Becky Lynch was “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” While her talent, charisma, and likability have been apparent almost from the start, WWE always seemed reluctant to fully get behind her. She was the only one of the “Four Horsewomen” of NXT to never win the NXT Women’s Title. While she did indeed become the inaugural Smackdown Women’s Champion, she only held the belt for two months. She more or less became a second-tier babyface afterward. This, despite fans clamoring to see her in a more prominent role.

We got our wish. Now, Becky Lynch may very well be the most popular wrestler in all of WWE.

Many of us, myself included, balked when Becky turned heel at Summerslam. But in hindsight, it gave her the creative freedom to become the defiant badass she is now. She’s often compared to Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that’s not entirely unjustified. Fans feel she’s been overlooked, and now they’re rooting for her to conquer the system that’s held her back for so long. Even when she was injured by Nia Jax and pulled out of a match against Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, the fans stood behind her, every bit as outraged as she was. Now, she may be in a position to make history by headlining Wrestlemania with Rousey.

For more than a decade now, we’ve been in the era of forced babyfaces. Wrestlers we’re told we should cheer for, rather than heroes who earn those cheers organically. John Cena and Roman Reigns are both extremely talented, and great at what they do. But for most of their careers they’ve been going against the grain in terms of fan reception.

Becky Lynch is the exact opposite. No one told us to cheer for her. If anything, it’s been the exact opposite. But like Daniel Bryan before her, she’s started an uprising from the audience. And such uprisings should never be ignored, lest the main event of Wrestlemania be drowned out by chants of “Becky! Becky! Becky!”

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.

WWE Survivor Series 2018 Preview – What One Punch Can Change…

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It’s pretty damn rare that you see an entire pay per view turned on its ear with less than a week out. But low and behold, that’s where we find ourselves with this year’s Survivor Series. It’s amazing just how much one punch can change…

Even having already covered the women’s matches, we’ve got a lot to get to. So let’s dive in!

SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, the B-Team, the Revival, Lucha House Party, & the Ascension,
Vs.
The Usos, the New Day, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, SAnitY, & the Colons

Ugh. I hate these matches. I really do. Way too many people. It’s a cluster.

What’s more, there’s a built-in way for them to clean this thing up. Both the New Day and Lucha House Party are three-man groups. So just have it be The Usos and the New Day against Lucha House Party, Bobby Roode, and Chad Gable. See? We just trimmed all the fat.

Not that it matters. This match was thrown together because they felt like they had to do something with the tag teams. It’s a complete and utter toss-up as far as who wins. I’m going to say Team Smackdown because….they have the Usos and the New Day?

PREDICTION: Team Smackdown

WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Mustafa Ali

At some point, Mustafa Ali is winning the Cruiserweight Championship. It’s just a question of when. Survivor Series wouldn’t be too soon. Heck, Wrestlemania wouldn’t have been too soon. But I get the sense they’re not done with Murphy yet. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s earned this spot. So we’ll let him keep it for now.

PREDICTION: Buddy Murphy

CHAMPION VS. CHAMPION:
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Back in July, I said that Shinsuke Nakamura needed a big win to help him rebound from all those losses to AJ Styles. He got that win, and the United States Championship. But all these months later we’re back in the same spot, even though Nakamura still has the title.

I think we’ve officially reached the point where we can call Nakamura an underachiever on the main roster. I take no joy in saying that, as he’s obviously got no shortage of talent or charisma. And I don’t think there’s any one thing to point to as far as why. For whatever reason, he just hasn’t connected with mainstream audiences in the way we all hoped he would.

But I’m grateful they haven’t given up on him. And in fact, I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t get a big win over Rollins here. The IC Champ has a perfect out, as he’s still feuding with Dean Ambrose. So they can just have Ambrose come in and cost him the match.

PREDICTION: Shinsuke Nakamura

CHAMPIONS VS. CHAMPIONS:
AOP vs. The Bar

I almost would have rather seen them keep the titles on Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for this match. They could have had Rollins face Shinsuke Nakamura earlier in the evening, then go into this match with Ambrose having deserted him. He’d have lost both times, but looked like a bad ass in the process. That story is a lot more interesting than the one we have here. I’d say the most interesting thing we have to look forward to here is some kind of spot between the Big Show and Drake Maverick.

WWE has just started to book AOP like the unstoppable force they should have been from the start. So if we must have this match, they should be the ones to walk out victorious. However, this is one of the few times I’d be okay with a non-finish for a pay per view match.

PREDICTION: AOP

CHAMPION VS. CHAMPION:
Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan

Supposedly, AJ Styles dropped the WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan because Vince McMahon didn’t want him losing to Brock Lesnar two years in a row. I find that logic somewhat confusing. Roman Reigns, who until recently was the company’s top creative priority, took two consecutive pay per view losses to Brock. Still, at least Vince is trying to take care of AJ.

Adding Bryan to this match, as a heel no less, obviously adds an element of intrigue that wasn’t there with Styles. I’m very interested to see what these two do together. It’s been well documented over the last several days that Bryan has wanted this match for years. Regardless, whether it’s Styles or Bryan, I still don’t see Brock losing on this show. Nor should he, quite frankly. Hopefully Bryan can come away with an artistic victory, if not a literal one.

PREDICTION: Brock Lesnar

SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Braun Strowman, Drew McIntyre, Dolph Ziggler, Finn Balor, & Bobby Lashley
vs.
The Miz, Shane McMahon, Rey Mysterio, Samoa Joe, & Jeff Hardy

One of the stories going into this match is that if Team Raw wins, Braun Strowman gets a Universal Title Match down the road, as well as a big match with Baron Corbin. With Roman Reigns now on the shelf indefinitely, the course of action going forward should be rather obvious: Build Raw around Braun. What’s the best way to do that? Give him the Universal Championship at Wrestlemamia. Mind you, it doesn’t have to be another singles match against Brock. They can do a Triple-Threat that also includes Drew McIntyre. Or if you want to go way into left field, a Fatal Four-Way with somebody like Dolph Ziggler or Seth Rollins. Either way, Braun should walk out of Wrestlemania with the big red belt.

But if you want to give him the title in April, then there’s no logic in giving him a title shot now. That’s why I think Team Smackdown wins here.

I see Braun somehow getting counted out or disqualified, most likely because of something Corbin does. But have him eliminate a couple of Smackdown guys (Shane and Jeff?) on his way out, just so he still looks strong. Then you do some kind of finish where Miz survives in the end. He’s the only one I really feel strong about surviving here.

PREDICTION: Team Smackdown

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WWE Survivor Series Predictions: Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Just when I think I’ve got my Survivor Series predictions mostly written, I come home from work and find out we’ve got…

– No Becky Lynch, due to an injury apparently caused by Nia Jax during the Raw angle.
– No AJ Styles, and a new WWE Champion in the apparently heel Daniel Bryan.
– A potential Wrestlemania main event thrown together with less than a week’s notice.

So yeah, I had to knock the whole tower of blocks over and start rebuilding.

I’m not going to break up the Survivor Series predictions the way I did Wrestlemania and Summerslam. However, I do think the female side of Survivor Series now deserves special attention. So let’s pull those two matches aside here, and in the process dissect some of the issues at play. We’ll start with the traditional Survivor Series 10-Woman Tag.

SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH:
Natalya, Mickie James, Ruby Riott, Nia Jax, & Tamina
Vs.
Asuka, Naomi, Carmella, Sonya Deville & ?

Allegedly, Nia Jax has a ton of heat on her for being careless and injuring opponents. It’s not hard to see why. She apparently just hurt Zelina Vega at Evolution. So she’s going to have to sit in this for awhile. I wouldn’t be surprised if they got her out of there early, possibly via a quick tap-out by Asuka. That LA crowd is going to eat her alive. Best to just rip the band-aid off.

We’ve got a good ol’ fashioned mystery partner in this match. I’m hearing a decent amount of buzz about Nikki Cross, given what they just did with her on Smackdown. But frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mandy Rose get the spot. On that same Smackdown episode, they had her cut a big promo about being left off the team. This is a chance for them to follow that up.

I was downright floored when Sasha Banks and Bayley weren’t put on Team Raw. You can justify it with the fact that Alexa Bliss, a heel, picked the team. And it’s certainly great to see Ruby Riott get the nod. Still, that’s a hell of an omission.

I see Team Smackdown taking this one. They’ve got a corny, yet emotional storyline going on with Ruby and Natalya right now, so I see that factoring into the finish. If they’re smart (they usually aren’t), they can use the loss to throw some more heat on Alexa, as she obviously skipped two obvious choices in Sasha and Bayley.

PREDICTION: Team Smackdown

Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair

You know what they should do here? Put the title on the line. Why not? Ronda shouldn’t be losing anyway. So just give the match that extra sizzle!

Much like Brock vs. Roman was widely rumored to headline this year’s Wrestlemania for the better part of a year, Ronda vs. Charlotte has been buzzed about for next year’s big show. And yet, here we are.

I’m amazed to hear myself say this twice in one show, but I wouldn’t mind a non-finish here. Not because I’m bound and determined to see it at Wrestlemania, but because this is a huge match that they’re throwing it out there as a hail Mary because of Becky’s injury. I’m very rarely an advocate for non-finishes on pay per views. But I’d be fine with it here.

There’s been a good amount of buzz about Becky now getting the big match with Ronda at Wrestlemania. That’d be absolutely amazing, and she’s beyond deserving. But, given how WWE usually handles these situations, I think a Triple-Threat between Rousey, Flair, and Lynch is much more likely.

Remember, they want Charlotte to be one of their long-term megastars. They want her around long after Ronda is done. That’s why she became the first Women’s Champion of the modern era at Wrestlemania 32. That’s why she was the one to break Asuka’s undefeated streak this year. That’s why she’ll probably be the first one to beat Ronda. For better or worse, that’s their priority. And as much as I hate to say it, that’s why she gets called “the female Roman Reigns.”

Either way, it’ll be very interesting to see where these three ladies are once we get into spring…

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

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WWE Evolution Predictions – Is This Show Going to Suck?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

It’s a little hard to dissect a wrestling pay per view after what Roman Reigns told the world this week about his battle with leukemia.

It’s no secret that Roman Reigns’ TV personality is one of the most polarizing in the business. But if you’re able to look at him with any sort of objectivity, his heart, talent, and natural athleticism are more than evident. Cancer of any kind is a horrific, often unspeakable battle. But if Roman is anything like the person he portrays on TV, this illness is in for a hell of a fight.

Get well soon, Roman.

And now, for the most awkward transition of all time…

This Evolution pay per view has been somewhat controversial from the get-go. But it really shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be about the company supposedly doing this in response to negative backlash over the women not being able to perform on the Saudi pay per views. Or how much they’ve patted themselves on the back for being progressive. Or the weird booking choices. (We’ll get there…)

The current crop of female performers on the WWE roster have earned this. They deserve this time to shine. So as I make some of the critiques you’re about to read, let it be known that I haven’t lost sight of what a milestone this is. I’m damn proud to see women’s wrestling where it is today, as opposed to where it was when I started watching in the ’90s. Hell, where it was less than a decade ago. That can be attributed to many of the women you’ll see on this show.

Conspicuous by its absence will be the finals of the 2018 Mae Young Classic. I’m not caught up with the tournament, and I’m not informed enough to give a prediction. But I have absolutely no issue with that match being on the show. It’s a hell of a showcase for the talents involved.

These next two matches, however? I’ve got problems.

Natalya, Sasha Banks & Bayley vs. The Riott Squad

I haven’t been a Sasha Banks fan lately. Not because I don’t like her work, but because she often comes off like a brat in interviews. She grates on me. It’s gotten to the point that some weeks, I’ll even fast-forward through her matches.

But I’m not blind to what Sasha has done for women’s wrestling. Her matches with Bayley in particular, will stand the test of time. As for Natalya, year after year she was a wrestler among “divas.” For their roles in the advancement of women’s wrestling, these three deserve better than to be thrown into what’s essentially a glorified Raw match.

So let’s go ahead and give it to the Riott Squad. I mean, why not? What difference does it make at this point?

PREDICTION: The Riott Squad

BATTLE ROYAL FOR FUTURE TITLE MATCH:

Perhaps Nattie, Sasha, and Bayley can take some solace in the fact that they aren’t the only ones that got screwed.

We knew there was probably going to be a battle royal on this show. But to throw Asuka in there speaks volumes about just how far WWE have let her fall. Had this show taken place a year ago, Asuka could have headlined it. Now she’s being relegated to what’s essentially a filler match.

But it goes beyond Asuka. It also applies to women like Naomi. Nia Jax. Carmella. Ember Moon. Some of these ladies don’t have the natural wrestling talent of a Charlotte Flair or a Becky Lynch. Nor have some been featured as prominently during the so-called “women’s evolution.” But their contributions damn sure merit more than to simply be thrown together like this.

On the plus side, at least they get to share a ring with some of the women who paved they way for them. Madusa. Ivory. Molly Holly. It’ll be nice to see them again.

As for who wins, I’d love to say Asuka. But that seems a little too obvious. Given who we know is in this match, I’m going to predict Ember Moon. Let’s give her a brighter spotlight. At least for the time being.

PREDICTION: Ember Moon

NXT WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Kairi Sane (c) vs. Shayna Baszler

Given the role the NXT Women’s Title played in the careers of women like Paige, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Asuka, among others, I can’t find it in my heart to complain about it being on this show. Ditto for Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler. You could call either of them up to the main roster and they’d be perfectly fine.

In fact, that’s what I’m betting on as it relates to Baszler. This is going to be the first time she and Ronda Rousey have wrestled on the same show. As two of the “Four Horsewomen of MMA,” they share a unique connection. I’m hoping we get some kind of backstage meeting or confrontation between the two that plants a seed for a future match.

I’d be fine with this one going either way. But the more I think about it, the more I want to go with Baszler. If they want to start setting her up for Ronda, there’s no better time than now.

PREDICTION: Shayna Baszler

Trish Stratus & Lita vs. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James

I’m going into this assuming that Alexa will be able to wrestle, despite the reports that she’s out with a concussion. Supposedly, Alicia Fox is on deck to replace her.

I wouldn’t expect a mat classic out of these four. But hopefully this turns out to be fun. The crowd reacted really nicely to Trish and Mickie in the ring at the Royal Rumble. Hopefully they’ll do the same here. But for crying out loud, just be careful on that moonsault, Lita…

Part of me wants to give the nod to Alexa and Mickie, just because they’re on Raw every week. But they’ll likely give the win to Trish and Lita and give us a feel-good moment.

PREDICTION: Trish Stratus and Lita

LAST WOMAN STANDING MATCH:
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

Ronda and Nikki will almost surely headline the show. But for my money, this is the real main event.

So with 20/20 hindsight, was it the right move to turn Becky heel? Probably not. But they’ve nevertheless created some great bad blood between these two, and allowed Becky to do some of the best mic work of her career. Everybody involved has really made the best of what started as a bad situation.

Who know who the real victim in all of this was? Charlotte. I don’t know how long people have been calling her “the female Roman Reigns” in terms of her booking, but this was the first time I really noticed it. Had she not dropped the title to Becky, things might have gotten really bad in terms of her crowd reactions. Like, really bad.

Come to think of it, it might still get bad. Because I see Charlotte taking the belt home here. As she’s the other person they want to make into a big marquee female star (more than she already is, at least), they’ll want to give her a big win on a historic show like this. That doesn’t mean Becky can’t win it back. But Evolution will be Charlotte’s night.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Nikki Bella

Yeah, this is happening. WWE’s first all-female pay per view is being headlined by Nikki Bella.

While you’ll never convince me that Nikki deserves this particular spot on this particular show, I’ll admit that they turned this into a money program fairly quick. Ronda’s “do nothing Bellas” promo took this whole thing to another level. And I’ll give Nikki and Brie credit for playing into it very well.

But from a match standpoint? I’m not sure what to expect from this one. Nikki has been able to deliver in the past. But how she’ll match up with Ronda remains to be seen. I don’t exactly have high hopes. But Ronda has been overachieving from the start. So they might just surprise us.

Either way, Ronda keeps the title here. Like Charlotte, they’ll want her to have a big win. And frankly, she deserves it after the year she’s had.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

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WWE Hell in a Cell Predictions: Blowing Off Steam

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I don’t write about wrestling as much as I used to, but that doesn’t mean my passion for it has died down. So I hope you’ll indulge me during these predictions as I take some extra space to blow off some steam. This company has made some truly mind-blowing decisions lately. Most notably turning Braun Strowman and Becky Lynch heel.

But we’ll get into that as we go.

For now, let’s run down the card…

WWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The New Day (c) vs. Rusev & Aiden English

I’m split on this one.

Rusev and Aiden English winning the titles would be a great way to freshen up a tag division that has desperately needed it for about a year now. On the other hand, they just put the titles on the New Day. So taking them off this soon would be a little weird. Plus, Rusev and English have obviously been headed toward splitsville for awhile now. They shouldn’t be, but that’s another issue entirely.

I’m thinking English eats the pin here, and then turns on Rusev after the match. From there, we get a program between the two. Where the New Day go next is anybody’s guess. I’d love to see them try and revive SAnitY. But that ship may have sailed.

PREDICTION: The New Day

WWE RAW TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose

For the record, I’m still waiting on that Dean Ambrose heel turn. I know I’m not the only one…

But I don’t see it happening at Hell in a Cell. They obviously want to get some more mileage out of the Shield. I can’t say I blame them. In truth, this one could go either way. But I don’t see the titles coming off Ziggler and McIntyre, though. I imagine this Shield vs. Strowman/Ziggler/Reigns thing going until Survivor Series, if not TLC after that.

PREDICTION: Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre

MIXED TAG TEAM MATCH:
The Miz & Maryse vs. Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella

First and foremost, I give a hell of a lot of credit to Maryse for being in this match. She just cranked out a baby in March, and now she’s appearing in front of the world in what I can only assume will be skin-tight wrestling gear. That takes guts. On the other hand, she was pregnant on national television. So maybe it’s not such a big deal to her.

Either way, hopefully Bryan and Miz will do most of the in-ring work here. Like many die-hards, I have little to no patience for the Bella Twins. But after what we saw last Monday, it’s more than obvious the less we see of Brie in the ring, the better. Honestly, for all WWE’s talk about female empowerment, Nikki and Brie set the “women’s evolution” back a decade every time they’re shoehorned into the spotlight. What the hell are they doing on the same screen with Ronda Rousey? That’s the sports equivalent of putting the Kardashians next to Billie Jean King.

I may have gotten off-topic, here… I say we give this one to Bryan and Brie. Then the Miz vs. Bryan match at next month’s Super Show-Down can be a rubber match of sorts.

PREDICTION: Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella

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

This one didn’t quite go as planned, did it?

I boggles my mind that Vince McMahon, or Road Dogg, or whoever the creative genius was that booked it, people thought the fans would boo Becky Lynch. She’s one of the most natural babyfaces in the entire company. What’s more, that they would opt to boo the perenially underrated Becky, in favor of Charlotte, one of the most highly featured and decorated female performers they have. Well done, WWE. Well done…

If they were smart, they’d have Charlotte cheat to win this one. (She is a Flair, after all.) That way the audience gets the satisfaction of booing her, we’re not swimming against the current with Becky as the villain, and Charlotte gets to play a role she’s better suited for. But since they’ve been complete idiots lately, it’s more likely Charlotte will just go over clean.

PREDICTION: Charlotte Flair

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe

You know who this match makes me think of? Sting. No, seriously.

I don’t know what the general consensus is among fans, but I regret that Sting wasn’t able to hold the WWE Championship during his brief run in the company. He deserved to get that big, crowning moment from WWE after all he’d given to the business. He didn’t have to hold it long. Hell, he could have dropped it back to Rollins the next night. Either way, I just wanted that moment for Sting.

I want that moment for Samoa Joe, too.

Let’s be honest. Joe is 39 years old, and has been injury prone since his main roster debut. Yes, he’s taken his rightful place in the WWE Title picture. But we don’t know how long he’ll be there, or how long he can stay healthy. But here he is, in a WWE Championship Match on pay per view. So I say give him his moment. Honor Samoa Joe’s contributions to the wrestling industry. It’s not like he isn’t deserving of a title reign anyway. At the very least, give it to him for a few weeks, then let AJ take it back at Super Show-Down. Why the hell not?

In any event, there’s a decent chance Joe walks out with the belt anyway. This whole story with AJ’s family can go at least another month. Especially if they switch the dynamic, and make Joe champion. Yet another reason to put the belt on him.

PREDICTION: Samoa Joe

WWE RAW WOMEN’S TITLE MATCH:
Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Alexa Bliss

I don’t see any reason for WWE to give the belt back to Alexa Bliss. Not now, anyway. I would think they’d want to keep the belt on Ronda until at least Wrestlemania. I imagine they’ll try and make this one a little longer than their Summerslam match. Most likely with various hijinks with Mickie James, Alicia Fox, and Natalya on the outside. But the outcome here has never been in doubt.

PREDICTION: Ronda Rousey

HELL IN A CELL MATCH:
Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy

What’s interesting about this show, is that in years past they’ve struggled with creating big matches that truly felt worthy of being inside Hell in a Cell. They’ve often ended up shoehorning guys inside the cage just because the show is called Hell in a Cell. CM Punk and Ryback in 2012, for instance, did not need to be in the cell. Nor did Randy Orton and Sheamus in 2010.

In contrast, this year we had several matches that could have gotten the cage. Styles and Joe’s program is obviously very personal, so you can make an argument there. It’s a little soon for Charlotte and Becky. But as Charlotte was one of the first women to have a cell match, you can make that work. Then you have Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton, who of course, actually got it.

I don’t doubt they did Jeff a favor here. He’s said in the past that he’d love to have a Hell in a Cell Match, specifically with the Undertaker. So they met him halfway and gave him Orton. Not a bad deal, I’d say.

As it was with Mick Foley and Shane McMahon, we’re virtually guaranteed to get some kind of huge bump from Jeff in this match. And because the guys who take those bumps usually end up losing, Orton’s a pretty safe bet here. Plus, Jeff has supposedly been feeling the wear and tear lately. So it wouldn’t surprise me if he took an extended break after this one.

PREDICTION: Randy Orton

HELL IN A CELL MATCH FOR WWE UNIVERSAL HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Roman Reigns (c) vs. Braun Strowman
Guest Referee: Mick Foley

While the addition of Mick Foley to this match makes sense, I don’t think this one needed the extra garnish. Roman and Braun have a proven track record of putting on some damn good matches. You’ve also got the Shield, Ziggler, and McIntyre for hijinks on the outside. What’s more, outside of pulling out Mr. Socko, Foley can’t get physical. While he will always be a natural addition to a Hell in a Cell scenario, to a certain extent he does feel out of place here.

Something else that feels out of place? Braun Strowman’s sudden and inexplicable heel turn. Vince McMahon is so desperate to get Roman Reigns cheered that he’s willing to deliberately miscast the one person who legitimately has enough fan support to become his top babyface. In 20 years as a wrestling fan, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like it.

Of course, in the spirit of “make Roman look strong,” I don’t see the Big Dog losing the belt here. He just won it, after all. I’m very interested to see how things shape up for him as we get closer to Wrestlemania. I assume he’s walking in with the title. So who do you put him with? Up until recently, I would have said Strowman. But this seems to nix that idea. A few days ago I read a rumor about the Rock. But that one’s been in orbit for years. A three-way with Rollins and Ambrose? Hmmm, now there’s an idea…

PREDICTION: Roman Reigns

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