Dean Ambrose could be a made man after Wrestlemania 32

While the WWE is busy driving the whole ‘Road To Wrestlemania’ thing into the ground with the Fastlane/Roadblock motif, I’m getting mildly nervous at the prospect that the only thing going into the ground is Dean Ambrose’s babyface cred.

Dean_Ambrose_durante_un_House_Show_di_gennaio_2015.jpg By Anton – WWE House Show – Garrett Coliseum – 1/10/15, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39931017

From being betrayed by his brother Seth Rollins, to the near-miss in their Ladder match for the title and even the Dusty Finish which had him ever-so-briefly crowned champion, Dean Ambrose has been edging closer to the big time – added to his great showing at the Royal Rumble 2016, fans are starting to get a bit edgy that his moment isn’t gonna come any time soon.

And that’s a real shame, because Dean Ambrose is over as hell. By coming so close and being denied so much, Ambrose earns the sympathy from the audience at large that’s been missing since Daniel Bryan got his own Wrestlemania moment two years ago. I’m not about to compare the two in terms of ring skill; Bryan is one of the best ever wrestlers to step between the ropes, while I see Ambrose more as a WWE Superstar than I do a wrestler – but a great one nonetheless. But while the focus of WWE programming is focused on someone else, there’s little chance for Ambrose to get his shot in – which could actually be beneficial in the long run.

Waiting for Roman

Times are few and far between that the Venn diagram of ‘crowd favourite’ and ‘Vince McMahon’s favourite’ have settled on the very same person – this has been the case for years. Ever since we had co-winners at the 1994 Royal Rumble, when Bret Hart was roundly cheered by fans, much more so than the backstage pick Lex Luger (and with good cause) has there been a battle for prominence on the card.

While we’ve (somewhat) patiently waited for the current holder of Vince’s brass ring, Roman Reigns, to get over, Dean Ambrose has more than ably settled in as the best friend and tag team partner to his Shield brother. And while Reigns has been given opportunity after opportunity (by storyline sworn enemies Authority figures Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, who aren’t fans of logic), it seemed like Ambrose made the most of the few opportunities he was given, among them the World title ladder match and Elimination Chamber title shot.

Roman_Reigns_November_2013

But despite all his various sidlings into main events, Reigns has simply not connected with the crowd in the way that Ambrose has just because a lot of fans don’t like to be told who they’re supposed to cheer for; something Reigns knows full well from when he came up against a previous McMahon-designated project, Batista, at the 2014 Rumble, and fell short.

Getting over

It’s one of the WWE Universe’s biggest bug-bears; the ongoing battle between the performers who go out every night and earn their reaction, and the pet projects who are seemingly unbeatable – which in itself creates no tension at all when it comes to the crunch. Ambrose has picked himself up from every defeat – including the recent loss of his Intercontinental title to Kevin Owens – dusted himself off and promised to do whatever it takes to get to the top.

That is how you get the babyface reactions. Just ask Steve Austin – you try, you fail, you get right back on the horse and try again. You don’t smirk, pump your fist and get yet another eye-rollingly easy win against ‘all’ the odds – this is the sort of booking that just makes your opponents look weak, no matter how many of them there are at once and what dumb name they give themselves.

Much as we can dream, Ambrose isn’t likely to pick up the WWE World Title with a win at Roadblock, but he’ll again come heartbreakingly close.

And at Wrestlemania, there’ll be a key moment coming in Ambrose’s career, once the dust settles on his Street Fight against Brock Lesnar. Whatever the result of this particular ‘slobberknocker’, Dean Ambrose’s character has been solidified such that he can become a made man within the WWE by making Lesnar work incredibly hard to beat him. He could even end up visibly earning Lesnar’s respect once their final trip to Suplex City has been arranged, on the grandest stage of them all – proving Ambrose’s resilience and finally getting him over the top as a guy worthy of grabbing the brass ring.

Talking Points From The 2016 Royal Rumble match

Like most WWE PPVs of late, the Royal Rumble had its ups and downs. Let’s talk about some of the biggest issues and incidents.

Royal Rumble 2016 talking points

Your winner…and new WWE Champion

Roman Reigns went in at number one, and not many thought he’d be capable of wrestling more than hour in order to retain his title. So when Vince McMahon sicced his League of Nations (minus King Barrett) on Reigns, and Rusev sent him crashing through a table, Reigns received the stretcher job treatment – meaning it was only a matter of time until he returned to win.

So as Reigns began his comeback out of nowhere against the incoming number 29 entrant, Sheamus, the fix appeared to be in. That is, until Triple H entered the Rumble at number 30 and duly took the title. Reigns was actually the second-to-last man to be eliminated from the match, leaving Triple H in the ring against an absolutely fantastic Dean Ambrose, who the crowd got behind fiercely.

The art of salesmanship

Speaking of fierce, the reaction to both Ambrose and Kevin Owens’ Rumble entrances following their absolutely fantastic Last Man Standing match was something to behold. Meanwhile, after taking a particularly intense beating himself, Reigns sprang as if out of nowhere to surprise Sheamus with a Superman Punch in the aisle, later in the very same match.

It reminded me very much of the events of the 1994 Royal Rumble, in which co-winners Bret Hart and Lex Luger were both subjected to some rough treatment. Earlier in the night, Bret was attacked by his brother Owen, who took his frustrations out on Bret’s leg. The image of Kevin Owens’ entry into the Rumble last night was almost identical – maybe even in homage – to Bret, as both men dragged a bad leg behind them on the way into the ring to equally big pops from the crowd.

bretrumble

Luger, like Reigns, was jumped and beaten by two assailants before he could enter the match – but as soon as his number came up, Luger hit the ring like a house on fire, with absolutely no regard for selling the condition he’d been put in. Reigns’ entrance and subsequent domination of those in the ring was equally far-fetched.

I get that last night was all about defying the odds, but Reigns’ sudden revitalisation as he re-entered the match came off as so clumsy.

Brock vs Bray

It’s looking likely that a match between Brock Lesnar and Bray Wyatt is set to happen at Wrestlemania 32. This after Lesnar’s impact in the ring was dampened by the members of the Wyatt Family, whose leader Bray oversaw Brock’s elimination by his loyal subjects. The Wyatt Family put on a great performance in the ring – well, Luke Harper did at least but that’s nothing new – and may be on their way to establishing themselves as the big deal fans always thought they could be.

It’s just a shame Lesnar will go over at Mania – and that their big green giant of a man, Braun Strowman, continues to receive any prominent focus.

Chris Jericho – iron man?

I always liked Chris Jericho – he’s had some fantastic wrestling matches in his time, and can always be relied upon to put in a great performance and help put over young talent.

Which is why it’s so baffling to me that Jericho went more than 50 minutes – only Reigns ‘went’ longer. All that and with only one elimination to his name, I found it kind of strange that Chris Jericho was portrayed in the Rumble run-up as one of the frontrunners to win the match. But with the depleted roster, and the resultant need for a big name, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he’d been offered a big deal to be portrayed as a big deal in return.

Standouts and surprises

What with the match being for the World title rather than a shot at Wrestlemania, it made sense not to rely on the surprise guests and comedy spots – but that doesn’t mean we weren’t treated to some excellent Royal Rumble surprises.

AJ Styles WWE

Image by Zohyo

 

The worst-kept secret in professional wrestling was revealed, as the number three entrant turned out to be AJ Styles, fresh from NJPW and a bona fide wrestling star. His entrance was somewhat tainted as we couldn’t see the reveal of ‘The Phenomenal One’ on the Titantron – the TV cameras were trained on Reigns. And while it was too much to ask to have a debuting Styles go deep into the match, he still put on a great showing in his debut match.

The chain of events around this time were especially great. It was left to the other indie darling, Kevin Owens to eliminate Styles, who’d gone nearly half an hour in the match – only to be dumped out by his former friend and NXT Championship rival, Sami Zayn.

All in all I quite enjoyed the Rumble event – it certainly an improvement on the last two – but once again it’s been a case of making the best of what they had instead of planning ahead a little more. Assuming Roman Reigns is going to get his crowning moment at Wrestlemania once again – and assuming as well they don’t have an emergency ripcord to pull like they did last year – it could be an interesting few weeks ahead.

Royal Rumble 2016 predictions

In which Roman Reigns is made to look really strong.

We’re under a week away from what’s probably my favourite WWE event of the year, but at the time of writing I can’t even decide if I want to take the next morning off work to watch it.

Normally going into a Royal Rumble match there’s a large enough degree of uncertainty about what’s going to happen to keep it interesting – but in the company’s latest mission to make Roman Reigns look like an unstoppable superhuman it’s verging on the incredible. And not in a good way.

Royal Rumble 2016 predictions

For the first time ever, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship will be defended in the actual Royal Rumble match. Unlike previous years where the winner gets the World title shot at Wrestlemania, this year they’ve decided to lob in the actual belt instead.

At the 1992 Royal Rumble, Ric Flair won the vacant World title thanks to some screwery involving Sid Justice, but this year there’s going to be a defending champion; it’s an awful lot of pressure on Roman Reigns in both kayfabe and real-life terms.

The odds. The stacking. The againstness. The adversity. The overcoming: all things which we’re being treated to in the story of Reigns’ upcoming title defence. And while that worked for a little bloke like Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania XXX, I don’t know why Reigns has ever been portrayed as the underdog when he’s chiselled from granite and one of the most powerful men in the game today.

Forcing him into the Rumble with his title on the line – you can thank a returning Vince McMahon for that, who at 70 years of age deserves a big hand for bumping around like he has in the last few weeks – is a compelling enough storyline to keep me interested, but what happens at the end of the night is where it really gets interesting.

The way I see it, the Rumble’s going to go one of two ways; one of them only slightly less offensive than the other.

If Reigns retains

If Roman Reigns is going to make history by defending his Royal Rumble title, then for the sake of credibility he needs not to be in the first five, or even ten entries. The match has been won from an early position before – Shawn Michaels won it from the number one spot in 1995, but wrestled for less than 40 minutes. Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble in 2004, clocking in a more impressive 61 minutes. But both men were a lot more capable workers than Reigns is now.

Not that any of that matters, because this is Superman we’re talking about. For Reigns not to be booed out of the building in winning his second consecutive Royal Rumble match – for all the marbles this time – the order of entry will be key; the later, the better. For the sake of believability – and of the WWE not ramming him down fans’ throats for the second year in a row – Reigns must enter later if he’s really going to win it all, despite it seeming like less of an achievement.

If Reigns loses

On the other hand, if it’s decided that someone else will be walking out of the Rumble as world champion, the likely scenario seems to be that Reigns – on the verge of victory and achieving the impossible – will be screwed by some Authority…screwery.

With the McMahon family seething, as well as Triple H seeking revenge for Reigns’ attack at TLC, we can expect even more of the deck-stacking as the Authority sends out stooge after stooge in an attempt to take out Reigns. Sheamus, Del Rio – even Bad News Barrett and Rusev who are sadly injured at last count – will be set to take out the champ as soon as possible.

Reigns, naturally, will overcome – but you can expect some last-minute tomfoolery to put down the champion if they decide not to go with Reigns as the champion heading out of the 2016 Rumble. Of course, that will be immediately remedied with a Wrestlemania main event against whoever does win that match – let’s not pretend that Fastlane is important enough to see a title change – so Reigns fans need not despair if he does lose the title at the Royal Rumble.

So if Reigns does give up the prize, who can we expect to take the belt?

Sadly, there are whispers that if you want the job done right, you’ve got to do it yourself – which is why it could be Triple H closing out the night as Royal Rumble winner 2016. Outside of that, the usual suspects would be Brock Lesnar, or…actually, there isn’t really anyone else is there?

Last Man Standing

Who would I like to see win? Dean Ambrose. Kevin Owens. Two hugely popular wrestlers, so popular in fact that WWE have already taken measures to ensure it won’t be either of them – by booking them opposite each other in a Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Title. So bizarre is this booking, in fact, that it’s the champion Ambrose who issued the challenge rather than the prizefighter Owens.

So with those two outside hopes swiftly taken care of, it’s going to be a matter of how badly WWE wants to get Roman Reigns, supreme champion, over at the Rumble. It’s strange that they can’t even wait for that Mania moment to ensure that Reigns gets the glory – or at least enough of the rub to get some sympathy via villainous interference – but I suppose we’ll see what they have in store for us.

Reasons to watch the Rumble

Despite the lack of intrigue this year surrounding the main event, there’s always a reason to tune into the Royal Rumble match – the surprise returns and debuts. And with the various members of Bullet Club all but confirmed to make their WWE debuts over the next few weeks, it’s going to be well worth tuning in to see which of the talented performers steps out onto the stage in Orlando, Florida, this Sunday night.

 

Five For Friday: Top 5 WWE PPV Matches of 2015

Five For Friday this week (yeah, yeah, it’s technically gone live on Saturday. Sue me) focuses on the best WWE PPV matches of 2015.

best wwe ppv matches 2015

I’m not really one to do these ‘year in review’ type posts, mainly because I don’t consume enough of the particularly new releases in order to rank them. I certainly haven’t read five books from 2015, and I’m not even sure I’ve watched five films released this year.

But as a many posts from the past year will tell you, I’ve watched a lot of WWE – enough in fact to struggle with choosing just five of the best pay-per-view matches from this year.

Let’s face it – 2015 has not been a good year creatively for the WWE. When they decided to pull themselves out of the hole by putting the World Heavyweight Championship on Seth Rollins, they immediately plunged into another by booking him rather badly. Months later and here we are with the man they were so sure of right from the start, Royal Rumble winner Roman Reigns, finally getting over with the crowd by punching a 70-year old man in the face on the way to his second World Title win.

Well, I enjoyed that.

So without further ado, in near-chronological order, here are five matches which have managed to stay in my brain during this difficult year.

Royal Rumble – Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins (WWE WHC)

An absolute stormer to kick off the year, as Lesnar put his title up against both John Cena and the Money in the Bank winner, Seth Rollins, who for some reason didn’t actually need to cash in his contract. I remember this match just for the bit where Cena and Rollins combined to put Lesnar through a table – the flying elbow from Rollins was glorious – only to see Lesnar return with a vengeance and get the pin on Rollins with an F-5. Beautiful stuff; Rollins was scintillating, Lesnar an absolute demon and even Cena putting in a fantastic shift.

Elimination Chamber – John Cena vs Kevin Owens

john cena kevin owens summerslam 2015

I can’t believe there are two John Cena matches in my top five of the year, but we’ve covered this before – the man is capable of a great match provided he’s got a quality opponent and isn’t booked comically. Here at Elimination Chamber against the NXT Champion Kevin Owens, in his main roster debut, Cena was far from comical as he fell to a Pop-Up Powerbomb from Owens for the clean victory. Absolutely nobody expected this result, which is what made it all the more special – and the match itself was pretty bloody special.

Money in the Bank – Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose (WWE WHC – ladder match)

The Architect of The Shield was having a bad time of it with his leaders in The Authority, but when Triple H gave him a stern pep talk I knew we were in for something special from the WWE Champion. That’s exactly what we got from Rollins and his former ally Dean Ambrose, in a series of increasingly hardcore spots involving the ladder. We were in for a dramatic finish too as both men came down from the ladder with the title belt, before Rollins made a late grab to secure the win. An awesome match for both guys; Rollins showing that a great performance will make up for shoddy booking (most of the time) and Ambrose showing off his own main event credentials for future reference.

Summerslam – Cesaro vs Kevin Owens

It’s only a shame that this went on second-to-last at Summerslam with relatively little build-up, as Kevin Owens bounced back from his subsequent losses to John Cena with a victory over the King of Swing, Cesaro.

I’m with Mick Foley on this – his two words for the future of WWE: ‘Push Cesaro’. The man is insanely talented, and has proved as much both in singles and tag team competition; paired with fellow ‘Creative has nothing for you’ victim, Tyson Kidd, the two made a spectacular duo and had some great title matches. And only 24 hours removed from losing his own title, the NXT Championship, Owens was still raring to go with 15 minutes of superb wrestling that was only lessened by the relative little pre-match background. As a one-off match in its own right though, this was definitely a wrestling fan’s dream come true.

Wrestlemania – Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns

seth rollins wrestlemania 31

If the rumours are to be believed, we can expect a rematch of this year’s fantastic World Title battle as the main event of Wrestlemania 32, with Brock Lesnar widely expected to win the Royal Rumble next month. Reigns’ victory at this year’s instalment of the 30-man match was not warmly received, not even with an assist from The Rock, and so Lesnar was given the actual hero’s welcome which WWE brass wanted to be solely reserved for Reigns.

After the same sort of beatdown dished out to John Cena in previous encounters, Reigns struck back suddenly and almost creditably. But from a sudden point of advantage Reigns began the classic babyface ‘power up’ routine, and the resulting comeback was duly booed out of the building…until Seth Rollins popped up with a briefcase, in what was definitely my favourite WWE moment of 2015.

So there we go. The overriding theme here is that relatively new superstars have done just as well in terms of having their moment as the old hands – and the signs are finally good that we’ll see a bit more progress towards building stars of the future rather than relying on the part-timers of old.

What was your favourite match of 2015? Where would mine rank with your own picks?

WWE TLC 2015: the card, predictions and pretending to care

Tomorrow night is another instalment of the gimmick fest that is the WWE TLC pay-per-view. I’ve never liked the kind of shows where the gimmick match is the feature (Hell in a Cell, I’m looking at you) but there is almost nothing that makes me want to tune in tomorrow night.

Image by Miguel Discart

Image by Miguel Discart

 

WWE World Heavyweight Championship – TLC rules

Sheamus vs Roman Reigns

Intercontinental championship

Kevin Owens vs. Dean Ambrose

Tag Team titles – ladder match

The New Day vs Lucha Dragons vs The Usos

United States championship – Chairs match

Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger

WWE Divas championship match

Charlotte vs Paige

4-on-4 Tables elimination match

The Wyatt Family vs ECW Originals

Who even cares? match

Ryback vs. Rusev

 

Reigns vs Sheamus – why should I care?

I watched the Survivor Series main event – the world title match between Reigns and Ambrose for the vacant belt – and was a bit surprised to see it as a straight-up eight-minute wrestling match between the two men, with little in the way of relationship or story development.

Reigns won the match to win the World belt for the first time, surprising nobody, but was himself taken out just five minutes and fifteen seconds later by the current champ Sheamus thanks to his Money in the Bank briefcase.

Sheamus has since surrounded himself with some heavies known as the League of Nations: Alberto del Rio, Rusev and King Barrett – the latter two of which deserve better. Reigns responded by siding with The Usos and Dean Ambrose to form The Family; typical WWE writing.

But pretty much every week on Raw has been the same old formula; Sheamus, with the blessing of The Authority, sticks Reigns and his mates into tough matches. Reigns then overcomes adversity, punches multiple people in the face, and stands tall at the end of the night.

Every time.

So many times, in fact, that anyone who comes up against him, no matter the numerical or underhanded advantage, ends up looking like an idiot because they couldn’t tame one man.

And so, coupling Roman’s complete invulnerability with Sheamus’ complete inability to win a match on any terms, together into the main event of TLC means I’m not at all tempted to watch it.

I’m not trying to hate on Reigns, honestly I’m not. Like his spiritual predecessor John Cena, I can see the appeal. He’s got the look, some decent moves and is a solid performer in the ring. But he is being made out to look like a complete berk – despite or even because of the way he’s being portrayed. I don’t buy that he’s an unstoppable force of nature, and I don’t feel sorry for him when it’s proven otherwise.

To get some sympy from me (trademark: Scott Steiner) Reigns needs to lose matches, cleanly. He needs to come up short like the heroic babyface, and to triumph in the end. There’s only one person who I can genuinely conceive of beating up four people single-handedly – and they’re not paying him enough to turn up every week.

When Reigns (and the aforementioned Brrrrock Lesnaaaaaar) lost the main event of Wrestlemania 31 to a briefcase-wielding Seth Rollins, it was credit to Rollins for being the smartest guy in the room. Credit which he was soon robbed of at every turn in the following weeks and months, as the likes of Reigns, Cena and even bloody Kane made him look like a pillock week in, week out.

I felt bad for Reigns because he’d worked to get there, and even could’ve had Lesnar beat in that great main event match, but for the wily Rollins.

Responding to that near-miss with an immediate return to Unbeatable Mode completely robbed Reigns of any relatability. Not even the cash-in by Sheamus at Survivor Series restored any of that goodwill for the storyline because it was so predictable and, in my own case, because I like Sheamus even less than Reigns.

So as the two of them prepare for a World Title match tomorrow night in Boston, I’m really struggling to think of a reason to stay tuned in until the end. Or, aside from Owens-Ambrose and the three-team ladder match, to tune in at all.

The Week in Geek: MITB 2015, Kickstarter’s Revenge and Kaboom Comics

Welcome to this week’s geek culture news, featuring the build to the next WWE PPV event and an interesting follow-up on a previously-covered Kickstarter campaign.

week in geek culture news

The Doom That Came To Erik Chevalier

When designer Erik Chevalier cancelled his Kickstarter project for The Doom That Came To Atlantic City about two years ago, backers were sceptical as to what had been done with the £80,000 they’d raised to fund it.

And yesterday those suspicions were confirmed, as the BBC reported on a finding by The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that Chevalier spent much of the money he’d raised on relocating and rent – not to mention commencing work on an entirely different project.

The FTC also found that Chevalier had not yet refunded any of his backers, despite promising to do so in the Kickstarter page’s final update.

In a settlement reached between the parties, Chevalier is banned from misrepresenting himself in any future crowd-funded campaigns – including pledging rewards that he doesn’t deliver on and how he intends to spend the money.

In return, an order that Chevalier must repay all of the money he was awarded has been suspended on the grounds that…he can’t afford it. However, if this turns out to be untrue then the order will be reinforced.

The lesson here, kids, is make sure you know what you’re getting into the next time you’re looking to back something.

 

WWE Money In The Bank 2015

Just two weeks after the last WWE event, Sunday night sees the return of the most valuable briefcase in sports entertainment with the annual Money In The Bank pay-per-view.

As always, the marquee match is the Ladder Match for the Money In The Bank briefcase; I would list the seven competitors involved but recent form suggests that I’ll name Roman Reigns as the sole favourite and leave it at that.

Other big matches slated for the event include a rematch from Elimination Chamber between John Cena and Kevin Owens, and the WWE World Heavyweight Title match; another prize to be hung above the ring and contested by champion Seth Rollins and his former Shield brother Dean Ambrose.

Ambrose isn’t going through the best booking right now – when was the last time he did? – but fans sadly can’t quite get behind the antics of the belt-stealing, mad-looking Lunatic Fringe. (And that one bounce-through the ropes spot is getting a bit old if I’m honest.)

There’s a very interesting theory doing the rounds, but for me the timing wouldn’t quite be there to be pulled off convincingly. Word is, once Reigns has (obviously) won the briefcase, he’ll cash in on the very same night…by turning heel on a victorious Dean Ambrose. WWE writers have done a pretty good job of buddying the two men up, so imagine how shocking this turn of events would be!

Except, it wouldn’t. As much as he’s improved since Wrestlemania (and even during; that main event match was spectacular), I still don’t buy Reigns as a credible threat whether with the fans or against them. There’s still too much to the Shield breakup that hasn’t been straightened out, and this isn’t the time to get into it.

Nor do I buy Ambrose as WWE Champion to lose it, sadly, and that’s partly down to the Dusty Finish (RIP) we got at Elimination Chamber which gave and took away that credibility in a matter of seconds.

 

Kaboom Comics

And just in case you missed it, I did an interview with Dave from Kaboom Comics earlier this week – go give it a read!

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.

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?

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.

When will Daniel Bryan return to WWE action?

Will it be Yes or No for Daniel Bryan in 2014?

When Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania XXX, fans and pundits alike called it one of the most memorable Wrestlemania moments for years.

He even managed to somewhat upstage the ending of The Streak, such was the passion felt by the fans who were ecstatic to see his final victory over the scheming Authority.

But when world champion Bryan announced just days later that he needed neck surgery, we faced a long wait to see when he would return.

With Bryan’s absence growing ever longer, can we expect to see him wrestle again in 2014?

Put bluntly, no. According to WrestlingInc.com Bryan is expected back at around the same time as fellow babyface Roman Reigns, who missed his scheduled bout at Night of Champions after undergoing surgery for a persistently painful hernia surgery the day before.

It seems that the current plan among WWE top brass is to have Reigns win the Royal Rumble 2015 and successfully challenge world champion Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31. While it would be interesting to see Roman Reigns win the world title next spring, I must confess I’d rather see Bryan in that slot.

In the run up to Daniel Bryan defeating John Cena for the world title at Summerslam 2013, the man was over. He stayed over right the way up to Wrestlemania XXX – a very tough task to accomplish when the Authority plays out the meta-angle that he’s just not the man for the job.

The WWE has historically had a ‘type’ that the likes of Bryan and CM Punk just don’t fit into; huge, muscled guys like Batista, Lesnar and – yes – Roman Reigns.

Unlike Reigns, who is now the next pick for the world title by the creative team, Bryan earned his spot by sheer fan support, not to mention his phenomenal in-ring ability.

Reigns doesn’t have anywhere near the levels of fandom that Bryan enjoyed during his run to Wrestlemania glory, but perhaps he’ll get there somehow once he’s back in the New Year.

Until then, that top babyface spot is open, and there’s no question that Dean Ambrose is the man to step up. His feud with former teammate Seth Rollins is keeping the ratings up right now. It’s a shame that WWE seems to prefer Reigns to his fellow Shield guys, but I’m sure Rollins and Ambrose can help change opinion in the next few months before Reigns gets back.

As for Bryan, we can but hope that he’ll actually be in the 2015 Royal Rumble at the very least.