Kane Shocks Roman Reigns, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Rumor has it the planned main event for Survivor Series next month is Universal Champion Brock Lesnar against WWE World Heavyweight Champion Jinder Mahal.

Oh dear. Dear oh dear. That’s…that’s quite a choice, isn’t it?

In theory, this should be one of the biggest matches WWE can put on. The champion of Raw against the champion of Smackdown, on one of the biggest shows the company puts on all year. It beats the hell out ofwhen they’d putting the big champion vs. champion match on Raw with little to no build-up. And not even in the main event!

But Brock Lesnar vs. Jinder Mahal isn’t exactly Clash of the Titans. Yes, they’ve strapped the rocket to Jinder. But his big matches against Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura haven’t delivered, and his racially charged promos haven’t exactly inspired confidence.

Having grown up a wrestling fan in the ’90s, I present you with this analogy. Imagine if they put the WWE Championship on Bob Holly in 1997, and then tried to market a major pay per view match pitting him against the Undertaker.

The buzz is that it’s going to be a non-title match. So without the hook of a title possibly changing hands, what’s the draw here? I imagine it’s seeing Brock Lesnar beat the crap out of Jinder and the Singh Brothers. There’s also Paul Heyman’s promos in the build-up. If anyone can put Jinder over as a legitimate threat to Brock Lesnar, it’s Heyman.

Whenever they do these Raw vs. Smackdown matches, people always talk about how it could reflect badly on the loser’s brand. In this case, if Brock kills Jinder, how does that make Smackdown look compared to Raw? This kind of stuff gets overthought quite a bit. But given the perception of Smackdown as the B-show (even inside the walls of WWE, reportedly), some concern is merited.

Could they have Brock take Jinder to Suplex City and beat him? Yes. But I don’t see that happening. Remember, Jinder is a Vince McMahon project. They’ve spent most of the year trying to get this guy over as their big Indian star. They’re making a big fuss out of him being the champion when they go to India in December. So it’s in their best interest to keep him looking relatively strong through the end of the year. Frankly, I don’t see why you’d book this match if not to benefit Jinder in some way.

This match has “outside interference” and “screwjob finish” written all over it. You’ll have the Singh Brothers out there, you’ll have Heyman doing something. And Jinder’s next opponent (AJ Styles?) or Brock’s next opponent (Finn Balor?) could easily play a role in the finish somehow. It almost has to. That’s how you get out of this thing without Brock throwing Jinder around and making Smackdown look like the bush leagues.

So who wins? Give it to Jinder by disqualification or count-out. That way Brock gets away without being pinned, and Jinder can technically say he beat the mighty Brock Lesnar.

Then again, don’t put anything past this company. Remember, at this same show last year Brock lost to Bill Goldberg in less than two minutes…

Ponderings From Raw:

Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins call out their opponents at TLCGood to see the guys back in their black gear, doing the old Shield entrance. Not sure why we couldn’t have done that for the big reunion last week…

Jason Jordan, Apollo Crews, and Titus O’Neil def. Elias, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson. For some reason, that opening shot of Elias sitting with Gallows and Anderson was really funny. And a tribute to the Honky Tonk Man, of all people. Does that make Honky a good brother?

Cedric Alexander def. Jack Gallagher. Solid match. I’m still getting used to heel Jack Gallagher. He definitely needs new music.

There was a faint “We want Neville!” chant during this match…

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing Alexander hit the Lumbar Check. I can’t imagine what it’s like to take that.

Braun Strowman appears on Miz TV. A stipulation is added to the Reigns/Stroman Steel Cage Match later in the night. So if Strowman wins, his team gets another partner at TLC. If Reigns wins, it goes back to three-on-three. A nice added hook for an already big match.

All this team stuff has me in the mood for Survivor Series. So do you put the Shield on a traditional five-person team? Or do you give them their own match? Maybe a six-man elimination match?

Sasha Banks def. Alicia Fox. Fox ambushes Banks afterward. Crazy Alicia Fox is entertaining. Campy, but entertaining nonetheless.

A brawl breaks out after Kalisto interrupts an Enzo Amore promo. Noam Dar, Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese, and Drew Gulak lay out Kalisto and Mustafa Ali. I cringed when Kalisto’s music hit. Any time this guy takes a mic, it’s bad. And he didn’t disappoint in that respect. He told Enzo he’d walk out of TLC the “new Cruiserweight Champion.”

I don’t know that it’s coincidence that WWE keeps bringing up Rey Mysterio Jr. They’ve mentioned him as one of Kalisto’s influences, they posted a brief video on Rey’s response to last week’s title win, and then they name dropped him again this week. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear they’re trying to court him for a return. Perhaps not a full time return. But they’d be foolish not to at least try for him.

Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins def. Cesaro and Sheamus to retain the Raw Tag Team Titles. With Ambrose and Rollins back in the Shield gear, there was a little extra sizzle on this one.  But as gifted as these guys are, it’s still the same match we’ve seen a hundred times. It’s a good match. But the law of diminishing returns was in full effect here.

Not a surprising finish here. Having the Shield take a big loss right before their big pay per view comeback wouldn’t make sense right now.

Finn Balor announces the Demon is coming to meet Sister Abigail at TLCAnother week, another promo from Finn Balor. Worse yet, that awful Sister Abigail promo from last week apparently rubbed off on him, as they reached into their special effects bag again. Though at least the Demon character is somewhat cool. That Sister Abigail thing is another story entirely.

Bayley and Mickie James def. Alexa Bliss and Emma. Mickie has been nicely rejuvenated. Of course, the big story is Asuka’s debut this Sunday. To their credit, WWE has playied her up as the big deal that she should be. Now all we can do is wait and see how it goes…

Braun Strowman def. Roman Reigns in a Steel Cage Match, with help from the returning Kane. Kane will now join Miz’s team against the Shield at TLCThis was a legit surprise. I didn’t think we’d see Kane back until his real-life run for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee was over. But his inclusion makes a certain amount of sense, as Reigns did supposedly retire his brother at Wrestlemania. Now watch them completely ignore that…

They were teasing Curtis Axel as the fifth man for most of the show. So to prove himself, Axel gets goaded into picking a fight with Roman before the Cage Match. So instead of finding him alone, or maybe jumping him as he’s going to the ring, we see him walk up to all three members of the Shield backstage. Axel’s a good wrestler, but he might just be the dumbest henchman in television history.

Then again, when Miz found him hanging upside down, one of the first things he asked was: “Who did this???” So is one of them rubbing off on the other?

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The Shield Returns at Last, Plus Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

A few quick thoughts from Hell in a Cell before we get into Raw

It’s amazing how the Usos and the New Day have continued to top themselves over the last several months. They did it again here, turning in a performance with every bit as much drama and bad blood as the Kevin Owens/Shane McMahon match. One can even argue it was better artistically. In a match where everyone expects some kind of 20 foot dive off the cage, it takes real creativity to deliver on the Hell in a Cell concept while actually staying inside the cell. Both teams were elevated here. All these guys should be very proud.

While the signs were there in retrospect, Sami Zayn’s heel turn seemed to come out of nowhere. It’s a hell of an intriguing twist that could potentially breathe some valuable new life into Sami’s run on Smackdown.

So that’s twice Shane has tried the elbow drop off the top of the cell, and twice he’s crashed and burned. Maybe it’s time to pluck that one from the playbook, eh? Really good match, though. Now if only they hadn’t gotten that shot of one of Shane’s kids grinning as Owens was beating up his dad and taunting him.

Ponderings From Raw:

The Shield finally reunites against the Miz, Cesaro and Sheamus. This was obviously something they’ve built to for months. So to see Reigns, Rollins, and Ambrose back together is cool. I imagine we’ll get them back in their trademark black outfits at TLC.

I’m trying to enjoy this for what it is. But one thing that does put a damper on it is that it’s obviously all just another attempt to get Roman Reigns cheered. Just look at the blocking in the segment. Rollins on the left, Ambrose, on the right, Reigns in the middle. And of course, Reigns kept using the Shield music after they broke up. So their entrance is going to be synonymous with him in particular.

Yes, I’m nitpicking. But this is also very transparent. What’s more, it’s not even going to work. For better or worse, most fans have made up their mind about Roman. As soon as this is over, the haters will start booing again.

Jason Jordan def. Karl Anderson. I’m not sure Booker T is the guy to be playing up the notion of Kurt Angle giving his son special treatment. His amazing career notwithstanding, he has virtually no credibility. As the weeks go by he just becomes more a verbal whipping boy for Michael Cole and Corey Graves. Granted, better to have him out there than David Otunga. But that dynamic between Angle and Jordan is important. Better to have Graves play it up.

Elias def. Apollo Crews. When Titus is on, he’s really on. Hokey as it was, I got a kick out of the banjo stuff before the match. This manager gig really suits him.

On the flip side, I’m not at all amused that Elias broke out the Undertaker’s “Old School” spot and walked the top rope. The announcers didn’t even acknowledge it. Though to be fair, Graves alluded to it, calling it a “disrespectful version of a cover song.”

Kurt Angle puts Enzo Amore in a Cruiserweight Title Match against Kalisto for later in the evening. Enzo called it the “Loserweight Division.” That one might stick.

Braun Strowman def. Matt Hardy. The Shield emerges, Powerbombs Strowman through the announce table. This was really good. To his credit, Roman nailed his line about them being “the three workhorses that run this business now.” He even got to look into the camera.

Mickie James and Alexa Bliss exchange words leading up to TLC. Last week I talked about how WWE should exploit Mickie’s talent for country music and have her record her own entrance theme. We didn’t get that here, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. Mickie was in country gear here, and even put a little twang in her voice. This is good. For WWE audiences, this is fresh. And apparently, they like the term “biscuit butt.”. More of this, please.

Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher def. Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali. Why is Jack Gallagher is wrestling in that get up? Yes, he’s a heel now. But why does that mean he can’t wear wrestling trunks?

Both Alexander and Ali are so damn good. It’s such a shame they haven’t been able to get over to any real extent

The Shield to headline TLC against the Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Braun Strowman in a Handicap TLC Match. Four on three? That’s a little weird. Strowman could do some amazing things in that environment, though. Especially with support from the veterans in this match.

Bray Wyatt reveals his “Sister Abigail” persona to Finn Balor. So Sister Abigail is Bray Wyatt with some kind of shroud over his head and a weird voice filter. Wow. What a great pay off to years of build-up.

And this was in the new “main event” spot. They wanted people to stay tuned in for that third hour after this. Balor can’t move on soon enough.

Emma def. Sasha Banks, Bayley, Alicia Fox, and Dana Brooke to earn a match with Asuka at TLCGraves: “I don’t really know what to say about Emma anymore. I’m so baffled by the fact that she still exists.” Wow. What an awesome endorsement for Asuka’s first challenger.

To be fair no one actually expects Emma to beat her. That’s half the reason they chose Emma for this spot. She’s someone they can feed to Asuka, but also give her good match. Somehow I don’t think the same can be said for Alicia Fox or Dana Brooke.

I’m worried Dana Brooke is going to hurt somebody someday. That sequence she had in there with Bayley was….yeesh. But Alicia, and even Emma looked like they had two left feet out there too. This one just didn’t click.

Roman Reigns to face Braun Strowman in a Steel Cage Match next week. They’re going back to the well with these two, which is fine by me. Like the Usos and the New Day, they always deliver.

Kalisto def. Enzo Amore in a Lumberjack Match to win the WWE Cruiserweight Title. I hate to go back to Graves again, but he was really tearing Enzo down during his entrance here. I can’t tell if there’s legit heat between those two. Either way, it doesn’t pay to piss off one of the guys that calls your matches every week.

So Enzo puts his hand on Mustafa Ali during the match. Ali later gets his receipt, which more or less costs Enzo the match. If this means Ali gets to be in a (relatively) high profile feud with Enzo, I’m game. He deserves a shot.

I’d be surprised if Enzo didn’t get the belt back soon. This seems like something they concocted to get out of the no-contact clause thing. He could very well get it back at TLC.

By the way, where was Neville during all this?

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Charlotte and Sasha Banks Keep Going, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

WWE TLC 2016, Dean Ambrose, AJ StylesBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s briefly touch on a few things from TLC before we get into Raw.

The finish to the AJ Styles/Dean Ambrose match was obviously going to involve James Ellsworth. Literally everything those two have done these last several weeks has involved him. Why wouldn’t this? So they were setting this up by having Ellsworth get all those fluke wins over Styles. Now he thinks he can beat Styles for the title. So does this constitute a heel turn for Ellsworth? That’s an odd choice, isn’t it?

Surprised to see Alexa Bliss take the Smackdown Women’s Title. Personally, I wasn’t ready to see Becky Lynch give it up yet. But given the quality of her work lately, Alexa is perfectly deserving. Congrats to her.

Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton took the Smackdown Tag Titles, which I didn’t expect, but probably should have. This stuff with Wyatt, Orton, and Luke Harper has been a breath of fresh air these last few weeks. Maybe we’ve got something here…

Ponderings From Raw:

Seth Rollins, WWE Raw, December 5, 2016, Seth RollinsSeth Rollins: “I want Triple H.” Nice to see Rollins make this little declaration. Now he officially has a goal that’s different than anyone else’s.

Dear God. You talk about contrived dialogue. Now, everyone has to call it Roadblock: End of the Line every single time. That’s like calling it Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens every time, as opposed to just The Force Awakens. It doesn’t get much more lame than that.

Seth Rollins def. Big Show by count-out. This was the first time we’d seen Big Show in a few months. He’s obviously a bit thinner now. Hopefully he’s not back on TV weekly. Rumor has it he’s facing, of all people, Shaquille O’Neal at Wrestlemania. Until it’s time to hype that match, I’m not interested in seeing Show on TV regularly. It wasn’t long ago he was one of the most overexposed guys in the company. Let’s go the opposite way.

Jack Gallagher def. Ariya Daivari. A decent outing for these guys here. But if you want a better one, check out last week’s 205 Live. Very happy we’re seeing Jack Gallagher on the main roster. I’m still getting acquainted with him. But he’s so damn smooth out there.

I’m not sure I’ve seen Daivari win a single match since he’s been in WWE. At least he got to show some personality after the match.

Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, WWE Raw, December 5, 2016Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn. Even when he’s on a losing streak, Kevin Owens can still beat Sami Zayn. Just like everybody else. Good match from these two as always, though.

Rich Swann def. TJ Perkins. The Austin rowd was sitting on their hands for most of this one. Really cool to see Swann is using that spin kick as his finish. Seeing Perkins jump into one from the top rope was sick.

Bayley def. Alicia Fox. Crazy Alicia Fox is the best Alicia Fox. That wild charisma can be a breath of fresh air. On the other hand, it can be grating. It just depends on the night.

Mark Henry beats Titus O’Neil in less than a minute. We’re in Lesnar/Goldberg territory on this one. And they didn’t even have to shell out the millions they’re paying those two.

Roman Reigns def. Chris Jericho to retain the United States Title. A fine match here, with Owens accidentally costing Jericho the title. I can’t help but think this souring of the friendship between Owens and Jericho is off a step. Either they waited too long, or the impetus for the turn (which we saw last week) wasn’t strong enough. Maybe both?

Admiral Ackbar, it's a trapLana lures Enzo into a trap. For the second week in a row, they take the cameras outside the arena and break things up a bit. This was cool, though it was obviously a trap. Even WWE themselves tweeted the ol’ Admiral Ackbar “It’s a trap!” gif.

Kinda cool that Enzo was a babyface and backed off sleeping with Lana. He might be the most natural talker on the active roster. So he can pull off some of the contrived written dialogue in situations where most guys can’t. If there was anybody to put in this scenario, it’s him.

Some people are calling “not PG!” on this. But compared to some of the stuff they did with Mark Henry all those years ago, or Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie on Smackdown, this looked like Disney Junior.

After a double count-out finish, Gallows and Karl Anderson, as well as Cesaro and Sheamus will face the New Day in a triple-threat tag match next week. If the New Day wins, they break the all-time record set by Demolition. It seems like they’re setting it up for Cesaro and Sheamus to win the belts. But it could go either way. Not Gallows and Anderson, of course. But any other way.

Sasha Banks challenges Charlotte Flair to a 30 Minute Iron Man Match at Roadblock. Charlotte feigns an apology to Ric Flair, then smacks him, and beats up Sasha. Last week I compared this Charlotte/Sasha Banks program to the one John Cena and Randy Orton did in 2009. Fittingly enough, those two also followed up a Hell in a Cell Match with an Iron Man Match. Go figure.

Charlotte, Ric Flair, WWE, December 5, 2016On the subject of predictions, let’s go ahead and call this: Ric turns on Sasha at Roadblock, giving Charlotte the belt back. The Sasha/Charlotte pattern continues. On the plus side, Charlotte has become one of the most entertaining talkers they have. Pretty natural, too. Not quite on Enzo’s level. But at times she’s close.

One more time, ladies. Then its time to find new dance partners.

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A WWE TLC 2016 Preview, Plus Ponderings From the 205 Live Premiere

Rich Swann, WWE 205 Live, November 29, 2016By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I can’t say I expected Rich Swann to win the Cruiserweight Title from Brian Kendrick on this week’s premiere of 205 Live. But it makes sense. You draw attention to your new show with a new champion. It’s obviously good that they’re fleshing Swann out a little bit. They obviously see him as a solid commodity. Still, there’s a decent chance Kendrick wins it back. There’s still value in having an experienced hand like him work with younger talent.

This was the first time I’d see the Bollywood Boyz work. They’ve got a unique presentation, and hopefully they’ll have some staying power. Another unique dude I’m seeing for the first time is Jack Gallagher. I can’t say I’ve seen anyone with quite the suave sort of swagger he has. He’d be a welcome sight on Raw for sure. The national audience needs to see this guy.

Seeing Austin Aries at the announce table was a pleasant surprise, though it saddens me that we’ve got yet another three-man announce team. I’ve seen a decent amount of his work, but I hadn’t made the connection that he’d be eligible for the cruiserweight division. Very interesting. This might be his window to the main roster.

Jack Gallagher, WWE 205 Live, November 29, 2016On the down side, we didn’t see a lot of the high flying stuff the Cruiserweights are associated with. We haven’t seen much of it on Raw, either. Obviously these guys are all great athletes. They’ve been able to carve out a little bit of a niche on the main roster. But it almost seems like they’re being directed to slow down. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it’s to their advantage to be able to distinguish themselves from everyone else, and carve out their own distinct brand. That’s something we haven’t see on Raw yet, and we didn’t see it here.

Moving on to TLC, let’s go to predictions…

WWE TLC 2016, Baron Corbin, KalistoCHAIRS MATCH:
Baron Corbin vs. Kalisto

Ah yes, the fabled Chairs Match. Made famous by the likes of…um…? Yeah, I don’t know why they still do these. On the upside, maybe Kalisto will pull out an awesome chair spot.

They’re still trying to make Corbin into a big deal, so he’ll probably take this one. I’m still not buying what I see from this guy. But bless their hearts, they’re trying.

PREDICTION: Baron Corbin

WWE TLC 2016, Nikki Bella, CarmellaNO DISQUALIFICATION MATCH:
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella

I’m curious to see what these girls turn in. They’ve got a hell of an act to follow after Charlotte and Sasha on Raw. The story coming out of Survivor Series was that somebody attacked Nikki before the big women’s match. I’m assuming that person was Natalya, and that she interferes here to cost Nikki the match. From there, we transition into a Becky Lynch vs. Carmella program, and Nikki and Natalya can work. I can only assume the plan going forward is to do Becky vs. Nikki around Wrestlemania. It may not make the actual Wrestlemania card. But then again, given how long Wrestlemania was last year, you never know.

PREDICTION: Carmella

WWE TLC 2016, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, Heath Slater, RhynoWWE SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM TITLES:
Heath Slater & Rhyno (c) vs. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton

They could put the belts on Bray and Randy, I suppose. But more likely this is the night Randy pulls the trigger and turns on the Wyatt Family. I don’t think we need to see more creepy segments between these two. But chances are that’s what we’re getting.

I’ve got to say, I did not expect Slater and Rhyno to still be champions at this point. Actually, I didn’t think they’d be champions in the first place. They’re this weird little misfit team that’s managed to stay on top for months now. Good for them, though I’m curious to see if Slater ever gets to challenge for the Intercontinental Title. He and Miz might do some fun stuff.

PREDICTION: Heath Slater & Rhyno

WWE TLC 2016, Alexa Bliss, Becky LynchTABLES MATCH FOR WWE SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S TITLE:
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Alexa Bliss

Out of the three ladies that came up from NXT during the draft (the others being Carmella and Nia Jax), I would argue Alexa has progressed the most. The’s not as polished as a Becky, Charlotte, or Sasha Banks. But she can go. Her charisma has also made her a real player.

That being said, it’s not her time yet. If Becky had needed to go away for a little bit in October, Alexa could have been a transitional champion. But she’s not ready for a run yet. She will be, though. Just give her time.

PREDICTION: Becky Lynch

WWE TLC 2016, The Miz, Dolph ZigglerLADDER MATCH FOR WWE INTERCONINENTAL TITLE:
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

After Monday’s Raw, I wrote about the Charlotte/Sasha program potentially wearing out its welcome. The only reason it hasn’t is because of the quality of the matches they’ve put together, and the ground-breaking nature of what they’re doing. Miz and Ziggler, however, have worn out their welcome. This thing should have been over at No Mercy. Ziggler could have gone away for a little bit, and come back refreshed. Instead they put the title on him, only to give it right back to Miz. Now, both these guys are more or less back where they started.

Ironically, these two have the same problem that Charlotte and Sasha do: A lack of roster depth. Who do these two wrestle if not each other? The only person that comes to mind is Luke Harper. But he’s busy with Orton and Wyatt at the moment.

So here we are again. Miz and Ziggler on a pay per view. At this point, I say let Miz keep it. He was doing fine before.

PREDICTION: The Miz

AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, WWE TLC 2016TLC MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
AJ Styles (c) vs. Dean Ambrose

Despite having lost to James Ellsworth multiple times, AJ Styles is the closest thing WWE has to a dominant heavyweight champion right now. Considering he wasn’t even on the roster a year ago, that really says something. He’s beaten John Cena, he’s beaten Dean Ambrose, and he’s going to beat Ambrose yet again here.

Like Miz and Ziggler, Styles and Ambrose have struggled from a lack of roster depth. Week after week it’s like they have nothing to do but either wrestle each other, or Ellsworth. I assume Ellsworth will have some kind of role here. My hope is that he somehow fouls up and costs Ambrose the title, prompting a slightly overdue heel turn by Ambrose. But does that leave Smackdown without a top babyface? Not necessarily…

Rumors have been swirling about a possible AJ Styles vs. Undertaker match at the Royal Rumble. If there was ever a time for ‘Taker to make his latest comeback, it’s now. They need him for the Alamo Dome, and they need something new on Smackdown. It’s obviously a short term solution. But AJ Styles/Undertaker is a rare dream match scenario. More than Goldberg/Lesnar was, in my opinion. And another stellar performance from Styles, with an icon like Undertaker, would be decent fodder for a babyface turn. Ironically, the best candidate to be Smackdown‘s top babyface is currently in the top heel position.

PREDICTION: AJ Styles

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Roman Reigns Wins the WWE Championship, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Roman Reigns, Raw, December 14, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not much point in wasting time, is there? Let’s jump right into the big news from Raw

Roman Reigns wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after the match is made by Vince McMahon himself. A title change via a match made that same night, as Vince McMahon looks on in horror and disbelief. That’s some classic Attitude Era booking right there. Still, you can’t say it didn’t work. And how ironic that it happened in Philadelphia, the same city that booed Reigns out of the building at the Royal Rumble. A city that, by the way, was behind him tonight.

Aside from being derivative of the Attitude Era, down to Corporation style run-ins against the babyface that Vince despises, I can’t bring myself to complain much about how this was done. How odd was it that this match tonight had more anticipation built for it than last night’s TLC main event?

WWE Raw, December 14, 2015, Stephanie McMahon, Roman ReignsFrom a creative standpoint, this seemed like an attempt to jumpstart Raw following the ratings downslide, and all the ill will built up from the fans. This obviously doesn’t fix all of WWE’s problems. But this was a good show. Most definitely a breath of fresh air.

On the downside (because we’ve got to cover the good and the bad), WWE has developed a pretty consistent pattern of not allowing anyone to show up Stephanie McMahon, particularly men. That trend continued in the opening segment as Reigns took a barrage of slaps from the “Billion Dollar Princess.” He didn’t even put his hands up to defend himself! I understand the ultra-image conscious WWE not wanting to show images of men being physical against women, but can’t Reigns reach out and grab Steph’s arm to stop her? Imagine someone doing that to Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, or The Rock. And to top that, he even got kicked in the balls by 70-year-old Vince McMahon later in the evening.

Sheamus: “You think I look stupid? All of you paid to see me tonight, so what does that make you?” Don’t tempt us, pal…

Sheamus, WWE Raw, December 14, 2015In a lot of ways, Sheamus got a raw deal this year, no pun intended. There was very little thrill or intrigue in his Money in the Bank win, and his brief run with the title was hardly worth it. It might have been better just to have him cash in and lose.

Still, I maintain that Sheamus is a talented wrestler, and can still do great things.

Dean Ambrose wins Intercontinental Championship at TLC, defeats Dolph Ziggler on Raw. Kevin Owens seeks revenge. I was surprised to see WWE give Ambrose the IC Title. He doesn’t exactly need it. But having him in the picture doesn’t hurt anything either. As one would expect, he and Ziggler turned in a good match.

Having Kevin Owens chase Ambrose for the title might bring out the best in Owens as a heel. He showed some nice bitterness out there tonight. I’m curious to see what Owens does in the weeks leading up to the Royal Rumble.

Jojo, Kevin Owens, WWE Raw, December 14, 2015Correct me if I’m wrong, but it would have been really nice to have Owens looking into the camera for that promo segment with Jojo. How much better was that promo with the ECW guys because Bubba and the others were looking into our eyes? I just don’t understand WWE’s hesitance toward that sort of thing.

The Wyatt Family def. Team ECW in an Extreme Rules Match. The right team won here. During the match I tweeted: “The Wyatts need to win this match. No more 50/50 booking.” Very happy the Wyatts got the victory, and actually came off looking like a dominant group. I’ve said it before, the Wyatts can be the dominant faction in WWE if they’re put in that position. Even if it’s just Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper getting the big wins, that’s not an out-of-reach proposition.

That being said, if they want this to continue, I wouldn’t mind seeing Bray Wyatt and Bubba Ray Dudley go at it one-on-one…

WWE TLC 2015, Ric Flair, CharlotteCharlotte retains over Paige at TLC, teams with Becky Lynch for a win on Raw. Ric Flair assists both times. So it appears we are indeed moving toward a Charlotte heel turn, and seemingly a program with Becky Lynch. This opens the door for development on the part of both ladies, so no complaints from me. I also like how they made a point to have Sasha Banks out there, to illustrate that she’s waiting in the wing.

I’m very curious to see who they put Charlotte with at Wrestlemania. It should be a one-on-one match, as opposed to a triple threat, or a fatal fourway. I’d love to see it be Sasha Banks. But Becky would be good in that spot as well.

Alberto Del Rio & Rusev def. Ryback and Jack Swagger. Didn’t even need to watch this one. Jack Swagger is a loser, and Ryback has become a loser. But that’s actually a good thing. Again, they didn’t 50/50 book it. These programs have winners and losers. That’s the way it should be.

WWE Raw, December 14, 2015The Miz “directs” Neville during his match with Tyler Breeze, which he wins. I don’t necessarily mind Miz being with Neville. It did wonders for Damian Sandow…until the story was over. Hell, this Miz/Neville program might even get Damian a little bit of TV time.

In Other News…

WWE hires veteran MMA announcer Mauro Ranallo for Smackdown. Will start when the show moves to USA Network on January 7. This is a really nice get for WWE. Ranallo brings a special credibility of sorts to the announce position. But here’s the thing: If WWE’s product remains as stale as it’s been lately, it won’t matter who the announcers are. Because no one will be watching.

Sting reveals he needs neck surgery following Night of Champions match. Ugh. This sucks. With so many guys on the injured reserve list, WWE could use Sting now more than ever. Furthering the sucktitude is the fact that Sting’s WWE run, which fans waited so many years for, has been such a disappointment. “The Icon” is hopeful for one more match. Count me among the wrestling fans who hope Sting finally gets a truly great WWE match. Or at the very least, a victory.

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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A WWE TLC 2015 Preview – Vanilla Violence

Roman Reigns, Raw, September 5, 2015By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

These December pay per views can be weird. Some years they give us amazing stuff, other years they just…exist. They’re the obligatory stop between Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble. And I can honestly say this show is as blase as any TLC pay per view I’ve ever seen. WWE has indeed put together the best card they can considering the creative choices they made last month at Survivor Series, but that’s not saying much.

The sad thing is, there’s very little to be excited about on Raw or Smackdown these days. Sheamus is fighting an uphill battle to get over as a heel champion. Roman Reigns is fighting uphill to get over as the top babyface. Dean Ambrose has been cast as a supporting player. Seth Rollins, Cesaro, and Randy Orton are all out with injuries. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman aren’t there right now. The only thing we really have to look forward to in the near future is the return of John Cena. And to a lot of fans that’s an even worse prospect than Reigns being shoved down their throats.

Nevertheless, they’re doing a show. There’s not much to invest in, and there are only a precious few things that feel special. But yeah…here’s a pay per view, I guess.

Alberto Del Rio, Jack SwaggerCHAIRS MATCH FOR WWE UNITED STATES TITLE:
Alberto Del Rio (c) vs. Jack Swagger

Ugh. What year is this?

Yeah, I get it. Swagger used to be with Zeb Colter, so now he and Del Rio have to fight. But dear God, put them at the top of an hour on Raw or something. It couldn’t be worse than what we’ve been getting on TV lately. Is there even any doubt about who wins this one? Del Rio retains, then Swagger goes back to Superstars, or wherever he’s been since the Real Americans broke up.

PREDICTION: Alberto Del Rio

Charlotte, Ric Flair, Paige, WWE TLC 2015WWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
Charlotte (c) vs. Paige

So the idea here is that Charlotte is picking up some of her father’s “Dirtiest Player in the Game” tendencies, which should lead to a Charlotte heel turn. I like that idea. Charlotte’s a good person to hold that Divas Title right now, and of course she’s an awesome athlete. But it might be interesting to see her cut loose and be a little more creative as a villain. I suspect Ric will help her pull of some sort of screwjob finish and pick up the win. I can only assume continued cheating will put her in Becky Lynch’s path, which will be a good thing.

PREDICTION: Charlotte

The Wyatt Family, The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer, RhynoEIGHT-MAN ELIMINATION TABLES MATCH:
The Wyatt Family vs. The Dudley Boyz, Tommy Dreamer & Rhyno

Gee, you know when a good time to do an eight-man elimination match would have been? Survivor Series. Fail, WWE. Big fail.

The Wyatts need to win this one. Bray spent much of the year losing to Roman Reigns, and then Bray and Luke Harper lost a big match to The Undertaker and Kane last month. They need to win something to prove they’re still a threat. I like the dynamic the Wyatts have with the Dudleys, though. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them keep the program going with Harper and Rowan going forward. Those two should really be The Wyatt Family’s contribution to the tag team division, with Bray being the singles star and Strowman being the bodyguard. The Dudleys can beat Harper and Rowan if they must. But on this night, the Wyatts, Bray in particular, need to win.

PREDICTION: The Wyatt Family

The New Day, The Usos, The Lucha Dragons, WWE TLC 2015TRIPLE-THREAT LADDER MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
The New Day (c) vs. The Usos vs. The Lucha Dragons

This match obviously in line with the tradition of tag team ladder matches. I expect we’ll see at least one big Kofi Kingston spot in here, as well as a big Kalisto spot. Frankly, I’d like to see The Lucha Dragons win this one. But The New Day are on such a roll lately that I don’t see a good reason for them to lose here. They’re practically the only consistently entertaining element on Raw these days, and it seems like WWE knows that. They’re pretty much babyfaces at this point anyway. So if WWE wants to take the titles off of them, they’d might be better off losing them to Luke Harper & Erick Rowan. Or even a throw-together team of Wade Barret & Rusev to get this League of Nations some more heat. But I don’t see much benefit in them losing the belts at TLC.

PREDICTION: The New Day

Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose, WWE TLC 2015WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Dean Ambrose

These guys are a big breath of fresh air. This is the most interesting match on the show, for my money. And ironically, it doesn’t even have any stipulations or weapons in it.

I don’t see any reason for them to put the title on Ambrose at this point. I don’t doubt he’d be fine with it, but he doesn’t stand to benefit much from it. I’d also argue Kevin Owens is a pretty pretty credible heel right now, which WWE desperately needs. It’s to the point where there were rumblings of him going against Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. So it’s not necessarily in their best interest to get the belt off of him here. I’m holding out hope that Owens get to defend that title against Sami Zayn at some point. There’s a built-in match they can cash in on at any point.

Prediction: Kevin Owens

WWE TLC 2015, Roman Reigns, SheamusTLC MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
Sheamus (c) vs. Roman Reigns

So we’ve got a champion that the audience isn’t really invested in, against a challenger they’re being force-fed. What’s more, WWE had Reigns put Sheamus through a table this week on Raw, so a lot of the bloom is already off this rose.

Still, I suppose the upside is we don’t know who the winner will be here. WWE could easily just switch the belt to Reigns at this point. But my gut tells me they’ll keep it on Sheamus, at least for the time being. As they aren’t booked elsewhere on the show, I imagine we’ll see Wade Barrett and Rusev in this match, and probably Del Rio as well. This will likely lead to Ambrose and the Usos coming out, with chaos to follow. I’m hopeful that the match will at least be entertaining, even if the story isn’t.

PREDICTION: Sheamus

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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Saying No to Del Rio, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw this week, I’d like to debut a new feature for these weekly reviews.

Now more than ever, Raw has entirely too many overrun by six-man tags. Last week we had an appalling three six-man matches in one show. It’s a sure-fire sign of lazy booking, in my opinion. So from now on, at the end of each review we’re going to make a point of counting how many six-man tags were on the show in question. It will appear at the bottom of the review each week.

Alberto Del Rio, WWE Hell in a Cell 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Alberto Del Rio wins United States Championship at Hell in a Cell, with Zeb Colter at his side. Boy, is it difficult to articulate in human English just how much I hated this. What an awful move.

Just to be clear: I don’t hate Del Rio. He’s an excellent wrestler, he still looks great, and he’s done some good stuff for WWE. But he’s also been part of some mind-numbingly boring television. Part of the reason for that is because his personality, for my money, has been so one-dimensional. And yet, because WWE feels like they desperately need a big Hispanic star, Del Rio is back.

So what’s with this Mex-Americans thing? Del Rio condescendingly referred to Neville as an immigrant before their match. So I assume they’re going for a hypocritical heel angle with he and Zeb Colter. That’s a little awkward. But in all fairness, let’s give the angle the story some time to breathe.

WWE Raw, October 26, 2015, Seth Rollins, Roman ReignsAfter defeating Bray Wyatt in a Hell in a Cell match, Roman Reigns becomes the top contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Title. So is Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns our main event for Survivor Series next month, or TLC in December? I ask because the match isn’t listed on WWE.com as part of the Survivor Series card.

I assume they’re putting Reigns back in the title picture to plant the seed for him being involved in a title match at Wrestlemania somehow. I can only assume they wouldn’t be dumb enough to have him win the Royal Rumble Match again, but WWE obviously wants him in a top spot. There’s been speculation about Rollins vs. Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, which would be an interesting follow up to what happened in last year’s main event. Either way, hopefully this is part of a long-term plan that takes us toward Wrestlemania in Dallas.

After losing to Brock Lesnar at Hell in a Cell, The Undertaker is carried out by The Wyatt Family. After a speech from Bray on Raw, the same happens to Kane. Bray’s promo didn’t do much for me. We didn’t find out where they took Undertaker, or what exactly was done to him. It was just a lot of lip service about the demise of ‘Taker’s soul. Bray’s motivation here is rather obvious. The Undertaker beat him at Wrestlemania. Much like ‘Taker vs. Lesnar, it’s a simple revenge story that they’re overcomplicating.

Kane, Raw, October 26, 2015And now we’ve got Kane in the mix. Interestingly, after Hell in a Cell ended, Jim Ross tweeted about a possible match for Survivor Series featuring The Wyatt Family against The Undertaker, Kane, & Sting. That’s a hell of an idea, assuming Sting is ready to get physical again. But I think a more likely main event would be Seth Rollins and The Wyatt Family against The Undertaker, Kane, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and if not Sting then another babyface the WWE brass are fond of. Ryback comes to mind. That’d be a hell of a nod to the classic Survivor Series format, and it could tell a great story if The Undertaker is left standing alone against some of the Wyatts.

Tyler Breeze debuts on Smackdown alongside Summer Rae, appears at ringside during Dolph Ziggler’s match with Big E. It’s looking like Breeze is getting a strong start. He’s got Dolph Ziggler as his first opponent, so he’s bound to have some good matches. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s being paired with Summer Rae either.

Tyler Breeze, Summer Rae, WWE Raw, October 26, 2015But you know who else got a strong start? Bo Dallas and Neville. And look where they are now. I don’t want to put a damper on Breeze’s debut, but when some of these guys (or girls) leave NXT, they get lost in the shuffle on Raw and simply become roster fillers. In some cases that’s their fault for not being able to make the most of their opportunities. But in other cases it’s WWE’s fault for simply not knowing how best to use some of these talents. Does Bo Dallas have what it takes to be a big star? Who knows. But they definitely could have made him into something more than a jobber.

So good luck, Breeze. You just might need it.

Paige turns on Charlotte and Becky Lynch following loss to Team Bella. So Paige is officially a heel now, finally finishing the rocky journey that started with her wannabe “Pipe Bomb” promo several weeks ago. The crowd still doesn’t seem to want to boo her entirely. I suspect a portion of the male audience will always be into what she does. But at least now they’ve got her acting like a full-fledged villain.

Kevin Owens, Cesaro, WWE Raw, October 26, 2015Kevin Owens def. Cesaro. The best thing Cesaro can do at this point is continue to have great matches. Like Dolph Ziggler, he must be so good that it’s impossible for WWE to ignore him. Allegedly, Vince McMahon finds him boring. Clearly, San Diego had a different opinion this week.

Stone Cold Steve Austin appears in backstage segment promoting WWE 2K16. Ugh. Why do they do this to us? Why create even the faintest glimmer of hope that somehow he’ll stay?

Six-Man Tally: 2

Images courtesy of WWE.com.

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