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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NXT TakeOver: Dallas Fallout – The New Superstars

Last night NXT put on yet another spectacular show. When all was said and done, NXT TakeOver: Dallas gave us two title changes, a Match of the Year frontrunner, two in-ring debuts, and ringside appearances by two international (currently non-NXT) superstars. So at the end of the day, what does NXT look like going forward?

The New NXT Superstars

There were four big stories that came out of NXT TakeOver: Dallas. These stories involved two in-ring debuts for the brand and two very big appearances that could potentially change the landscape of NXT over the summer months.

Austin Aries“The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” Austin Aries made his NXT in-ring debut with a win over Baron Corbin. On one hand I really felt bad for Aries to have to sell for a big oaf like Corbin. You could tell by the disdain of the live audience that he just isn’t connecting like he should, even as a heel. NXT audiences really appreciate in-ring ability, of which Corbin has very little. In addition, his progression has been slow with little visible improvements…so Aries had to put in some hard work in order to (a) make himself believable as a smaller talent with the ability to hang with the big boys while (b) selling enough to make Corbin still look dominant. While this match showcased his skills, it certainly wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen Aries. I’m really looking forward to seeing him take on some more capatable opponents over the coming months, perhaps even in the WWE Global Cruiserweight Tournament.

Kota IbushiSpeaking of the Cruiserweight Tournament, one of the biggest shocks of the night was seeing one of the most coveted free agents in all of wrestling, Kota Ibushi, attending the NXT TakeOver event. Because of the upcoming tournament, there are names being brought up that would have never been considered at any other time as participating under a WWE banner. One of those names is Ibushi, a 12-year veteran of DDT and New Japan (primarily) who is considered one of the greatest high-flying performers in the world. Despite primarily considered a cruiserweight, he has battled some of the best wrestlers in the world and would be considered a legitimate threat for the NXT championship, having already defeated Finn Balor for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship back in 2011. Having recently battled the top performers in New Japan (including Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, Ricochet, Hirooki Goto, AJ Styles, Tetsuya Naito, and Togi Makabe. Having Ibushi in NXT would be a MASSIVE coup for the company.

Dixie Carter & Bobby RoodeThe other shock came in the form of former TNA World Heavyweight Champion, Bobby Roode. The rumors over the past couple of weeks since both he and Eric Young quit TNA had seen Young being the person of interest by NXT and Roode asking too high of a price for WWE tastes. However, it was “The It Factor” who appeared on the live broadcast. This is another MASSIVE coup for the company if he ends up signing (and it’s likely that he is if he was showcased on live television like that). Roode is one of the best all-around performers that TNA ever had, having been a 2-time World champion, 8-time tag team champion, and most recently the TNA King of the Mountain (whatever that means). Having debuted back in 1998, this Canadian-born superstar is near the end of his career at age 39, but if you take a look at him you would never know that…you’d think he was still in his physical prime. If he were to enter NXT, I doubt you would see him there for very long. At 6’0″ and 240lbs, he’s a perfect embodiment of what Vince likes in a WWE main roster performer. And with his years of experience, he would be a very welcome addition to the WWE locker room.

Shinsuke Nakamura 1Finally, the biggest non-title story of the night came from the NXT in-ring debut of Shinsuke Nakamura in a legitimate Match of the Year candidate against Sami Zayn. The crowd cheered and chanted for him like the true superstar that he is. If any casual WWE fan happened to be watching the show because they had the WWE Network for WrestleMania, they’d have thought the second coming of Hogan himself had entered the ring. And props where they’re due…Zayn gave one of the best performances of his career, giving Nakamura everything he could want in a “strong style match” and then some. Nakamura was able to hit all of his key moves while making Zayn look like a damn skinny Superman at the same time. I don’t know how long he’ll be in NXT, but Nakamura’s already a huge superstar and Vince should be thanking his lucky stars that Triple H knows unique talent when he sees it. I don’t care what it takes…just give me more and more Nakamura. The man will be in a major WrestleMania match within the next three years.

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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!

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

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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

We’re about to discuss the go-home show for WrestleMania and I gotta say…I’m not really that interested in the big event, if I’m being honest. I’m much more excited about NXT TakeOver: Dallas at this point. Will RAW change that point of view for me? Let’s find out!!

UnderTaker vs Shane McMahon

UndertakerWell…the opening segment was absolutely awesome. Undertaker‘s opening promo was excellent and really drove home that he didn’t want to lose on Sunday. The interruption by Shane McMahon was perfectly timed and the back-n-forth between each man was great. The confrontation by Shane-o-Mac looked realistic. The end result of the segment gave people hope to believe that Shane could actually defeat Undertaker at WrestleMania. I honestly don’t think that you could have asked for a hotter opening than this.

Zack RyderI thought that using a complete loser like Zack Ryder to put over the Chris Jericho vs AJ Styles feud was a good idea. I mean, what better way to completely embarrass Jericho than to have him lose to Ryder? Makes perfect sense. I think Jericho’s done a great job at trying to put Styles over in this feud and, even though I was originally against it, I’m looking forward to this match-up as it has the potential to steal the show. And Ryder? I mean, just look at this fuck-tard. Look at his ridiculous beard. It’s like he purchased Hollywood Hogan‘s beard dye kit from his nWo days.

Charlotte vs Sasha Banks vs Becky LynchCharlotteI love the in-chemistry between Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks. There’s just something about them that clicks when they get inside of the ring together. The match between Charlotte and Lynch was really good. At least it was good for as short as it was. The blatant interference of Ric Flair gave Lynch the “out” that she needed in order to stay strong. That’s been the way Lynch has been booked from the beginning: constantly screwed out of her title matches without legitimately losing. It’s smart to lose like that because the babyface retains their heat. And at this point, WWE is keeping Charlotte and Banks apart…and that’s really smart, in my opinion. The big money match is between Charlotte and Banks, so I think keeping them apart from wrestling one-on-one is a really good idea. The anticipation continues to build for this triple threat title match because it legitimately could steal the whole show on Sunday.

Andre the Giant 3rd Annual Memorial Battle RoyalThe segment lasted about three or four minutes, but at least WWE attempted to give people a sense of what the Andre Memorial Battle Royal will be like on Sunday during the pre-show. I saw Goldust, Damien Sandow (!!!), Fandango, the Ascension, and even that gay member of the Prime Time Players. Man…the stars will be coming out to play for this one!!

sarcasmAt least things were about to pick up again…

Triple H vs Roman ReignsRoman Reigns vs Triple HOnce again, Triple H attempted to put over Roman Reigns as a babyface while trying to get the world to boo him. The only thing he did, though, was get the crowd to chant “WHAT?” a couple of times and boo anything that had anything to do with Roman Reigns. And really, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard Triple H put over an opponent as much as he tried to put over Reigns. Unfortunately, the segment ended with a “Roman sucks” chant…so we have our first REAL taste of what to expect at WrestleMania

New Day vs League of NationsAlberto Del Rio vs Kofi KingstonI really enjoyed the entire segment with the New Day and the League of Nations. First off, the New Day is SUPER over and it never fails to surprise me to see the crowds get into their gimmick. I mean, it’s almost like the Attitude Era with them. The crowds LOVE them. I thought that having Kofi Kingston taking on Alberto Del Rio was smart because Del Rio was really able to put across a sense of energy and anger and realism to the match. I was surprised to see Del Rio lose because that, by definition, means the League will pull out the victory on Sunday night. Whether or not that actually happens it debatable, but the entire segment (yes…including Coach‘s appearance) was pretty fun.

Seth RollinsI love that WWE is doing whatever they can in order to put Roman Reigns over as a babyface, but it’s too late now. The fans aren’t prepared to cheer for him no matter WHAT you do. The backstage segment may have worked a year ago, but it’s way too late for that now. I wish WWE would simply bite the bullet and accept that they fucked up, realize Seth Rollins is their “babyface face of the company” once he returns, and turn Reigns (officially) at Mania. I don’t see any other way out of this.

Kalisto vs RybackKalistoAgain, the booking was smart here as Kalisto (i.e. the REALLY small underdog) was taking on Konner (i.e. the REALLY big opponent). It was just a way to show the world that he stood a chance against Ryback…though he really doesn’t. Their in-ring confrontation, though, did little to entice me. This is one of the least desirable matches on the entire Mania card. I’m already yawning at the mere thought of watching it.

Dean Ambrose vs Brock LesnarDean Ambrose & Brock LesnarI don’t think that anybody can listen to a Paul Heyman promo and NOT get excited about whatever match he’s involved with. Even with Dean Ambrose getting his ass handed to him at every single corner of the WWE Universe, I’m still interested to see this match because Paul Hayman has made me interested. He’s absolutely right, too…Brock Lesnar is not just a “once in a lifetime” performer, but a “once ever” performer. Any time you see him, you’re seeing something you’ll never see again. For that reason alone, this match is worth watching.

The Ambrose part of this segment, though…was dumb.

Kevin Owens vs Zack Ryder vs Stardust vs Dolph Ziggler vs Sami Zayn vs Sin Cara vs The MizKevin OwensI’m sorry, but this whole thing just sucks. This should be a match between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. I understand wanting to re-build their feud for the main roster and all, but to include cast-offs like Sin Cara 2.0 and Zack Ryder is a goddamn joke. Not only that, but it makes the Intercontinental championship look like a joke, too. I mean, Owens wanted to wrestle either Ryder, Cara, or Stardust because he thought he could beat any of them. So why are they part of this match? If they win, haven’t you already said that an undeserving wrestler is your champion? And even if Owens retains, does it mean as much if the match includes those three lower midcard performers? I’m sure the match itself will be fine, but Owens (and the IC title) deserves more.

Roman ReignsThe final segment of the night brought a cheer from the crowd for Reigns, but it didn’t last long before a “You still suck” chant broke out. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I feel bad for the guy. He’s not doing anything wrong. His detractors can bitch and moan about his promo (in)ability or lack of in-ring skills, but he’s got everything it takes to be the WWE champion. Anybody who claims otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Sufferin' succotashBut despite the hard work and the numerous efforts by WWE Creative to get people to boo Triple H and cheer Roman Reigns, it’s a matter of too little, too late. They blew their chance with Reigns the second he said “Sufferin’ Succotash” and then proceeded to kill the entire roster at the Royal Rumble. It’s been OVER A YEAR since all of that took place and the crowd is STILL booing him. Why continue to push him as your #1 babyface? Roman Reigns vs everybody

John ReignsIs this a situation similar to John Cena? Sure…but Cena has been around as the top guy for a decade. Reigns has been (arguably) the top guy for less than a year. It’s unfair to compare the two situations because Cena is still seen as a massive cross-appeal superstar. Reigns isn’t that well-known in the lexicon of the general public…and he will only be seen as a massive joke by the casual audience because any time you show him off, the crowds will be booing. How will casual audiences think of this guy as anything other than a joke if the #1 good guy in the company gets more boos than cheers on a regular basis?

WrestleMania 32 - bWrestleMania‘s final moments may just go down in history as some of the most awkward and depressing we’ve ever seen. Goddamn…I really hope WWE is ready to push the reset button and do something incredibly drastic in Dallas this Sunday. Give people a reason to watch on Monday that doesn’t include booing the good guy.

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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

We’re two weeks away from WrestleMania and the card is NOT living up to expectations. With a main event that has the potential to be a complete disaster in terms of crowd reaction, how will WWE try (again) to build-up Roman Reigns as the “babyface of the company”?? Roman Reigns 16

Roman Reigns vs Stephanie McMahonI liked how Roman Reigns handled himself on the mic in last night’s opening segment. The problem, though, is that it was way too little too late. He should’ve been playing the “bad ass of few words” for months now. Short’n’sweet promos so his fists do the talking for him. Sigh…I just can’t help but feel bad for the guy. The segment wasn’t bad at all and was enhanced by just how incredibly hot Stephanie was looking last night. Damn!!

Kevin Owens vs AJ StylesThe Kevin Owens vs AJ Styles match was absolutely a PPV-quality battle. I mean…damn. This was exactly the type of match that fans of both men were hoping for because it showcased both men in a very positive way (although in all fairness, Owens has been spectacular ever since arriving at NXT). This was a 3-segment war and a 20+ minute battle that ended in the perfect way: Chris Jericho causing a distraction which allowed Owens to roll Styles up for the cheap pinfall. Storylines advanced and this was perfect booking for all three men.

Kevin OwensI never dislike situations when multiple wrestlers all want a title at the same time. Regardless of who it is or what title it is, it elevates the championship because it’s something that people want. Everybody could tell that they were slowly building-up Kevin Owens to defend his title in a Fatal Fourway against Sami Zayn, The Miz, and Neville. That match now has a slightly different twist to it with Dolph Ziggler being plugged into the Neville spot (I thought Ziggler was off of the Mania card after losing to Triple H last week?). The match should still be great, though the only people that deserve to win are either Owens or Zayn.

Dean Ambrose & Terry FunkIt was awesome to see Terry Funk in a skit last night with Dean Ambrose. He looked good and sounded good. I understand where they are going with these hardcore legends “passing the torch” to Ambrose…I just don’t know if it’ll simply be for WrestleMania or if it’ll continue to be his gimmick down the road.

New DayThe segment between the League of Nations and the New Day went on way too long. I mean, New Day was doing their best to be the most pandering PG-rated babyfaces in the entire company. In other words, they began to sound like John Cena and, thus, stopped being cool in just about any way. What was worse was that the League of Nations were outside the ring laughing it all off instead of getting mad…so the “verbal assault” (per Michael Cole) really had no damn effect at all. Just silliness. I have zero desire to watch their match at WrestleMania.

I couldn’t be happier to hear that WWE is inducting a true legend, Stan “The Lariat” Hansen to the Hall of Fame. I just really hope that they do him justice with video packages that showcase just how incredibly awesome he was. Their initial video fell a little flat to me.

Stan Hansen - HOF

I liked the long Shane McMahon vs Undertaker video package from last night. There were a number of big-time stars (Steve Austin, HBK, Edge, Pat Patterson, Booker T, Ric Flair) giving their thoughts on the match and, quite frankly, did more to push the match than the in-ring segment did last week.

Zack Ryder 1Kevin Owens was extremely entertaining during his #KOMania match introduction last night. WWE is giving him more and more opportunity and he’s continuing to rise to the occasion. While I think the end result of a 7-person ladder match for the IC title is a great idea, it’s absolutely laughable that Sin Cara and ZACK RYDER are involved. You know that you’re scraping the bottom of a very shallow bucket when Ryder is in an important match at WrestleMania. Wow…

Triple H vs Roman ReignsThe segment with Triple H and Roman Reigns backstage should have resulted in a monster pop from the crowd (it was very reminiscent of segments from the 90’s including the Rock and Steve Austin), but it didn’t. I thought it was a great spot, but they faded to black with the live crowd booing Reigns. I mean, it doesn’t matter WHAT Vince & Company do to book Reigns at this point…the people simply don’t seem to like him. And to make things even worse is that the live television crowds are beginning to influence the casual fans, so it’s only building and building. Ugh.

Usos vs DudleyzWhat was interesting about the tag team storyline between the Dudley Boyz, the Usos, and the “Golden Truth” was that the crowd was booing the Usos. I realize that it’s a Philadelphia crowd so they like to boo the babyfaces, but I think this was more a case of the crowd telling the world that they think the Usos are stale (they are) and that they didn’t really care about the storyline. Again, I feel bad for them because they deserve a Mania match…but I also can’t ignore the fact that they need to turn heel soon in order to regain some momentum in the tag team division.

Vince McMahonVince McMahon did more to hurt the Shane/Undertaker match than help it. He actually had the balls to say that Shane McMahon was probably going to be Undertaker‘s toughest opponent at WrestleMania…which was meant with laughter, boos, and massive indifference. He then went on to say that if Undertaker lost, not only would Stephanie, Triple H, and Vince “probably” all leave the company but Undertaker would be fired (it was insinuated, anyway). So does this practically guarantee that Undertaker wins? It seems that way.

Braun Strowman vs Dean Ambrose 1The main event match was a joke. Any thoughts that Braun Strowman can be a superstar are on the back-burner right now. Because even with (arguably) the biggest babyface on the roster, Dean Ambrose, in the ring in the main event of RAW, the crowd STILL chanted “This is boring” and were quiet the entire segment. Even Ambrose taking a chair to Strowman seemed out of left field with no real build to it. The show ended and I was left thinking…that’s it?? I can’t wait to see what the ratings are for that final hour.

If this was WWE’s way of proving how dangerous Ambrose could be with a weapon, I guess it succeeded a bit. I still don’t think he’s got a chance of beating Brock Lesnar and this segment did nothing to change my mind on that. Just bad booking all around. Braun Strowman vs Dean Ambrose 2

Overall, the show was really good…but their final hour left a lot to be desired.

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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 Road to WrestleMania ran through Pittsburgh last night with the great anticipation as all of the “big superstars” were expected to show up. Did the show meet expectations?Undertaker pwned

The New Day 4I love how New Day have turned into babyfaces without changing anything about themselves. It is the sign of a tremendously over act when they can switch from babyface to heel (or vice versa) without having to actually do anything different. I also loved how they cheated to win the match and still did so as babyfaces. I don’t remember the last time I saw that happen (Eddie Guerrero, perhaps?). I’m not sure where they’re going with the post-match beatdown by the League of Nations, though…a 4-on-3 handicap match for the tag team titles at WrestleMania?

The other thing that shocked me was that an actual match with a 5-10 minute post-match beatdown was shown instead of the normal promo/interview segment that takes place. Wow…you wouldn’t think that wrestling on a wrestling program would take priority, would you?

Brock Lesnar & Paul HeymanThe next segment featured Dean Ambrose talking smack about Triple H, but then interrupted by Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar. I’m still not 100% sold on their match because I don’t believe Ambrose can win…nor do I believe he SHOULD win at this point. I mean, he’s all bad-ass when he’s got a crowbar in his hand but he has yet to do anything against Lesnar 1-on-1. To me, he looks like a punk-ass who can only be tough with a weapon in his hand. I really don’t think it does Ambrose any favours.

Ryback vs Sin CaraWhile I respect Ryback for working hard to expand his in-ring repetoire and developing a new character, at the end of the day the WWE Universe feels the same way about him that I do…and that’s indifference. Ultimately, Ryback is boring…and until that somehow changes, all of the pushes in the world won’t change that. I’m certainly NOT interested in watching Ryback decimate Kalisto for 10 minutes at WrestleMania, regardless of whether or not he wins.

Stephanie McMahonThe entire segment with Stephanie and Triple H was entertaining, as they continue to deliver solid promos. Triple H, in particular, went above and beyond to drone on and on in an effort to be booed so he could put Roman Reigns over…until, of course, Dolph Ziggler came out instead. I just have to wonder, though…is this actually going to end up with a long-term substantial push for Ziggler or is this just another “bait & switch” faux-push that sees him used as fodder for the bigger picture? My guess is that Reigns will be a part of the main event to help Ziggler get a “big win”…then Ziggler will soon be forgotten about. Again.

Sami ZaynI really enjoyed Sami Zayn‘s match last night against The Miz. To me, it was a perfect match for a new babyface on the roster. He sold like crazy for awhile but not too long. Then he came back with fire and got all his shit in…hitting the big moves and looking like a million bucks. You can’t really complain about how he was booked. I’m also intrigued by the tension between Kevin Owens and Miz. Throw in Neville and you’ve got the recipe for an incredibly entertaining Fatal Fourway for the Intercontinental championship at WrestleMania.

Lana & Team B.A.D.The storyline between Brie Bella and Lana is intriguing. I mean, why is Lana constantly after Bella? And why are we being set-up for a WrestleMania wrestling debut by Lana?? It just seems a bit odd to me, but I’m not against it by any stretch. My only hope is that Lana is more capable in the ring than, say, Eva Marie. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m really not looking forward to Lana’s impending relationship with Team B.A.D. because they’ll suck the life out of anybody they’re in contact with.

Triple H vs Dolph Ziggler 1I was quite surprised to see Triple H vs Dolph Ziggler kicking off the third hour instead of being the main event of the show. I guess the confrontation between Vince, Shane, and Undertaker are considered the “main event” tonight. Either that or Ziggler is such a loser that even he brings the WWE champion down from the main event.

Triple H vs Dolph Ziggler 2As I look back on the match I just gotta wonder what the heck the point of all this was. My hope is that Ziggler joins The Authority and revives his career and gimmick somehow. But in the meantime, he’s now without a match at WrestleMania…and unless there is some kind of storyline that focuses on Ziggler (or he is the rumored WWE performer who has decided to not renew his contract when it expires), I really don’t understand the point of all this.

Roman ReignsYou’ve gotta love how fans continue to boo Roman Reigns, even when WWE books him correctly as they did last night. This is the Reigns that we should have seen all along, but at this point I truly believe it’s “too little, too late” in the eyes of the WWE Universe. Yes, he’s still one of the most popular performers on the entire roster…but much like John Cena, he’s become too much of a polarizing figure to truly ever be the “face of the company”. I thought his beatdown of Triple H was booked well and made him look strong, but the loud booing by the live crowd really took away from Roman’s moment of redemption.

My fear is that after Roman’s “fake bloody nose”, the real staples in Triple H’s head will only endear him to WrestleMania fans even more.

Chris Jericho vs Neville 1I feel bad for both Chris Jericho and Neville for their match last night. What should have been a really great back-n-forth contest was cut short due to Neville suffering what appeared to be a pretty serious injury (during the commercial break, no less) and then Jericho had to awkwardly improvise the match ending and post-match promo. Even the AJ Styles “Phenomenal Forearm” seemed awkward because it kept Jericho down so long. Is that the new finisher as opposed to the “Calf Crusher”? The whole segment was a failure, but it really wasn’t anybody’s fault.

Shane vs Vince vs UndertakerI really didn’t like the placement of the Shane McMahon vs Vince McMahon vs Undertaker segment. The real interest of WrestleMania should be Triple H vs Roman Reigns. The problem, though, is that the crowd seems to be split on the interest in that match. So instead of making it the focus of RAW, we’re now focused on the McMahon family battle as the primary selling point of the PPV. I don’t hate the match or anything, but I guess I’m constantly baffled at how WWE scrambles at the last minute and admits defeat without actually admitting defeat (which would be doing the RIGHT thing and turning Reigns heel).

Shane McMahonPoor Shane sounded completely lost during his promo. He’s more interested in the “Shane Shuffle” than focusing on remembering his lines. The in-ring segment didn’t do much to increase my interest in the match, unfortunately. Yes, Shane danced around and caused Taker to go after him, but I don’t believe that Shane can dance around enough to cause Taker to get gassed inside of the cell. I dunno…the whole thing just didn’t hit the right buttons for me.

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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!

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!