Archive for the ‘Wrestling’ Category

A Part Time Champion? Plus, WWE Summerslam 2014 Predictions (UPDATED w/ RESULTS!)

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’m fairly happy with what we’ll be seeing at Summerslam this year. A lot of one-on-one matches, a lot of personal issues to be resolved, a lot of new talent being positioned to step up, and a main event where the stakes are high, and the winner isn’t necessarily easy to predict.

Here’s my two cents…

PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Rob Van Dam vs. Cesaro

Remember when Rob Van Dam was the WWE Champion? How about when Cesaro was said to be the next breakout star in WWE? Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Neither of these guys have been getting a great shake in WWE lately. While Van Dam continues to have good matches with just about everybody he works with, the company isn’t taking advantage of him being an established star, a former Heavyweight Champion, and a guy who can do things in the ring that no one else can. Similarly, Cesaro has been miscast as a heel for most of the year, and has more or less been treading water since Wrestlemania. I don’t get it. But at the very least, these guys should give us a good match to open the show. As RVD has been jobbing to the likes of Rusev and Seth Rollins lately, I imagine we’ll see him lose to Cesaro here. *sigh* Granted, he was brought back to put over new stars. But still…he’s Rob Van Dam!!!

Rob’s Prediction: Cesaro
WINNER: Rob Van Dam

WWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
AJ Lee (c) vs. Paige

So Paige caused AJ to lose to Eva Marie, huh? Hey, that gets her plenty of heat with me. Still, I think there’s a lot of things left for AJ to do with the Divas Title. A feud with someone in The Authority seems like a natural way to go, particularly if Nikki Bella turns on Brie (more on that later). Putting the title on Paige after Wrestlemania was an okay way to shake things up a bit. But she’s still very young, and from my vantage point still has a lot to learn from a character development standpoint. AJ is already there, so let’s keep running with her.

Rob’s Prediction: AJ Lee
WINNER: Paige

WWE INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler

From the “smark” perspective, this is a feel-good match. Miz and Ziggler are buddies, both of whom have been pushed down the card in recent years. So this is a great opportunity for them to demand some attention on the second-biggest show of the year, with one of the most prestigious championships in the business to boot.

I’ve been a big fan of The Miz’s “no face hits!” persona, and I see him keeping the title here. However, here’s no reason the program needs to end at Summerslam. I say keep it going, and let these guys build on their personal chemistry, and really develop a rivalry for the IC Title. In the process, we can elevate both men, as well as the title. That’s a win for everybody.

Rob’s Prediction: The Miz
WINNER: Dolph Ziggler

FLAG MATCH:
Jack Swagger vs. Rusev

This match provides a nice little loophole which allows Swagger to beat Rusev without derailing much of his momentum. And of course, it’s a great way to play off the America vs. Russia drama that’s at the heart of this program. Naturally, I suspect it’ll be something involving Zeb Colter and Lana on the outside that allows Swagger to get the upper hand and wave old glory. A flag match would certainly be a perfect way to blow this sucker off. There are a variety of routes both men could take as we move into fall. But I’m thinking Swagger needs this career moment more than Rusev.

Rob’s Prediction: Jack Swagger
WINNER: Rusev

LUMBERJACK MATCH:
Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose

This match would be tough to predict had WWE not just announced Ambrose for their latest crappy movie, Lockdown. As the film is set to start principal photography this month, Rollins seems like the obvious winner here. Because it’s a lumberjack match, the door is obviously open for someone on the outside to “injure” Ambrose during the match. While I have no desire to see Ambrose taken off TV, obviously putting him in a movie is a gesture of good faith on WWE’s part. While he likely won’t be winning at SummerslamLockdown is a sign that WWE does indeed see him as a commodity.

Rob’s Prediction: Seth Rollins
WINNER: Seth Rollins

Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt

I’m pleased that they’ve fleshed this program out a bit, and made it about Wyatt taking exception to Jericho’s “Savior” persona. That obviously adds a little bit more meat to what we’re seeing from these two. What Jericho said this past Monday in his face-to-face sit down with Wyatt about the various facets to his personality, and which side of Chris Jericho we’ll see at Summerslam was interesting. The notion of seeing a more vicious side of Y2J offers some interesting possibilities. Still, I think Wyatt is due for a win. He doesn’t necessarily NEED a win here, but I think he’ll get one.

Rob’s Prediction: Bray Wyatt
WINNER: Bray Wyatt

Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns

I’m diggin’ this match. Assuming Reigns is indeed the guy we’re going with at Wrestlemania XXXI, Orton is the right guy for him to be with at this point. I maintain Reigns has been talking too much for his own good. If WWE tries to make Reigns into a pandering “man of the people,” a la John Cena, the fans will turn on him sooner rather than later. But for now, Orton is a good person to put him with. I see Reigns going over here, and staying with Randy Orton through Hell in a Cell in October.

Rob’s Prediction: Roman Reigns
WINNER: Roman Reigns

Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella

It’s been so long since Stephanie McMahon has had a match, that half the appeal of seeing this fight with Brie is finding out just what she’s capable of inside the ring. Much like her father, Stephanie has never been the most graceful in-ring performer. But she’s made up for it with raw emotion, along with the use of weapons and such. I suspect in this match we’ll see her use her added musculature to surprise us with a power move or two. But hopefully these two leave the actual wrestling to AJ and Paige, and give us a catfight that doesn’t overstay its welcome. I suspect we’ll see Nikki out there at one point, and perhaps Triple H or Kane. Who knows? Maybe Daniel Bryan will pop in to offer some limited physicality. There are a lot of different ways this match could go. But I suspect Stephanie gets the win with help from The Authority, and possibly a heel-turned Nikki Bella.

Rob’s Prediction: Stephanie McMahon
WINNER: Stephanie McMahon

WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
John Cena (c) vs. Brock Lesnar

As awesome as this match is for a pay per view like Summerslam, I can’t help but feel a bit sad Daniel Bryan is missing his opportunity to have a big money match with Brock Lesnar. And I have no doubt the two of them, along with Paul Heyman of course, would have told a hell of a David vs. Goliath sort of story. In contrast, Cena and Lesnar give us more of a Clash of the Titans sort of tale.

But of course, we can’t deny the appeal of John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, even though it’s a match we’ve seen several times. In the aftermath of what happened between Brock and The Undertaker, seeing him compete for the WWE Championship is an undeniable draw. And like many, I’m of the opinion that Brock should win the belt, and keep it until Wrestlemania. The subject of how that’s going to work has sparked a lot of debate. Theoretically, if WWE were to get Lesnar on a once-a-month schedule leading up to February, and up his appearances to promote Wrestlemania, that would work well. Then again, Paul Heyman noted in a recent interview that the WWE Championship may be defended too often in the modern era, and less may be more in terms of Brock and the belt. On a recent episode of The Ross Report, Jim Ross said that if the WWE Championship is featured less, then the value of the Intercontinental and United States Championships would thus increase. That’s an interesting notion.

In any event, if things progress as they should, Brock will be leaving Summerslam with the title. Needless to say, that’ll make things very interesting in the weeks to come. And at the end of the day, interesting TV is what we’re all here for.

Rob’s Prediction: Brock Lesnar
WINNER: Brock Lesnar

Images from WWE.com.

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The Biggest Fight of the Summer. Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

WWE airs Cena vs. Lesnar video package, featuring interviews with both men. I always love when they do produced interviews with Brock this way. This is the only way we should ever hear him talk. He doesn’t have the pressure of being in front of a live crowd, the producers can try different takes, different lines, etc. He can be a really effective talker when he does it the right way. These video packages with Brock always leave an impression, and an resonate for a long time. What resonated with me about this one? Brock’s question: “For God’s sake, why wouldn’t Brock Lesnar beat The Undertaker?…Because he’s some mythical God? It’s not rocket science, people.” That was really good.

But let’s not discount Cena, either. His stuff about Brock only having to have “one fight every so often” in the UFC was good. These past two weeks, they’ve played up the differences between Cena and Lesnar very well. The idea of the passionate champion against the merciless mercenary has been conveyed effectively. The whole “blood and urine and vomit” thing might have been a bit too much. But all in all, I’m really ready for this match.

Still, as good as Cena vs. Lesnar will be, I can’t help but wonder how different the story would be if we had that David vs. Goliath scenario that a Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan match would have given us…

Roman Reigns def. Kane in a Last Man Standing Match. Heck of an opening match. Reigns and Kane went all “hardcore” for us. This should have been the main event, for my money. I actually think WWE should have put Stephanie and the Bellas on first, then close the show with the Last Man Standing Match. Why not? Yes, it was a good way to draw fans in. But if Steph and the Bellas are good enough to close a show, why can’t they open one? Plus, the knowledge that I’ve got a pay per view quality match coming my way would damn sure keep my interest.

Triple H, Jerry Lawler, and JBL plug the cost of the WWE Network to the point of obnoxiousness. Ah, I get it. They tried to get away with lots of shameless plugs by turning them into a comedy bit. It’s PG era DX logic. Except, much like the PG era DX, these plugs got old REAL fast. Obviously the WWE Network isn’t growing as fast as the company would like, and as such they’re shoving it down our throats each an every week, to the point that it’s actually obnoxious. But what they need to realize is that Raw caters to essentially the same audience each and every week. So plugging this network so mercilessly isn’t going to do any damn good, because most of the people who want to buy it have already done so. Mind you, I think the news that the Network is expanding overseas is terrific, and will boost subscriptions tremendously. Hopefully, that’ll allow WWE to be a little less intense in promoting this thing. Once they go overseas, it’ll be a new ball game.

Dean Ambrose def. Alberto Del Rio. I heard Paul Heyman say something on a podcast awhile back about Stone Cold Steve Austin. He said to watch the way Steve Austin hits the ropes, because he goes all out every time. For whatever reason, I was compelled to do that in this match with Dean Ambrose. In paying attention to detail like this, I came to appreciate the fact that every single time he’s out there, Ambrose looks like he’s fighting for his life. And in this match in particular, a Beat the Clock match, that was displayed quite poignantly. It also made Del Rio look pretty damn good, as the obstacle Ambrose just couldn’t clear. Really good match.

Heath Slater def. Seth Rollins. Cool little moment for Heath Slater this week, not that it’ll matter in the long run. So Slater’s new tag team partner is Titus O’Neil, huh? They could be entertaining together, I suppose. O’Neil was terribly miscast as a bruiser heel, so it’s nice to see him getting the chance to talk and be charismatic again. I still miss the Prime Time Players, though.

Images from WWE.com.

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TNA’s TV Woes, Selling SummerSlam and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Not at all happy to hear TNA is allegedly getting the boot from Spike TV this fall. That company may now finds itself in the very scary position of having to find itself another network in time, or risk going belly up.

People can crack all the jokes they want about the creative at TNA. But the fact is, the number 2 wrestling company in the United States could be in a potentially devastating position. If this turns out to be true, it could be terrible news for wrestling fans, and it’s especially bad news for wrestlers looking for work, experience, and mainstream exposure.

To my knowledge, nothing has been officially announced yet, so I’m going to avoid jumping to hasty conclusions. But here’s hoping that if TNA is indeed leaving Spike TV, another network will pick Impact Wrestling up. The show, after all, continues to draw in the ballpark of a million viewers every week.

Thoughts From Raw:

John Cena and Paul Heyman open the show with a verbal confrontation. I loved the “Biggest Fight of the Summer” promo WWE produced for Lesnar vs. Cena at Summerslam, and the opening segment between Cena and Heyman was an awesome way to follow it up. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: When John Cena has a topic he can sink his teeth into, and he doesn’t have to pander or blatantly promote anything, he can be awesome on the mic. We saw that from him this week, and it’s no coincidence that a mic master like Paul Heyman was the one to bring it out of him.

I’m of the mindset that we don’t need to see Brock Lesnar again until the Raw before Summerslam. Let Cena and Heyman carry it, and build to a mini-confrontation between Brock and Cena on the go-home Raw.

John Cena def. Cesaro. Any time these two are in the ring, it’s essentially a giant test of strength. And hey, that’s a good thing. As unlikely as it may be considering their different backgrounds, Cena and Cesaro seem made for each other. This match also showed us Cesaro and Heyman may not have completely severed ties…

Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella close the show with an in-ring brawl. I’m not a fan of either Brie or Nikki Bella. But I will say this: When was the last time a diva segment closed Raw? You’ve probably got to go back to the days of Trish Stratus and Lita to answer that one. Granted, Stephanie isn’t a wrestler, per se. But still, it placed an added emphasis on women’s wrestling that hasn’t been seen in WWE in quite some time. And to her credit, Brie’s acting has gotten a little bit better. Though that “You deserve to go to hell!” line was a bit much.

Has it really been over a decade since Stephanie wrestled? It doesn’t seem that way. The two Stephanie matches that immediately come to mind are her bout with Trish from February 2001, and her match with Vince from fall 2003. I have no doubt she’s as capable as ever. Lord knows she’s as muscled as we’ve ever seen her, and is probably much stronger. I doubt this will be a beautifully coordinated masterpiece of a match, considering Brie isn’t exactly Shawn Michaels. But then again, neither was Trish when Steph wrestled her. So who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise us.

Randy Orton and Kane brutalize Roman Reigns. I like the idea of a Reigns/Orton match at Summerslam. Distancing Orton from the WWE Title picture for a bit will be good for him, in my opinion. He’s done just fine in his role as The Authority’s chosen one. But let’s have him help elevate Roman Reigns, and possibly Dean Ambrose, before we put that bright a spotlight back on him.

Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins went to a no contest when The Wyatt Family interfered. I was really enjoying Jericho’s work with Rollins before the Wyatts got involved. I believe one of the announcers called Rollins “cat-like.” Corny as it sounds, it’s true. From an in-ring standpoint, there’s nobody else on the roster quite like him. That can only work in his favor as time goes on.

R-Truth def. Bo Dallas, ending his undefeated streak. So…R-Truth, huh? The guy with little to no discernible momentum, who’s been singing the same song since 2008, is the guy who finally pins Bo Dallas? Well that sucks. Granted, it wasn’t the most prestigious streak in wrestling history, but it could have amounted to a little more than what it did. Nothing personal, but R-Truth? Still, it allowed Bo to show off his vicious side, and that’s a plus.

Front page image from betweentheropes.com. Image 1 from tnanews.com. Images 2 and 3 from wwe.com.

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Daniel Bryan Uses Chokehold to Catch Burglar

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

As a would-be thief found out this weekend, Daniel Bryan’s arsenal of wrestling maneuvers can be utilized both inside and outside the ring.

Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella, the real life Bryan and Brianna Danielson, were returning to their home in Phoenix, Arizona late this past Thursday when they discovered two burglars attempting to break into their home using rocks.

When Danielson  gave chase, he was able to catch 22-year-old Cesar Sosa and subdue him in a rear naked choke until police arrived. The second burglar escaped.

At a subsequent news conference, Danielson said Sosa was “very tired and it literally took zero effort to take him down,” later adding he was “borderline ashamed” for taking matters into his own hands, and was happy nothing bad had happened.

Danielson would later tell WWE.com: ”We’re lucky because we had multiple neighbors calling the cops…There are a lot of people watching out for each other in this community.”

Source: The Daily MirrorWWE.com

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Sting’s WWE “Debut,” Plus WWE Battleground 2014 Predictions (UPDATED w/ Results!)

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Battleground, the topic of the week is obviously Sting’s appearance on Raw. Or at least a WWE video game commercial that aired during Raw. It was tremendously produced, and a great way to plant that seed for what could be an epic angle down the road.

Supposedly, Sting hasn’t officially signed a deal yet. But purely from an outsider’s perspective, it seems to be imminent. And that’s a great thing. With WWE trying so damn hard to get people to buy the network, the timing couldn’t be more right for Sting to finally work for them, even if it’s only for one match. As for who that match would be with, obviously a lot of people are calling for Sting vs. Undertaker to finally happen. There are many who question whether that match should take place, given what happened with ‘Taker at Wrestlemania XXX, and the notion that given the age of both men, it might not be the dream match we’ve always imagined it being. Personally, I’m of the belief that if both guys are healthy, they can make it special. Both Sting and The Undertaker have been able to defy father time for years. I won’t doubt they can each do it one more time.

But if Sting vs. Undertaker isn’t in the cards, there are a plenty of guys Sting could wrestle and draw money with. Triple H, John Cena, and Randy Orton all come to mind. But we’ve got plenty of time to speculate and analyze. For now I’m keen to sit back and enjoy the simple fact that Sting and WWE are working together after all these years.

And now, on to Battleground.

PRE-SHOW MATCH:
Cameron vs. Naomi

I’m intrigued to see how Naomi develops now that these two are no longer a duo. I think some of the stuff we’ve seen her go through with the eye injury, combined with her athletic prowess in the ring, have earned her some respect in the eyes of the “smart” fans. Cameron, on the other hand, does not seem to have earned that respect. But in her case, that may be a good thing. It’s extremely easy to dislike Cameron. Even Michael Cole seemed legitimately annoyed by her a few weeks back. That could be the basis for a great heel persona, assuming Cameron can back up what she says in the ring. This match might not be the best pick in terms of drawing last minute buys for the pay per view. But it could be interesting to watch from the standpoint of where these two performers are, in relation to where they could be later.

Rob’s Prediction: Naomi
WINNER: Cameron

Jack Swagger vs. Rusev

A few days ago, I would have easily picked Rusev as the victor here. But in light of what happened with that Malaysian Airlines jet this week, and the potential Russian involvement there, it’s a rather inconvenient time to be a in an act that sings the praises of Vladimir Putin every week. Still, I don’t expect WWE to soften Rusev or Lana from a character standpoint. I just think they’ll scale back his dominance a bit on this show. I expect Lana will get involved somehow, allowing Swagger to get a DQ victory. A brawl will follow, and Swagger will come out looking strong without actually beating Rusev. For my money, it’s best to proceed with caution for the time being.

Rob’s Prediction: Jack Swagger
WINNER: Rusev by count out

WWE DIVAS TITLE MATCH:
AJ Lee (c) vs. Paige

So they’re “frienemies,” huh? Meh, that’s not really my cup of tea. But hey, it’s AJ and Paige on a pay per view. I won’t complain. These two have helped break WWE’s fitness model mold for female wrestlers. So it’s great to see them getting a chance to shine together on pay per view. But it must be said: Paige is pretty bland from a character standpoint. I don’t see her winning the belt back until she develops a bit more in that respect. Maybe a few losses to AJ will bring some more emotion out of Paige, and we’ll get to know her a bit better. But for now, the belt stays with AJ.

Rob’s Prediction: AJ Lee
WINNER: AJ Lee

2 OUT OF 3 FALLS MATCH FOR WWE TAG TEAM TITLES:
The Usos (c) vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan

Here’s another kind of match I don’t think we’ve seen on pay per view in awhile. Two out of three falls for the tag straps? How cool is that? This isn’t necessarily a hot rivalry, but the Usos and the Wyatts have an old school hero/villain dynamic going on. Harper and Rowan are more than worthy of holding tag team champions. But I think right now it’s the Usos’ time to shine, and build a reputation as a dominant babyface tag team. Still, this being the kind of match that it is, it’s likely the Wyatts will at least get to beat the champs once. That’s a nice little feather in their caps.

Rob’s Prediction: The Usos
WINNER: The Usos

20 MAN BATTLE ROYAL TO CROWN NEW INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION:

Firstly, I’m happy Bad News Barrett is popping in for this match. That character was on such a role, and hopefully this will help him hold on to at least a little bit of that momentum.

Typically, battle royals like this can be tough to predict. But in this case, I think there’s a clear winner: The Miz. He’s quickly resumed his heel run with a new “Don’t hit me in the face!” M.O., and he’s as easy to dislike as ever. What’s more, he was clashing with Sheamus this past week. A win for Miz here might lead to the often-discussed unification of the Intercontinental and United States Championships via a match with Sheamus at Summerslam. But even if that’s not the case, a heel Miz would certainly make a better IC Champ than the babyface Miz did.

Rob’s Prediction: The Miz
WINNER: The Miz

Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins

These two are arguably even better as rivals than they were as partners. Rollins’ new role as the sell out is a perfect contrast to Ambrose’s defiant bad boy attitude. And the idea that Ambrose can run in and ruin Rollins’ Money in the Bank cash-in is something they’ve never done before. So the build up for this match has been excellent. From a wrestling standpoint, it may be the dark horse pick to steal the show. In picking a winner here, oddly enough, there’s an X factor that needs to be considered: Brock Lesnar. Rollins is supposedly The Authority’s designated plan B to take the WWE Championship back, right? But then Paul Heyman interjected this past week on Raw, and floated the idea of Brock being their back up plan. Rollins losing to Ambrose here would provide the perfect incentive for Triple H and Stephanie to cast him aside in favor of the man who just broke The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak. Thus, Ambrose wins this round. But I expect we’ll get at least one more pay per view go-around with these two.

Rob’s Prediction: Dean Ambrose
WINNER: Seth Rollins via forfeit

Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt

As great as the inciting incident for this program was, the subsequent build up for this match has been frustrating. Bray Wyatt has yet to give us a definitive reason as to why he doesn’t like Chris Jericho. This past week on Raw he said something like: “You said you would save us, Chris!” But what does that even mean? In any event, hopefully the match will make the confusing build up worthwhile. I see Bray Wyatt picking up the win here. This would, ideally, lead Jericho to take more of a proactive approach against Bray. Instead of asking why Wyatt attacked him, Jericho would now be the one doing the attacking. To see Bray on the defensive against a man like Jericho might make for compelling television.

Rob’s Prediction: Bray Wyatt
WINNER: Chris Jericho

FATAL FOURWAY MATCH FOR WWE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:

Meh. I’m not really into this one at all. We know who wins here. This is the obligatory pay per view title match between Cena’s title victory, and his big match with Brock at Summerslam. To WWE’s credit, they’ve at least made it look like a big important match. And if these four do their jobs well (which I’m sure they will), there’ll be a point in this match where it looks like someone other than Cena (most likely Roman Reigns) will walk out with the title. But make no mistake about it, this night belongs to Cena. And that’s fine. Bring on Cena vs. Lesnar at Summerslam. Plus, if this match goes how I imagine it will, this’ll also lead us to Reigns vs. Orton at the August spectacular.

Rob’s Prediction: John Cena
WINNER: John Cena

Images from WWE.com.

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Protecting Roman Reigns, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Let’s talk about Roman Reigns. I mean, why not? Everybody else is.

In the past year or so, much has been made of Reigns’ potential to become a main event level talent. Out of the three former Shield members, he has clearly emerged as “the chosen one.” While Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were immediately pit against each other, Reigns has graduated to multi-man pay per view main events with the likes of Kane, Randy Orton, and John Cena. He’s also been getting into staredowns with Triple H (as we saw last week on Raw). Signs are definitely pointing to Roman Reigns as WWE’s choice for the next top babyface.

But here’s the thing: If you want to be WWE’s top star in 2014, the stars really need to align in your favor. The WWE machine, as bizarre as it is sometimes, needs to be behind you. More importantly, the fans have to be behind you. And as we saw crystal clear earlier this year, sometimes those two groups want very different things. WWE had constructed the main event program for Wrestlemania XXX as Batista returning to disrupt his old mentor’s regime. But when “The Animal” was met with almost universal boos, they were forced to go with the people’s choice, Daniel Bryan.

Whether it’s the ever present “Cena sucks” chants, the flat out rejection of Batista’s babyface return, or the question of pushing wrestler A over wrestler B, what WWE creative wants has an undeniable tendency of clashing with what the fans want. And now, the WWE machine wants Roman Reigns to be a top star…

But do the fans want Roman Reigns to be a top star? They seem to be receptive to him, but a lot can change between now and Wrestlemania XXXI. I’m of the mindset that Reigns can be a star if he’s protected.

What do we mean by protected? It’s a simple case of accentuating the positives and hiding the negatives. Admittedly, Reigns doesn’t have many negatives. But there’s one glaring blemish on his game: His mic work.

When he was part of The Shield, Reigns was really effective at wrapping up those three-man promos with Rollins and Ambrose. He didn’t have to say very much at all. He’d just give us a line or two at the end to put an exclamation point on what they were saying. Something like “Believe in The Shield” was all it took. That quite and menacing demeanor, his look, and his intense physicality in the ring were enough. But whenever Reigns took the mic for a more extended period of time, he came off very weak, especially compared to someone like Ambrose. If Reigns is forced to rant and pander like Cena and Sheamus tend to do, he’ll be dead in the water.

Case in point? His promo to kick off this week’s Raw. It was decent, but not at all what you’d hope to see from the next big superstar. Hell, in the middle of it the Montreal fans started chanting about Cena. To his credit, Reigns ran with it. But the fact remains: The mic work is painfully absent.

This is why, even though he’s on his own now, the old Shield formula really shouldn’t change much. Let’s let Reigns keep that mystique about him, and keep him a man of very few words. Emphasize his look and his ring work, and let his actions do the talking. That way when he does get on the mic for a little bit, it’s that much more meaningful.

Also: No attempts at WWE-style comedy, i.e. bad comedy. That whole shtick from a few weeks ago where he put something in Stephanie’s coffee? Stupid. Roman Reigns should not be funny. He’s a serious, stone faced destroyer with an understated charisma, who’s on his way to the top whether The Authority likes it or not. He’s a locomotive that takes down everything in his path. Now THAT’s a character you can get behind.

Thoughts From Raw:

The Authority is “on vacation,” not at Raw this week. As I recall, this has been done a few times since Triple H and Stephanie have been put in their current on-screen roles. It always turns me off. From a fan’s standpoint, if the two people who run the damn show can’t be bothered to show up, then it must not be that important. So why should I show up?

Obviously, Hunter and Stephanie aren’t there because their real-life positions at WWE prevent them from being at all the international shows. But hey, here’s an idea: Bret Hart is in the building. Why not make him the guest general manager? That’ll inject a little extra excitement into the show!

But no, instead they put Bret in a segment with Damien Sandow. Hey, it’s always nice to see the Hitman. But come on…

Chris Jericho def. The Miz. I’m interested in what Miz is doing with the whole “no face shots” M.O. It’s sort of a callback to what Rick Martel and Shawn Michaels did at Wrestlemania VIII all those years ago. It could be cool to see Miz focus a decent portion of his in-ring offense on face and head shots, and then in turn by terrified to take them.

As for Jericho’s latest run-in with The Wyatt Family, Bray gave us some pretty good mic work, and we got a peek at his morivation before Y2J cut him off with the “Shut the hell up!” catchphrase. Not quite the response promo I would have liked from Jericho, but there’s still plenty of time.

Randy Orton def. Dean Ambrose. So…about Ambrose’s jump from the top rope. Did Orton miss his cue? Did Ambrose jump before Orton knew where he was? I’m not trying to place blame. I’m just curious about what actually happened. Still, Orton and Ambrose had a pretty good showing otherwise.

Alberto Del Rio def. Dolph Ziggler. One of the reasons I miss guys like Jim Ross and Joey Styles being on commentary, is that they’d actually call the wrestling moves. What the hell was that move Del Rio hit Ziggler with from the top rope? According to Michael Cole it was: “What a move!”

Rusev def. Rob Van Dam via submission. I liked the increased emotion from Rusev, especially put combined with a good guy the fans can really get behind, and actually mount a believable offense against the big man. Slowly but surely, the Rusev/Lana act is getting better. I do, however, wish RVD hadn’t had to tap out.

Bo Dallas def. El Torito. Considering El Torito actually holds a victory over Drew McIntyre, I was actually concerned Dallas was going to lose this one. It was nice to see a more despicable side of the Bo Dallas character, though. Perhaps we’ve got more than a comedy act on our hands.

Images from wwe.com.

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Chris Jericho, Miz, AJ, and the Night of Returns. Plus, Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

Chris Jericho returns to Raw, spoils The Miz’s return, comes face-to-face with The Wyatt Family. The news about Chris Jericho returning to Raw this week leaked a bit before the show aired. Happily, yours truly avoided the spoiler, and experienced Jericho’s latest comeback in all its glory. Seeing him come back in that segment with The Miz would have been enough, I suppose. But adding the Wyatts to the mix made it a true Raw moment. That’s the match that’ll sell Battleground, or at the very least, get folks to tune in for the next few weeks. It’ll be interesting to see how long Jericho stays around this time.

While Miz’s return obviously played second fiddle to Jericho’s, it’s great to see him as a heel again. The whole “cross brand” star thing, or whatever it is, should be a good fit for him. Miz is as easy to dislike as just about anybody. The question is, can he make his act in 2014 different from his act from two or three years ago?

AJ Lee returns, wins the Divas Title from Paige. I was honestly convinced we weren’t going to see AJ Lee again. At least not for awhile. She just got married, to CM Punk no less. Thus, the rumors she was pregnant weren’t exactly unfounded.

John Cena wins the WWE World Heavyweight Title at Money in the BankLike a lot of folks, I’m not particularly upset that Cena won the title at Money in the Bank. It’s a means to an end, folks. And that end is Summerslam. You want a big money pay per view match? John Cena’s been a key ingredient in a lot of big money pay per view matches. And if the rumors are true, that opponent will be Brock Lesnar.

Incidentally, Stephanie should do more “rap dancing,” or whatever she was doing when that WWE 2K15 poster dropped. Those five seconds were pretty damn entertaining. She seems to be having as much fun out there as she’s ever had.

John Cena vs. Randy Orton vs. Roman Reigns vs. Kane announced for Battleground. Eh, I’ve seen worse filler between major pay per views.

Seth Rollins wins the Money in the Bank briefcase. Not surprised to see Seth Rollins take the briefcase home. The briefcase element always works best when used with a heel. It just doesn’t behoove a babyface to attack a champion when he’s vulnerable. Oddly enough, the only face to really have a great Money in the Bank briefcase pay off (no pun intended) was the man Rollins faced tonight, Rob Van Dam. Come to think of it, Cena was the champ back then too…

Kofi Kingston is annihilated after come-from-behind win over Cesaro. As good as Kofi Kingston is, it’s gotten to the point where when I hear his music, my brain goes: “Heel enhancement match.” Tonight was no different. Even when Kofi wins, he loses. He beats Cesaro, but then proceeds to take one of the worst ass kickings of his career. Some things never change, I suppose.

Intercontinental Championship vacated due to Bad News Barrett’s injury. That separated shoulder is a terrible break for Bad News Barrett. He was obviously doing some of the best mic work of his career, and he and WWE had turned the whole “Bad News” persona into something entertaining and cool. Here’s hoping he can parlay a comeback into a babyface turn in a few months.

Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter emerge to challenge Rusev and Lana. This segment was packed with intrigue. Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter as babyfaces? Why not? The fans seem like they’ve been ready to cheer Zeb and the whole “Real American” thing for awhile now. And they were actually chanting for Swagger! Who’d have thought that?

The Wyatt Family def. Sheamus & The Usos. That big boot from Luke Harper to Sheamus deserved all the replays it got. Right in the damn face!

Nikki Bella is placed into a handicap match with the Funkadactyls. I can’t hear either of the Bella Twins talk without thinking of the Kardashians…

Images from WWE.com.

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Vickie Guerrero’s Sloppy Swan Song, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

Stephanie McMahon def. Vickie Guerrero, forcing her out of the company.  A Vickie Guerrero babyface turn? A bunch of Eddie Guerrero references? Well damn, there was no way this wasn’t her last night. Some might cry fowl over it being a slop match. But really, what else were they going to do? Neither of them are wrestlers. And in the end, Vickie got her moment in the sun. Incidentally, Layla El gets a lot of crap here, but that splash she made into the slop was awesome!

I give Vickie Guerrero a world of credit for going above and beyond expectations during her WWE tenure. Did anyone ever envision her becoming the heat magnet she became? She was never the best pure promo on the roster, but what she delivered was so over, it really didn’t matter. Once she started with the “Excuse me!” line, and started venturing into that annoying teacher/boss routine, she was made. So kudos to you, Vickie, for living up to the Guerrero family name, and ultimately doing your husband’s memory proud.

Kane is added to the WWE Championship Ladder Match. Um…sure? This makes sense, I suppose. Although I wish they could have added Kane sooner. That way he could’ve taken the place of someone like Cesaro or Bray Wyatt, who might have benefitted from carrying the briefcase around for awhile. But Kane was kind of in that weird limbo space for awhile, due to Daniel Bryan’s injury. So I suppose it is, what it is.

Triple H announces that Dolph Ziggler, Rob Van Dam, Bad News Barrett, Kofi Kingston, and Jack Swagger will join Seth Rollins in second Money in the Bank Ladder Match this Sunday. What really interested me was Hunter’s remark about the audience thinking he doesn’t appreciate Ziggler’s talents. That’s a curious thing to say about someone the office is supposedly trying to “bury.” Even Jim Ross has speculated on The Ross Report that Ziggler “isn’t high on somebody’s list.” But why? And how long do we all have to wait before Ziggler moves up said list?

Also, Rollins had a really focused, effective promo this week. Much better than anything we’ve seen him do on the mic previously. That. combined with the match he put on with Rob Van Dam, gave me a bit more hope for his future as a solo act in WWE.

Dean Ambrose baits Triple H and Rollins into adding him to the ladder match. I always have to roll my eyes a bit when something like this happens. I understand we’re dealing with wrestling logic, but come on. Rollins wants to “keep an eye” on Ambrose, so he gets Hunter to put him in a position to earn a guaranteed title shot any time he wants? Yeah, that makes sense.

Alicia Fox def. Naomi, as Cameron and Paige join the announce position. Cameron’s definitely a heat magnet, I’ll give her that. She’s somewhat reminiscent of Michelle McCool and Layla El back when they were a team, in that her heel mic work is so grating and irritating that it almost prompts one to hit the mute button. Even Cole seemed to be irritated: “Well, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but you just continue to ramble on.” Paige on the other hand, as good as she is in the ring, came off like the stereotypical white meat babyface.

Big E. def. Damien Sandow, who is dressed as Abraham Lincoln. Okay…so the idea behind Sandow doing all the crazy stuff he’s being doing lately is that he wants to be “entertaining.” Alright, I guess that kind of makes sense. But where does it go from here? Also, what the heck was Big E. trying to do in that post-match promo? Was he channeling some kind of overcharged preacher? Either way, I don’t recommend he revisit that idea.

Bo Dallas def. Titus O’Neil. Did they really need to start calling him “The Inspirational” Bo Dallas? I think most of us got the point…

Images from WWE.com.

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Roman Reigns, Kevin Hart, Stardust, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Before we get into Raw, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about all the talent cuts that occurred last week. WWE parted ways with Brodus Clay, Evan Bourne, Drew McIntyre, Jinder Mahal, Teddy Long, and Aksana, among others.

None of these names were particularly surprising to see, as none of them have contributed to notably to WWE programming lately. The biggest effect this will have on Raw and Smackdown is that 3MB is now forcibly disbanded.

It is sad to see a few of these talents go. Evan Bourne never got to make a return to TV, and he was always a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Seeing Drew McIntyre go is sad, as he was once such a prominent part of WWE TV, and a heck of a talent. But at the end of his run, he was jobbing to El Torito. It’s also a little bit depressing that Aksana’s last TV appearance consisted of her being humiliated by Alicia Fox.

But in the end, that’s just business. And it certainly leaves a lot of open roster spots for the current NXT regime…

Thoughts From Raw:

Roman Reigns won a battle royal to earn a spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match. Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose have already started to go their separate ways, as Reigns hovers close to the main event picture, while Ambrose occupies his time with Seth Rollins. I wasn’t surprised to see Rusev as the runner up, but what did surprise me was that we finally got to see some emotion and intensity out of Rusev. Where has that guy been these past several weeks?

John Cena def. Kane in a stretcher match to earn a spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match. This wasn’t a surprise either, as it’s only logical to put Cena in a multi-man pay per view main event. Adding Cena to the mix certainly injects some hefty emotions and opinions into the ladder match. It was also nice to see them pay off the stretcher match stuff, to an extent at least. Cena and Kane didn’t give us anything too extraordinary, but it made for a cool TV main event.

Kevin Hart joins the announce position during Raw. Kevin Hart got a couple of grins out of me during his segment, which is more than I can say for most of Raw‘s celebrity guest stars. So I’ll give him a passing grade. He did the best he could with what he was given, and what I can only assume was a limited knowledge of the product.

Cody Rhodes wrestles as “Stardust” alongside his brother Goldust. I LOVED the Stardust segment. Cody Rhodes pulled it off wonderfully. Seeing Cody play his own version of the “Bizarre One” may just turn out to be a milestone in this slow burn program between the Rhodes brothers. What’s more, Cody was obviously having fun. Knowing what we know of Cody’s love of comic books and superheroes, it was undoubtedly a blast.

Stephanie McMahon “vomits” on Vickie Guerrero after Roman Reigns spikes her iced coffee. Yeesh, if anything ever had “Vince” written all over it. Incidentally, it’s interesting that Roman Reigns just happened to have…whatever he put in Steph’s coffee on him as he just happens to run into Vickie Guerrero carrying their drinks. But hey, that was the least offensive thing about this bit. On the up side? Vickie gave us a pretty nice outraged scream. Obviously her tenure with WWE is winding down, and her putting Reigns in the battle royal opened the door for The Authority to fire her. I assume we’ll be talking about that as early as next week, or possibly the night after Money in the Bank.

Sheamus def. Bray Wyatt via disqualification. “…comin’ out here and talkin’ and singin’ about how you’ve got the whole world in your hands. Well tonight, how about we change that tune to more like: “How about I shove my whole boot down your throat?” Wow. I’m a Sheamus fan, but wow was that a bad line. Still, the match delivered, as Sheamus’ usually do.

Bad News Barret def. Dean Ambrose via count out. Obviously WWE is now playing up the crazy, unhinged aspect of Ambrose’s character. Hopefully they don’t go too far with it, and toss him into a straightjacket or anything. Ambrose’s mic with is truly unique, and it would be a crying shame if they somehow overplayed their hand by casting him in a cheesy psycho role.

Heath Slater seemingly turns face before losing to Rusev. I’m a Heath Slater fan, and in a perfect world, the departure of his “bandmates” would lead to an opportunity at singles stardom. Based on what we saw this week, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Still, at least he got to have a little moment to shine.

Image 1 from wrestleenigma.com. All other images from WWE.com.

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Picking Up the Pieces, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From WWE Raw:

Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns break their silence after Seth Rollins’ betrayal. Awesome promo by Dean Ambrose this week. Everything from his face to his body language suggested a man who was an just an inch away from snapping. And that bit about rearranging Rollins’ face was excellent. The only downside to the segment was that Roman Reigns had to follow Ambrose. If I’m Reigns, I’d be a man of few words. Reigns is a little bit like Brock Lesnar or Batista, in that he does his talking in the ring. He doesn’t need to actually say very much in order to get his point across. In terms of verbage, less is more for Reigns.

Seth Rollins explains why he turned on The Shield. Aside from Seth talking about “destroying his own creation,” and what not. There really wasn’t much to this promo. It essentially seemed like your standard “He were never really my friend” post heel turn speech. One can definitely argue that Rollins was The Shield’s most gifted in-ring performer. But for my money, he was usually the weakest on the mic. From a delivery standpoint, he’s just not interesting to listen to. So it’ll be interesting to see what becomes of him now that he’s broken off from The Shield, and he’s working as a bad guy.

WWE announces Daniel Bryan will not be able to compete at Money in the Bank, strips him of the title. Championship to be decided in Money in the Bank Ladder Match. It’s good to finally have an answer to the question of whether Daniel Bryan will keep the championship. And in truth, this could be an instance where a negative turns out to be a heck of a positive. Bryan makes for a fantastic underdog. And for him to have his huge Wrestlemania moment, only to have it snatched away by an injury, is a hell of a story at the end of the day. And it’ll make for a hell of a comeback story too. So I say we let Bryan heal up, and come back better than ever. And for God’s sake, no more diving headbutts.

John Cena, Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins def. The Wyatt Family. It was no surprise at all to see John Cena join forces with The Shield to take on the Wyatts. I’ll wager Cena and Bray Wyatt end up being the last two guys who qualify for the ladder match. If that does wind up being the case, Bray Wyatt could very well end up walking away with the WWE Championship. He just seems like the best guy for the role, quite frankly. He just seems like the most compelling choice. Of course, they could go the safe route and give it to Randy Orton.

Sheamus def. Bad News Barrett to qualify for Money in the Bank Ladder Match. As often happens, Sheamus had a hell of a match on this week’s Raw. He and Bad News Barrett gave us exactly what we wanted to see. A tough-as-nails Brit and an Irish brawler teeing off on one another. Great victory for the “Celtic Warrior.” Heck, it would have been the match of the night if not for…

Cesaro def. Rob Van Dam to qualify for Money in the Bank Ladder Match. Excellent match between Cesaro and RVD, capped off by Cesaro finishing Van Dam with a neutralizer. To his eternal credit, Paul Heyman has managed to put some heat on the “Swiss Superman,” as we saw this week with his tease of Brock Lesnar. But it’s still tough not to respect the hell out of the guy. Could he take the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank? My gut says no, but stranger things have happened…

Lana compares “girly man” Obama to Vladimir Putin in pre-match promo. The showing of those Obama clips seems like a Vince McMahon-inspired move. Still, their use, combined with Lana’s venomous words provided some nice heat for Rusev before he squashed Zack Ryder yet again. I think his face might have even changed expression this week. He actually looked like a live human being! Imagine that.

Ryback & Curtis Axel def. Goldust & R-Truth. So this week, Cody picks R-Truth as his brother’s partner, after picking Sin Cara last week, and Kofi Kingston on Main Event. What better way to build up for a heel turn than to team your brother with a bunch of jobbers?

Images from WWE.com. 

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