Who Will, Who Won’t, & Who Might Win The 2017 Royal Rumble

royal-rumbleFor years now, the Royal Rumble has been one of my favourite events of the wrestling calendar. There’s just something about the format that keeps me on the edge of my seat. Whether it’s the surprise debuts, the surprise returns, the great performances for either lasting the longest or eliminating the most, or simply the idea of not knowing who will be going to WrestleMania to “main event” a WWE championship match…it’s almost always exciting and unpredictable.

reigns-wins-rumbleOf course, it’s not ALWAYS unpredictable. When Roman Reigns won two years ago, it was absolutely predicted and people shit all over it. But for the most part, you never really know for sure what’s going to happen at the Rumble and/or who is going to win.

That has never been more apparent that the 2017 Royal Rumble.

While there are currently a couple of front-runners, there is a legitimate possibility that up to SIX different individuals could realistically win the Rumble this year. I think it’s only fair to review those options here (and, really, it’s the point of this whole post):

Braun Strowmanbraun-strowman

braun-strowman-3It pains me to say this, but Strowman is the odds-on favourite at this point to win it all. After initially coming to RAW, Vince’s new favourite performer was initially given a gimmick of “unstoppable monster defeating local jobbers” on a weekly basis (helping to give James Ellsworth a job on Smackdown Live, actually). But then, all of a sudden, he “graduated” to main event player in Survivor Series and has been dabbling with the likes of Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, & Roman Reigns on a weekly basis. They are obviously getting him ready for a main-event run, so having him win the Royal Rumble makes sense.

The (very tentative) plan would to have Strowman win the Rumble, Roman Reigns beat Kevin Owens for the WWE Universal championship at the Rumble, and then for the two of them to meet in a “main event championship match” at WrestleMania. But here’s the rub…

braun-strowman-2They would NEVER be allowed to go on last. In fact, with potential match-ups of Cena vs. Taker, Goldberg vs Lesnar, and Triple H vs Rollins…the “main event championship match” could be placed anywhere else on the card without any pressure. This is a PERFECT opportunity for Vince & Company to see what Strowman can do on the biggest show of the year against his “top guy”. If Strowman sucks ass, then khali-vs-undertakerhe’ll be relegated to Great Khali territory by the end of the year (remember Khali being World champion and even pinning Undertaker at one point??). If Strowman performs at or above expectations, then you can count on seeing a LOT more of the guy over the summer months. It’s really a win-win situation for WWE because even if the match sucks ass (which it will), nobody will remember it when Mania is over.

braun-strowman-4Of course, this all might be incredibly insane to believe if the next opponent lined-up for Strowman is Big Show, who made it a point to say he was gunning for Strowman at the Rumble on this week’s RAW. In fact, Strowman wasn’t even included in the main event portion of the show, as WWE insinuated that Undertaker, Goldberg, and Brock Lesnar were the three biggest stars with potential to win it all.

The Undertakerundertaker-1

taker-vs-shane-mcmahonThe original plan (and has been for awhile now) was to have Undertaker face off against John Cena in a big-name, marquee match-up (assuming Cena wins the WWE World Heavyweight championship from AJ Styles). Last year’s injury to Cena meant that Taker had to face Shane McMahon in a major gimmick match in order to give him something to do. Having him wrestle his last WrestleMania match against “The Face That Runs The Place” would make sense, helping to set-up Cena as truly one of the best in WWE history.

taker-1Lately, though, the suggestion is that the Taker/Cena match is (again) off the table…perhaps saving it for when Taker really wants to retire. At this point, though, it looks like he’s prepared to do the part-time wrestling thing (similar to Brock Lesnar’s schedule, but a bit heavier) and after appearing on both Smackdown Live and RAW recently, the number of possible opponents for Taker to take on is quite large. He doesn’t need to win the Rumble to have a different, marquee match-up at Mania…but him winning a championship opportunity would certainly be an intriguing choice.

Chris Jerichochris-jericho-2

chris-jericho-1Let’s assume that Kevin Owens sneaks past Roman Reigns on Sunday. This means that Jericho would have a championship opportunity at WrestleMania against his “best friend”. And much to the chagrin of Owens, this is something Jericho has mentioned in promos lately as being a distinct possibility. The storyline of “Jeri-KO” has gone on a lot longer than most anticipated, which means that their WrestleMania match could mean that much more if Jericho were to go after Owens’ title.

jeri-ko-1On the other hand, Jericho just won the United States championship from Roman Reigns on RAW. This allows Reigns the “freedom” to win the WWE Universal championship from Kevin Owens at the Rumble and for Jericho to be the one defending his title against (former) BFF at Mania.

Jericho has won everything there is to win in WWE…except the Royal Rumble match itself. Will this be his year?

Bill Goldberggoldberg-2

goldberg-1I never thought I would have even suggested that Bill Goldberg had the potential to win the Royal Rumble until his post-Brock Lesnar-victory speech on RAW, where he suggested that Stephanie McMahon had asked him if he still had one more title run in him. And you can’t watch Goldberg on television and think the guy isn’t “over” anymore. The chants of “GOOOOLD-BERRRG!!” are loud and constant. Hell, even Paul Heyman is getting those chants goldberg-3without Lesnar by his side. This says that Goldberg is still uber-popular and with his quick victory over Lesnar, a win at the Rumble (which doesn’t take a ton of stamina to perform in as compared to a normal match) would cement him as a legitimate championship contender for the WWE Universal championship at WrestleMania.

And as much as it sounds crazy to write down, there is very much a possibility of Goldberg taking on either Roman Reigns or Kevin Owens for the title at Mania, as both possibilities have been teased on recent editions of RAW.

Samoa Joesamoa-joe-3

samoa-joe-1Honestly, I wouldn’t have even thought this was possible until realizing that the betting odds on the Rumble, as of this writing, have Samoa Joe listed at just 6-1 odds. Why in the world would they have him that high considering the fact that he hasn’t even debuted on the main roster yet??

joe-vs-stylesWWE reportedly has BIG plans for the Samoan Submission Machine, which includes a marquee matchup at WrestleMania. There are rumblings that the WWE wants to match Wrestle Kingdom 11’s stellar “six-star match” between Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada. One match that has the potential to reach the same type of rating is one that has been done before to five-star results: Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles.

samoa-joe-2So if WWE is as big on Joe as the rumours have it, then having him be a surprise debut at the Royal Rumble and then going on to win the whole thing would certainly be an incredible way to make a massively large statement. It sounds insane when you write it down, but when you think about it (and assuming the rumors on backstage thoughts on him are true), this is extremely feasible.

Finn BálorFinn Balor

No, Finn Bálor’s shoulder isn’t quite ready for a comeback yet. It’s better, for sure, but he’ll be defying the odds in a Cena-esque way by making it back to WrestleMania, much less the Royal Rumble. So realistically speaking, Balor probably won’t even show up in the Rumble match.

Finn Balor 3But here’s the thing: you don’t need to do much to participate in a battle royal. There’s not usually a ton of bumps or injuries that take place inside of the ring (the injuries happen once you’re thrown over the top rope). So I suppose if you put it into that type of perspective, it’s entirely possible that Bálor (currently sitting at 5-1 odds) could make his surprise return as a late-Rumble entrant.

If he does, the first-ever WWE Universal champion has as good a chance as anybody at winning the whole thing…especially if the “WWE machine” wants to get behind “The Demon” one more time and try to push him to the moon again.

There are a few dark-horses to win it all, too…

  • sami-zaynSami Zayn – Yes, there’s been talk of backstage heat and yes, he’s been getting his ass handed to him as of late, but Zayn is the perennial underdog favourite of the fans for a reason. I honestly don’t see this happening, but if he were to win then he’d probably lose his shot at Mania to Braun Strowman who would then face Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal championship. See? There are multiple ways to get to the finish line here…all while still putting over one of their most popular superstars in the process.
  • dolph-zigglerDolph Ziggler – After his recent heel turn, it’s still unlikely that Ziggler will be put into a position to actually win the Rumble, but if AJ Styles somehow gets past John Cena and retains the WWE World Heavyweight championship, then we could be in for a hella-great match between the two of them on the “Grandest Stage of Them All”. Of course, with Jerry Lawler doing commentary for the Rumble, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Lawler somehow costs Ziggler by eliminating him (or at the very least, causing a distraction that leads to his elimination). I’m hoping that’s not the case, but this is WWE we’re talking about here.
  • randy-ortonRandy Orton – I’m not exactly sure how “Orton in the main event title picture” goes with his current storyline as a member of the Wyatt Family, but his current odds are at 3-1 (just behind Goldberg!), so I suppose it’s a distinct possibility. Somebody may have to explain his odds to me, though…I just don’t understand the rationale of him winning given his past few months of storyline progression.
  • rusevRusev – I’m admittedly a huge mark for “The Bulgarian Brute” and, quite frankly, he’s not been pushed in the best spot since dropping the United States championship to Roman Reigns awhile back. But Rusev continues to turn chicken shit into chicken salad…even out-promo-ing Shawn Michaels on a recent RAW live in-ring segment. Vince & Company are still very high on Rusev’s future, as the package deal of he and Lana are great both in the ring and outside of the ring. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll win, but there’s still a chance given how Triple H says the winner will surprise most fans.

Finally, in terms of those who could still potentially win the Royal Rumble but probably WON’T…

  • NO.gifBrock Lesnar – I don’t see the benefit of Lesnar being in a championship match at Mania when there are other stars who can carry the show. What’s scary is that outside of Goldberg, there is actually serious talk of putting Lesnar in the ring with Braun Strowman as a way to really test him out.
  • no-4The Miz – No, Miz had his shot at being the face of the company and it worked for a bit before he was pushed back down the card. Now he’s seemingly poised to eventually beat Chris Jericho’s record of being a nine-time Intercontinental champion. It doesn’t make sense to suddenly thrust him into the main title picture, even if his gimmick with wife Maryse is making him a super-hot heel on Smackdown Live right now.
  • NO.gifBaron Corbin – I know the guy won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal in his main roster debut at WrestleMania last year, but I just don’t see “the machine” getting behind Corbin on Smackdown Live. At least not yet, anyway. Corbin still has a ways to go before being considered a legitimate threat at any major title, so I can’t see him being put into that type of position with a Rumble victory at this point in his career.
  • Kenny Omega – It’s highly doubtful that Omega is even going to make a surprise debut at the Royal Rumble, much less win the damn thing.

no-2

All told, the 2017 Royal Rumble looks to be an incredibly entertaining event. There are so many surprises that could take place and, really, the end result is still completely up in the air. Because of that, I’m absolutely STOKED to watch it.

But what about you? What are your thoughts on this year’s Royal Rumble? Do you think there’s a heavy favourite to win?

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The World According To ZAH

RIP Chyna– I woke up on Thursday morning to read the sad news that Chyna had passed away at the very young age of 45. As of this writing, the exact cause of death wasn’t known but police were treating it as a drug overdose. It’s a damn shame that Joanie Laurer could never escape her demons. Once she was fired by WWE, she was never able to find herself or find peace with life. She tried to sue for rights to the name “Chyna” and went by the moniker of “Chyna Doll” for awhile. One can only imagine what it’s like to be a wrestling superstar, television personality, and Playboy cover girl one day and then just another “regular person” the next looking for a “normal job”. She was never able to make that transition and it resulted in a downward spiral that saw her appear on The Surreal Life and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew before doing five porn movies between 2009 and 2013. It had appeared that she had finally gotten her life together by becoming an English teacher in Japan. Hopefully her life will be remembered more for her incredible contributions to the wrestling industry than her life outside of the industry. Only time will tell.

Prince 3– And later in the day I got the absolutely crushing news that Prince had passed away. I mean…goddammit. Prince was legitimately one of my childhood icons. From the very first time I heard ‘Little Red Corvette’ to the thousand times I listened to the Purple Rain soundtrack to his androgynous hits ‘Raspberry Beret’ & ‘Kiss’ to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince (one of the gutsiest, biggest FUCK YOU’s ever seen in the history of the music industry), this man’s music was always a big part of my life. He was a legitimate musical genius who produced, wrote, and performed almost all of the instruments on almost all of his albums. How incredible is that? There simply aren’t enough artists like that anymore. My wife and I watched CNN and Much Music all evening so we could hear stories about the man and watch videos that took us back to our youth. We’ll probably end up watching Purple Rain tonight and listening to his music all weekend. We’ve lost some good musicians this year so far, but this one hurts. RIP, Prince.

Samoa Joe 1– I woke up this morning to the news that Samoa Joe had defeated Finn Bálor for the NXT title at an untelevised live event in Lowell, Massachusetts last night. This incredible news does two things: it gives Joe the spotlight in NXT and some potentially incredible match-ups over the coming months, and it frees-up Bálor to head to the main roster and join his Bálor Club brothers to either join AJ Styles or turn on him. It looks like WWE is finally pulling the trigger on the “invasion” of the Club, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what happens over the coming weeks.

Shane McMahon 1– You gotta wonder just how long this Shane McMahon in charge” storyline is going to last. And realistically, how long will Vince go along with putting the relatively unknown new stars in the spotlight before an immediate ratings spike doesn’t happen and he puts Big Show vs Kane back in RAW’s main event? Personally, I couldn’t be more excited to see AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, and Kevin Owens getting the main event spotlight. My only concern is just when will this bubble burst? I mean, it always does…doesn’t it? At some point, Vince will believe that he has “created new stars” and then push them back down the card while pushing returning stars like Randy Orton and John Cena. Enjoy it while you can…I don’t think it’s going to last very long.

Batman vs Superman - Dawn of Justice– I finally got to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this past week. I won’t simply jump on the “haterade bandwagon”, but I can’t say that I loved this movie. In fact, I absolutely loved a lot of it…Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman, Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman, the storyline around why Superman was garnering more haters from around the world…but Jesse Eisenberg’s version of Lex Jesse-EisenbergLuthor ruined the entire movie for me. I didn’t have a problem with Doomsday (though it was a bit unnecessary and too “unrealistic”…even for this movie) or the length of the movie or the overall story and how it didn’t make a ton of sense. It was the “Jack Nicholson-esque” portrayal of the clearly insane Lex Luthor that bothered me the most. I just thought it was unnecessarily over-the-top and reminded me of the cartoonish portrayals of villains from the 90’s Batman movies. I don’t think it deserved the hate that it’s received, but I can’t say that it was a good movie…which is a shame because it had a TON of potential.

– A match recently took place in an NXT live event, but man oh man I just can’t wait until the day when it happens either at an NXT TakeOver or a WWE PPV. I mean…can you imagine watching Samoa Joe vs Shinsuke Nakamura battle over the NXT championship? Now imagine Joe vs Nakamura going at it at a very high level of intensity on a live televised NXT or WWE event. I’m already drooling at the 5-star possibilities now…

Samoa Joe vs Shinsuke Nakamura

Game of Thrones– I don’t know about you, but I’m super-excited about the Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones on Sunday. For me, it’s one of those shows that is brilliantly acted and brilliantly written. No, I don’t understand all that’s going on but that’s okay because after five seasons I understand enough of the story to enjoy what’s going on. I’m constantly surprised and shocked by the story and the elements of supernatural (in addition to the occasional case of brutal violence) consistently keep me entertained.

Roman Reigns 7– I’m really enjoying the subtle changes WWE is making to the character of Roman Reigns. He’s not a flat-out heel by any stretch, but he’s not pretending that he’s the biggest babyface in the company, either. He’s not trash talking or bad mouthing anybody…he’s being as respectful as he can while being super-confident at the same time. The crowds hate him in spite of the fact that he’s not doing anything “heel-ish”.

Cesaro 1 Cesaro is back and is a borderline main event star right now. His “James Bond-esque” gimmick is unique and original. His charisma is oozing through and his mic skills are improving. I couldn’t be any happier to see this turn of events because I’ve been a big fan of Cesaro for a long time now. He has worked his ass off inside the ring to improve and show explosiveness in his performances. The crowds are really into him and giving him some solid wins will only help make him the superstar his fans know he can be.

Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows 1 Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows are officially booked in a match against the Usos on RAW this Monday. I’m intrigued as to where this is leading. I’m doing a podcast on the possibilities, but you’ve gotta wonder if WWE is seriously playing with the idea of AJ Styles turning heel (which I doubt because he’s over as a babyface and the heel announcers are all calling him out for being in cahoots with his former Bullet Club friends) or if there is another massive swerve coming out way.

Conor McGregor– What’s the deal with Conor McGregor? I get that he didn’t want to do promotion for UFC 200 because it would disturb his training schedule, but when faced with the possibility of getting removed from the fight entirely you would think he’d have changed his mind. Instead, he tweeted out a quick “retirement”. I don’t know if he’s interested in WWE or not (he began following Becky Lynch, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Shane McMahon during the week of WrestleMania 32), but it seems crazy that he would give up the biggest payday of his entire career simply to continue working out on a fight that he could be pulled from. There’s more to the story, I think, and we’ll find out the details in the days and weeks to come. But having said that, I would welcome McGregor to the world of sports entertainment with open arms. Having seen what past MMA stars like Ken Shamrock, Josh Barnett, Kazushi Sakaruba, Minoru Suzuki, and yes…Brock Lesnar…have done inside of the squared circle, I have confidence that McGregor could do quite well.

– While I’m no fan of The Miz, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Maryse make her way back to WWE. I have no problem seeing her on a regular basis.

Maryse 4 Maryse 16 Maryse 21 Maryse 1

Green Day 1– I’ve been a fan of Green Day since the first time I heard 2,000 Light Years Away from their album, Kerplunk. Once Dookie came out, I was hooked and I continue to be a huge fan of the band to this day. In spite of those who complain that the band’s newer material has “changed”, I still hear the same power-punk rock chords that I’ve loved since first hearing them in 1993. Have they matured as a band? Absolutely. Is the material more “commercial”? A little bit, yeah…but they’ve always had commercial sounds in their music. When I hear X-Kid or Stray Heart, I’m not hearing a huge divergence from Christie Road or When I Come Around. As of late, the band had been grounded because of the personal demons succumbed to by lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong. Now clean and sober, the band announced this week that they were heading back into the studio to record their 12th I, for one, couldn’t be happier.

Green Day 2In spite of all the “commercialism” that the band has profited from over the past few years (American Idiot was turned into a Broadway musical, for crying out loud), these guys are still the epitome of rock’n’roll. In a musical landscape where the definition of “rock music” is becoming more and more diluted, and bands like the Foo Fighters and Disturbed are becoming less and less popular, we need as much rock music as possible…whether it’s toned-down or not.

I’m still a fan of The Offspring’s new music. I can still rock out to the latest AC/DC track. Are they as good as they used to be? No, of course not…but they’re still trying to create a rock music sound that influences a new generation of rockers. I just hope that Green Day’s upcoming album can help me remember what that sound is supposed to be like.

The World According to ZAH

The World According to ZAH 2

  • WWE Womens WrestlingThe biggest rumor heading into this weekend is that on Monday, the WWE Divas Championship will be renamed WWE Women’s Championship on RAW. I think it’s a perfect time to make this particular change simply because the company is in the era where you have beautiful women who are able to actually WRESTLE…so the term “diva” just doesn’t seem to fit the new generation of women athlete. Plus, I think in an era where you have Rhonda Rousey and Miesha Tate headlining different UFC pay-per-views to record numbers, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Sasha Banks vs Charlotte headlines a WWE pay-per-view at some point over the next year or two.
  • NEGANThe Walking Dead’s 90-minute finale this weekend brings us the debut of Negan. For anyone who is vaguely familiar with the comic, Negan is an incredibly important part of the ongoing zombie apocalypse story. Based on his introduction in the comics and the numerous warnings to fans that this episode will “break the internet”(Rick Grimes himself, Andrew Lincoln, has stated that he believes that Negan makes ‘the greatest entrance ever written’), I expect either Glenn or (gasp!) Daryl to be killed by Negan’s barbwire-covered baseball bat, Lucille.

  • NakamuraIt looks like Shinsuke Nakamura will be known simply as Nakamura in WWE. The official WrestleMania 32 program lists only his last name, so maybe this is the only change made. I like the idea, actually. You can still exploit his global reputation and fan base with “Nakamura”, yet not really confuse the English-speaking casual fan masses with “Shinsuke” at the beginning. I think this works just fine. I’m giddy with excitement about his debut tonight.

Nakamura-1

  • WWE-Cruiserweight-ShowWWE has announced working partnerships with (as of today) three indy promotions (EVOLVE, Revolution Pro, and Progress Wrestling) that will host qualifying matches for the upcoming Global Cruiserweight Series. It will be very interesting to see what other indy promotions will get some of this fantastic exposure. I mean, any local promotion that has any type of working ties with WWE will automatically get “the rub” and, in turn, it will help the entire industry as a whole over the long run. While larger promotions such as New Japan or Ring of Honor may not be participating, I anticipate working relationships to be announced PWG logofor indies such as Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (based out of California), Zero-One (based out of Japan), and at least one indy promotion from Canada, Australia, and possibly Germany. This really could be a truly GLOBAL tournament and is quite exciting.
  • And speaking of the Global Cruiserweight Series, the first six names have been announced as participants:
    • Zack Sabre Jr
    • Johnny Gargano
    • Rich Swann
    • Tommaso Ciampa
    • Noam Dar
    • Ho Ho Lun
    • Akira Tozawa

Ho Ho LunOut of this group, the only one I’m unfamiliar with is Ho Ho Lun (pictured right). Apparently, he’s a wrestler from Hong Kong who has done some work with Zero One in Japan. Other than Lun, though, the rest of the initial participants has me SUPER excited about this tournament. To me, the initial front-runner is already Sabre, Jr…who is widely considered the best technical wrestler on the planet today. But I’m also stoked to see Tozawa compete under the WWE banner. This tournament has the potential to be fucking bad-ass!!

  • Batman v SupermanIs Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice really that bad? Obviously, the opening weekend numbers broke box office records from around the world, but the current Rotten Tomatoes scores is a dismal 29%…although the audience score is at “71% liked it”. I was originally going to see it with my 9 year old this weekend, but he said that the movie trailers didn’t interest him and he has no desire to watch it. Huh…thankfully I downloaded Star Wars: The Force Awakens and will be watching NXT TakeOver: Dallas with him on Saturday, so all is not lost.
  • As normally is the case this time of the year, rumours are flying around left and right about multiple items in the industry. One of the most insane ones is that Goldberg will return on Sunday night to help Shane McMahon defeat the Undertaker (WHAT?? Seriously??). The one that’s rampant, though, is that there have been multiple Triple H vs Vince McMahon issues backstage over…
    • Shane McMahonTriple H downplaying the popularity of Shane McMahon before his return. In fairness, though, I don’t know if anybody really anticipated the crowd reactions that Shane has received since his return. Three months ago, I would have firmly been in the corner of “Shane-O-Mac isn’t that big of a deal”…so I totally understand Triple H’s side of things…IF this is true.
    • Shane vs Vince vs UndertakerTriple H not seeing Shane as a “legit contender” for the Undertaker. Again, I think I’m firmly in Triple H’s side on this. Even now, I do NOT see Shane as someone who can actually defeat the Undertaker straight up (even IN a Hell in a Cell match).
    • The AuthorityVince being under internal pressures to name his successor, but is using Shane as “leverage” against Triple H and Stephanie because he doesn’t want them taking it for granted that they’re next in line. I don’t even know what to say about this one because as much as I have respect for Shane, I’m completely against him taking over the company. I firmly believe Triple H’s vision is what’s “best for business”.
    • The RockVince wanting Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returning for a match at Mania, but Triple H thinking that having him in a non-wrestling role would be good enough. Again, I’m firmly on the side of Trips in this case because I don’t want to see Rock in a wrestling role right now. I realize that it may have been difficult to fill the 100,000-seat AT&T Stadium without him (especially with all of the injuries to top-tier performers over the past few months), but it was probably going to happen with the proper marketing campaign anyway. Having Rock take a spot away from someone who could be a future superstar of the company is just wrong. If there is any time to make superstars for the future, it’s NOW.

I hope these rumors aren’t true because the LAST thing WWE needs right now is backstage conflict. If there was ever a time to come together and try to build a new future for the company, it’s now.

  • UFC 200 - McGregor vs Diaz IIConor McGregor vs Nate Diaz II (at 170lbs) will take place at UFC 200 on July 9th. I really think that this fight will bring out a side of McGregor that we haven’t seen in a really long time. I predict McGregor will destroy Diaz their rematch. His losing one match will light a fire under his ass that hasn’t been there since he started his UFC career. I can’t wait for this rematch to take place.
  • Dean Ambrose vs Brock LesnarA rumor I read this week was that Vince was seriously considering putting Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar on last as the main event on Sunday. Is this something that could actually happen? Is Vince finally aware that Triple H vs Roman Reigns has the potential to be disastrous? Why isn’t Shane vs Undertaker going on last? The possibilities are fantastically fun and I can’t wait to find out how WrestleMania Hell…I’m STILL wishing on a star for a Reigns heel turn.
  • CoryXKenshinWhere is CoryXKenshin?? The popular YouTube gamer was putting up daily videos for months and then…POOF!!…he vanished without a trace and hasn’t been anywhere on social media for over a month now. My son is a massive fan of his (and I appreciate the fact that he plays games and doesn’t curse to be extremely entertaining, which is tough to find online these days) and asks me constantly if Cory has uploaded a new video yet. I don’t know where he is, but I hope he returns soon. He’s a great influence on kids and his “never give up” attitude makes him an excellent role model.
  • Andre the Giant 3rd Annual Memorial Battle RoyalCould Cesaro be a surprise entrant in the Andre the Giant 3rd Annual Memorial Battle Royal? He’s in Dallas and is scheduled to wrestle on the post-Mania European tour, so I believe that anything is possible at this point. With Braun Strowman the front-runner to win, I’m not sure if his return will be needed.
  • World of WarcraftAs someone who has never played World of Warcraft, I’m using the movie trailers as a way to get acclimated with the product. I don’t really care about the love story, but the creatures look bad-ass and the battle scenes look sick. I’m looking forward to this movie. What are your thoughts? For any WoW players out there, does this movie interest you at all?

  • Solomon Crowe 3Sami Callihan (aka Solomon Crowe in NXT) will be appearing in Lucha Underground Season 3. While saddened at Callihan’s departure from NXT, he left on his own terms and I fully expect him to be showcased in Lucha Underground. I’m really looking forward to the continuing series as it truly provides a unique alternative to the current gluttony of “same ol’ sports entertainment”.
  • Forbes’ Chris Smith recently wrote an editorial about WWE’s highest earning Superstars last year. Here is the current Top 10 from 2015:
  1. John Cena MoneyJohn Cena – $9.5 million
  2. Brock Lesnar – $6.0 million
  3. Triple H – $2.8 million
  4. Randy Orton – $2.7 million
  5. Seth Rollins – $2.4 million
  6. Roman Reigns – $2.1 million
  7. The Undertaker – $2.0 million
  8. Big Show – $1.5 million
  9. Kane – $1.3 million
  10. Dean Ambrose – $1.1 million

Obviously, Trips is making that much because of his combined contributions to the company (both inside of the ring and out). The rest of the group makes perfect sense because of (a) their spots on the card and (b) their tenure in the company. It’s awesome to see newer performers like Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose doing so well. Despite what Vince may think, these three ARE the future faces of the company and could be this generation’s Rock vs Stone Cold vs Triple H.

  • Gargano & CiampaBoth Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa reportedly have deals in place with WWE that are similar to Samoa Joe’s original deal, meaning that both are contracted with NXT but don’t train at the Performance Center and are able to accept independent bookings. I think that’s really great for them, but I don’t know if I truly understand how this helps NXT in the long run. If they become a full-time touring brand, then I guess I understand it. I think the end result may simply be a bigger interest in independent wrestling with some of these “big” names appearing on the cards. So maybe it really is a good thing in the end and makes sense.
  • After being surprisingly entertained by the fantastic Lego Movie last year, my initial hesitations about the upcoming Lego Batman Movie have disappeared after watching the first two initial teaser trailers…

  • Bryan Danielson & Brie BellaBrie Bella is retiring early to start a family and help take care of Bryan Danielson. I’m not actually upset about this because I have never been the biggest fan of Brie to begin with. But I’m glad to know that she’s going out on her own terms. She’s had a great WWE career, has become a reality television star because of Total Divas, and now is married to the love of her life. If now isn’t the perfect time to start a family, I don’t know when is.
  • Nikki BellaNikki Bella’s neck isn’t healing as quickly as predicted. Nikki will meet again with doctors in July for a CAT scan to determine whether the bone in her neck has fused — but regardless, she was told a full-time ring return will never be possible based on the severity of her injury. I’ve always thought that Bella was over-rated in the worst kind of way, so this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If this means that Nikki does less wrestling and more photoshoots in bikinis, then THAT is only a good thing.

Nikki Bella

  • It’s all about the Vader-dick. I’m glad I didn’t see the uncensored pic because…goddamn. Welcome to 2016, Leon!

VaderPenisSub

  • Will we be seeing a “Dallas Demon” tonight at NXT TakeOver: Dallas? I sure as hell hope so because damn, check this out…

Dallas Cowboy Demon

  • The Wrestling Observer Newsletter Roman Reigns 5reported information on a recent marketability study that included top WWE superstars. The most interesting part is that Roman Reigns (i.e. the guy that everybody supposedly hates) ranked fourth on the roster in marketability behind only John Cena, Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. As far as listening to fans and pushing certain people, Dean Ambrose apparently did pretty good in the survey but was far behind the top four. Unfortunately, Kevin Owens did not poll well at all. We all know what that means for the Internet Wrestling Community’s “potential savior”.
  • John CenaThe Observer also noted one major retailer said the top five selling shirts for their national chain were (in this order): John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. So for those of you still hating on Reigns, you need to realize there is a HUGE difference between the casual WWE audience and the hardcore WWE audience. Anybody who claims otherwise simply doesn’t understand how the business works.
  • Sisters…a YouTube show that I was super excited to watch (because Lana…duh!!). Unfortunately, the show sucks a big bowl of dicks and at this point it’s only getting worse. Just check out this one “episode” for yourself:

  • Song of the Week comes from The Offspring. There’s no rhyme or reason why…just that it’s a song I had forgotten about but I absolutely love. It’s one of those “crank it up” type of tunes.

NXT TakeOver: Dallas – Predictions

ZAH Predictions - NXT TakeOver DallasMost hardcore wrestling fans (like myself and, more than likely, you if you’re reading an online wrestling blog) are probably looking forward to this weekend’s NXT TakeOver: Dallas event more than WWE’s WrestleMania card. With some absolutely outstanding match-ups taking place (not to mention two very highly anticipated WWE debuts), fans are chomping at the bit to see how this card and the in-ring performances set the tone for the entire weekend.

Hence, it only seems right that we review the card and make predictions. Let’s go!!

Austin Aries vs Baron CorbinAustin Aries vs Baron Corbin

Austin Aries 1I love this match-up simply because it accomplishes a lot of things. For one, having Baron Corbin (someone who is extremely stale and still needs to improve his in-ring abilities) wrestle someone as technically sound as Austin Aries is a fantastic learning experience for him. Second, having Aries debut against a larger opponent who won’t be hurt by a loss is a great thing. If the match works out well, Aries will look as impressive as Finn Balor or AJ Styles or Baron Corbin 2some of the other smaller guys working their asses off to become the “new” WWE superstar. Finally, the crowd will be super-hot for Aries and will legitimately make him appear like a star in his first match (very similar to how Styles debuted at the Royal Rumble). Is “The Greatest Man Alive” really that good? I don’t know if I ever seen him on the main roster or not, but I’ve been a massive fan of his in-ring work for over a decade now and am looking forward to seeing him shine in the spotlight.

WINNER: Austin Aries

The Revival (c) vs American Alpha for the NXT tag team championshipsThe Revival vs American Alpha

The Revival 1I’ve been a fan of Dash & Dawson since they had their initial run in last year’s Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team Tournament. I love that they’re a throwback tag team that doesn’t rely on size or gimmicks or high-flying in order to be successful (hence their team name). As I’ve mentioned previously, they’re very remenicent of teams like the Brainbusters and the Midnight Express…and that’s VERY high praise from a long-time tag team fan. Having said that, American Alpha is American Alpha 1riding a tremendous wave of momentum right now. Jason Jordon is beginning to finally find his stride as a personality (he was already pretty solid as an in-ring performer) and Chad Gable is the future Kurt Angle of the WWE and a future major player in spite of his smaller size. I really think that it’s time to make the switch to a super-over babyface tag team (especially after months of teasing fans with Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady winning the straps). I would love a tag team feud between these two that lasts the next few months until the next TakeOver event, too. These two teams should give us a lot of fun matches in the weeks to come.

WINNERS: American Alpha

Bayley (c) vs Asuka for the NXT Women’s championshipBayley vs Asuka

Bayley 4Without a shadow of a doubt, Bayley is a legit superstar without ever having debuted on the main roster. I’ve never been a fan of hers but I respect the hell out of what she can do inside of the ring. I don’t understand the fan adulation, but I guess I can see why the kids love her. The problem, though, is that she’s needed on the main roster. With Brie Bella retiring, Nikki Bella probably retiring, Natalya reaching the end of her run, divas like Naomi and Alicia Fox not reaching their potential, and the inept fuck-stain that is Eva Marie returning to nauseate us all…that pretty much leaves five women on the main roster who are capable of carrying the division (Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Paige, and Emma).

Bayley 6Bayley can be the Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat of the Divas division: a life-long babyface that can potentially rival John Cena in terms of “Make A Wish Foundation” appearances for children. I think she’s done all she can do in NXT and has defeated everybody there. It’s time for the new blood to break out and for the Four Horsewomen to fulfill their destiny together on the main roster. In order to do that, Bayley must lose and Asuka must win.

Asuka 1In terms of Asuka, I’ve been a massive fan of hers since her debut last year. She’s amazing inside of the ring and brings color, charisma, and uniqueness to a division that doesn’t have a ton of it (plus there’s something about her that just oozes sex appeal). I really think this should end up a similar outcome that happened when Bayley won the title from Sasha Banks: Asuka wins the title clean in Dallas and they have one more “blow-off” match at the next TakeOver that Asuka wins while Bayley debuts on the main roster.

WINNER: Asuka

Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke NakamuraSami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura

Shinsuke Nakamura 2At first, I really thought that Shinsuke Nakamura would debut similar to how KENTA, Prince Devitt, and Kevin Steen debuted: showing up on NXT television and having their name changed to something that could be used in WWE.

Shinsuke Nakamura 1But then came Samoa Joe. And then AJ Styles. And then Austin Aries. And then the promotion of Shinsuke Nakamura under his own name. Now I’m thinking that it’s quite possible that we’ll see Nakamura using his own name both in NXT or on the WWE main roster (which he’ll be visiting VERY soon). It’s quite possible that he changes his name in NXT after WrestleMania weekend is over…but I just think the international appeal for the company would be to use his name, especially at this stage of his career.

Sami ZaynSami Zayn is going to have a great feud with Kevin Owens on the main roster over the coming months. Hell…he might even have an Intercontinental championship reign in his future, as well. There really isn’t any need for him to win this match-up against the debuting Nakamura.

Zayn vs NakamuraI think I’m looking forward to this match more than any other the entire weekend. I know what both men are capable of and I think they’re going to fire on all cylinders in an attempt to have the best match of the weekend (and potentially of the year). If they wrestle an NJPW-style match, the NXT fans (and any casual WWE fans who happen to be watching) will blow up Dallas and chant “Match of the Year” before it’s done.

Of course, they could just be given 10-15 minutes to hit some high spots. Anything’s possible at this point.

WINNER: Shinsuke Nakamura

Finn Bálor (c) vs Samoa Joe for the NXT heavyweight championshipFinn Balor vs Samoa Joe

Finn Balor 1What’s most interesting about this match is that WWE, apparently, has main roster plans for both men. While Finn Bálor on the main roster was always a given, the fact that Joe has impressed higher-ups enough to be considered for a main roster role is fantastic to hear if you’re a long-time Joe fan (as I am). So when do they get called up? Does one get called up before the other? Does it happen right after WrestleMania or in a few months before SummerSlam?

Balor Club 2The other really interesting thing about this match is the potential debut of the Bálor Club (i.e. Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson and Doc Gallows). It’s been teased for months now and with word going around that both former Bullet Club members are being penciled-in for the main roster sooner rather than later, you’ve got to wonder if they’ll debut to give support to Bálor during this match.

Here’s my take on all of this…

Balor ClubThe Bálor Club won’t debut at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. Both Anderson and Gallows will be debuting with Finn Bálor on the main roster the RAW following WrestleMania. That’s my prediction, anyway. I think it will give the world a glimpse of what WWE will look like for the remainder of 2016 (with or without Shane McMahon in charge of RAW) and it will be a massive debut with a massive pop for all three members of the Bálor Club. The only real question, then, is whether or not Finn Bálor makes his RAW debut as the NXT champion.

Samoa Joe 5My guess is “no”. I think Samoa Joe pulls out the victory here, opening up a world of new opponents for him over the next few months (Apollo Crews, Austin Aries, or even Shinsuke Nakamura) and giving him a bit of a spotlight before being called up. Hell…he could even end the match with a “respect” handshake with Bálor that turns him babyface, thus leading to title defenses against Baron Corbin, Elias Samson, or even someone like Tommaso Ciampa. Either way, having Joe in the top spot provides NXT a little shot in the arm with someone that hardcore fans love and casual fans respect.

Finn Balor vs Samoa Joe 2I think this match will be fantastic regardless of the outcome. Seriously…I’m happy with either man exiting the building with the championship belt over their shoulder, but I just think it makes more storyline sense for Joe to win to free-up Bálor on the main roster.

WINNER: Samoa Joe

**********

This is just what I’m thinking, but what are YOUR thoughts? Sound off in a comment below or hit me up on social media and let me know!

The World According to ZAH

What a crazy couple of weeks…

The big news for wrestling, still, is just what’s going on with the new performers coming over from New Japan and how they’ll be used in WWE. I’ve heard some rumors and I’ve got some theories…

Guns and Gallows 1– The latest rumors have Luke Gallows and Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson debuting on NXT television in March. My immediate guess is that they’ll be heels and won’t be as “chummy” with Finn Bálor as he would expect them to be. Then, on April 1st at NXT: TakeOver Dallas, the team of “Guns-n-Gallows” will help Bálor win his expected title match against Sami Zayn…setting up a “Bálor Club” invasion storyline and a heel turn for Bálor.  This is all “fantasy booking” at this point, though…all of us will find out as the weeks continue.

– This must be a TON of fun for Bálor at the moment, because he’s been sending out extremely interesting things via his social media accounts…

#FinnBálor #KarlAnderson #LukeGallows #BálorClub #suplexwrestling

A post shared by Finn Bálor (@finnbalor) on

Shinsuke Nakamura 1– The latest on Shinsuke Nakamura is that he will be done with New Japan by the end of January and will then report to the Performance Centre in February to begin working out and complete the required WWE medical tests.  Then what? My guess is that he’ll probably debut in NXT under different name at some point after WrestleMania and then work up to the main roster. At 35 years of age, I think WWE realizes that they don’t have a ton of time to waste with Nakamura and will want to use him as quickly as possible.

AJ Styles– The biggest question right now (to me, at least) is just what WWE plans to do with AJ Styles. The latest is that he was scheduled to be a surprise entrant at the Royal Rumble but that changed once word got out about him coming to WWE. I’ll have a podcast on that very subject up in the next couple of days, but my guess is that he’ll use his own name, similar to Samoa Joe, and debut at the Royal Rumble. I could be way off, though, but I just feel that Styles has a big enough name that he could debut in the Rumble and the crowd would go nuts. I don’t think he needs to go through NXT, but that might just be a “pipe dream” as it seems EVERYBODY has to go through NXT, regardless of their history. Still…a Rumble debut could gauge just how long Styles stays in NXT. A massive pop and buzz could mean a fast-track to the main roster, where a big pop and general WWE Universe question marks could lead to him being in NXT for awhile. I don’t know, but this is a major story and I can’t wait to see what happens (if anything) at the Rumble.

James Storm NXTFor folks wondering if “Cowboy” James Storm was going to pop up on NXT television again…wonder no more. It seems as though the “just-under $100,000” contract offer he received from the company couldn’t match the $200,000+ contract offer given to him by TNA. I mean, can you blame the guy? Regardless of whether or not TNA survives another year or gets booted to yet another television channel, Storm did what he had to do in order to provide for his family. I’ve read that there is no burned bridge between him and WWE so a potential player/coach role down the road is still a possibility…though unlikely.

So here’s a question…is John Cena truly out for WrestleMania? He had shoulder surgery last week but there has been no official word on his return date. Dr. Jeffrey Dugas performed the surgery and said the following:

“He had a complete tear of a small portion of the rear rotator cuff tendon, the infraspinatus — toward the top-back of his shoulder — which I repaired. Also, there was a large piece of loose tissue in his shoulder that needed to be removed.”

Cena shoulder surgeryThe original estimated time out reported online was 6-9 months, but that was for a torn labrum…which turns out was not the actual injury. Here’s the thing…with Cena, you NEVER know how long he’ll be out. He’s returned from bad injuries in a LOT less time than originally diagnosed, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to still see Cena compete at Mania. I think it’s unlikely, but it’s still potentially a possibility.

Mad Max wtfI’m not going to get into how racist this year’s Oscar nominations appear to be because it’s a group of primarily white people sitting around nominating other white people for pats on the back. Having said that, however, a HUGE congrats to Mad Max: Fury Road for being one of the movies nominated for Best Picture. I never would have thought that this would be possible prior to watching it, but as I’ve said during my movie review and with my Best Movies of 2015 post, this was absolutely one of the BEST movies of the year and a cinematic beauty of a film.

Tyler Breeze & Summer Rae 2Hey…have you been sitting back (like me) wondering why the push for Tyler Breeze suddenly died? I mean, he finally got called up to the main roster and got a really nice debut with a PPV clean pinfall victory over Dolph Ziggler only to be put on the backburner and losing his potentially awesome valet, Summer Rae. So what’s the deal? Apparently, in yet another blatant example of him being completely out of touch with today’s sports entertainment audience, Vince McMahon didn’t see what Triple H saw in Breeze and put the brakes on his push. Triple H saw Breeze as an upper midcard heel (similar to Ziggler’s status) capable of Intercontinental or United States championship gold. Not only that, but the marketing potential of someone so unique and different and NOW with their gimmick was written all over the wall. Vince, however, didn’t see star potential in Breeze so now he’s back to being an afterthought…which is ridiculous.

New Japan might be losing another Bullet Club member while two other roster members have given their intent to stay with the company. Last week, Tama Tonga sent out this tweet…

Does this confirm he is leaving the promotion? I’ve read nothing official yet, but it appears to be the case. Will he follow his friends to WWE? I think the guy has a ton of potential, so I hope that WWE is paying attention.

Two other roster stars, longtime New Japan favorite Rocky Romero and Bullet Club member “The Underboss” Bad Luck Fale each confirmed their intentions to remain with the company.

CloverfieldI woke up this morning and nearly crapped my pants when I saw that there was a trailer online for the previously unannounced “sequel” to Cloverfield…which is one of my favorite movies. From what little information is out there (including statements from producer JJ Abrams), 10 Cloverfield Lane is a “blood relative” to the original film, but isn’t to be considered a direct sequel. In fact, the end of the trailer could very well be the end of the movie and the entire film may be a “contained thriller”, where 99% of the movie takes place inside of the bunker.

SlashFilm.com has already dug into things and has reported the following:

“After further evaluation, I have concluded that the trailer is for the movie that was going under the working title Valencia. The film, which shot in New Orleans in late 2014, has been editing deep inside the mystery box of Bad Robot Productions, which had an extra shell of security due to a little film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  The original script made the rounds under the title “The Cellar”…and as far as we know, the story follows a young woman who wakes up in a cellar after a severe car accident and fears she has been abducted.

“Her captor, a doomsday prepper, tells her he saved her life and that there has been a terrible chemical attack that has left the outside uninhabitable. She does not know what to believe and as tensions rise, she decides she must escape, regardless of the terrors that await outside.””

This could be the result of what the government had to do in order to try killing the original Cloverfield monster, but it’s all just guessing at this point. I have no idea what this movie will be like, but the trailer for this movie has me extremely intrigued.

Johnny & CandiceIt was announced this week that wrestling couple Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae were recently engaged (Gargano…you went all-out for a very impressive proposal…kudos!). I’m a big fan of both so to see their relationship develop into this love is pretty awesome.

Congratulations to both!!

Wyatt Family 5WWE has been discussing the possibility of debuting Sister Abigail and adding her to Bray Wyatt’s stable for some time now. Lately, however, the discussions have been getting pretty serious. The question then becomes…who plays Sister Abigail? Is she a “real” sister (i.e. a nun) or is she “related” to Bray? Is she older or younger? If you bring up someone from NXT, the only person I can think of who would fit-in with the Wyatt’s would be Nia Jax (once repackaged, obviously). I don’t know if any other woman on the roster has the chops to pull off the role and play it legit. Because she’s been on NXT television in her own gimmick, though, I doubt that she’d be chosen to play the part.

Sister AbigailI think, however, that WWE can go one of two ways with this gimmick. They can either bring up someone from the Performance Centre who hasn’t debuted on NXT television yet (which is possible since it was already done with Braun Strowman), or hire an actress for a non-wrestling role who can truly put on a believable performance (as they did with Lana). Either way, this is going to be very interesting to see as there have been hints at a Wyatt Family babyface turn…which is something I do NOT want to see yet. Sister Abigail would help the faction remain extremely heel-esque.

F4WOnline reported the following yesterday:

Royal Rumble“For whatever it is worth, the finish for Royal Rumble is written and whatever it is, it is going to lead to a big match at Fast Lane since they want that to be an A-level PPV and not just a stop on the way to WrestleMania.”

Could this be Triple H screwing Roman Reigns out of the WWE championship, leading to their match at FastLane? I don’t know what other match it could be at this point that would make any sense. I thought they’d save Reigns vs HHH for Mania, but with all of the injuries hitting the roster right now everything is up in the air.

My Song of the Week comes from one of my favorite rock bands, Disturbed. Their incredible remake of the classic Simon & Garfunkel song “The Sound of Silence” is something that needs to be heard with the volume turned up all the way. This is truly a re-imagining that’s worthy of your attention.

NXT: TakeOver London – REVIEW & ANALYSIS

NXT TakeOver LondonAfter last weekend’s fantastic TLC pay-per-view, I think it’ll be difficult for NXT to live up to the standard that’s been set by the WWE roster. But with a potentially hot London crowd and some great performers scheduled, this could be yet another feather in the NXT cap of incredible live TakeOver events in 2015.

Let’s see how things went…

Asuka vs EmmaAsuka vs Emma

AsukaI can’t tell you how impressed I am with Asuka. She’s certainly not a “classic beauty” in terms of what a WWE Diva normally looks like, but there is something about the way she carries herself that I find hot as hell. Add to that sexiness an extremely unique style and some incredible in-ring ability, and I think you’re got the total package with her. She’s absolutely a future NXT Women’s champion and I can see her dominating the main roster, as well.

Emma & DanaEmma is still a work-in-progress, in my opinion. She’s been looking to feel comfortable in a heel persona for months now and only now seems to look like it’s a natural thing for her. She’s an incredible talented and beautiful woman, but you can tell that playing the heel isn’t something she’s great at yet. Once she can fully integrate the personality and gimmick to her character, she’ll be called back-up to the main roster because she’s got the talent and deserves to be there again.

I think having Dana Brooke yelling out at ringside was a good thing because she’s definitely a future star and needs to get more interaction experience under her belt because, right now, she’s a one-trick flexing pony. The more personality she can display the better.

Asuka v EmmaThe match itself was a really good way to kick NXT TakeOver off. The crowd was super into Asuka and both women were able to put on a great back-n-forth match. I thought that the match’s backstage agent had Asuka sell too much for Emma at first, but as the match went on it really made each of her comebacks pop the crowd more and more. I loved that when I thought this would end like a “normal televised match” after the big babyface comeback, the match just continued on and built more momentum.

I genuinely popped TWICE for the big false submission finish and the eventual 3-count. Having Asuka win was the right booking decision to make, but the match itself made Emma look REALLY strong…so this, really, was the perfectly booked match. A hot crowd certainly didn’t hurt.

Dash & Dawson vs Enzo Amore & Colin CassadyDash & Dawson vs Colin Cassady & Enzo Amore (NXT tag title match)

Enzo, Carmella, & CassRight out of the gate, you have to respect the hell out of Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady for how they’ve grown as a team in NXT over the past couple of years. They are, without a doubt, the most popular NXT creation (superstars like Sami Zayn and Finn Bálor were globally popular before NXT). Why these two haven’t been called-up to the main roster yet is beyond me. Hell…you only need to see how globally popular they are right now and you should know just what you can have on RAW and Smackdown. As expected, Enzo’s mic work was fantastic before the match. These guys are like the New Age Outlaws 2.0.

And I could on all day about Carmella‘s beauty and potential, but I’ll save that for another day.

Dash & DawsonDash & Dawson have been one of my favourite tag teams for a few months now. They are throwback wrestlers that remind me of Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard and The Midnight Express. If they were facing any other tag team on the roster, I’d probably suggest they go over in this match to help put them over as a dominant tag team. As it stands, though, I really think the time has come for Enzo & Big Cass to win the big one.

Enzo vs D&DThe NXT Universe was absolutely incredible for this match. The chants for Enzo and Big Cass were entertaining as hell and helped the match immensely because, for the most part, it went as you’d have expect with Enzo playing the babyface in peril (the dude is almost Ricky Morton-esque with his “selling for heat” skills). The match itself was good, so I don’t want to say that having a “normal” Enzo & Cass match is bad.

Do I agree with the finish? Well…as much as it would be nice to see the popular team finally win the belts, I don’t have an issue with how the heels retained their championships. The finish was well booked and extremely well executed by both teams, which made for a realistic result.

Apollo Crews vs Baron CorbinApollo Crews vs Baron Corbin

BaronI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I don’t see the big deal with Baron Corbin. He’s got a nice entrance and he can stare at the crowd, I guess…but I don’t see “charisma” when I watch him. I see potential, but a lot of it is unrealized at this point. I just don’t think he’s developing as fast as WWE wants him to or as fast as HE thinks he is. I could be wrong, but I just think he needs a lot more polish before he can shine. And some hair plugs wouldn’t hurt.

ApolloApollo Crews just has “it”. Size, speed, agility, ability, and charisma to make a total package performer. I truly believe this man will be WWE champion at some point within the next decade. The guy just has it all. His mic skills aren’t WWE-ready yet, but he’s better than 90% of the NXT roster on the stick so he’s definitely well on his way.

I wasn’t expecting a lot from this match, if I can be honest. I think it lived up to my expectations. One thing I enjoyed was Corbin’s attempting to smack talk during the match. It’s not nearly as witty as Kevin Owens (who is a master) and just comes off as amateurish in its delivery. The other thing I don’t think he realizes is that his heat isn’t “we hate you” heel heat, but rather “we think you can’t wrestle” Eva Marie heat. When you’ve lost the respect of the NXT Universe, there is little you can do but roll with it and assume any heat is good heat (it’s not).

Apollo vs CorbinNot sure it’s ever a good sign to have your live crowd provide a “BotchaMania” chant during your match, but both Crews and Corbin appeared to be blown up halfway through the match-up…resulting in more than one spot looking sloppy and messy.

I gotta say…the finish was completely shocking. To have Crews lose cleanly by pinfall totally took me by surprise. That’s gotta be a good thing, though. I don’t like a predictable match or predictable finishes, so I can’t take anything away from the match because “the wrong guy won”. Credit where credit is due…they gave me a surprise finish out of nowhere.

Bayley vs Nia JaxBayley vs Nia Jax

BayleyI will be the first to admit that while I completely respect the ability of Bayley, I don’t understand the appeal. I know I’m not the desired core audience for Bayley, but I’m constantly shocked to see the crowds go insane for this girl. She is one of the most popular superstars in ALL of WWE, in spite of her awkwardness in public and inability to deliver a solid promo of any kind. Because of that, I absolutely respect the hell out of her for what she has been able to accomplish and the connection with the WWE Universe that she has been able to make at this point in her career.

NiaWhile I really loved the new entrance gear for Nia Jax, I’m not sold on her as a viable in-ring performer yet. I think there is a lot of potential there, don’t get me wrong. But for years WWE has looked for a larger woman who could wrestle the smaller women, and for various reasons Amazing Kong and Jessicka Havok (two women who can run circles around Jax) haven’t worked out. I just don’t know if hot-shotting Jax to a live title match is a smart idea.

Jax vs BayleyHaving said all that, after watching the match, I can’t lie…Jax has impressed me. Hell…she’s better inside of the ring than Eva Marie. Though Jax still has a TON of work to do, Bayley helped carry her to a more-than-passable match with a live (and potentially VERY hostile) crowd. The match was booked to play to Jax’s strengths and helped to hide her weaknesses. While not one of those incredible back-and-forth battles we’ve become used to, it was a dominating performance by the heel where the babyface-in-peril inspired the crowd with a last-ditch effort to win after escaping defeat multiple times.

Insane Bayley crowdI have to be completely honest…I thought that Jax was going to beat Bayley. I mean…wow. And the London crowd was so into it, they got on their feet…yes, literally a standing ovation…at the MERE THOUGHT that Bayley could make Jax tap out (pictured, right). After multiple attempts, it finally happened and the crowd went nuts. I mean, this was a great finish that the crowd ate up. Props to both women for an extremely believable match that had the crowd (and yes…me, too) cheering for the finish.

Finn Balor vs Samoa JoeFinn Bálor vs Samoa Joe for NXT Championship

Samoa Joe 4Where I am a new fan to the skills of “The Demon”, I’ve been a fan of Samoa Joe for well over a decade. To see him on NXT in a main event match on a live televised event gives me chills. The promo skills alone are better than 90% of the MAIN roster. Add to that his in-ring skills and you’ve got somebody who might be happy in NXT, but could do really well on the main roster, too.

FinnFinn Bálor is quite the spectacle. He’s unique and original and has the “sports entertainment” aspect already wrapped up. Some people tink he gets boring once he’s inside of the ring, but I believe his in-ring abilities are spectacular. If I could compare him to anybody, it would be Jeff Hardy…another “spectacle” who couldn’t really promo and wasn’t hugely muscular but still captured the imagination of the WWE Universe.

As much as I’m a fan of Bálor (and I loved his Demon paint/persona for the show), I’m actually hoping Joe wins the title in this match. Demon 3Demon 2 Demon 1

After watching the match, anybody backstage should be able to see the differences between someone like Samoa Joe and someone like Baron Corbin. The abilities that he provides is second to NONE…he can wrestle, he can brawl, he can fly, and he carries himself with such an “at-ease swagger” that the ring seems like second nature to him. Some people carry themselves a certain way as in-ring performers; others don’t have to because they just HAVE IT. Joe has it in spades (and yes, so does Bálor).Finn vs Joe

The main event was awesome and fully endorsed both men as being the future of NXT (and WWE, should those in power decide to allow it to happen). I honestly thought Joe might have a shot at winning, but I’m certainly not unhappy with how Bálor pinned Joe to win. Just a fantastic ferocious battle that has helped to cap off an amazing year for NXT. And can I say that the little touches of having doctors look at BOTH Joe and Bálor was just a bit of genius…whether it was a work or not. It just really helped make the match appear that much more hellacious.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings for the brand.