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?

Gallery

#WomanCrushWednesday – Lana!!

Today’s Woman Crush Wednesday is…

LANA!!Lana

Lana 3The incredible Lana is actually Catherine Joy (C.J.) Perry. Without going into her full background, Lana is a 30-year old stunner originally from Gainesville, Florida. She spent several years living in Latvia, hence her ability to speak Russian and play her character with believability. She ended up attending Florida State University, majoring in dance and acting. She began modeling and even joined a girl-band called No Means Yes back in 2009. She performed as a back-up dance for some major acts such as P!nk, Usher, and Lana 2Akon while also performing in music videos. For whatever reason, she decided to sign with WWE back in 2013. It was here that she was immediately teamed with Rusev and the duo began their run of destruction together. She’s currently engaged to Rusev (aka Miroslav Barnyashev) and can be found in a number of areas on social media.

Obviously…you can happily click below for a larger image of one of the hottest women on the entire planet:

Lana

ZAH Thoughts – What Was The Point Of Roadblock??

ZAH Thoughts - The Point of RoadblockI went into last night’s live event on the WWE Network, Roadblock, thinking that I wouldn’t see any major happenings, but hoping to see at least one. I mean, it was a live event from Toronto…which would bring a hot crowd and pre-WrestleMania electricity. Surely we were going to get SOMETHING fun, weren’t we?

NXT tag match 2I thought, at the very least, that we would get an NXT tag team title switch. Here was Enzo & Big Cass (along with Carmella), the most over act on the NXT roster, facing the championship tandem of Dash & Dawson (i.e. The Revival) in a match that had built up for months. Why were they even thrown on this WWE event in the first place if not to get over with the titles?

NXT tag match 1But no…the tag team champions went over CLEAN in an impressive win. The match itself was good (but becoming a bit formulaic for Enzo & Cass) and really helped put over each team as future superstars to be called-up to the main roster once WrestleMania is over. But I just have to scratch my head and wonder why WWE didn’t take this golden opportunity to put over a team that is consistently booked to be NXT’s version of Zack Ryder circa 2012.

New DayI was pretty sure that the New Day wouldn’t be losing their tag team titles to the team of Sheamus and Wade Barrett, but it was always a possibility as we could see the New Day regain the belts at Mania to pop the crowd. But no…we were relegated to another decent tag team match with Xavier Woods costing the League their chance at tag team gold. I suppose we’ll see Rusev and Alberto Del Rio get involved somehow in the coming weeks (EDIT: apparently they’re challenging for the tag titles on RAW tonight), but I don’t see how this helps their WrestleMania match.

Jericho vs SwaggerChris Jericho came out in Toronto so he could garner some cheap heat and enforce the fact that he was a heel. I get it…good call. But then they brought out the “American American” Jack Swagger to be his opponent. Sorry, but I’m pretty sure Swagger wasn’t ever going to be considered the huge babyface in Canada against Jericho, regardless of how biting his promo may have been. If he faced someone like Goldust or R-Truth or someone like that, then the crowd may have been a bit more forgiving.

Natayla vs Charlotte 1The Charlotte vs Natalya match was fantastic. I didn’t expect the title to switch hands, but I was really impressed at the quality of the match itself. I didn’t know if the WWE agents would allow these two the opportunity to kick ass, but they did. So while it didn’t advance any storylines, it was still a great match that (a) showed the world just how great Charlotte is and (b) reminded the world just how great Natalya still is.

Lesnar vs Harper 1From what I’ve read, WWE is saving the Brock Lesnar vs Bray Wyatt match for after Mania (possibly SummerSlam?), which is why they had a “handicap match” where Luke Harper got in a bit of offense but ended up getting decimated by The Beast…all while Wyatt sat back and watched and didn’t tag in. I don’t like the “bait and switch” booking, even if it does continue storylines.

Zayn vs StardustIn what was possibly the only real “push” on the entire show was Sami Zayn‘s performance against Stardust. While not the most exciting match on the card, it put Zayn over in Canada against someone with some credibility…so casual fans who were watching could still think Zayn was someone to look out for down the road.

Ambrose vs Triple H 1The main event match between Dean Ambrose and WWE champion Triple H was really good, but that’s not really the point. It was, again, a match that had real possibilities of doing something different for an ending…but ended up being a really good “by the books” title match. Kudos to both men for their performances…but it did nothing to get me excited for WrestleMania.

Ambrose vs Triple H 2So again I ask…what was the point of Roadblock? I think having a live event on the WWE Network is a good thing. I don’t think every live event needs to have a title change. However, in this case there should have been something added to give it a bit of excitement. It didn’t, so at the end of the day this “roadblock” was really just a speed bump…nothing more.

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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!

RAW Thoughts

The wheels are rolling on the WrestleMania train and we’re going through Chicago, Illinois en route to the biggest show of the year. What did WWE give us last night? Let’s find out…Shane McMahon

Shane-o-Mac made his way to the ring to a pretty impressive pop. He had the live crowd eating out of the palm of his hand and had a pretty borderline “shoot promo” on Vince and the current state of the company. Vince came and out tried to garner as much cheap heat as he could…which the Chicago crowd delivered in spades. The segment ended with Shane beating up four security guards who tried to escort him out of the ring, much to the delight of the crowd. I suppose the segment was designed to put Shane over as a legitimate threat to the Undertaker, and because of the hot crowd the segment seemed to work.

Kevin OwensI had heard the rumors but didn’t believe them. Yet last night we saw the (re)debut of Sami Zayn and he went after Kevin Owens, setting up their match at WrestleMania with only a few weeks of build. Listen…I’m all for a Zayn vs Owens match for the Intercontinental championship, but WWE is only giving the WWE Universe a few weeks to see Zayn as a major star. Yes, the vast majority of hardcore fans know exactly who he is but the vast WWE audience have no clue. I just hope they can build him up quickly enough to make the match worthwhile. Thankfully, the Chicago crowd went ape-shit for his music…so those watching from home who are unfamiliar with him will hopefully think he is a big deal based on the crowd’s reaction.

Neville & Sami ZaynAnd for the record, Neville deserves better than this. The guy is someone who could legitimately be a top main-event superstar, yet is always in the role of putting up a great fight, occasionally winning a match, but never being pushed as an upper card star. No, he can’t promo and no, he’s not the biggest guy in the world. But he’s got a fantastic physique and can do things in that ring that others could only dream of and he deserves a better spot than he’s in.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the backstage segment between Dolph Ziggler and Stephanie McMahon. I mean, if WWE really wants to push Ziggler then they’ll update his gimmick and flip him around somehow. The way it is currently is that he looks like a cheap knockoff of Shawn Michaels and his whole act has gotten stale. Putting him into a spot where he’s the “sympathetic babyface” doesn’t really work for me at this point. I just don’t care anymore.

I’m intrigued to see the eventual Lana vs Brie Bella match that takes place (WrestleMania, perhaps??), but I’m still in disbelief at the inexplicable push of Summer Rae. She’s now pinned Paige and Brie Bella. WHY?? She’s better than Eva Marie, for sure…but aren’t there already other women on the roster who can wrestle circles around her? Out of all of the times she’s been pushed before as a sidekick or girlfriend or manager, why choose now to have her be a top wrestling contender to the Divas championship? I just don’t buy it because, quite frankly, she’s not that good.

For the record, though…Lana looked INCREDIBLE. #JustSayin’Lana

I gotta say…I was totally into Dean Ambrose last night for the first time in a long time. I don’t think his promo was meant to pop the crowd, but it was a fantastic promo that had me listening to every word that he said. The whole match with Triple H scheduled for this Saturday really has me questioning whether or not they’ll actually pull the trigger on the Ambrose Asylum. I don’t think they will, but the fact that WWE has me questioning the situation is a win on their part.

Dolph ZigglerAs expected, Dolph Ziggler lost his 3-on-1 handicap match against the League of Nations. After pinning Wade Barrett, he was decimated by Rusev and Sheamus. I mean…did you expect another result? What was telling was how the crowd didn’t really react to Ziggler at all. They popped a bit, but they knew he’d lose. His gimmick is so stale that even a 3-on-1 handicap match can’t garner a ton of sympathy for the guy.

As much as I didn’t need to see five more minutes spent on Shane McMahon, it was very smart to have a highlight package presented for the newer fans who have no idea who he is or why we should buy him as a legitimate threat to actually beat the Undertaker. It was well done in the sense that it showed all of his highspots and made him look pretty impressive.

Tag team matches are exactly what Team B.A.D. need because they are NOT over as a team or a faction. The crowd popped for both Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks (definitely more for Banks), but weren’t really into the match that much because of their opponents. I am really looking forward to the Triple Threat match against Charlotte at WrestleMania. If given enough time, they could have a real shot at stealing the show. They’ve done amazing things in NXT and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can do at Mania.

And for the record, Charlotte was lookin’ HOT tonight…

Charlotte

Y2AJI was REALLY impressed with the tag team match last night for the WWE tag team championships. But primarily because this was the best showcase of AJ Styles‘ talents since he debuted at the Royal Rumble back in January. He was absolutely spectacular and I was also really impressed with the booking of the final few minutes. As expected, Chris Jericho turned on Styles once the match was over…setting up their eventual WrestleMania match where Jericho can put over Styles on a much grander stage. I don’t really want to see Styles vs Jericho IV, but hopefully they can do something that makes it all worthwhile.

Next up was the announcement of the latest inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2016: Big Boss Man. In fact, Ray Traylor was #18 on my Top 30 list of wrestlers not yet in the Hall. He’s not a top pick by any stretch, but with runs in the NWA, WWE, and WCW that included being UWF heavyweight champion, WWE tag team champion, and 4-time WWE Hardcore champion…Boss Man is a memorable gimmick and is certainly a decent name to be entered into the Hall. Big Boss Man - HOFRyback 2The next two segments showed the good and bad that WWE has got going on right now. They’re pushing Kalisto as a solid singles competitor and I respect that (even though I don’t think he’s quite ready for the “Mysterio Push” quite yet). They’re also pushing Ryback in a manner that’s believable and interesting. He’s not quite a heel, but he’s certainly not a babyface. I hate to say this, but I might end up liking this new Ryback gimmick as long as he stays neutral. Listen…I’ll give credit where it’s due and Ryback has been working his ass off to become a better in-ring competitor by expanding his repertoire and move-set. He updated his look (though it’s silly that he’s now looking more like Goldberg than ever) and is doing what he can to promo in a believable way. I’m not a fan yet (by a long shot), but I appreciate where they’re going with him right now.

Social Outcasts 2The bad is what they’re doing with the #SocialOutcasts. I think this group has a ton of potential to be a fun upper mid-card faction, but they’re constantly being used as enhancement talent. I think the crowds can get behind them if we know whether or not they’re playing babyface or heel…but right now we really don’t know what they are, thus the crowds pop a bit but then quiet down because they don’t know what they should be doing. Give them some direction and legitimately give them all a chance to showcase what they’re capable of (all four are excellent wrestlers with solid gimmicks in place) and then see what happens. I just love these guys and would love to see what they potentially do (they are very reminiscent of the New Day when they started…maybe almost a bit too much?).

Bray Wyatt vs Dean AmbroseI felt bad for Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt in the main event because the crowd was pretty quiet for the match. And why shouldn’t they be? This is a feud that played out in 2015 with Wyatt winning clean. Now Wyatt’s on some kind of “big match losing streak” that upsets his fans to no end. This is a guy who deserves to be a legit scary bad-ass who wins matches…but he doesn’t seem to win anything these days. So the crowd just wasn’t buying into what they were presented with, even though things picked up a bit once Wyatt and Ambrose gave them reason to get excited.

Wyatt Family 3I mean, this was an excellent match. Now that I think about it, I don’t know if I’ve seen a bad match between these two guys as they’ve got tremendous in-ring chemistry. The match ending prematurely made sense from a storyline standpoint, but I wasn’t a bit fan of it because all the Wyatt Family can do is beat people down before losing subsequent matches. Wyatt and Luke Harper deserve more than that, though…they’re just so immensely talented in a number of different ways.

Bray Wyatt vs Triple HWhat I loved most about last night’s main event was the confrontation between Bray Wyatt and Triple H. It was brief, but the crowd popped for it. And after the staredown, Wyatt’s smile and caressing of the WWE championship (hopefully) set up Wyatt for bigger things down the road. I mean, it’s something that should be happening as Wyatt is absolutely deserving of being in the main event title picture at this stage. WWE wonders why they don’t have any top level heels to carry the company…all they have to do is see how they’ve castrated the push of Bray Wyatt over the past year to see why.

And while I was hoping for a legitimate shake-up to take place this weekend in Toronto, with Ambrose standing tall over Triple H I think it’s safe to now say that Ambrose will lose and the WrestleMania main event is still set in stone. A shame, really…because I think the current slate of matches isn’t the best that WWE could offer.

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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!

RAW Thoughts

It’s the “go home” show for this Sunday’s FastLane which will tell the world who will main event WrestleMania against Triple H. There are some mid-card matches already announced for the show, but how will they progress with storylines? Let’s find out!!

Stephanie McMahon & Dean AmbroseI emphasized last week how I didn’t see how Dean Ambrose getting decimated by Brock Lesnar helped him in any way. Did it make him look tough? Sure. Did it make him look crazy? Absolutely. Did it give me the sense that Ambrose had any chance at all in facing Lesnar? Of course not…how could it? Ambrose didn’t stand a chance. Of course, WWE has been promoting it all week long and even opened up RAW with it. I still don’t know how it helps him on a main event level. What I liked, though, was how Stephanie McMahon immediately emphasized that Ambrose couldn’t do anything without the help of Roman Reigns…further planting the seeds for one of the two men to turn on the other.

Fatal FivewayIn terms of the first match, I was really happy to see all five participants. I was especially happy to see Tyler Breeze getting a spotlight on RAW in a match where he wasn’t designated to be “enhancement talent” and lose in under five minutes. This guy has all it takes to be a star…he just needs Vince to stop looking at untalented oafs like Braun Strowman and start realizing that the future of the sports entertainment business isn’t all muscles, but rather in-ring entertainment…whether it’s by wrestling or by being a character or both. The sooner Vince realizes that NXT is popular because it’s the anti-WWE, the better the overall WWE product will be.

Kevin OwensI really enjoyed the final few minutes of the match. What I really enjoyed was the surprising finish. I mean, I honestly didn’t think that Ambrose was going to lose the title. I thought he’d lose at FastLane and then defend the title at Wrestlemania. Having him lose the title (and not actually take the pinfall) means that there’s an even bigger chance he’ll be winning this Sunday. The whole thing is crazy. But in the end, Kevin Owens is your new Intercontinental champion, which opens a world of opportunities up for him heading into the big show. This one match has me super intrigued for how FastLane will play out.

Mark HenryWhile entertaining, there wasn’t much else of note with the Big E vs Mark Henry match. I mean, they announced a TALK SHOW SEGMENT for this Sunday’s PPV with the tag team champions. What in the hell?? Are you telling me that WWE Creative has spent so much goddamn time on the main event that they’ve forgotten how to build-up a tag team division? Sigh. My only hope is that WWE introduces a tag team (like, say…Enzo & Big Cass?) during this interview segment at FastLane so they can build some type of interest in a tag team title match at WrestleMania in the limited time that they have.

Brie BellaI’ll give credit where it’s due…I think Brie Bella gave her best promo ever in her segment with Charlotte. Sure, the script was completely contrived and the end result was pretty unrealistic, but Bella really did a decent job. Thankfully, Charlotte still carried the conversation because, quite frankly, she’s an incredible heel on the mic and knows how to carry herself. She just exudes charisma and personality and confidence. Hell…she doesn’t even NEED Ric standing beside her to be a credible heel champion. She’s simply awesome on her own.

AJ StylesI enjoyed the AJ Styles match with Miz. I enjoyed it primarily because Chris Jericho was on commentary putting Styles over in a way that Miz couldn’t. Styles sold a lot for Miz, but in the end he kicked out of Miz’s finisher, they finally gave him the mic after he won, and the entire segment was one big spotlight for the Phenomenal One. I awas really expecting a triple threat match at FastLane, but it sounds like we’re heading for the “rubber match” between Jericho and Styles instead with Miz left on the outside looking in. Not sure if I like this idea entirely, though…unless it sets up a triple threat for WrestleMania.

Dudley BoyzI love that after all these years, the Dudley Boyz still know how to rile up a crowd. They simply walked out there and delivered a promo that proved why they are still so successful after all this time. It’s never been just about them delivering inside the ring, but also how they were able to promo like no other team of their era. Bubba, in particular, knows how to hit all of the right spots given to him by WWE Creative so that the points are made exactly the way they’re supposed to. While I’d rather see the Dudleyz go out as babyfaces at WrestleMania, if they can appear on the “SuperBowl of Wrestling” one more time then it doesn’t really matter if they’re cheered or booed. They’ve earned their spots at this point.

Next up was the “classic match-up” of Paige vs Summer Rae. Of course…Summer Rae picked up the pinfall. Wait…what?????

I don’t even know what to say about this one. Is Summer getting pushed? Is Paige still injured? What’s the deal? I’m all about upset victories here and there, but this one came out of nowhere and doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m confused.

Paul Heyman & Roman ReignsGosh…I just love Paul Heyman. I also love the promos that he delivers. What I loved about his promo with Roman Reigns was that it potentially set up a Heyman/Reigns alliance at some point down the road. Don’t believe me? If WWE really wants to pull the trigger on the Ambrose Asylum babyface run on top, it would make perfect sense to see Roman Reigns turn into the next “Paul Heyman Guy“. They’ve always had respect for each other in their promos, and despite the Dudleyz Boyz attacking Reigns and Michael Cole insinuating it could’ve been because of Paul Heyman, I think it would be extremely interesting to see Brock taking the summer off and Reigns being a Heyman Guy…rebuilding himself as a massive heel (who is cheered because of his affiliation with Heyman) and going after Ambrose as champion. It just has a world of possibilities.

For the record, I think the #SocialOutcasts have TREMENDOUS potential.

Goldust and R-Truth delivered one of the greatest segments I’ve ever seen…

I didn’t get much from the 6-man tag match or the Divas match. If anything, they were just filler for the night. Having said that, they each pushed along storylines for FastLane…they just weren’t anything much.

I really enjoyed the Bray Wyatt promo last night. Wyatt very clearly stated that he wants the fans to join him, but in order to do that they had to bow before him. It was eloquent and pointed.

Big Show vs Braun StrowmanThe Big Show vs Braun Strowman match was about as boring as you’d expect it to be. I’m sorry, Vince…but Strowman is NOT your next big monster heel superstar. You can book him that way, but the fans will NOT accept him as a legitimate superstar any time soon. He did NOTHING last night to impress me or change my mind. I just don’t see what Vince & Triple H see in this guy other than his size and muscles. I’m not sure if this is leading to a triple threat match at WrestleMania or not, but I think it was absolutely ridiculous to put these seven guys in the main event to close out the night. 

Really? You’ve got Ambrose and Reigns and the League of Nations and the Dudleyz and the Wyatts all in the building, and your main event concludes with Big Show, Kane, and Ryback standing tall as we fade to black?

Mind blown*****

In the end, this was a pretty good episode of RAW. While I think the first two hours were MUCH stronger than the final hour, overall this show did a good job of setting up FastLane.

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!

RAW Thoughts

RAW ThoughtsWe continue the Road to WrestleMania with a stop in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m interested to see how the rest of the FastLane undercard develops and where it may lead. Let’s go!

Matt Hardy HOFBrock Lesnar & Paul HeymanWe kick things off with the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar, along with his advocate Paul Heyman. The crowd pops huge for his entrance and are very quiet to listen to Heyman’s promo…as they should. You want to know who the biggest superstar in the entire company is at this point? It ain’t Cena, it ain’t Reigns, and no…it ain’t Ambrose. It may suck for Vince that a part-time player is the biggest star he has, but that’s his own fault. Brock Lesnar is, simply put, the #1 box office draw that WWE has right now. As much as they want to set-up Reigns as the winner at WrestleMania to give him “his moment”, what’s BEAST for business is to have Lesnar be the champion.

But those are just my opinions…

Dean Ambrose vs Brock LesnarAnd yes, Paul Heyman delivered another promo that I was more than happy to listen to. I’d much rather hear Heyman than 99% of the current roster open up the show any day of the week. When Dean Ambrose came out, he was able to deliver another solid promo, as well. He’s got a unique delivery that plays to his gimmick. Sometimes the fans “get it”; sometimes they don’t. But he’s still miles ahead of most of the roster.

The fact that they’re playing the three top babyfaces off against each other for FastLane is an interesting situation. You KNOW that Reigns will be booed out of the building if he wins and that either Ambrose or Lesnar winning will result in a massive pop. How does this match help Reigns in any way? Once again, I’ve GOT to question WWE’s booking decisions when it comes to Reigns. I just don’t get it.

I understand that WWE is in the middle of pushing Kalisto as Rey Mysterio 2.0, but there is NO WAY that he should be in a competitive match against Rusev. I can only suspend disbelief for so long. The fact that Rusev sold so well for Kalisto is proof that he’s a future champion and a team player. He really made Kalisto look better than he had any right to be. Remember when Rusev was dominating John Cena and killing people in the ring? Yeah…me, neither. Let’s push Braun Strowman some more…

Stephanie McMahon, Roman Reigns, & Dean AmbroseThe backstage segment with Stephanie McMahon, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose was very intriguing only for the spot where McMahon suggested that one of the friends will stab the other in the back, bringing up Shawn Michaels turning on Marty Jannetty and Seth Rollins turning on them. Is this a legitimate foreshadowing of a breakdown and a heel turn? Or simply a dangling carrot?

Social Outcasts 3It was nice to see the #SocialOutcasts get some more mic time. I liked the team of Adam Rose & Curtis Axel, too. They had chemistry and looked really good against the Usos. The only problem was that with Heath Slater acting like a goof on the outside, it looked like he was trying to emulate the New Day…and that’s not good when you’re trying to get a push for being original and unique. Honestly…it’s 3MB all over again. At least they’re getting a spot on the roster, right? It’s better than nothing, I suppose.

But we still have no idea just what tag team will be “over” enough to take on the New Day at WrestleMania. Crazy.

AJ Styles 1I was wondering how they were going to get AJ Styles over with his MizTV segment, because Styles isn’t the best on the mic. I quickly realized that Miz was going to put Styles over on his own by not letting Styles speak yet still going off on the mic about his accolades. Not the worst idea in the world, when you think about it. It was also intriguing to put Styles in a position where there was no other option than to get a babyface pop against the very hated Miz. Definitely smart booking all around in order to throw more “hype” on the Styles Train, though in the end I’m not sure it did much to help Styles get more acclimated with the WWE Universe or get him over.

Alicia Fox & Brie BellaI wasn’t going to even mention the match between Brie Bella and Charlotte because it’s been done and nobody gives a shit. Then, for whatever reason, Ric Flair caused a distraction with the referee when Charlotte was in a sleeperhold (???). Yet he was still causing a distraction when Charlotte escaped, went for the figure-four leglock, and inexplicably got rolled-up for the pinfall. I mean…what total and utter bullshit. When they played Brie up to fans for being Daniel Bryan’s wife didn’t work to get her over (keep doing “Yes Kicks”, Brie…maybe they’ll cheer you more!), they thought that her being the sister of the recently-surgeried Nikki Bella would help get her over (she’s fearless for having surgery and YOU can be fearless for being her sister!). FFS…what a crock of shit. So do we now have to put up with Brie Bella vs Charlotte at FastLane?? What happened to Sasha Banks?? Where’s Becky Lynch?? Where’s Paige?? Where are the TALENTED women wrestlers??  Goddamn…this whole segment just pissed me off.

Wyatts vs Big ShowI’m wondering why Big Show is being inserted in a storyline against the Wyatt Family. I thought they were going after Brock Lesnar. Are we potentially looking at a Big Show vs Braun Strowman match at WrestleMania? I’d prefer that over Lesnar vs Strowman…but I think we might be getting Show vs Strowman at FastLane instead. Regardless, I feel bad for Strowman because he’s being thrown into a no-win situation. Why no-win? Because he’s simply too green to be given the spotlight at this point in time. He’s not ready…at all. Hell…he didn’t have televised matches or even house show matches while in Florida. How is he magically ready for the main roster? It’s typical “WWE likes big muscular men” bullshit booking. Strowman will fade out like Giant Gonzales or Great Khali within a year or two.

Tyler BreezeI know that Titus O’Neil is currently doing everything right outside of WWE and that’s the reason why he’s being pushed, but the guy simply isn’t getting over with audiences. It’s the same thing that happened with the Prime Time Players. He’s talented and charismatic, but he just doesn’t have “it”. Having him going over Tyler Breeze is a waste of a win. Showing two or three people standing up to cheer once he got his pinfall isn’t going to convince the world that he’s worthy of a push because he’s not. The guy who IS deserving of a push is the one who jobbed out WAAAAYY too quickly. Unbelievable.

Yes, Dolph...we're ALL surprised you won.

Yes, Dolph…we’re ALL surprised you won. By all means keep celebrating.

I don’t even know what to say at the outcome of the Dolph Ziggler match with Kevin Owens. I mean, Owens dominated the entire match (and rightfully so), yet somehow still loses via CLEAN PINFALL. What in the blue hell did Owens do to deserve losing this “feud” with Ziggler? Better yet, who in the blue hell is Ziggler blowing in order to win this feud?? What the hell is going on tonight? Who is booking this shit? I mean, you’ve got some very unusual decisions going on tonight. I’m not upset with the show in general, but I’m certainly upset with some of the wins and losses because they just don’t seem to make any long-term booking sense. I just don’t get it.

Sasha BanksI was really excited about the possibility of Sasha Banks battling Charlotte at WrestleMania, but now it looks like Becky Lynch will be teaming with Banks to go up against the untalented team of Naomi and Tamina…either at FastLane or on Smackdown or next week’s RAW. I don’t mind Banks being turned babyface and leaving Team B.A.D., but I was really hoping that she’d remain on her own. I just think you could easily make her a “Stone Cold” Steve Austin type of Diva babyface by taking on anyone. The crowd loves her regardless, so why does she need to team with Lynch to get the “babyface rub”? I would’ve been fine with a Banks vs Lynch feud at FastLane without getting Team B.A.D. involved, but I guess there are other booking plans afoot.

New DayThe final match was fun to watch. All five men are at the top of their games and the match flowed extremely well, culminating with a final sequence of events that led to the pinfall. Great stuff that the fans enjoyed. It didn’t really push any story other than the Ambrose vs Lesnar feud that should add more fuel to the FastLane fire. So while the match was entertaining, it didn’t really do much other than that. So that begs the question…what was the point? You would think that the Road to WrestleMania would actually help storylines progress, especially in a main event. Instead, we get a small storyline for FastLane (Why are they hyping Ambrose vs Lesnar? Is that the new Mania direction??) and nothing for the tag team champions. Sigh…

Here’s the deal with RAW tonight…it wasn’t a bad show. In fact, I’d say it was a pretty decent show with lots going on. And whether or not I agree with their booking decisions shouldn’t take away from my enjoyment of the program itself. Why? Because WWE is eliciting an emotional response from me. No, I don’t like some of their decisions but I’m willing to sit back and wait in order to find out where they end up. Sasha as champ at Mania? Owens in a big-time storyline stewing from his frustrations? Rusev not being treated like a jobber? Styles in a high-profile Mania match? Until these booking decisions play out at Mania, I can only accept the fact that I’m emotionally invested in the show. Whether it’s a positive or negative response is besides the point. I actually care…and I suppose that’s the most important thing.

**********

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!

RAW Thoughts

On the heels on a fun Royal Rumble event, WWE has promised a great program tonight on RAW. I’m definitely looking forward to it, so let’s see what’s going on…

triple H

Well…the opening segment had Vince McMahon doing his 90’s heel shtick. It’s tired…it’s old…it’s just like him. Insane. Cheap heat will only get you so far, though. I just want it to end.

Triple H 2Triple H 1Triple H came out and gave a promo reminiscent of his promos from the early 2000’s. I mean, it may have well been taken verbatim from one of those speeches. “I don’t need the title…I want it.” Blah blah blah. The whole thing just seemed played out and uninspired. Unless you’re a relatively newer fan, then this all would seem fantastically new and original.

The first match was the Shawn Michaels wannabe, Dolph Ziggler, taking on Kevin Owens. The match itself was pretty good. What I enjoyed was the fact that Ziggler displayed a lot of aggression in the match. There was no reason for the match, though, and nothing came from it in the end. If you’re trying to set-up storylines for FastLane and/or WrestleMania, you’ve got two major players with no hint of what’s to come. In the end, Owens cleanly beat Ziggler as expected. Nothing much to talk about other than that.

Bo-RidaThe next segment was pretty great. The #SocialOutcasts had a rap battle against Flo Rida. I don’t know if I can adequately tell you how great the Outcasts were, but I think I’m pretty damn sure that Bo Dallas (aka Bo Rida) out-rapped Flo Rida. Seriously…I think Flo forgot his pre-written lyrics and messed it all up somehow. But don’t just take my word for it…

Bo Dallas vs Bubba DudleyThis basically was a cheesy set-up for the Dudley Boyz vs the #SocialOutcast team of Dallas & Curtis Axel. Bo has some new gear and, quite frankly, it’s about time. He’ll never be “cut” or “shredded”, but he is an outstanding in-ring performer and deserves to look his best…I think this gear does that for him. The match itself kinda sucked ass, with Flo Rida trying to do some kind of “run in” like celebrities often do. It just didn’t work, though it was awesome to see the debut of the “Bo Train”.

This lead to…

Styles vs JerichoAJ StylesYeah…this match actually took place! I’m not sure what the agents had in mind with this match, but Jericho had more offense than he probably should have had. Having said that, AJ Styles was selling his ass off…similar to Ziggler in some respects. He was crisp with his offense, too…looking “phenomenal” when he got to get his shit in. Chris Jericho, on the other hand, was huffing and puffing all over the place…barely selling anything the way he used to. This should have been a MUCH better match, but in the end seeing Styles win with a clean pinfall helped “make” him on RAW.

But let it be said…Styles outperformed Jericho tonight and looked good IN SPITE of what he was given to work with.

Sasha BanksWe were treated to a five minute divas match between Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks before it was interrupted by Charlotte, who took out both women. As expected, this is setting up a 3-way match at FastLane for the Divas championship. I’m not sure how this sets up WrestleMania, though (probably Charlotte vs Banks). The segment told a story, but the match was a throwaway.

After 90 minutes, RAW has disappointed thus far.

Bray Wyatt 2Next up was Bray Wyatt vs Kane and, as you’d expect, it wasn’t much of a match. With a bit of outside assistance from the Wyatt Family, Kane fell fairly quickly to the leader. I don’t know what it means, but I doubt Bray’s future has anything to do with Kane or the Undertaker. I suspect Bray will be placed in a major match at FastLane that will have ramifications for WrestleMania.

We’re expected to find out which “big star” will be appearing out of a limousine next. Ummm…okay. Randy Orton, perhaps? Maybe The Rock? I really don’t expect that big of a surprise, to be honest…though I’m hoping I’m wrong.

WWE teased that The Miz was going to be the big surprise, but then it became clear that he wasn’t that person.

Thankfully, I was wrong and The Rock arrived to entertain the hell out of me. I can’t even tell you just how awesome Dwayne Johnson was. Whether on script or not, he was fantastically entertaining. Whether he was talking to the Big Show or Lana & Rusev or “going off script” to talk to some wrestling geeks dressed up in the front row, Rock was on point and better than ANYTHING else on the show up to this point.

And then the NEW DAY showed up to have a promo segment with Rock!!

For the record, this describes my thoughts on the end of the segment…

Rock & UsosSo yeah, the Usos got involved to attack the New Day and continue their feud. I’m so tired of it, to be honest. I was really hoping it’d be done after the Rumble. New Day needs some “new blood” to feud with and the Usos…regardless of how over they might be with Rock giving them the rub…just isn’t the answer for one of the most over acts on the entire roster. I hope something new happens before WrestleMania because otherwise the tag title match is probably gonna suck.

Natayla & PaigeThe next match was one supposedly based on the storyline from Total Divas, which was filmed months ago. Paige & Natalya beat Brie Bella and Alicia Fox (apparently, Alicia & Paige had a “falling out” and it’s one of the main selling points of the season debut episode…or something like that). It was alright, but the match was too quick to be special in any way. Judging by the people sitting on their hands once the match was over (aren’t they supposed to clap and cheer for the babyfaces when they win?), they felt the same way as I did.

The next match was the new United States champion Kalisto taking on The Miz. Y’know, I think Miz has had a pretty good 24 hours. No, he hasn’t won a championship or anything, but he was a highlight of the Royal Rumble (making a point to join the commentators until Brock Lesnar was eliminated before entering the match itself), had a nice (but short) segment with The Rock, and then had a nice two-segment match with Kalisto. I wouldn’t mind watching another match or two between these competitors.

Main event time…Reigns & Ambrose vs Sheamus & Rusev

Reigns & Ambrose vs Sheamus & Rusev 2The last match of the evening was Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose taking on Sheamus and Rusev. First thing first…the reaction for Reigns was decidedly different than the crowd from the Royal Rumble. Was it 100% cheers? Heck, no…but it was a solid pop for Reigns, just behind the one that his partner got. I didn’t mind the match at all and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. I don’t know if it helped continue storylines or not with the League of Nations or if it ended them, but it was entertaining (as was the post-match beat down on Rusev). Reigns & Ambrose vs Sheamus & Rusev3

FastLane main eventStephanie came out after the match to announce that at FastLane it will be Dean Ambrose vs Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar (who wasn’t even on the show) for the right to face Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania. Everybody and their dog knows that Reigns will end up pinning Ambrose to win and keep Lesnar strong so he can face Bray Wyatt on the Grandest Stage of Them All. I’m not entirely against either match, but I feel like there could still be stronger pairings for the big PPV.FastLane reaction*****

But these are just my opinions. What do YOU think? I thought it was an average RAW at best, though some people online didn’t agree with my assessment…

Hit me up in the comment section below or sound off on social media…