Archive for the ‘Bell to Bell’ Category

John Cena and Paul Heyman Sell the PPV, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Just a warning folks, this one consists of mostly complaints. I was not happy with Raw this week.

Thoughts From Raw:

Paul Heyman urges John Cena to “give in” to defeat Brock Lesnar. I wasn’t as thrilled with this segment as a lot of other people were. Mick Foley even took to Twitter and called it “Quite simply one of the greatest interviews ever!” Respectfully, I disagree. It had nothing to do with either man’s performance. It’s just that we’ve seen this segment before. It’s the whole “This is who I am, and I won’t change!” speech. Off the top of my head, I can think of four people he’s done this with: Kane, The Rock, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan. Mind you, Heyman might have orated his side of it better than the others. But the fact is, this is a rerun. Still, it’s interesting to see Heyman and Cena in the ring together. And at this point, Lesnar vs. Cena is still a hot match. So it didn’t hurt the build up by any means.

Roman Reigns def. Randy Orton via disqualification. I don’t know what the deal is with this match. It bored everybody at Summerslam, and it bored everybody again on Raw this week. It just seems like these guys are wrestling in a vat of molasses every time they get together. I assume they’ll be wrestling at least one more time on pay per view, but at this rate a Randy Orton/Roman Reigns match might actually deter me from buying a show.

Jerry Springer returns to Raw, does an in-ring segment with the Bellas. Poor Jerry. He’s actually a very eloquent speaker. But this…this was just not good. As ever, this was like watching the popular girls in high school have an argument. Good lord, I just…don’t…care. And what’s more, I really don’t think the fans care either.

Also, “Brie Mode” will never be a thing. Ever.

Adrian Neville & Sami Zayn def. Tyson Kidd & Tyler Breeze. This was the best segment on the show, for my money. All these guys were obviously hungry, and they showed it to us this week. Neville seemed to be the stand out guy, and seemed to have won the crowd over. And here’s hoping they’re able to bring the Tyson Kidd/Natalya storyline they’re doing on NXT to the main roster once he’s ready to come back up.

Bray Wyatt def. Chris Jericho in a steel cage match. In all honesty, since the creation of Hell in a Cell, steel cage matches don’t really do it for me anymore. But Jericho and Wyatt pulled off a decent one this week. My only big complaint was Wyatt crab walking toward the cage door, which was more goofy than anything else.

Dolph Ziggler shows the world The Miz’s “leaked” photos. I’m usually a fan of Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, and Damien Sandow. But I wasn’t a fan of what they did here, especially in light of Melina and Velvet Sky being among the victims of this mass cloud hacking. I rain on what little humor this segment actually provided, but that’s where I’m at on this one. By the way, do we have to keep calling him Damien MIZdow? If we’re going to keep him with Miz, can’t he at least have his name back?

Images from WWE.com.

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Emasculating John Cena, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

The opening segment damn near kills the show. I hate to sound overdramatic, but that was in fact the case. Six man tags do so little for me anyway. But then to base it around the notion that Triple H doesn’t know if John Cena is really ready for Brock Lesnar at Night of Champions, after he friggin’ ran through the Wyatts last week, was nearly too much for me to take. I was worried the Raw broadcasts until Night of Champions would essentially be time killers, and this show did nothing to dissuade that. There was one bright spot to that opening segment though…

Triple H and Chris Jericho trade barbs during “Highlight Reel.” For whatever reason, Triple H likes to take little shots at the talent from time to time. We’ve seen these digs go toward top stars like John Cena, and even at virtually helpless ring announcers like Lilian Garcia. But occasionally, Hunter will get in there with someone like Chris Jericho, who doesn’t need to be in a WWE ring at this point in his career, and things get interesting. Granted, you can argue Jericho fired the first shot with the “shnoz” remark. But Hunter kind of kept things going needlessly. Either way, it’s refreshing to see talents who are unafraid to stand up for themselves and their characters when it becomes necessary.

John Cena lets Roman Reigns get the pinfall in the main event. So in a six man tag match where each man is supposed to be fighting to prove that he should be the top contender for the WWE Championship, Cena lets Reigns get the pin? Well, obviously it was to continue Reigns’ ascension toward main event level stardom. But from a character standpoint it made no sense.

Paul Heyman cuts a promo on the “emasculation” of John Cena at SummerslamWhile everybody else was essentially killing time, Paul Heyman was selling Night of Champions. I loved the direction he took things, and that’s the notion the whole show should have been built around. That could have fired up Cena, and prompted him to take charge in the main event. But instead they argued about whether Cena should really be the top contender.

The Miz (w/Damien Sandow) & Cesaro def. Dolph Ziggler & SheamusI actually like what Damien Sandow is doing as The Miz’s “stunt double.” Firstly, Miz got some nice heat out of the finish tonight. Secondly, it gives Sandow something do to other than wear silly costumes every week. And if they keep this duo together for awhile, it opens the door for a feud down the line. So what the hell, make Sandow a stunt double. Lord knows he’s played stranger roles this year…

Boredom with the Bellas, plus AJ and Paige. I was lucky enough to have gotten home late this week, so I was able to fast-forward through he vignettes where Nikki talked about “growing up Bella.” In terms of the in-ring segment, the acting was a little better this week, but it was still incredibly grating. I’m not exactly thrilled to see the intersection with Paige and AJ’s story, but this was obviously where it was going the whole time. I smell a triple threat match for Night of Champions. Paige vs. AJ vs. Nikki, and God help us, Nikki takes the title.

Incidentally, Stephanie vs. AJ? Yes please.

Goldust & Stardust continue to play heels against the Usos. Nope. Still not buying it. And if the chants are any indication (which they are, of course) neither are some of the fans. I maintain what I said last week. Goldust is too iconic for die-hard WWE fans to boo, and it’s silly for them to try and force the issue. But who knows? Maybe it’ll go somewhere good, and we’ll finally get to see the brothers fight. Though with the Bellas in a feud right now, it seems unlikely they’d go with another sibling rivalry program.

Images from WWE.com.

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Bella Twins, Bad Acting, and Other Ponderings From WWE Raw

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Thoughts From Raw:

Jerry Lawler hosts “reconciliation” between Brie and Nikki Bella. First of all, putting Jerry Lawler in the middle of this is hilarious. His reputation with women notwithstanding, I think they just did that for the “Jerry!” chants, the Springer show and what not. Secondly, the only reason I didn’t keep this segment on mute was for reviewing purposes (your welcome). My God the Bellas are terrible. This was silly soap opera acting at its worst. “I wish you’d died in the womb.” Psssht. Give me a break…

The sad thing is, there is an okay story under all the bad acting. I can see what they want this to be. Nikki went through hell when Brie “quit” WWE to be with her husband, and now she’s turned on her because of it. There was actually a point to her whole ear-splitting rant. But, as is the case with most instances when the Bella Twins talk, the delivery ruined it. It’s nothing against Nikki and Brie personally. I admire the fact that they’ve been performing with WWE for so long. They just don’t have he chops to fulfill this story’s dramatic needs. It’s sad, really. Especially for the audience, because we have to endure a LOT more of this. We’ve presumably got a series of Bella vs. Bella pay per view matches on the horizon…

Three ridiculous things are said during the Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and Shawn Michaels panel discussion on Brock vs. Cena at Night of Champions:

1. Hulk Hogan: ”When it’s time, you know it’s your time.” This from the man who’s supposedly still trying to get in the ring again.

2. Shawn Michaels: “Everybody loves John Cena.” Really, Shawn? Everybody loves John Cena?

3. John Cena: ”I’m not going to Night of Champions to beat Brock Lesnar. I’m going to Night of Champions to beat Brock Lesnar’s ass.” Huh?

Goldust & Stardust seemingly turn heel on the Usos. This doesn’t make any sense. You’re going to try and get the fans to boo Goldust, a guy who’s been around for decades, and who probably has one of the best and most unique personas in the company’s history? I don’t get it.

WWE airs another interview package with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. As usual, this was very effective. Paul Heyman must have a degree of creative input as far as what Brock is saying. How else could these be so good on such a consistent basis? I’d love to see Cena react to what Brock said about his dad and his childhood…

Cesaro def. Rob Van Dam, will face Sheamus for the United States Championship (presumably at Night of Champions). Remember when Rob Van Dam was the WWE Champion? Damn, that seems like a long time ago. On the plus side, Sheamus and Cesaro have had good matches in the past, and will likely give us another one whenever they end up facing off.

AJ Lee and PaigeLesbianism for a PG era. Oh c’mon. That’s exactly what they’re giving us. It’s Trish Stratus and Mickie James all over again, only now they’re PG so they have to imply everything. I did, however, like the image of AJ hugging an extremely reluctant Paige. The notion that Paige tried to out-crazy AJ and failed is an amusing one. And of course, AJ is always good with that kind of stuff. “My little English muffin.” Classic.

Seth Rollins and Kane face off against Roman Reigns. I’m a bit surprised we’re not getting more of Reigns vs. Orton, their rather dull match at Summerslam notwithstanding. Still, putting Rollins with Reigns makes creative sense, given their Shield backgrounds. But somebody needs to put in a memo to STOP using those damn fake cinderblocks. Cement doesn’t just crumble like sand when you throw it against cement. And it CERTAINLY doesn’t smash into a million pieces when you bash someone’s skull against it. The fact that Dean Ambrose wasn’t bleeding like hell last week as Raw went off the air put a major damper on his departure, in my opinion.

Rusev def. Jack Swagger. So Swagger loses to Rusev…again. I can only assume we’re building this up for one last match where Swagger finally does get the win, here. Otherwise, it seems like they’re killing him off…again.

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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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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