THE BACKLASH REVIVAL OF 2016

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WWE has reinstated Backlash as part of the new Smackdown Live brand, and it will be making its return Sunday night, September 11th. The build-up was rushed as it had to be thrown together in just three weeks following SummerSlam. It seems like they might have been able to stuff together a fairly interesting card. Here are my thoughts on it:

 

1) THE COWARD AND THE LION: Miz has recently experienced a reemergence as a formidable force in the WWE, riding what is now his longest of 5 IC title runs. With his voice returning and his wife by his side, Miz has now begun to see a bit of that past glory find its way back to him. But, Ziggler’s career is beginning to careen out of control as he keeps finding himself on the short end of every big match opportunity he comes to. Despite being incredibly gifted with a strong fan-base, the hungry lion just can’t seem to win when it really counts. At this point, I think the best angle Dolph has going for him is the fact that he can’t win the big one. Miz has a lot of momentum, especially after the heated lashing he gave to Daniel Bryan on Talking Smack. Where we stand now, having Dolph take the IC belt wouldn’t be as good as having him “go back to the drawing board” and think things through before coming back with a new attitude. I personally think they should, for now, keep this belt with the Miz and all the heat his newfound momentum has brought him.

 

2) THE VIPER VS. THE MONSTER: Here are two guys who know how to get brutal. Orton just came off his savage beating at the hands of the Beast only to find himself in the sights of a Monster who eats worlds and evokes the Devil. Bray Wyatt has a score to settle with Randy for the death of Husky Harris–which may have been the best thing Orton could have done for Bray–but that death gave rise to a reincarnation of a man with no remorse who walked straight out of the fire. However, Bray seems to have lost his edge of late, but still managed to gain respect. Orton has a lot to lose after being on the shelf for so long with an injury and then the quick KO at the hands of Lesnar. If WWE is really interested in ushering in a new era, their best bet is to punctuate it with the rising serpent striking down the familiar viper with what would be the night’s biggest upset.

 

3) THE NEW TAG TITLES: Heath and Rhyno have definitely got something together, for sure. I personally think they should call themselves the Two Man Brand. But, I say we can’t let it end here. The Usos, with their recent long-needed heel turn giving them relevance again, stand as the best bet for the titles. While they may not be new era, having them reign as heels would certainly add a different dimension on the newborn division. Meanwhile, what of Heath? Well, they could keep him and Rhyno together and use the time to legitimize them as a formidable tag team, or WWE could set up a Rhyno vs. Slater angle that could see Heath finally winning his contract and calling himself, “The One Man Brand!”

 

4) SOMETHING NEW AND SOMETHING BLUE: I personally favor the Smackdown Live Women’s division over Raw’s by quite a margin. While I love Bayley and mark-out big time for Charlotte, I really don’t care about anyone else wrestling on that show. I think Nia Jax and Dana Brook both have potential, but we need to see if they can book them correctly. But, I thoroughly enjoy all the styles and attitudes of the SDL superstars (even Lynch, who I used to be not able to stand, has grown on me). I would be okay with any of them winning–especially Bliss because I think she is so solid and so sound in the ring, and has a great character going for her–but, I’ll be objective and admit that Becky Lynch is the primed sure-shot for this belt–or she should be, anyway: she is a hardworking competitor, has taken the bumps and the losses, and really has the crowd behind her. If they want to start the division off right, they need to go with the Lass Kicker.

 

5) WHO’S THE FACE THAT RUNS THE PLACE?: While I truly like and respect Dean Ambrose, do I even need to explain why allowing him to hold onto the title is not the best idea? Ambrose’s reign has almost felt a little flaccid in comparison to his journey to make it there. But, he has been churning out a lot of subpar matches lately while AJ Styles has been turning in some of the best performances of his career, generating huge crowd reactions as a heel, and somehow learning to be a very good orator–something I thought would never happen. AJ is nowhere near being new era (he is only two months younger than Cena), but his style is what the new era competitors are more in the mold of. For years, WWE’s matches have been set at a pretty predictable, blase, mechanical routine of wrestlers going through the motions each match, performing the same couple of moves in the same order against the same guys for months, over and over and over. However, since the breakout of NXT, things have been on a gradual change: wrestlers are taking risks again, going out of their way to entertain, shaking up their move-sets. WWE has even been guilty of doing things that are somewhat new and surprising lately, qualities they have severely lacked for most of the last ten to fifteen years; and, the new style these wrestlers are wrestling was made popular in America by guys like A.J. Styles. While he cannot take sole credit, he is definitely the Indie guy who’s gained the biggest following, having reached a level of popularity that transcended the need to even sign with WWE, which is evident by the extremely lucrative deal they gave him and by the fact that he was allowed to bypass NXT completely and jump straight into the big time by debuting in a match as significant as the Royal Rumble. Since then, he has delivered 100% all the way through. Both he and the WWE have benefited from his arrival. So, the major investment in him by the WWE along with his exemplary style is why AJ needs to be the man. Ambrose is great–I am a fan–and he served well as the guy to steer the top spot from Roman Reigns, whom the crowd just did not get behind, but it has reached its peak and it’s time to turn that belt over to the man who represents the new style.

 

Anyway, hope it’s a good show. It will be interesting to see what happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WRESTLEMANIA 32: SHOWCASE OF SHAME

Good lord–and thank God–WrestleMania is mercifully over, and what an excruciating affair it was. I normally have low expectations for WrestleMania as I expect them all to pretty much put an abrupt and unsatisfactory halt to all possibly progressive angles, an expectation they normally live up to in grand fashion; but this year, the let-down level was Earth-shattering. Maybe this is so because I actually gave them a shred of credit because their recent PPVs and matches on the road to WM have been decent, but the road to WrestleMania found itself screeching to a halt at a dead-end not blocked by a wall, but vanishing at a cliff and now the vehicle of WWE storylines hangs precariously at the precipice looking at a bullseye where it could very easily crash and burn. Yes–I think Mania was that damn bad.

Now, I pretty much bombed out on the predictions, going 3-8, which is fine. I went 6-1 for Roadblock, bringing my yearly total to 17-14. Sometimes, I predict what I hope will happen/should happen in the face of the obvious cronyism and nepotism that prevails in WWE. Other times, I predict things I think will happen because of the politics that supposedly goes on (usually evident by what transpires on the shows), but am often pleased to be wrong when/if it happens. Unfortunately, a lot of my predictions came from giving WWE a chance to prove themselves as a competent wrestling company like they were a couple of decades ago when they had competition, and they failed to provide a very entertaining card.

Now, I’m not like a lot of these marks who hate the mid-card. The mid-card is what made WWE great when it was WWF. It gave the PPVs intrigue as opposed to the redundant levity they possess now. Leading up to Mania, it appeared it was improving, but the way it looks now, I might be back on fan-hiatus come this time next year. But, I’ll have to keep the network because NXT is awesome despite WWE being so watered down. Sad that the “Road to WrestleMania” was far superior to Mania itself. I guess it’s like the old adage that the journey is more fulfilling than the destination. Perhaps the theme for the show should have been “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus.

Here go my thoughts on the matches:

 

  1. Kalisto beats Ryback: I missed this match and I don’t feel like I missed much. This belt is probably getting phased out since they never put any emphasis on it. Both of these men are good wrestlers if they’d just use them correctly. But, I don’t see much in the future for them after Mania.
  2. Total Divas get BAD: I was wrong on this match, but not upset about it. When the faces won, it gave me hope for the Women’s Title Match. I caught this match about mid-way and it seemed Paige and Natalya did the heavy lifting, and the lesser of the Bellas got the pin. Naomi and Emma were impressive; Lana has potential but needs more experience; and I might as well just give up Alicia Fox. It was disorganized chaos as I knew it would be. I love the women, but this match was a bad idea. 2.5/5.
  3. The Usos Reign(s) Supreme: Since they’re doing nothing with the Usos, and have been using the Dudleys in semi-significant roles against Roman Reigns, and could very well use them to put New Day over as faces, it makes perfect sense to have the Usos win, right? <eye roll> Nothing worth anything came from this match, except maybe the crowd expressing their weariness with the cousins of Roman Reigns, suspecting maybe they keep winning matches because of their relation to him. Really dumb and the match wasn’t even that good. 2.5/5.
  4. Ryding the Ladder to the Top: Here is the only point on the show where WWE actually did something surprising. I am not particularly a fan of Zack Ryder, but I recognize the work ethic and time spent by him in WWE, and I am glad for him. He’s earned it and the fans wanted it. Good for him. When he came out with a robe, I suspected he might win; and, they’ve been giving him momentum here-of-late. I toyed with the idea of predicting him, but knew the WWE top wasn’t big on him so I didn’t pick him. This one was actually a nice job on WWE’s part. The match had a few high spots, but wasn’t the dynamo ladder matches tend to be, but at least it had a satisfying outcome.   3.25/5.
  5. Why 2J?: So, I guess it’s official: WWE signed A.J. Styles simply to bury him. I almost turned the show off after this. I could have been working on my book instead of wasting time with this nonsense. I’m not one of these pissy fans who get mad when their guys lose, but the event had already been relatively boring and I recognize what they’re doing. I was wondering why Jericho was so slow and groggy in the ring (even more so than usual), and not performing at a decent level. I guess he was trying to make Styles look bad. I don’t know. But, what good comes of having Styles lose to a washed-up former champion who never wins feuds or titles, anymore? Nothing except a wasted investment. The match was subpar, the outcome was ridiculous, and it is all indicative of the fact that WWE hasn’t changed. Either way, I pray the angle is done. I want to see AJ go against people who are actually on his talent level inside the ring as opposed to over-the-hill slobs who use the same three moves in the same order for fifteen plus years. 2.25/5.
  6. WWE Gets Real Booty: So, here’s WWE “creative” at its best: pulling off a booking move that not only makes absolutely zero sense, but is counterproductive, as well. Let’s give the New Day–the most over men on the entire roster, save Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens–give them a big entrance, take away the title match status and the handicap odds, and have them lose to four has-beens no one cares about. Why? Because Sheamus is HHH’s bud? Look, I understand bringing out the old guys for a cheap pop–goodness knows WWE needs all the positive fan reactions they can get–but, to change the landscape of the match and give us the piss-poor outcome they did, it is laughable. What happened to the match, anyway? It was supposed to be a 4-on-3 handicap match for the Tag Team Titles? Gee, that might have actually worked. If the New Day defied the odds and defeated the League to retain the titles, that might have been a hot WrestleMania moment the fans could have remembered, and then the New Day would have been over huge. After that, the League could have beat them down, then Austin, HBK, and Foley could have saved the day and celebrated with the New Day, and this would have elevated the Positive Unicorns way up to the top. Nope. Instead, they received a de-push as they lose to this boring faction, then relinquish their moments to guys not relevant to the story, and then, one of them gets stunned by Austin, making them look even worse. Good job, WWE; way to mess a good thing up. I knew when the stamped came so early in the match that the New Day was going to lose. Also, the League sucks as a tag team. They have no cohesion, their teamwork is sloppy and they just looked like Indy amateurs. A very bad match with a worse outcome. 1.25/5.
  7. The Few-Holds-Used Slap-fight: You think with Lesnar in a match, there’s going to be Hell to pay, but the only people who paid for Hell were the people who dumped a ton of money down the toilet to go to this dull-as-dishwater event and see the plethora of disappointing matches–this fiasco being among the top. I mean, Lesnar’s a beast, Ambrose is a lunatic, and no one bleeds and they hardly leave the ring? Hell, Al Snow and Road Dogg used to have better no-holds-barred matches than this on Raw. This should have been Ambrose’s moment to move up, but he wasn’t impressive and neither was Lesnar. These are two guys I am a big fan of, and they sorely disappointed me. Pretty much it was Lesnar suplexes Ambrose a lot of times, Ambrose hits him in the balls, throws a bunch of chairs in the ring, and gets pinned. Terrible.   1.50/5.
  8. The Women Save the Day: What kept me watching after all the stodginess that came before was the Women’s Title Match. I’m a huge mark for Charlotte as I think she is the most talented woman they’ve had in so many years. I don’t think Becky Lynch is a very good in-ring performer, but she has this thing about her that makes you want to like her because she seems so amiable; Sasha has a good move set and a lot of guts, but still may just need a little more oil on her cogs, but she has a great presence and look. All of these women deserved to be where they were, and they completely stole the show. They knew what was at stake and brought all the heart, soul, and talent they had in their arsenals and laid every bit of it out for us. I mean, my God–Charlotte’s Moonsault from the top turnbuckle onto the floor was the portrait of a masterpiece; it was perfect and even better than that of the Great Muta himself–and coming from me, that’s a huge compliment. She is a ring Goddess. The only issue I had with this match was the outcome. Believe me, I was thrilled Charlotte won, but why can’t they let her win on her own? Flair’s interference is getting older than his shtick and it might be time to go ahead and file him away in a museum somewhere and let Charlotte shine alone. She might have needed him at first to get over as a heel, but she needs him no longer. Also, when Total Divas won earlier, I pretty much knew that meant Charlotte would win. 4.5/5.
  9. Hell in a Cell, or Fizzle in the Fence?: I didn’t have high expectations as far as performance level going into this match because Taker’s nearing his final days as a competitor and Shane’s been gone for 7 years. With that in mind, the guys put on a pretty solid match. I knew Shane would come off the cage at one point because he’s on a level of insanity that would have wooed an old ECW crowd. (Ambrose–take some pointers). But, my prediction, I admitted, was kind of stretching, but I thought I’d take a chance that WWE might do something interesting. As it stands, this match amounted to nothing more than a slick way to sell tickets, which is okay. But they could have at least had the decency to further the angle. On a card rife with disenchantment, this match didn’t look so bad. Not that it looked too good, but it wasn’t a complete debacle. 2.75/5
  10. Andre Frowns Upon Thee: The only thing that kept this farce from being a complete waste of time was Baron Corbin winning it. Other than that, this was one of the worst Battle Royals I ever watched–even worse than that awful NFL/WWF gimmick at WM2. It was so pointless and so late in the card that it was tantamount to Tito Santana vs. The Mountie at WM7. I was actually kind of hoping they’d skip it, but they didn’t. Ugh. Corbin was the only saving grace.  1.25/5.
  11. The Fall of a King, the Crumbling of an Empire: Talk about garden variety, that was the main event. I like both of these guys, but this was as bland as white rice. How WWE still thinks forcing Reigns on everyone as a face is “what’s best for business” is beyond me. He got jeered worse than John Cena. Nothing happened in this match worth talking about; the only thing I enjoyed was Stephanie’s introduction at the start. But, I’m a fan of Steph–I think she’s great. Other than that, all I can say is that they better have a bang-up continuation in store for Raw, or else they stand to destroy everything they had been building up for the last few months. While I didn’t think this match was absolutely horrible, especially compared to a few other matches on the card, and especially compared to some past WM stinkers (both Cena/Rock matches come directly to mind), it certainly was not a worthy main event for WrestleMania, or even for a TNA card. 2/5.

 

My final thought on the matter is that I am afraid we are looking at some major setbacks. I fear WWE is going to keep on pushing people just because HHH is friends with them, or because they kiss Vince’s ass, or whatever other reasons they push people the fans don’t really care about. I worry they’re going to go back to focusing on guys that are losing momentum (or never really had it), about to retire, or just plain aren’t over, instead of building up the youth. That’s where we stand right now: WWE wasted so much time focusing only on veterans through the years and guys the fans didn’t care much about it, that they never groomed a class to take over, which is why there is no “star power” and they have to bring out a fat, drunken Stone Cold, a broken, washed-up HBK, and a scuzzy, scruffy embarrassing Mick Foley to get any reaction. But wait–hold on, for I just had a brilliant idea: if you listen to the fans and push the people they react to, you might have a real product to work with! Wow! Novel ideas!

Anyway, the show was too long, the matches were too run-of-the-mill, most of the outcomes were too status-quo, and pretty much all the storylines closed in an unsatisfactory fashion without any new ones being set-up to begin. This was a real pisser of a show. If this is the direction WWE is headed, this may be one of my last reviews for a while.

Maybe I’ll start blogging about NXT.

 

 

WRESTLEMANIA 32: AN EMPIRE ON THE RISE

It’s that time of year again: WrestleMania. Usually, I find the lineup is pretty underwhelming, but over the last few years they have gradually gotten better at putting together a card worth watching (barely). People were afraid that with all the injuries, the bookers would struggle creatively. Honestly, my personal opinion is that with some of the bigger names out of the picture (people the fans seem to not really want or care about), the “creative team” has been forced to be fresh and try using people that are not on the verge of retirement and actually have a fan base–with the obvious exception of Roman Reigns (not speaking for myself because I’m a fan of his)– but I think they may have something working to remedy that particular problem.

I am also thrilled they’re not focusing on celebrities. I always felt that injecting non-wrestlers into the matches really brought the quality down, and was a very amateur move. It’s like saying, “Here, we can’t think of anything good, but please watch this because we have someone familiar to the mainstream involved.” Very low-rent.

Now, they have set the stages to create a great future for the company, and there are various possible directions for the product to go regarding their performers, storylines, and titles; I just hope they pick the paths that build on the future as opposed to sticking with angles only they like. WWE is notorious for not listening to the fans, and that worries me.

I’ll be perfectly honest about this: I’m pretty new to watching NXT, but after watching Takeover, WWE’s main product tastes pretty bland and I am not expecting WM to come anywhere near the performance level and entertainment value that show did, but as it stands, they’ll use their cheap thrills and effects and celebrity attractions to please the casual fans, the mainstream media, and the people who watch WM without watching WWE just so they can be involved. But, I do see potential for this show to be better than WM has been in years–shows that, in my opinion, have often come up so short in value–save for a few high spots and standout matches–that they have been a huge part of why I took a hiatus as a fan for a couple of years. I think the company is in that same period they were just before the Attitude Era back in late-97/early-98 when it all blew up. A better day is dawning, I think, just beyond the horizon, with the best faces from TNA and ROH defecting and NXT churning out cards that are reminiscent of the true ECW shows (before WWE ruined the brand) and early ROH events, as well as a ton of Japan-influenced performances; mostly, because it appears that WWE creative is finally learning how to listen to the Universe. Not as much as they should, but, you know–baby-steps.

Anyway, here are my predictions and hopes for the show:

 

  1. The Unnecessary New Staple: I like Battle Royals, but I wish there was more significance to making this an annual match. Maybe a shot at one of the secondary titles at the next PPV; or, maybe a glimpse of the guy that is going to get the next big push might give it relevance, but they have yet to really assign any sort of importance to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. So, in a way, it seems that if they spring Bray Wyatt on us and he wins, it’s almost worse than if he wasn’t in it, at all, because it shows some sort of relegation for his character. There’s been virtually no hype, no real build-up–they haven’t even told us all 20 participants–and nothing to draw any interest to it. I feel like the winner will have something to do with the Outcasts, and the Outcast with most potential for success is Bo Dallas. Of course, Kane may get the win since he’s almost out of the picture and has never won the Royal Rumble despite setting records in the match. Maybe the Golden Truth will finally come together and one–or both–of them will win. But, I BO-lieve, and we’re in Dallas, so my mind is made up. Winner: Bo Dallas.
  2. Table for Two, or Not?: The Usos are slowly going down the pipes and they need something new (maybe being a part of a heel faction with Reigns) and the Dudley’s have barely been a fizzle since returning. But, if they want to build the tag team division, then having a heel Dudley/face New Day feud continue the course may be their best bet. The WWE gains nothing by an Uso win, but a Dudley win can be turned into something good. I predict the Dudley Boyz.
  3. 10-Woman Mash-up: I really don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but I cannot figure out why they threw this Diva’s match together except maybe to just squeeze all the current Divas left into one match. Total Divas is full of demoted and 2nd string women while B.A.D. & Blonde has those currently with the most momentum. Eva will probably turn heel, and B.A.D. & Blonde are going to win. On a side note: I’m excited to see Emma. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the arrival of Dana Brook.
  4. The Dead Horse: Styles and Jericho is a played-out angle. Unless both men are going to unleash everything they have in their arsenals for about thirty-minutes, this match will be a replay of all their other matches. Hopefully, the win will be decisive, the feud will stop, and A.J. will move on to better things. If they make Jericho win, they’re stupid. But, Y2J always comes in and puts over the new guys, so I say Styles walks away with it.
  5. The Second-String Show-Stealer: Not very inventive to give us yet another 7-man Ladder Match for the IC strap, but it really could steal the show. All of these guys are good, even if most of them are mid-card shadows, but they could all give themselves a push by offering top performances. I detract my previous statement that Owens can’t get over, because I’ve come to think he might become one of the candidates for being the next big face, simply because he is relatable to the current fan base. But, so does Sami Zayn, and he’s awesome, people love him, and he just had one of the greatest matches I’ve ever seen against Shinsuke Nakamura. He’s been a building block for NXT and, even though it’s hard for me to pick between him and Owens, I am going with the slight upset and choose Zayn.
  6. Freebird Rule Gone Wild: Let’s be honest, no one really gives a crap about the League of Nations. The fans don’t care about one single member of that faction. The New Day is a freight train of momentum with a ton of talent and marketability. If WWE was still going the way they were a few years ago, I’d pick the League easily because Sheamus is pals with HHH. But, partially against my better judgment, I am giving WWE the benefit of the doubt and imagining they won’t be booty and might pick the right move over cronyism and keep moving the Tag Team division forward. The Power of Positivity triumphs.
  7. Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Goldberg in a WCW Retro Match for the US Title: Actually, it’s Kalisto and Ryback, and the difference is that people would have been interested in Mysterio and Goldberg. This one is hard to predict simply because they’ve done virtually nothing with either of these guys in recent weeks. Ryback still has a ways to go before he’s over and people actually do like Kalisto when he’s finally booked to do more than talk about how small he is and how much he had to fight his whole life to be taken seriously. Ryback can’t shake the Goldberg chants, which means people think he’s an unoriginal reject, so their best bet is to let Kalisto win, and I think they will. If I’m wrong, oh well.
  8. The Revolution Rolls On: I personally think Charlotte truly is a genetically superior athlete. She looks like a champion, walks like a champion, performs like a champion, and is bred to be a champion. But, I just don’t think a lot of people are feeling it, yet. The Universe loves Sasha Banks, but is she really ready? Wouldn’t she make a better heel champ? She does a lot of wiggling and swaggering, but what about the wrestling? I see her plod about the ring and pose, then hit the Bank Statement and win. Not championship stuff. Then there’s Becky…the quintessential “good girl,” and, look around at the Divas Division: a ton of heels being groomed. Who better to take them on than the sweet, virtuous Lass Kicker who never gives up? Besides, Sasha beat Charlotte, but Charlotte beat Becky. That, in itself, could be telling. I am going with Becky Lynch. ***Will Bayley make an appearance?
  9. Crazy and the Beast: I seriously doubt Dean Ambrose will win this match. But, that won’t matter because he’ll come away a winner. This will be tantamount to when Stone Cold lost to the Hitman in the submission match at WrestleMania 13. Austin lost, but that was his make-or-break moment and it defined the future of his character. The same thing will happen here with Ambrose. Lesnar will win, but people will be like, “Ambrose is here.” I imagine the Wyatts will interfere and probably rekindle their feud with the Monster, and we might even get a mutual respect team of Ambrose/Lesnar against Rowan/Strowman at the next PPV, giving Bray and Harper time to heal. This should be brutal.
  10. Money and Death, Welcome to Hell: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Shane will defeat Taker. It won’t be fair and square, but he’ll win. There will be a typical McMahon swerve, and this will somehow lead to the Authority getting time off. These two old men will break themselves down and tear the cage apart, and in the end, Taker will either finally be done or he’ll be reinstated in a later angle. Whatever is in the lockbox will have something to do with Steph, and we may see a heel faction arise from this. Next year: will we see an angle that culminates with the three Shield guys fighting for the gold, with a McMahon in each corner? Maybe Ambrose/Shane, Reigns/Vince, and Rollins/Steph. I don’t know, but the match would be brilliant and one of the greatest WM Main Events, ever.
  11. The King vs. the Emperor: When Reigns told Stephanie he is the Authority now, I think that carried more weight than just being an empty comment. Something’s up, and I think he’ll be in on it. Look for him to take the title, but look for him to turn heel doing it. Shane and Vince could turn on HHH and Steph using the, “You’re running this company into the ground, so I had to call Shane.” In any event, Reigns turning heel is the only way to save him, right now. It worked for the Rock, it worked for HHH, and it will work for Reigns. Maybe if they’d tried that with Cena, he wouldn’t be their biggest mistake. I foresee a heel faction involving Roman Reigns. I personally like Roman and want to see him get over and succeed, and this will be the best possible chance.

 

This WrestleMania carries with it the ability to turn the company in a better direction. Hopefully, the brass has been paying attention to the fan reaction to NXT and have realized what their product could really be. No more doing whatever they want despite the fan’s reactions or their business will fade and eventually shut down. It might take a while, but if they keep doing this garbage, it will only be a matter of time. So, I am hoping for a satisfactory show with good matches and preludes to better angles. They need to open the door to the youth so NXT talent can make their way in, because it’s in that company that their future lies.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

FASTLANE 2016 RECAP

I know I’m pretty late, but you know how it goes.

I just want to talk a little about Fastlane 2016: how it went down, where the WWE seems to be going, and my predictions.

So, overall, I went 5-2. Not bad, much better than my 3-3 count for the Royal Rumble, bringing my yearly tally to 8-5. Not a stellar record, thus-far. But, in my defense, if I would have known HHH was going to be in the Rumble, I would have picked him, and I did pick him when his music hit. Though I had picked Reigns, when HHH appeared, I said, “There’s your winner.” But, either way, I stick to my guns.

Moving on: Fastlane mostly went as expected, but the matches were pretty solid. I like this event being between RR & WM much better than the Elimination Chamber. I always thought that should be to SummerSlam what the Rumble is to Mania. But, Fastlane makes for a good in-between card sweeping up the Royal Rumble fallout and setting up the WrestleMania blow-up.

 

1) Kalisto defeats Del Rio: Totally didn’t see this coming. I like how they’re taking a chance with Kalisto and I think booking Del Rio to lose proves that WWE realizes they need to move their product in a newer direction and having Kalisto with the US strap heading into WM shows that they are serious about this dynamo. Even after several matches, these two were able to keep it fun and keep it interesting.

3.75/5

 

2) Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks over Team B.A.D.: No surprise here. Tamina and Naomi are the Diva Job Squad and they were up against the two divas receiving the biggest push. The only way I could have seen this match going any other way was if they wanted Becky and Sasha to get crossed up and add more heat to their quest for the gold. It was pretty basic booking of a really subpar match. Becky, as much as I want to like her, I just don’t think she’s very crisp in the ring, and I know everyone loves Sasha, but all I really see out of her is a lot of plodding, posing, and wiggling. She has some moves and she can sell okay, but I just don’t see a whole lot.

0.75/5

 

3) Owens de-pushes Ziggler: I really didn’t care about this match and I still don’t. I don’t like Owens; I find him boring and hard to watch. I admit he is surprisingly athletic for someone who looks like they spend more time at Burger King than the gym and he does have a decent move-set, but I just don’t care. He reminds me of a generic 90s Indy wrestler all the way from his dull entrance theme to his bland, reject clothing. And Ziggler is a lost cause. He’s got talent, but he just doesn’t have “IT.” This was mid-card mania, for sure. The two put on a good match, but it was just like every other match both of them always have against everybody else. If this is what the IC lineage has come to, let’s just retire it and let the US belt reign supreme.

3/5

 

4) The Only True Upset: If there was one match on the whole card that I would have said I was 100% certain of, it was the Wyatts vs. Big Show, Kane & Ryback. The Wyatts have been receiving a mega-push while Big Show & Kane have been fizzling out; and, Ryback can’t seem gain any steam. No way, I thought, the Wyatts would lose–but I was wrong. I even thought the Wyatts losing would be a bad idea, but it wasn’t. This match was the sleeper of the evening as even the old guys brought the best of what they have left. The important part, though, was that the win was all about Ryback, as it should have been. This guy has a world of potential and he keeps getting better; they just have to find a way to stop making him look and act like Goldberg. His grossly unoriginal character is holding him down. But, maybe they have something cooking for him. Combining that with the ever-improving skills of Braun Strowman and Luke Harper’s consistently perfect performance, I thought this was a really solid match.

4/5

 

5) Another Divas Disaster: I had very little doubt that Charlotte would defeat Brie Bella. The only inkling of suspect on the contrary was the recent retirement of Brie’s husband, Daniel Bryan. I thought maybe they’d give it to her on sentimental purposes alone, but thankfully, they did not. It is apparent that Brie still needs in-ring training and she is nowhere near as ready for the big spot as her sister, Nikki. Charlotte did the heavy-lifting here and her performance was the saving grace of the match.

2.25/5

 

6) The Dead Horse Continues: This time around, AJ defeated Y2J, which was not too surprising since one of Jericho’s best attributes in all his years in WWE has been putting over emerging talent. Not that Styles is anywhere near an emerging talent, considering he’s the one guy who’s been able to transcend the need to wrestle in WWE to achieve major respect and superstardom, but he’s new to WWE and when a newbie needs a push, they call in the master: Y2J. Not surprisingly, the match was very good despite a few botches. Both men brought all they had and Jericho is looking better than he has in years. I just hope they don’t keep pushing this feud until there’s nothing exciting left.

3.5/5.

 

7) Why?: Axel vs. Truth? Who cares?

 

8) The Triple Threat: You would think a match with Lesnar, Reigns, and Ambrose would promise some solid wrestling and decent high-spots, but you’d be wrong. This match was mostly Reigns and Ambrose finding ways to take Lesnar out so they could duke it out. We missed the off-ramp for suplex city, and the crowd was firmly behind Ambrose, and those that were not were heavy Lesnar fans, but WWE, per par-of-the-course, ignores the fans and elects the John Cena route and goes with the smallest draw of the three men: Roman Reigns. Don’t get me wrong, I personally like Roman Reigns and do not understand why the people are so dead-set against this guy. But, the fact is that I am in the minority. The crowd is not as responsive to him as they are Ambrose. The match itself wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t all that good. I enjoyed it will enough at times, but expected more.

3.25/5.

 

Now, the truth is that WWE is sitting at the edge, on the verge of something big, and they could easily blow-up again if they do the right thing: listen to the fans. If not, and they keep pushing people just because they want to, then they will find themselves in another John Cena era where half the fan-base becomes alienated. Only problem with that now is that WWE can’t afford to alienate the half they have left. The Cena Era followed the Attitude Era where WWE found itself in the largest boom period, ever. The adult fans were not impressed with Cena, nor were the casual fans. And, the PG Era eliminated pretty much all but the diehards and the kids. If they go with Reigns, they’ll have that all over again, and this time it might land the WWE right back into the New Generation Era where they almost went out of business. This show was solid enough. It was much better than I expected. But, it still had lots of room for improvement.

 

Until next time…

 

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ROADBLOCK 2016

Though it seems Roadblock is just another filler on the way to WrestleMania, it could have some possible affect on the big event. If WWE decides to cause some ripples and not rest solely on their top attraction’s automatic drawing power, we could see some Ambrose alterations to the event; such as the possibility of the Ambrose/HHH/Reigns/Lesnar cage match Ambrose alluded to on Raw. Or, we could see a quick reign for Ambrose to gauge how well it fits for the future, only to see Triple H take it right back to become a 15-time World Champ, soon after. We could see a face-turn for the New Day and the next step for a NXT team getting their shot on a big time show. But, alas, I still have to think that despite a few gutsy moves at Fastlane, WWE still doesn’t have the nerve to take such chances. So, here are my predictions for the abbreviated card that we have been handed:

 

1) Charlotte vs. Natalya will be a fine wrestling match between two of the three Divas (along with Naomi) whom I think have the best actual in-ring talent in WWE. Hopefully, this will be an opportunity for Natalya to get back into the hunt. As good as she is, WWE should use this opportunity to capitalize on their Divas Revolution by giving a real push to possibly the best pure wrestler they have in the Divas division. Charlotte will win, but Natalya can still make a mark.

2) The tag team title match is a tough call. Tough I think the League are in line for the belts, I just don’t know if Barrett will be given any belts since he is supposedly on his way out. Now, of course, the tag titles can be defended under the Freebird Rule just as it is, now; and, I do see a coming turn for the trio of positive powerhouse pranksters. I just don’t see WWE making a big move on a small show, unless they will build it up to a 3-on-4 match at WrestleMania to strengthen the coming face turn, even more. The possibilities are circular and I could guess various scenarios, but I’ll go ahead and say that the New Day escapes still holding the belts, but I see a beat-down afterwards to help the build-up for WrestleMania.

3) I’m glad to see NXT get a slot on the show. Enzo Amore has WWE-bound written all over him, and he and Cassidy have been getting their push. I think they’ll take the NXT Titles tonight from the Revival.

4) Y2J will most likely have a big match with AJ Styles at WM and Jack Swagger is pretty much at the bottom of the barrel now despite his great look and absolute talent. He has no chance. This is all Jericho unless AJ costs him the match.

5) Sami Zain’s on his way to an IC Title match at Mania, and he’ll leave Stardust as a fallen star and a stepping stone.

6) The Beast slays the Eater of Worlds. Brock doesn’t lose matches to people on the level of Bray Wyatt. Now, I could see a serious beating from the Wyatts coming to the Beast, but this could also be part of the breaking of the Demons from the Backwoods since it seems their momentum is now slowing down. Now, this could lead to something down the line that pits the Wyatts against the team of Lesnar and Ambrose, but not now. Lesnar defeats Wyatt.

7) As I said earlier, WWE might decide to do something daring and let Ambrose take the belt. If he does, it will lead to HHH winning it back on Raw or maybe even a scenario at WM similar to the Bret Hart/Lex Luger/Yokozuna scenario at WrestleMania 10 where HHH takes back the belt only to have Reigns win it, again, and Lesnar might find his way in there, too. It could make for an interesting and fresh scene, but that’s not really WWE’s style even though they’ve managed to break very slightly from the same-old/same-old they’ve been living off of the last 10+ years, but I don’t think they’re ready to take a big leap, unless they want to have HHH eventually tie or surpass Ric Flair’s World Title record. In the end, I’m going to say HHH walks out with the belt. Ambrose might win by DQ or countout, but he won’t get the belt.

WWE has definitely improved their product wrestling-wise–a part of that can possibly be attributed to the absence of John Cena which gives the good wrestlers a chance to shine–because it seems they might actually be listening to their fans, finally. So, whatever route they choose to take, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the show.

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FASTLANE 2016 THOUGHTS

Tonight, WWE brings us its second-annual installment of Fastlane: part two of the Road to WrestleMania. I think, despite the unfortunate hit their roster has taken in the last several months, they’ve got a pretty decent set-up going, so far. Here are some of my thoughts on what could, and should, happen.

The US Title Saga: It’s been fun watching Kalisto rise to the top, but Sin Cara’s back now and it’s WrestleMania season, which means the reliable thoroughbreds have to headline the grand spectacular of sports entertainment. Alberto Del Rio will take back his title and go on to the big show with the belt while, hopefully, the Lucha Dragons will be used to strengthen WWE’s tiny tag team division.

The Six-Man: No-brainer: Wyatts over Big Show, Kane & Ryback with Strowman dominating.  Any other course would be foolish as the Devil’s backwoods brawlers have been groomed to be the new wrecking crew in town. Perhaps we’ll see the beginning of a Taker/Strowman showdown at WM?

The Diva’s Title: Brie Bella is here, in my opinion, to help WWE capitalize on Daniel Bryan’s recent retirement and to draw more heat on Charlotte on her way to WM. Flair’s successor will remain champ walking out of tonight’s event.

More Divas: This is nothing more than a vehicle on the fast lane (pun intended) to WM for the Diva’s Title Match. The dysfunctional duo of Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks will stumble to a victory over the crumbling remnants of Team B.A.D. in  the under-utilized Naomi and the bumbling Tamina Snuka, setting up, what I hope, is a Three-Diva-Dance in April between Charlotte, Lynch and Banks. Wooooo!

Mid-card Mania: The IC Title Match, to me, is the least interesting on the card. Here you have two guys: one is a floundering mid-card veteran who’s been slowly phasing our for years in Dolph Ziggler while the other is a boring, vanilla, Indy slob who is much better at being a big fish in a small pond than he is at elevating to the big leagues to even be the slightest bit entertaining in Kevin Owens. Owens will win (who cares?) and I hope that the saving grace in all of this will be what could (and should) come of it at Mania. See below for my thoughts on that.

The Phenomenal Highlight: AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho has been the brightest star for WWE coming out of the Rumble. The addition of The Miz has been a necessary boost, too. If WWE wants to make good on signing Styles, they’ll let him win, tonight, and hopefully be on his way to a title match at WM for either the IC or US strap. Personally, I would like to see something similar to the Angle/Benoit/Jericho match at WM 2000 with Owens/Del Rio/Styles and both titles being decided in two separate falls. Styles could win both titles and be well on his way to being a wise investment and we could see a Miz comeback with a win over Y2J at WM, as well. Either way, I think this and the main event will be the night’s high points.

The Pile-up: Roman Reigns/Dean Ambrose/Brock Lesnar carries more importance than just who will be in the main event at WrestleMania; it also holds sway over the future direction of the company. This match could very easily decide another big bout at WM, and several matches at PPVs to come, even paving the way for the pay-off at next year’s WrestleMania. I see this: Reigns with the victory, moving on to face HHH at WM, an unhappy Lesnar taking out his frustrations on Ambrose for another major WM angle. Down the line, we will see Reigns and Ambrose embark on a MegaPowers angle from the 80s just before Seth Rollins gets back into the picture to hopefully set up a Shield reunion in the main event at WM 33, next year. How monumental would that be? Reigns-Rollins-Ambrose for the belt? That would be historical.

Anyway, it will certainly be an interesting show. Probably better than the Rumble, which had a solid undercard but left us with a pretty underwhelming main event.

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