Will Seth Rollins turn babyface at WWE Night of Champions?

Sadly enough, it would mean Sheamus cashes in his Money In The Bank briefcase.

When Seth Rollins left Summerslam last month with both the WWE World Heavyweight and United States titles, fans realised that he would be booked to defend both titles on the very next event; Night of Champions, which is one week away.

And with two titles on the line – against John Cena in a US Title rematch and a defence against The Icon, Sting, Rollins will have his work cut out for him to hold onto both.

Current word on Smark Street is that the World title match will actually go on before John Cena gets his big return match for the belt which, to be fair, he has added plenty of value to thanks to the Weekly Open Challenge on RAW. Not only that, but The Champ reportedly has plenty of US Title t-shirts ready to sell during next week’s episode.

When merch means more than the belt, and the US title on Cena means he’ll sell more shirts, what could it possibly mean for the World title?

seth rollins wrestlemania 31

I’m not big on fantasy booking – mainly because my ideal WWE and the actual WWE grow farther apart by the week – but forward-facing fans are soon expecting a Seth Rollins face turn, which would be amazing.

Rollins’ betraying his brothers in The Shield was a pretty big moment, and he’s obviously had some fantastic matches during his heel run, but not many of those have occurred while he’s been world champion. As he’s not currently setting the world on fire in either capacity – baddie or world champion – the time feels right to set Rollins back on the straight and narrow.

Step one: get the World belt off him.

How this happens, and assuming it does happen at Night of Champions – which would be a tremendous disappointment considering the event’s pretty low reputation – there are two ways.

WWE World Heavyweight Title match: Sting beats Seth Rollins

As the lone warrior looking to crush The Authority, Sting’s rampage has to date included the shocking debut at Survivor Series, as well as the destruction of Rollins’ bronze statue, which the newly double champion had made to celebrate his achievement at Summerslam. He heads to Night of Champions determined to end Rollins’ reign of terror.

As much as I respect the work of Sting, who had an absolutely stellar decade with WCW and not so much of another one with TNA, his one WWE match to date ended somewhat flatly with a loss against The Terminator Triple H, and I don’t see a clean win against Rollins happening all that convincingly.

The first step of a Seth Rollins face turn would have to involve an Authority screwjob, and for that to happen it also needs to be convincing enough. He needs to feel weakened and embarrassed by The Authority, which means that, sadly, we would need to have Sting ridiculed for taking the victory against a competitor in the prime of his life.

Triple H can definitely pull that off – “you got beat by him? I barely broke a sweat against him at Wrestlemania!” etc. (This despite the fact that it took all his mates in DX to help him get the win.)

We’ll get to what may potentially happen to Sting as WWE Champion shortly.

Alternatively:

WWE World Heavyweight Title match: Seth Rollins retains against Sting

Assuming that Rollins competes earlier in the night for his US Title match against Cena, and whatever happens there, he’ll be Super Weakened from taking on Super Cena, which will make him just that bit more desperate to hold onto some gold against Sting. Whether he admirably pulls out a clean win (an early hint at turning face) or uses despicable tactics to retain (a show of force that he still holds sway around the WWE), let’s assume that he does hold on to the belt…

…until that twat with the stupid beard turns up with his Money In The Bank briefcase.

We all know that Triple H is big on Sheamus – after all, he’s the one that brought him in, and if you looked closely enough on that Wrestlemania entrance, you saw that Sheamus was identified as one of The Terminator’s ‘targets’ in his HUD – even before he’d returned from injury he was still enough of a deal to get on that graphic.

So it could be, that in a vulgar display of power at Night of Champions, that Sheamus absolutely murders Seth Rollins to take away the WWE World Heavyweight Title after cashing in his briefcase, and replaces Rollins as the wrestling face of The Authority.

If Sting does win that title match, and is suitably weakened from an all-out Rollins assault (again, face turn hints may apply), then Sheamus can just as easily wreck The Icon in seconds and take the title. This way, Triple H is again satisfied that the man railing against The Authority is taken care of.

Either way, the prospect of Sheamus becoming WWE Champion at Night of Champions?

No thanks. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but it could be a big step towards turning Seth Rollins from an average heel champion into a determined babyface challenger – and that  particular journey is something many fans will clamour for.

The Undertaker Returns At WWE Battleground

There were many reasons why I enjoyed being very tired at work today; normally if it’s just because I can’t sleep I’ll have a miserable day, but last night was the WWE Battleground pay-per-view so I didn’t mind the late bedtime.

I didn’t watch it all live, but thanks to the power of the WWE Network I was able to catch the last three matches tonight. And while it definitely had its positives – the Women’s Division is once again alive and well thanks to an NXT injection – there were a couple of things that felt off for me.

Lesnar vs Undertaker II at Summerslam 2015?

Firstly, the result of the main event. Brock Lesnar had manoeuvred his way into the WWE World Heavyweight Title match against Seth Rollins, and was once again looking like an absolute double-hard bastard who would slowly murder his opponent en route to another win. However, once Rollins had taken something like 13 suplexes and a couple of finishers, the three-count was rudely interrupted…by a gong and the lights going out.

Yes, The Undertaker has returned – but not to Wrestlemania.

undertaker brock lesnar summerslam 2015

When the lights came back up, there was no sign of Rollins – nor any further mention of him for the rest of the show in fact, as Taker sized up and double-Tombstoned The Beast Incarnate. The show ended with his ‘vintage’ (copyright, Michael ‘Broken Fucking Record’ Cole) pose on the stage, as Lesnar remained out cold in the ring.

So it looks like we’re heading for a rematch between the two big men; Taker wants to avenge his loss against the man who broke his Streak, while Lesnar will be quite happy for another opponent on which to continue his disciplined practice of chucking about in the ring.

First of all – do we really need this rematch? For a man who only wrestles once a year (unless they’re trying to get Network subscriptions up, lol), Lesnar has already decisively beaten Taker, to the tune of one Broken Streak. A rematch at Summerslam may not be the answer.

Secondly, was the return of The Phenom just a way to get Seth Rollins out of what was going to be a relatively simple…well, death…with the title around his waist? Having survived yet another match by the skin of his teeth – and again, with plenty of help – Rollins is starting to look less like the absolute dickhead heel he’s supposed to be. More than capable when forced but otherwise happy to cheat, Rollins is now starting to look very cowardly instead, and against lesser men than Lesnar (ie pretty much all other men) he’s in danger of repeating the feat. We’ll have to see who steps up to challenge him at Summerslam – my hope would be another match against Dean Ambrose but I can see him evening up the side against the Wyatts with Roman Reigns.

Can Kevin Owens recover from being Cena’d?

Just before that, and even more worryingly, another big Battleground casualty – Kevin Owens’ momentum. After beating John Cena in an absolutely fantastic match at Elimination Chamber, we all knew Cena was going to level the score at Money In The Bank. A third match, while necessary, was probably always going to go against Owens too, but the manner in which it happened was very disappointing.

john cena kevin owens summerslam 2015

Rather than a last-gasp victory from the jaws of defeat, or even from one of his random ‘nah, not selling any more mate’ decisions into the usual victory routine – culminating in hitting the Attitude Adjustment and getting the three – John Cena made Kevin Owens tap out to his STF submission hold.

It’s one thing to have three close-run matches, as Cena now has the 2-1 lead in the feud. But for the third to be concluded so emphatically is a huge blow to Owens. Of all the guys Cena has conquered in his admittedly fantastic US Title run so far, this one should’ve been portrayed a lot less convincingly if Owens is supposed to stay looking strong. Cena’s strongest critics have pointed to the bone-jarring halts in momentum suffered by Rusev and Bray Wyatt following big losses, and I have to agree with how depressing it’s been to see Rusev progress into some weird love triangle story with Lana and Dolph Ziggler.

John Cena is, without a doubt, one of the best WWE has. He’s a true professional and a very capable worker. But the fact remains that having a win over John Cena does nobody any good when he’s got two back over them – especially when one of them is so visibly, categorically decisive that it’ll take a hell of a lot to come back from. Can Owens do it?

 

Happy Birthday, nWo! Hulk Hogan’s 1996 WCW Heel Turn

There are few moments in wrestling history that changed the way we look at the industry, but what happened on one summer evening at WCW’s 1996 Bash At The Beach is still talked about to this day, a full 19 years later.

WCW nWo hulk hogan heel turn

Let’s start with our mate Terry, aka Hulk Hogan, whose signing for WCW in 1994 opened the door for them to try and compete on the same national level as the WWF. As Ted Turner continued to burn through chequebooks like they were cheap lighters, World Championship Wrestling launched Monday Nitro directly opposite the WWF in the schedules. The following two years would see WCW reshape itself from the old-school territory style of booking into a lean, mean ratings machine for TNT, with Hogan flying the main event flag over a very capable roster of wrestlers.

As fans grew weary of Hogan’s incessant flag waving (and no-selling, and winning all the time), ‘booker man’ Kevin Sullivan had a plan to reinvent the Real American – turn him evil.

Of course, even the weariest wrestling fan could never have seen this coming, and Hogan himself was especially concerned about pulling the turn. After taking some time off from WCW programming (and his relentless schedule of winning matches), Hogan reappeared at the 1996 Bash At The Beach pay-per-view.

Rewind a few months to the sudden appearance of the former Razor Ramon, Scott Hall, on WCW television. Initially portrayed as an ‘Outsider’ of WCW (until they were forced to admit on live TV that he was not a WWF employee to avoid legal action), Hall would show up on episodes of Nitro to basically get in WCW guys’ faces and declare ‘war’ on their company. Joined shortly after by former WWF champion Kevin Nash, the two men would square up to half the roster on an especially gripping episode – leading WCW to begin to eclipse Monday Night Raw in the ratings, as the suspense began to mount over The Outsiders’ mystery ‘third man’.

The Hostile Takeover Match

Challenged by Eric Bischoff to a three-on-three tag match for all the marbles, Hall and Nash agreed – keeping their mystery partner’s identity a secret up until bell time – and beyond. Facing a loyal trio of Sting, Randy Savage and Lex Luger, Hall and Nash assured interviewer ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund that they wouldn’t need him just yet.

So when Luger left the match with an injury partway through the match, the odds were evened, as Hall and Nash – now officially billed as The Outsiders tag team – cheated their way to a stalemate against a strong WCW contingent.

And then, this happened…

Hulk Hogan, the man who’d paraded around in the red and yellow, telling youngsters to eat their vitamins and say their prayers, shocked the world with a legdrop on Randy Savage, revealing himself as the third member of what would be the nWo – the New World Order, or as he kept calling it in the admittedly pretty decent follow-up promo, New World Organisation.

For WCW, it was the break they needed, as the company began to really pull away from the WWF, and for Hogan, a career rejuvenation; it’s reported in The Death of WCW (still highly recommended) that Hogan was nearing the end of his WCW contract and, as far as a big-money renegotiation was concerned, wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on. Without his joining the nWo, Hogan would categorically have not been the reason business was picking up for WCW – and it’s even been reported elsewhere that, with such a big decision to be made and his career at a huge crossroads, he had only decided to be the confirmed third man minutes before going out to assault Savage – it could’ve been Sting!

This week marks 19 years since Hogan’s turn at Bash At The Beach, and it’s still remembered as one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history. Few heel turns have been pulled off more convincingly, and the fact that it came from the single most popular babyface of all time was what made it all the more jarring.

Five For Friday: Worst Wrestling Gimmicks

This week’s Five For Friday examines five very interesting career moves by wrestlers and mythical beasts alike. You can find previous entries in the Five For Friday series here.

Worst Wrestling Gimmicks 

To make it in the world of pro wrestling you need three things: the athletic talent, the charisma, and a unique look. Tie all these together and you’re a guaranteed star.

The Rock. Triple H. Dare I say it, John Cena. These men have it – that special combination which makes them superstars. Even two out of three ain’t bad: Mick Foley certainly had the look and the charisma, even if he was never gonna win any races. Much as it pains me to admit it, Bret Hart was an absolute god in the ring and was devoted to his character, even if he was lacking on the mic.

Whether you’ve got it or you haven’t, some people are able to use what they get to try and make it to the top of the wrestling tree.

And then there are these poor sods. Ladies and gentlemen, the Worst Wrestling Gimmicks.

 

Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese

dukedroese 

[image: GaryColemanFan]

As Stewart from the New Generation Podcast laid out for us in a recent interview, Vince McMahon certainly loved his ‘double gimmicks’ in the WWF – wrestlers who were seen to be moonlighting in the ring because they, in kayfabe, had another job to be getting back for.

Whether it’s a comment on the number of 80s wrestlers who had to combine their real love with something that actually paid the bills, or just a weird creative genre that never really went away (The Miz, anyone? Brock Lesnar? Oh no wait, that really was a different job) – the absolute bottom of the trashcan came in the form of Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese.

From what I remember he was a decent enough competitor, but then again I’ve since been proved wrong about most of my childhood wrestling memories from listening to that afore-mentioned podcast and watching the relevant matches. Droese wrestled in the WWF for two years – most notably gaining some upset victories over a young Hunter Hearst Helmsley – before agreeing on a release from his contract in 1996.

 

Mantaur

MOO. Enough said? No? Fair enough. This might do it.

(To be fair, that’s a hell of a belly-to-belly suplex he hits.)

Mike Halac counts ECW and WWE among his career highlights, but in this guise he was pretty much doomed from the get-go. Even with all-time great booker and manager Jim Cornette in his corner, Mantaur failed to grasp gold, and only lasted about six months. It must have been the exact six months that I watched WWF because I remember this guy very clearly. If only for the make-up and the mooing.

 

Dean Douglas

Right guy, wrong gimmick: you might know Shane Douglas as the man who threw down the NWA World Title after winning it in a tournament, in favour of declaring himself the first ECW World Champion and spitting on wrestling tradition in one fell swoop. He was instrumental in establishing ECW as the third main player in the business…so when he turned up in the WWF dressed like this:

Dean_Douglas_at_RAH2

[Dean Douglas at RAH2 by Mandy Coombes – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mandycoombes/6921270651. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

We knew there’d be a problem.

Douglas was a pretty talented bloke, no question, but Vince’s obsession with a double gimmick didn’t endear the education-loving snob to fans one bit, and not even in the heel heat way. Sadly he fell foul of the Kliq in 1995 and made a pretty hasty exit, but not before winning and losing the Intercontinental Title in the space of about 15 minutes thanks to some particularly dickish politicking from Shawn and Razor.

Just Joe

If you watched Sunday Night Heat during its time on Channel 4 in about 2000, you might remember ‘Joe. Just Joe’, a man whose sole purpose in the WWF was to go backstage and inform Wrestler 1 that he’d just overheard Wrestler 2 saying he was going to kick Wrestler 1’s ass, or that Diva 1 was spotted getting close with Wrestler 1’s manager, much to the annoyance of Wrestler 2. On and on this went without any real, actual point to the man. Plus, as Kevin points out in a recent episode of The Attitude Era Podcast, he wasn’t even billed correctly – going from “Joe” to “Just Joe” and back again in a matter of seconds.

 

JustJoe

Sadly for Joe, his ideas outlived his own short time in the backstage area; he’s said to have been the man who first pitched the idea of a group of wrestlers who were out to censor the WWF – which one Steven Richards would actually head up instead.

The Yeh-TAAAAAY (Yeti)

Yeti

Why does this so-called Yeti look more like a mummy? If you’ve never had the misfortune of watching WCW Halloween Havoc 1995, you may be very surprised to know that this was not THE question everyone was asking that night.

No, that honour referred to the onscreen Monster Truck Match which took place atop the stadium between a debuting Giant (Paul ‘Big Show’ Wight) and the Immortal(ly lame) Hulk Hogan. At the conclusion of their epic rooftop battle, The Giant would attack Hogan and appear to fall off the roof of the stadium, to his death.

Just a few minutes later though, the Giant would show up for his World Title match against Hogan as if absolutely nothing had happened.

As for this gimmick…well, apparently he would go on to become a ninja. You know, those stealthy dudes? Yep. This bumbling shambles of a man would soon become a ninja.

Because WCW. Oh, and the reason he’s dubbed the Yeh-TAAAAAY is that the commentator couldn’t pronounce the word ‘yeti’. Simple as.

Interview: New Generation Project Podcast

I recently had a word with Stewart from the New Generation Project Podcast, who was kind enough to answer a few questions about wrestling’s past, the podcast’s future, and Alan Partridge references.

Your podcast starts at King of The Ring 1993, when ‘Hogan jobbed to fire’ and subsequently left the WWF. What is it about a post-Hulk Hogan, pre-Attitude Era WWF that made you want to study this particular period in wrestling history?

Well, the idea initially came out of being a fan of the Attitude Era Podcast and then OSW Review. I probably listened to every OSW episode in about the space of a week and then recommended them to Paul. He suggested we attempted something similar ourselves and having enjoyed both those shows, the “New Generation” era seemed like the logical option. In addition to that, 1992-1995 was the period I grew up watching, so there was some familiarity there for me and a touch of nostalgia, so getting to watch shows like “King of the Ring 1993” and “Wrestlemania X” again were definitely part of the allure.

Hogan’s move to WCW put the WWF into something of what we’ll kindly call a creative holding pattern during the following years. To what do you attribute this spell? Further to that, what exactly is with all the double-gimmick wrestlers during this time?

Hogan’s move itself is what creates this period. Vince is determined to create another Hogan-esque top liner, and that’s what yields the ‘creative holding pattern’ you mention. His initial attempt is an exact Hogan replica: Lex Luger, and as we’ve all seen, it failed spectacularly. Vince never truly wanted to commit to Bret Hart as ‘the guy’ so we get those short spells between Vince’s different failures where Bret steps in to steady the ship. We’re currently at the period where Vince goes with Shawn, and fair play to him, he goes all in with Shawn, but as we’ll see he isn’t the one who ultimately works out, due to a combination of behaviour and ultimately, injury. As for the two-job superstars? I blame The Big Boss Man, Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake and Rick ‘The Model’ Martel – those gimmicks were successful in the late 80s, so Vince went back to what he knew. We’re about to hit another wave of those types of characters, so I’m looking forward to Adam and Paul meeting The Goon and TL Hopper.

new generation project podcast

Paul experienced a ‘Jimmy Del Rey’ moment early on in the run, when a wrestler he’d not really known of put in some impressive performances. Who’s provided you with your own JDR moment during the span of the podcast so far?

Without a shadow of a doubt, Bull Nakano. I definitely remember her from when I was a kid, and in fact, I must have actually seen her live, but seeing that “Summerslam 1994” match between her and Alundra Blayze opened up a whole new world of wrestling for me. I’ve been out and got hold of a ton of 90s joshi stuff and been blown away by the likes of Manami Toyota, Mayumi Ozaki, Akira Hokuto and Kyoko Inoue. If I could recommend a couple of matches, I’d say people should definitely check out the Manami Toyota/Toshiyo Yamada “Hair vs Hair” match from August 1992 and the 8 Woman “Thunder Queen” match from July 1993 – you won’t believe what you’re seeing is over 20 years old.

Armchair booking time: after the legendarily awful show it turned out to be, who from the whole roster do you think should’ve won King of the Ring ’95 (I will accept ‘Nobody’ as an answer), and how?

I think the correct answer is “anybody other than Mabel”. In all seriousness, the correct answer was probably Shawn. He was red-hot at the time, and eliminating him in the first round in a time limit draw with Kama, of all people, made no sense. You could have built to Shawn vs Diesel at Summerslam, and maybe done some face vs face stuff before turning Diesel heel. Plus, Shawn being in that lineage with Bret, Owen, Austin, HHH etc definitely seems more fitting than what we were left with.

One of my favourite things about your podcast is the clearly evident strong friendship between the three of you. That could all be down to the magic of an edit though! Do you think that the output of a typical episode gives an accurate depiction of how you guys get on?

Yeah, I’d probably say it’s a pretty accurate representation. Editing definitely does a lot for the show, but I don’t think it really affects how the dynamic plays out between the 3 of us. I’d say some of the random tangents and discussions we end up with are fairly true to what the conversations would be if we were to just sit down, watch the shows and discuss them between ourselves. Adam and I live together so we have to get on, and Adam used to live with Paul in the pre-Mrs Scrivens days so we definitely all know each other pretty damn well!

On the podcast so far we’ve had pay-per-views from both WWF and WCW, TV specials and even a special listeners’ mailbag edition. What’s been your favourite episode to make so far both from a research and recording standpoint?

I’m generally fairly critical of what we record and often come away from a recording session worrying about the quality of what we’ve produced. Generally editing and putting the episode together will ease those worries somewhat. From a recording standpoint, the WCW shows tend to stand out as the most fun to record; “The Great American Bash 1996” was one of the rare recording sessions that I came away from feeling good about what the show would turn out to be, and “Halloween Havoc 1995” was one I knew was a lot of fun also. “Baywatch vs Thunder In Paradise”, despite containing no actual wrestling, was a lot of fun to record. In terms of research, that’s something I quite enjoy on a personal level – reading about things like Vince’s steroid trial and Brian Pillman’s contract shenanigans stand out as favourite memories from that side of things. The mailbag episodes were fun to do in that I had to do no actual work for those in terms of research, so it was a bit like having a couple of weeks off.

Aside from, obviously, what’s on the WWF PPV schedule, do you have anything special lined up for an episode in the near future?

The WCW shows are VERY popular, so while we won’t be doing them on a month-to-month basis, we’ll probably look at doing them more frequently to keep up to date with the happenings over there. We’ll definitely do an episode for “Pillman’s got a Gun”. When we reach the end of the calendar year we’ve discussed doing another episode of “Thunder In Paradise” alongside the episode of “Baywatch” where Shawn Michaels turns up. “Santa With Muscles” has been requested by a few people, so we may do that nearer to Christmas. And there is another super-secret bonus episode that I can’t say anything about right now!

And finally,

Anything else you’d like to promote?

After months of people asking, T-Shirts are on the way! We’re doing it all by ourselves (WOO!) so what you receive will be a package completely from us, with some cool little freebies put in there. They should be available in the next week or so [EDIT: NOW AVAILABLE!]. And obviously, just the show in general. We’re massively thankful to everyone who listens and it’s genuinely a joy to interact with our listeners.

Who invented the skip?

Bobby Moore, I don’t bloody know, do I?

You can find the NGP Facebook page here. Or find them on Twitter at the slightly simpler @newgenpodcast, and on iTunes.

Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar vs Booking Logic (WM31 Preview)

In which wrestling fans pray for logic at Wrestlemania 31.

Well, it’s been a while since I managed the first part of this Wrestlemania 31 preview, and since then the Powers That Be have seen fit to reduce the importance of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal even further by shifting it into the pre-show. I know it’s still a big event to be happening on the night of Wrestlemania, but the ‘pre-show’ thing still makes me think of those awful Free For All matches you’d see during the WWF New Generation and be expected to order the PPV as a result.

Wrestlemania 31 card

So here’s the rest of the card in brief, aside from a Fatal Four Way for the tag titles that I can’t even be bothered to look up.

AJ Lee & Paige v The Bella Twins

I can’t stand the Bella Twins. Paige and AJ (I‘m really hoping they go with ‘Pai-J’) are two of the WWE’s most talented and popular women’s wrestlers. Too bad they’re not the stars of a completely separate reality TV show (every time I’ve switched that on, which sadly has been more than once ever, it’s one of the Bellas arguing with her boyfriend/husband) otherwise they might have a chance. Should be a good way to end…whatever this is though, as Wrestlemania can sometimes do. But who knows.

Undertaker v Bray Wyatt

I wanted to write a completely separate post to set this one up; as people are so keen on saying that Wyatt needs a good rub from winning this one, I’m not even convinced he’s going to. The Undertaker’s legacy is now, sadly, built on wrestling and winning once a year. If he loses two of those in a row then it does rather tarnish the whole thing. And as good as Wyatt is at promos, this whole thunder-lightning, Johnny Cash-quoting thing is starting to get a bit hokey again. If anything, I want The Undertaker to win just to prove how once-in-a-lifetime Brock Lesnar’s steak-ending victory was. The Streak can still count for something if the WWE can prove that losing it was simply unavoidable.

John Cena vs Rusev (United States Championship)

John Cena’s been acting like quite the prat lately. After having been refused a rematch for Rusev’s US Title after making Cena pass out to his Accolade hold, Cena clamped in his own submission on Rusev on Monday Night Raw during a surprise attack. When Rusev himself passed out, Cena revived him with a glass of water…and locked on his STF again until evil manager Lana gave in and agreed to the rematch. Rusev is the man who won a match fair and square(ish), and is well within his rights to refuse a rematch. That’s not being a bad guy, it’s just acknowledgement that he might not be so lucky next time. Meanwhile, Cena’s been insulting them left and right between surprise attacks and random patriotic outbursts. I’m fairly sure Cena isn’t supposed to be the bad guy here, but nothing he’s doing is convincing me otherwise, especially as Rusev isn’t being especially heelish. Sadly we can expect Cena to win this one, as his losing two in a row is unheard of.

Seth Rollins v Randy Orton

I really wish I cared about this; Seth Rollins is the Man. His performance in the WWE Championship triple threat match against Cena and Brock Lesnar has been the wrestling highlight of my year so far, and I really wanted his match against Randy Orton to be a more cut-and-dried affair. As it is, Orton’s return on Raw a few weeks back to attack nearly the entire Authority was completely undercut just days later as he tagged with its members. It completely stalled the momentum of a surprise return and massive kicking to Rollins; one which Orton has recently delivered on Mr Money in the Bank anyway, with a huge RKO through the announce table. It’s certainly going to be a fiery enough affair which, if Orton wins, ought to end the rivalry and allow Rollins to move on to bigger, beltier things…

Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar vs Booking Logic (for the WWE Championship)

…like cashing in on the winner of the main event which, up until Brock Lesnar signed a new contract was looking like a fairly foregone conclusion; Roman Reigns would get his moment in the sun.

You see, despite Reigns’ steady improvement in the past month or so, he’s still nowhere near toppling the man who has, through a steady string of sound booking and (uncharacteristic for the WWE) logic, become an absolute beast – incarnate.

I am so, SO psyched that Lesnar is staying because losing to Reigns without at least one rematch wouldn’t feel like the solid enough dose of credibility that Reigns desperately needs. No matter how this match turns out, knowing we haven’t seen the last of the part-time world champion is reason enough to stay hopeful that he’ll do it again.

Through either blind luck or a systematic build of such effectiveness that you wonder why it can’t be arranged for absolutely anybody else on the roster, Lesnar has become the very best example of an invulnerable threat in years. Having Reigns two-moves-of-doom his way to the gold against a man who broke Triple H’s arm, ended The Streak, and brutalised John Cena would just feel like a massive leap in logic.

Oh crap, I’ve jinxed it with this logic stuff haven’t I. If logic decides to take its leave, and Roman Reigns lifts that world title, all you can do is pray for Seth Rollins and his briefcase on Sunday night.

Excited for Wrestlemania 31? (What do you mean, no?)

Wrestlemania 31 – predictions and sadness

We’re just over two weeks away from the 31st instalment of the WWE’s signature event, Wrestlemania. As with most years, by now the major ingredients are in place and we can safely start breaking down what may or may not happen.

Wrestlemania 31 card

Usually this all comes with more than a pinch of excitement for what’s ahead – but for various reasons this year I’m hesitant about booking the Monday morning off and getting ready for some seriously exciting matches and outcomes.

Here are my thoughts on a few of the bigger-profile matches set for the Wrestlemania 31 card.

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

With a galaxy of talent named in the second ever Memorial battle royal including Sin Cara, Fandango and Adam Rose, please forgive my less than spirited enthusiasm, especially considering the less than stellar year that Cesaro had since winning the first one – it’s thought that he won’t even be appearing on Wrestlemania proper at this point, as he’ll likely defend his Tag Team titles with partner Tyson Kidd on the preshow. Unless Cesaro gets into this match with a good story about trying to defend his (broken) trophy, my hopes are low…

Triple H vs Sting

…though maybe not as low as they are for this match. Considering Triple H’s own admission that he doesn’t know what will happen out there, with the competitors’ combined age of 100, and Hunter resting the feud on the age-old ‘Monday Night Wars’ through interviews, it’s been difficult to get fans to care much about this one. Seeing Sting wrestle in a WWE ring will be a revelation for many, but for me Sting’s late TNA work didn’t get me pumped up for seeing him in the ring with a great performer like Triple H – especially at Wrestlemania. Sting will probably win here – anything else only lends more weight to the fact that post-WCW WCW was an absolute mess.

Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title

Quite a motley crew here – Bad News Barrett, R-Truth, Dean Ambrose, Luke Harper, Dolph Ziggler, Stardust and Daniel Bryan, plus potentially another name or two between here and the big night. Not content with a losing streak even Less Than Jake would be envious of, Bad News Barrett now has to deal with the consistent theft of his Intercontinental title.

As if needing to literally prove that the rightful owner is the man who wins the multi-man ladder match, they’ve been stealing the belt off each other. It’s a poor substitute for some proper character development in my opinion, especially as the loosest possible plot is all that some of these guys even need to make it to the next level of the card, such is their talent. I can see Bryan winning this, but wouldn’t mind Dolph taking it or – controversially – Barrett retaining. I’m a big fan. Either way, the IC title is frankly below most of these guys.

More to come later this week – even more reasons why the build towards Wrestlemania 31 isn’t exactly doing it for me.

WWE Fastlane and a bad crowd

The road to Wrestlemania hits a speed bump thanks to a dodgy Fastlane crowd.

Following the, ahem, blur that was my 30th birthday night out on Saturday, I was far too hungover to stay up and watch WWE Fastlane on Sunday night, so fit in a viewing on Monday night with my lady.

It could have been the below-average quality of my WWE Network stream, it could’ve been my speakers, it could even be my imagination, but for me there were roughly 13,000 different reasons why the PPV didn’t deliver.

wwe fastlane bad crowd

The crowd at the event just didn’t seem to care.

Not even being in Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler’s neck of the woods could give the show a real fight night feel, because the Memphis audience just weren’t into it. Their reactions to the different wrestlers’ appearances were subdued at best, and just flat-out absent elsewhere.

I’ve never been at an event where he’s wrestled, but if there’s one sound effect that’s guaranteed to get a huge response, it’s the Undertaker’s gong. Then again, given that it was Bray Wyatt trolling the fans, and we would definitely have heard in advance if The Phenom was scheduled to appear, perhaps that explains the hushed response.

But Cena! Even John Cena couldn’t elicit the usual high-pitched response from the 13,000 in attendance. Ah, there’s probably a reason for that actually – everyone was confused as to why his music was playing so early on in the night (lol).

No, seriously though: I never like to get on my soapbox about these things – because it’s wrestling and I’m paying £9.99 a month to be patronised, not so I can patronise everyone myself – but the crowd’s low rate of interest throughout the night sort of detracted from my own enjoyment of the show. A live crowd really adds to the atmosphere of the show for those watching at home, and for the Memphis fans at Fastlane to seemingly care so little as came across on my TV (and as reported elsewhere after the fact) definitely bumped down the quality a notch.

I guess after watching the show I’ve got bigger issues than the live crowd; like the creative paper bag that Roman Reigns can’t get booked out of, or that Dolph Ziggler’s crusade against The Authority has taken him from sole survivor in November’s main event to losing in a six-man tag opener which featured Kane and The Big Show on the winning side.

Ah well. Four and a bit weeks until Wrestlemania. They can fix all this, right? They can make Roman Reigns a credible enough opponent in four and a bit weeks to knock off the Streak-ending, world champion, practically-a-babyface-by-now awesome powerhouse that is Lesnar, right?

What I’ve watched on WWE Network UK so far

Finally, the WWE Network has come back to the UK.

I was pretty excited to read that the WWE Network was finally ready to launch here in the UK yesterday, following the announcement of its delay in November – mere minutes before it was set to go.

I was even happier to read on Digital Spy on Sunday that it was already a-go – only a couple of days early but still a good long weekend of viewing for viewers.

WWE Network UK launch details

Without hesitation I signed up on Sunday morning and enjoyed a full day’s viewing of old and new WWE programming, starting with the end of this week’s NXT which was definitely a revelation when I first saw it on Sky Sports a while back. I’ve got to say, the live PPV every month is all well and good – certainly better than paying twice the price for just the one event through Sky Box Office – but I’m more excited about being able to get into the archives, not just for the WWE/WWF but also WCW, to educate myself on the ratings juggernaut that was Nitro – and the mess that was 1999/2000 WCW live pay-per-views.

So here’s what I’ve enjoyed so far – I’ve yet to watch a full PPV event but the following have tided me over nicely.

The Monday Night War

The brand new documentary series examining the history of the two major wrestling companies as WCW Monday Nitro went into direct competition against Monday Night Raw.

While there are plenty of interesting tidbits and anecdotes from all the major players involved, there’s some seriously heavy bias running throughout which kinda taints the whole thing. I’ve watched a good few episodes so far, though I’m not at all interested in watching the antics of DX who appear to have their own episode, and am looking forward to seeing the rest.

Hulk Hogan v Sting – Starrcade 97

First brought to my attention by the Attitude Era Podcast, this match was nearly 18 months in the making, with Sting’s attempt to destroy nWo leader Hollywood Hulk Hogan signposted as a sure conclusion to the feud.

While fans rightly expected Sting to let out his pent-up rage on Hogan, what viewers got was actually a fairly one-sided match the other way round. Hogan even managed to deliver his leg-drop finisher and get a three count, though referee Nick Patrick was supposed to make it a crooked fast count (he didn’t). Whether Hogan was simply playing up his creative control or the bookers just did a horrible job of this blow-off match, the storyline was set to go on…and on…and on…

Royal Rumble match – Royal Rumble 1996

Thanks to my excellent sound syncing skills (and no thanks to my below-par internet connection) I was able to watch the ’96 Rumble match along with the commentary supplied by the New Generation Project podcast in their latest episode. The Rumble match is one of my favourite events and this one was pretty good too – though the work of the alternative commentary certainly added to the fun. It’s got me looking forward to this year’s match too – expected Reigns win aside.

Vince McMahon vs Shane McMahon – Wrestlemania 17

And finally just for the amazing move which concludes the match, I watched father and son go to war in a fondly-remembered highlight of what’s generally regarded as the greatest Wrestlemania of all time.

Oof, that bin shot.

I could do with your help here, fellow Network viewers – I’m looking for recommendations of good ECW and bad WCW shows from the archives. Let me know in the comments or by sending a tweet to @AlpSig5.

Who will win the 2015 Royal Rumble?

And who will headline Wrestlemania XXXI?

We’re only a couple of weeks away from this year’s instalment of the WWE Royal Rumble; a unique 30-man match whose winner is guaranteed a World Title match at Wrestlemania XXXI.

With the company’s continued anointing of former Shield member Roman Reigns as The Man, and Brock Lesnar expected to defeat John Cena in their rematch for the title at the Rumble, we should expect Reigns to take not only the WWE title but also the rub from ending the Streak-ender at Wrestlemania.

Roman Reigns WWE 2015 Royal Rumble

Image by Miguel Discart

However, with the addition of Seth Rollins to the Royal Rumble title match and the less-than-stellar response Reigns receives from WWE crowds, for once we’re not completely assured of anything.

It’s still pretty much nailed on that Roman Reigns will take the victory this year, but with the doubt surrounding world champ Brock Lesnar’s immediate future and which MMA company he’ll be returning to, there’s been just a tiny bit of doubt cast on him.

Having received the push towards main event level after The Shield broke up, Reigns worked on combining his toughness with a standard babyface moveset, developing something smarks refer to as the Five Moves of Doom. Reigns’ momentum was cut short before he could face Seth Rollins at September’s Night of Champions due to injury, but was barely off TV in the interim cutting some fairly average promos.

Nonetheless, Reigns has returned and looks likely to win the Royal Rumble match – barring any last-minute developments behind the scenes.

Personally I’d be okay with Reigns taking the win here, but he really needs some earned momentum to get to Wrestlemania and be a credible challenger for whomever he comes up against. A very very strong performance in the Rumble at the very least, followed up by a great match and/or promo every single week in the weeks to follow.

And while I’m disappointed that the likes of Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Rusev are going to miss out, hopefully they won’t be entirely out in the cold for the rest of 2015.