Tag Archives: Zeb Colter

Big Cass Hits the Big Time, Champions Fall, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m going to get into Raw, as afterward we’ll get into Ryback’s current situation with WWE, and the numerous releases we saw last week.

Ponderings From WWE Raw:

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Chris Jericho, Big CassColin Cassaday interrupts Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel, and challenges him to a match. I was really annoyed when a light chant of “Where is Enzo?” broke out. WWE and Colin Cassady are trying to make the best of a bad situation. To his credit, he’s not doing a bad job. In terms of the Raw audience, I’d argue Enzo was over with the fans the night after Wrestlemania because of how great he was on the mic. Cass, while part of the act, didn’t have that advantage. So this is a great chance for him to flesh out his character. Thus, when Enzo returns, the team will be even stronger.

Baron Corbin def. Dolph Ziggler. “Even Steven” booking strikes again. I’m wondering if these two will rematch yet again at Extreme Rules. I don’t really see why they’d need to, as I don’t think there’s enough interest to merit it. But it’s a possibility. Pleased to see Corbin win with his finish, though he could have easily won with the Deep Six.

R-Truth def. Fandango. Michael Cole shoved a bunch of contrived pop cultural references into this match. He talked about the Goldust & Fandango vs. R-Truth & Tyler Breeze match on this week’s Smackdown being bigger than Captain America: Civil War. He also mentioned James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s disappearance. It’s like someone picked the least important match on the show to shove all of that into. Last week I talked about this program not making any sense, but at least these four guys have something to do on Raw.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Charlotte, Paige, NatalyaPaige def. Charlotte with a distraction roll-up. I get why they did this. They want the fans to question Charlotte’s ability to stand on her own as we head into a match where Ric Flair is banned. For continuity’s sake, Paige should get the next title shot at Money in the Bank next month.

I tend to mute the commentary when wrestlers put on a headset, especially when there are two of them bickering with one another. But Natalya was fine. She seemed to run out of things to say when Cole and JBL kept questioning her, but she came off well. I do, however, think she jumped up on the apron a bit too early. Logically, she should have jumped up there after Charlotte tried to win with her feet on the ropes.

Sami Zayn def. The Miz. Not a good night for champions, as both the Women’s Champ and the IC Champ lost clean. But in Zayn’s case, at least we know he’s getting a title opportunity. We now officially have the fatal fairway match I mentioned last week. My guess is Miz retains when Kevin Owens accidentally causes Zayn to get pinned. This Zayn/Owens stuff could go to Summerslam if they book it right.

Dana Brooke makes her Raw debut in a backstage segment with Emma and Becky Lynch. From a wrestling standpoint, I can’t say I’m that familiar with Dana Brooke. I’ve seen her in backstage segments Emma, as the two are obviously run-in buddies. But she’s largely unknown to me. Either way, her debut adds a bit more depth to the women’s roster, which is a good thing.

Darren Young, Bob Backlund vignetteDarren Young finds a life coach in Bob Backlund. This segment first aired on Smackdown. I’m really intrigued by this pairing. As I understand it, it was Darren Young’s idea, and WWE are letting him run with it. The “Make Darren Young Great Again” slogan is obviously timely. What’s more, this will give us a chance to get to know Young a bit more. We don’t know much about him, aside from the fact that he’s the first openly gay WWE star. And obviously, Backlund is very entertaining.

But the most surprising thing about this vignette? They let Young and Backlund say “wrestling.” Holy crap. I thought that word was banned! Then Byron Saxton said it!

Sin Cara def. Rusev with a distraction roll-up. The second distraction roll-up of the night. Ugh. Rusev really shouldn’t have lost this match. From where I sit, WWE is still in the process of rehabbing him. He won a big battle royal last week, and now he loses to Sin Cara? Lame. On the plus side, they learned their lesson and kept Kalisto off commentary.

Roman Reigns & The Usos def. AJ Styles, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson via disqualification in a six-man elimination tag team match. Anderson and Gallows had a few heel moments here. You had Gallows cheap shooting Jey Uso, then Gallows abruptly tagging AJ out of the match, and of course attacking Reigns to cause a DQ.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Roman Reigns, Karl AndersonI like the bad blood that exists between these two teams. And people can say what they want about Roman Reigns (I certainly have), but that moment when he looked at the chair, said “I don’t need it” and gave it to Styles? That was bad ass. On the other hand, Styles proves that babyfaces can be cheered in the modern era, so long as they have talent and a good amount of fire.

Kevin Owens def. Zack Ryder. We certainly can’t say Zack Ryder hasn’t gotten some decent TV time since Wrestlemania season. WWE seems to appreciate him as a guy who the fans like, and can give anyone a run for their money, but keeps coming up short. He’s an underdog. That’s not a necessarily a great position to be in. But it’s better than not being on TV at all. And as I recall, underdogs have done some great things in WWE…

Last week I mentioned how no one could have imagined AJ Styles on Sportscenter. But how about Kevin Steen showing up on Sportscenter? What a world we live in…

The Dudley Boyz def. The New Day. What the hell? The Women’s Champ, the IC Champ, and the Tag Champs all lose non-title matches in the same night. Between that and the distraction roll-ups, this is really weird. Just like Paige hopefully getting a title shot at Money in the Bank, one would hope the Dudleys will now be in the tag title picture next month as well. Also, hat big clothesline Kofi took from D-Von looked awesome.

WWE Raw, May 9, 2016, Dean AmbroseDean Ambrose attacked Chris Jericho before his match with Big Cass. This was disappointing. They hyped Big Cass against Jericho for the entire show. Ambrose’s appearance was obvious, but they could have at least let them wrestle a bit. Cass didn’t have to beat Jericho. Ambrose could have attacked him and ended the match.

The visual of Ambrose wearing Jericho’s jacket, and then destroying it was pretty cool. But the idea that “Mitch the potted plant” meant the world to Ambrose is just stupid. It was a running joke. Now suddenly it’s a factor in a program between two of WWE’s biggest stars? What the hell…?

In Other News:

Ryback off TV over contract dispute, posts lengthy blog on the issue. Much of the blog Ryback posted on his Tumblr page had to do with how wrestlers are paid, and how talents who win matches should get paid as much as the ones who lose. He seems to be implying that all WWE wrestlers should be paid equally. Allegedly, he also wants WWE to pay for his travel and hotel expenses.

(Incidentally, I hadn’t caught the “pre-show stopper” weight belt Ryback wore out for his pre-show match at Payback. Funny stuff.)

Ryback, pre-show stopperI doubt WWE will give at all. If they don’t feel Ryback should be paid more, chances are they’re not going to shill out more for him. Especially now that he’s talked about the issue publicly. As for the travel stuff, if WWE doesn’t pay for John Cena or Roman Reigns to travel across the globe, they’re not going to do it for Ryback.

Still, I give “The Big Guy” credit for trying to take on the system. As far as the travel stuff, he’s right in principle. If there’s another industry that doesn’t pay for its employees to travel, I’m not aware of it. Perhaps that falls back under WWE classifying its employees as “independent contractors.” Which, of course, is a big sham.

WWE releases the following talents: Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow, Santino Marella, Hornswoggle, Alex Riley, Cameron, Zeb Colter, El Torito. WWE did what many refer to as its annual “spring cleaning” last week. Most of these aren’t surprises, as the talents haven’t been on TV in a number of months. We had a pretty good idea that Wade Barrett was leaving, which is a shame considering all he could have offered. Cameron, a.k.a. the real life Ariane Andrew, had posted a lengthy rant regarding fans cyber-bullying her less than a day before this announcement. Frankly, I’m sad to see her go. She many not have been a great wrestler, but her on-screen personality was very easy to dislike. At the very least, she might have been a good valet for someone.

But the one that really hurts is Damien Sandow. At one point, this guy was one of the most over guys on the roster. Why you wouldn’t make at least some use of a guy like that is beyond me. Hopefully WWE’s loss will be somebody else’s gain.

Image 3 from wrestlenewz.com. Image 6 from cagesideseats.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE. 

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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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The Paige/Charlotte Fall Out, Sheamus as Champion, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

Reid FlairBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Fair warning, folks: You’re going to get a lot of complaining from me this week.

WWE got a lot of negative buzz last week after they had Paige say a fairly tasteless line about Charlotte’s deceased brother Reid during their segment. The main event segment, no less. I wrote that what Paige said wasn’t necessarily reprehensible, but some things have come to light since then that shed some new light on the situation.

Firstly, neither Ric Flair nor Charlotte and Reid’s mother knew about the angle. You’d think common sense and decency would dictate that they at least let the parents know about something like that, let alone give them veto power.

Secondly, after WWE got all the heat, they released this statement: “Subject matter this personal is only approved as a result of the strong advocacy of the talent themselves. Notwithstanding that, WWE is ultimately responsible for what airs in its programming.”

Charlotte, Raw, November 23, 2015Essentially they implicated Charlotte, which is pretty sleazy.

I don’t doubt that Charlotte said she was okay with it all. But as we’ve heard from various former WWE stars, the company has a tendency to punish wrestlers who say no to storyline suggestions. It’s not the same thing at all, but Trish Stratus went on record that she once refused to kiss Torrie Wilson on television, and lost the Women’s Title very shortly thereafter.

Thankfully, WWE is trying to sweep this situation under the rug. Given how image conscious his company has become, you’d think Vince McMahon, who ultimately has the last word on creative, would have been mindful of the backlash this angle would cause. Particularly when Reid’s parents didn’t know, nor approve.

Sheamus, WWE Survivor Series 2015Ponderings From Raw:

Sheamus cashes in on WWE Champion Roman Reigns, walks out of Survivor Series with the title. A TLC Match for the Championship is made for December. The smart fans weren’t happy about this one, which I get. There was a lot of backlash when Sheamus won the Money in the Bank briefcase to begin with. If you want to look at the glass as half full, at least we’ve got a heel champion the fans legitimately dislike.

But you can’t convince me Sheamus is hot as a heel. He was in a dull-as-dirt feud with Randy Orton for months, and then aligned himself with Wade Barrett, who’s been a perennial loser. And the company’s top babyface usually gets booed as much, if not more than he does. That’s why I don’t think there’s any money in Sheamus and Reigns at TLC. We’ve got a cold heel against a babyface that WWE is trying to tell us we should like, instead of letting us choose our own heroes.

Still, the Sheamus era has begun. Hopefully it’s short…

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Roman Reigns, RusevRoman Reigns faces the returning Rusev in the main event. I’m glad Rusev is back, as WWE needs all the depth they can get. But Rusev is yet another cold heel. The last time we saw him he got pinned clean, and took a verbal beat-down from Summer Rae. Whatever happened to the Bulgarian Brute’s balls?

It seems like Sheamus, Wade Barrett, and Rusev are a group now, which appeared to be the way things were going before Rusev went on the shelf. I wonder if three cold heels can somehow equate to one hot one…?

The Undertaker & Kane def. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper at Survivor Series. The Wyatts rebound with a win over The Dudley Boyz on Raw. Remember the build-up to Bray Wyatt’s match with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania? The buzz was that WWE wanted to keep Bray looking strong so he’d seem like a formidable opponent for ‘Taker. They need to start doing that again, not just with Bray himself, but this entire group. Wyatt spent much of this year losing to The Undertaker and Roman Reigns. We need to reverse that trend and make him look like a winner again. Bray Wyatt is a star. Now he just needs to be booked like one.

Bray Wyatt, Raw, October 23, 2015I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper in a tables match with The Dudley Boyz at TLC. The sad thing is, Bubba and Devon have lost most of their big matches since they came back. So after TLC, one of these teams is going to wind up even colder than they are now.

Cesaro reportedly out of action with a shoulder injury. This sucks. I mean, it really sucks. Just when you think Cesaro might finally move up the card a little bit, he gets hurt. It’s bad enough that so many main event level guys off TV right now. But now we’ve got arguably one of the hottest talents in the industry on the shelf too.

The Solomonster pointed out that given the projected four to six month time period Cesaro will be gone for, this might mean he’ll return around the same time as Tyson Kidd. That’s the only upside to this as far as I’m concerned.

WWE Raw, November 23, 2015, Alberto Del Rio, Zeb ColterJack Swagger confronts Alberto Del Rio and Zeb Colter. This was obviously where they were going before Seth Rollins got hurt, and they had to do the tournament. I understand that Del Rio and Swagger was a built-in match when they started this whole “Mex-America” thing. But Swagger is as much a dead duck as any character they have on that show. Having Del Rio beat him doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s hardly worth more than a one-off match on free TV.

Neville def. Mark Henry. Fresh off of being the only guy pinned on his team at Survivor Series, Neville beats the once dominant Mark Henry on Raw. Makes sense, right?

Henry likely doesn’t mind doing the honors for younger talents. But if they want to do a Mark Henry retirement match someday, they’re going to have a tough time making it mean anything if all he does is lose.

The New Day, WWE Raw, November 23, 2015The New Day celebrate their one-year anniversary on Raw. Damn. These guys died a slow death out there. Much like at Survivor Series, the crowd was absolutely dead for much of this show. You can’t really blame them, given the content of the show they’re watching. But these three have arguably been the most consistently entertaining part of Raw over the last few months, and they just couldn’t get a rise out of the fans. It was downright sad.

In Other News…

TNA lands new network in POP TV. It just goes to show you how many TV networks are out there these days that both TNA and Ring of Honor landed on networks no one has apparently ever heard of.

Still, give TNA credit where credit is due. People continue to write them off, but they keep surviving somehow. Like a lot of fans, I want TNA to do well. They just need to get their feet under them again.

Image 1 from hachland.wordpress.com. Remaining 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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WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2013

By Rob Siebert

Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As many of us know, each year Barbara Walters publishes a list of her “most fascinating people” from the previous 12 months. This year, her list included Miley Cyrus, the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame, Pope Francis, and Hilary Clinton.

But you know what? None of those folks interest me at all. What can I say? Babs and I must have opposing tastes. I’m a man who loves his comic books, his movies, and of course, his pro wrestling. And for my money, the most fascinating pro wrestling fan be found on WWE television. And now, as I did last year, it’s time for me to put my own spin on Walters’ list.

Ladies, gentlemen, and “smarks,” Primary Ignition now presents: WWE’s Most Fascinating People of 2013!

Dolph Ziggler, Money in the Bank, cash in1. Dolph Ziggler
At this time last year, Dolph Ziggler seemed to be on the verge of true superstardom, and justifiably so. He’s ultra-athletic, has tremendous charisma, and at least half the time will give you the best match on the card. In many ways he’s comparable to Shawn Michaels, which I think is one of the highest compliments one can give to a wrestler. The night after Wrestlemania XXIX, Ziggler had the night of his career when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and won the World Heavyweight Championship as the fans chanted his name. But unfortunately, things went steeply downhill from there. An injury threw a big wrench into Ziggler’s title run, and the belt quickly went back to Alberto Del Rio. From there, Ziggler spent the majority of 2013 jobbing to guys like Curtis Axel, Damien Sandow, and Fandango. His rapid descent down the card has been downright depressing and simply begs the question: Why? Why bury such an A+ talent? Rumors have surfaced Ziggler’s backstage attitude, and his perceived drawing power. Either way, Ziggler is in a much different place this year than he was last year. I’m hopeful, but also wary about where he’ll be at this time next year.

AJ Lee, 20132. AJ Lee

In 2013, AJ Lee finally rose to her rightful place at the head of WWE’s otherwise lackluster divas division, and while her caliber of opponents have left much to be desired, Lee herself continues to be interesting to watch. In addition to breaking WWE’s traditional Barbie doll/model mold for female wrestlers, she seems to have gotten much more confident on the mic this year. Case in point? Her “pipe bombshell” promo from August, in which she referred to the cast of Total Divas as “a bunch of ungrateful, stiff, plastic mannequins,” and alluded to how the Bella Twins sucked up to the right people. Moments like that, combined with her unique look, and apparently her sense of style, give AJ a special connection with both male and female fans. Plus, occasionally she’ll do something that will make me go: “Maybe she really does a little crazy in her.” Prior to this month, I had no idea who Michelle Beadle was. But apparently she and AJ had a heated moment when Beadle supposedly dissed CM Punk, Lee’s real-life boyfriend. Either way, AJ continues to be the most compelling female performer WWE, and perhaps mainstream wrestling itself, has seen in years.

Darren Young, WWE, 20133. Darren Young

This past August, Darren Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser, became the first active WWE wrestler to publicly come out of the closet. This seemingly happened on a whim when TMZ interviewed him at an airport. WWE handled this in what I deem to be a fairly tasteful manner. WWE.com reported on it, and the company made a point to circulate supportive quotes from other wrestlers. Young also took to the talk show circuit, appearing with the likes of Matt Lauer and Ellen DeGeneres. Thus, the company’s certainly milked Rosser’s revelation for positive publicity. But in terms of his role on-screen as Darren Young, very little has changed. He and Titus O’Neil have turned babyface as the Prime Time Players. But that’s essentially it, and one could argue that was in the cards anyway. To my knowledge, WWE never actually spoke about Rosser’s revelation on Raw, Smackdown, or any other in-character platform. What’s more, as far as I can see, Darren Young hasn’t gotten any kind of hateful backlash from fans who aren’t necessarily on board with homosexuals, the gay agenda, etc. As a fan, I was proud of WWE for not using this aspect of Rosser’s personal life as part of a tasteless storyline, proud of the fans for being mostly respectful of who this man is, and proud of Rosser for not being brave enough to put himself out there despite the risks that may have been present. Now if only the Prime Time Players could get a decent push…

Zeb Colter, 20134. Zeb Colter
The initial appearance of Wayne Keown (or as he’s more commonly known, Dutch Mantel) the February 11 edition of Raw as Jack Swagger’s new manager Zeb Colter came as a pleasant surprise to me. If there’s ever been a wrestler who needs a mouthpiece, it’s Jack Swagger. And Colter proved to be the perfect addition to his presentation, with his tirades about true patriotism, protecting America’s borders from illegal immigrants, and what this country has been “reduced to.” He turned Swagger’s program with Alberto Del Rio into one worthy of Wrestlemania XXIX. The passion and believability he delivered his promos with is something we don’t see nearly enough of from today’s crop of wrestlers. To the WWE publicity machine’s delight, the character even caught the attention of conservative pundit Glenn Beck. When Swagger was subsequently arrested for marijuana possession, his role was downgraded we didn’t see quite as much of Zeb. But when Swagger was teamed with Antonio Cesaro to form the Real Americans, Zeb’s promos became a more regular fixture on WWE TV, and we’ve reached the point where the “smarks” are even chanting “We the People!” along with him. His work (as well Paul Heyman’s) serves as proof that a manager/mouthpiece can still be a vital part of a wrestling program in the 21st century.

The Bella Twins, 20135. The Bella Twins
The Bellas are indeed fascinating, though not necessarily for good reasons. Nikki and Brie returned to WWE this past March, just in time to film Total Divas, a reality show on the E! network which follows a handful of female wrestlers. Nikki and Brie were front and center, as for the first time, it was acknowledged on WWE programming that Nikki was dating John Cena, and Brie was dating Daniel Bryan. As such, much of the show revolved around those two relationships. Nikki dealt with Cena’s reluctance to get married and start a family, while on the flip side, Brie and Bryan ended up engaged by the season finale. Surprisingly, the things that played out on Total Divas didn’t necessarily impact WWE’s ongoing storylines very much. However, during Bryan’s WWE Title program with Randy Orton in the fall, Brie was brought in to play the worried girlfriend, and we all cringed at the twins’ continued lack of acting talent. While Brie’s in-ring skills have indeed improved this year, the Bellas remain an instant cue for me to hit the fast-forward button on the DVR. And yet, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be gone any time soon, given their involvement with Cena and Bryan, not to mention the fact that WWE seems convinced we all want to see sexy twins wrestle every week. Sadly, the bloom was off that rose a long time ago. Clearly, the Bellas have a long way to go in terms of earning the respect of a lot of the “smart” wrestling fans. With luck, they’ll make more headway in 2014. If they don’t, there’s always that fast-forward button.

CM Punk, 20136. CM Punk
When we kicked off 2013, CM Punk was still the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the modern era, and the hottest heel the company had seen in years. After feuding with The Rock in January and February, he moved into a controversial program with The Undertaker, which culminated in a Wrestlemania match. From there, Punk had arguably gone as far as he could go as a heel, and really had no choice but to turn babyface. It’s been really interesting to see Punk turn his self-entitled narcissistic villain persona into a rebellious loose cannon character. Thankfully, Punk spent half the year working with Paul Heyman, one of the all-time great heel managers in wrestling, and the man who helped him generate much of his heat during his WWE Title run. While their rivalry might have run out of steam toward the end, they had a fantastic hero/villain dynamic. He’s been able to maintain that hero persona through brief programs with The Wyatt Family and The Shield. At this point, the only wrestler as universally cheered as Punk is Daniel Bryan. Given that he appears to be moving into some sort of program with Triple H and the Authority, the smart bet may be him winning the Royal Rumble and going on to main event Wrestlemania XXX. Given the way he’s shattered WWE’s glass ceiling and essentially made himself a marquee star these past few years, I’d say nobody (with Daniel Bryan being the only possible argument) deserves a Wrestlemania main event spot in 2014 more than CM Punk.

Paul Heyman, 20137. Paul Heyman

Heyman had a hell of a 2012, but somehow his 2013 was even better. To an extent, he’s actually taken on the role of a modern-day Bobby Heenan. For Wrestlemania season, he played a part in both the Undertaker/CM Punk and Triple H/Brock Lesnar programs, and got to walk both Lesnar and Punk to the ring at the big event. He also got to verbally joust with the likes of Vince McMahon, The Rock, Triple H, and of course, he got plenty of mic time with CM Punk once the two started their lengthy feud. Heyman was also given the task of helping elevate Curtis Axel, and later Ryback. Sadly, as was often the case with Heenan, Heyman ultimately wound up overshadowing both those men, particularly Axel. But regardless, no matter who he was working with, Paul Heyman almost always made for compelling television in 2013. Whether he was singing the praises of “Barrrrrrrrrrrrrock Lesnar,” planting a painfully awkward kiss on the cheek of Ryback, or taking a beating from Punk atop Hell in a Cell, Heyman was one of WWE’s most entertaining and captivating performers this year. And we can undoubtedly look forward to more of the same upon his return.

Curtis Axel, Paul Heyman, 20138. Curtis Axel

Fans who’d been following the career of Joe Henning (or as WWE fans came to know him, Michael McGillicuty) always knew him to be a solid in-ring performer. As the grandson of Larry “the Axe” Henning, and the son of Curt Henning, a.k.a. Mr. Perfect, he certainly has the business in his blood. Heck, he’d even been voted the 2008 Rookie of the Year by the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. But despite his talents, he’d yet to really be given an opportunity at singles stardom. His hokey ring name certainly didn’t help matters, nor did what many might consider to be a lack of charisma and mic skills. But regardless, in 2013 Henning was repackaged as Curtis Axel, with the incomparable Paul Heyman as his new manager and mouthpiece. Less than a month later, WWE put the Intercontinental Championship on him, and seemed confident they had a new star on their hands. But as was the case with Dolph Ziggler, Axel’s 2013 sadly ended on a downer. Even with the Intercontinental Title, he wound up being more of a henchman for Heyman than anything else. At Night of Champions, Axel was teamed with Heyman in a 2-on-1 handicap match against CM Punk. The angle was booked so that Punk getting his hands on Heyman was a virtual certainty, as Axel had no chance of defeating Punk. Eventually, he dropped the IC Title to Big E. Langston, and was thrown into a tag team with Ryback. Joe Henning may have tremendous in-ring talent, but whatever potential star power he had may have ultimately been eclipsed by his manager’s rivalry with Punk.

Big E Langston, Intercontinental Champion, 20139. Big E. Langston
Clearly, the WWE brass has faith in Big E. Langston, but I’m not sure I share that faith at this point. Langston started his year as a bodyguard for Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee. It looked like an HBK/Diesel-type babyface turn was in the cards for him. But then Ziggler broke off from the trio, and the AJ/Langston pairing eventually fizzled out. From there, Langston abruptly turned babyface, and before long he found himself Intercontinental Champion. It all seems too much, too fast for my taste. I’d have liked to have seen Langston get more time to cook as a babyface before they put him in the spotlight the way he is now. His mic skills clearly need work, as is evidenced by his bland, white-meat performance on commentary in recent weeks. Still, Langston definitely has a great look, and he’s solid in the ring. He also seems to have a certain charisma bubbling underneath the surface that I’m very interested to see more of. As Triple H has said in the past, the wrestler makes the championship important, and not vice versa. I’ve got the impression that WWE put the title on Langston to give him a boost. But now it’s up to him to make the most of this opportunity, and elevate himself to that next level. I’m very curious to see whether he can do that in the early part of 2014.

Daniel Bryan, WWE Night of Champions 201310. Daniel Bryan

Following Wrestlemania XXVIII, fans were unrelenting with their “Yes!” chants, letting WWE know, in no uncertain terms, who they’d chosen as WWE’s next marquee star. In 2013, Daniel Bryan became that marquee star. Case in point? Earlier this month, WWE held a “championship ascension ceremony,” which centered around John Cena and Randy Orton’s match to unify the Heavyweight Championships at TLC. They were joined in the ring by the likes of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, CM Punk, among numerous other Hall of Fame caliber stars. But who were the fans chanting for? Daniel Bryan. It got to the point where Triple H and John Cena actually had to shift their performances to acknowledge the chants, as they were drowning out the mic work. Granted, they were in Bryan’s home state of Washington. But I think it’s safe to say the Washington fans spoke for the WWE audience at large that night. Daniel Bryan, the 5’10 vegan indie darling with the scraggly beard, has surpassed our wildest expectations. Most “smart” fans knew he had the talent, but whether WWE would run with him was another story. But between the deafening chants from the fans, and the awesome performances he gave this year alongside the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, and even midcard guys like Antonio Cesaro, Bryan cannot be denied. I maintain what I said earlier about CM Punk being the smart  bet to main event Wrestlemania XXX. But it’s practically a guarantee that Bryan will be in a marquee match. The only question is, who will stand across the ring from Bryan on the grandest stage of ‘em all? Triple H, I’m looking at you…

Image 3 from thegrio.com. Image 4 from 411mania.com. Image 5 from wrestlenewz.com. Remaining images courtesy of WWE.com. 

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