by Frank Lucci
In Preparation for the inevitable crowning of Roman Reigns as Universal Champion, Spaceman Frank has taken it upon himself to go back and look at some events that happened around the same time WWE tried Brock vs. Roman. He will look back at the last WrestleMania to take place in New Orleans, WrestleMania 30, as well as WrestleMania 31 and the first encounter between the two men. But first The Spaceman will check out the very first live wrestling event ever streamed on the WWE Network, NXT Arrival!
Nowadays it is taken for granted that TakeOver shows will be the better show going into big event weekends. But in the early days of the WWE Network heading into WrestleMania 30 there was no such hype. As a slightly younger Spaceman still in the infancy of my superfandom I watched the weekly NXT shows and while they were fun they were far from must watch television. Honestly I think the biggest draw for me was that they were just one hour long and they featured characters that you would never see on Raw or SmackDown. But with the launch of the Network it seemed the developmental brand was poised to take off, and when they announced a live special weeks before Mania it was hard to not get at least mildly excited. But how does this experimental and primordial TakeOver feel four years later? Let’s find out.
Now to get it out of the way, yes there was some technical bugs that plagued NXT Arrival. I was one of the many people who were stuck watching Tyler Breeze posing on the turnbuckle as the stream froze. WWE later apologized for the interruption to this “special episode” (as Wikipedia describes Arrival as if the roster would host an intervention for Mojo Rawley over his caffeine pills), but I was nervous that, if a lowly NXT event could get messed up, how would WrestleMania fare? In addition WWE overbooked Full Sail University, leaving about 200 people who bought tickets in a lurch and unable to watch the show. All in all, not the best showing for NXT and WWE. I watched this program live (until being forced to watch Breeze over and over again), and while I have fun it just felt like something to do on a Saturday night rather than something equal or surpassing a PPV. At just under two hours this should be an easy watch, so let’s dive right into it.
The intro to the show jumps right into the darkened arena as Triple H hypes the crowd. He does his standard “the future is now blah blah blah” stuff before we get the regular NXT into video. Our announce team is Tom “check out my bulge” Phillips, Byron Saxton, and William Regal (JBL is GM at the time, which is something I completely forgot about). Considering two of these guys are black holes of charisma the commentary throughout is not great. No special video package and two minutes in Sami Zayn’s music hits. Kind of a lame opener, but again I do not think Triple H was thinking to himself “these kids are gonna sell out Brooklyn three years in a row.” Speaking of Sami…
Sami Zayn vs. Cesaro
Sami won an epic 2 out of 3 falls match against a moonlighting from the main roster Cesaro, which lead to this match. I wish WWE would occasionally bring in ringers again for NXT, if only to give some floundering people some touch ups or a chance to try a new character. Sami is out first to his weird and super generic first theme song. It sounds like music from a menu screen for a Street Fighter clone on the PS2. We the People Era Cesaro is out with his garter belts on his thighs and Tea Party track jacket out. Crowd is hot for both these guys, and we get “match of the year” chants before the bell rings. Lockup and Cesaro smacks Sami in the back of the head, which is something all heels should do 100% of the time. Immediately shows your the bad guy and works for wrestling machines like Cesaro. Commentary seems to hint that big things are going to be happening for Cesaro which, um, may happen still. Much of the early portion of the match is Cesaro using his efficient Swiss engineered strength to counter Zayn’s high flying offense. The big highlight is Cesaro turning a crossbody into a tilt a whirl backbreaker. Nice.
Things slowwwwww down as Cesaro constantly throws Sami to the outside and bounces him off the guardrail. Epic uppercut counter to the diving corner DDT and we slow things down again. This was probably more exciting at the time, but now this feels like a Raw match. Cesaro works the leg as Regal provides insight into the little things that make Cesaro into a world class wrestler. Sami almost gets his comeback until his “bounce off the ropes backworks plancha” (which he needs to bring back and find a better nickname for) is caught and turned into a massive titing slam on the ramp. Awesome spot. Zayn sells like his leg is broken but crawls back into the ring to deliver his exploder suplex that everyone has stolen from him at this point.
Sami starts his classic comeback moves of Blue Thunder Bomb and Koji clutch but Cesaro powers out into a stretch muffler, which IMO is one of the most underrated submission moves in wrestling. Someone in WWE pull this move back out instead of everyone using the Rings of Saturn nowadays. Zayn reacts to the Cesaro Swing like my roommate’s cat stuck in her pop up cat fort which made me laugh so hard my chest hurt. Swiss Superman repeatedly tries to give Sami CTE with strikes until an attempted top rope powerbomb is turned into a hurricanrana. Helluva Kick isn’t enough and at this point Cesaro starts to feel bad…but not enough to stop giving Sami uppercuts and trying to get the win via TKO. Sami sells head injuries like no one else, and a final rally by Sami leads to hockey punches being thrown into the “pop up reversed code red powerbomb” thing that only these two guys seem to be able to do. Great spot, but literally I think these two are capable of doing that move. It is not enough to get the win for Sami, who eats a pop up uppercut and kicks out at one. This freaks Cesaro right the eff out, who hits a running uppercut into the Neutralizer (such a great name) for the win. They hug it out for fans of sportsmanship/ WWE shippers.
Overall: The longest match of the night was pretty good. Crowd proclaims it match of the year, and it has its moments especially at the end. But the middle section is pretty bland and features lots of walk and brawl. Sami does a lot of moves he never does anymore, which retroactively reminds me of what a great babyface he was in NXT and how poorly he was booked on the main roster. Cesaro meanwhile looks like the boss he always has been, and I am still waiting for a main event Cesaro run. Nowadays Sami is the Martin Prince to Kevin Owen’s Nelson, and Cesaro is with the admittedly awesome The Bar. Cesaro would win the first Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale at Mania 30, but that is a tale for another time…AKA part two.
Mojo Rawley vs. CJ Parker
We get a literal hype package for Mojo before the match, and it is pretty hilarious how much faith WWE had in the guy this early on. CJ Parker is out first, who dances and spins around in what probably was Dusty Rhodes’ best guess as to what hippies were like back in the day. Mojo comes out already peaking on a combination of preworkout powder/ Molly as what appears to be his entire family in custom made Mojo shirts cheers him on. It’s pretty adorable. Crowd for some reason chants for Mojo instead of praying for Mojo. Big dirty squash match to show off Rawley’s “explosiveness” AKA the four moves Triple H knows he can’t mess up as Regal talks about his SUV. Mojo wins with the Hyper Drive (a move I personally cannot stand even when done by guys like Yokozuna) in about three and a half minutes. “We just saw a star being born tonight!” proclaims Regal in a call that made me grab a beer.
Overall: I forgot this match happened to be honest. Mojo would fart around in NXT before farting around on the main roster. He did win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (just like Cesaro!) and then feud with Zack Ryder, so you know his family probably regrets those shirts. Meanwhile CJ Parker was doomed from the start with the hippie gimmick, especially because Daniel Bryan was the hottest guy in wrestling at the moment and was actually a God Damn hippie. He would ask for his release and now has a fairly prominent spot in NJPW, which makes him the real winner here.
Hype package for Emma before her title match with Paige. I miss bubble popping fun Emma and it is hard to not fall in love with her. Of course Bayley would perfect the goofy but super talented female wrestler, but I think Bubble Emma should have gotten a better shot. We then get a package for The Ascension who have the tag titles and the next match on the card. They face a mystery team which turns out to be a Florida Swamp person and his parole officer. Oh wait it is just Too Cool.
The Ascension (C) vs. Too Cool (NXT Tag Team Championship)
Weird to see the crowd make noise for The Ascension. Scotty 2 Hotty looks pretty good considering he is 40 here. Meanwhile Grandmaster Sexay is…himself. Once I found out he was Jerry Lawler’s son it is hard not to unsee it and shower afterwards. Ascension work the vets using locks of head/chin locks and occasional power moves. Hot tag to Scotty who admittedly has some great strikes. He does not do much else until it is time to tease the worm, which Heavy Machinery’s Otis has now perfected. Konnor decides enough is enough, flattens Scotty, and they hit the Fall of Man for the win.
Overall: The Ascension were as hot as they ever were going to be here, but it is telling they have them work with the jobber team for a bygone era instead of another tag team in NXT. They would eventually lose the titles to the Lucha Dragons later in the year. 2014 was a strange, magical time. Scotty would turn this performance into a job at the Performance Center and is a firefighter/EMT so good for him. Sexay meanwhile probably retreated back into the Florida swamps, only occasionally appearing to be drunk in public or add further shame to the Lawler name.
Hype video for Paige who is in the middle of her run as the first NXT Women’s Championship. Cut to Ric Flair and proto-Charlotte in the crowd. It’s weird how Charlotte having darker dirty blond hair makes her almost unrecognizable.
Paige (C) vs. Emma (NXT Women’s Championship)
Ah, the old school NXT Women’s belt complete with glittering pink jewels and My Little Pony style sound effects for the logo animation. Thank God WWE treats women more seriously now. Stephanie Mcmahon the inventor of women is here to take credit for the success of this show, gender equality, and the universe in general. Crowd chants “you still got it” at her and she replies “ I never lost it!” Ya better still have it Steph you got Rousey coming up! Emma is out first as Steph and Regal imitate the bubble popping dance like lizard people attempting to act humans. Paige is out and she is OVER. She gets a loud sustained pop despite being the heel.
Match starts with Paige trying to physically intimidate Emma, who responds by getting the jump on the Brit. They start hot as Paige goes for the Paige Turner early and Emma tries for her setup to her finisher as well. Pure fire to start with some stiff kicks and even their headlock rest spot is more entertaining than usual as Emma flails trying to escape and Paige yells and constantly adjusts the hold. Fast pace to start as Emma tries to get the Emma Lock and Paige does her best to wear down the Aussie with kicks and strikes. Regal claims to have been married 17 times in the meantime. What the hell? where did that come from??!!
Emma in control with a bow and arrow which looks vicious when she plants a boot on the back of Paige’s head and starts cranking her arms. Paige is crying and looking like the good guy here as we see a glimpse of Dark Emma. Emma stomps away and I am pretty sure she may be possessed by the Phoenix Force. Top rope powerbomb from Emma only gets a two and I LOL when Paige makes sure to get her hair out from in front of her face before the spot hits. Paige starts her comeback with kicks leading to a superkick to Emma’s womb before hitting the Paige Turner for a two count. She debuts her quickly abandoned PTO submission to get the win.
Overall: Paige has always been one of those people (especially after this latest injury) who I debated if she was as good as advertised or someone who just looked good because her competition was not up to par. Here at least she looks phenomenal, as does Emma. WWE made a big mistake releasing Emma, and hopefully she does some good starting up Ring of Honor’s women’s division. It blows my mind when WWE looks to cut corners they start at the women’s division like they did with Emma and recent releases Abbey Laith and Sage Beckett when they need every talented women they can get their hands on right now. The fact that they did a Royal Rumble match with only 18 women available on the main roster says it all about the shallowness of the division. Anyway this probably was my favorite match of the night as it closely follows the pace and style modern WWE matches now use and both women bring it with little breaks. There is some definite hints of “THEY ARE HITTING REAL MOVES! LIKE REAL PEOPLE!” from the commentary team, but if you tune them out it is not particularly aggravating.
Video for Neville which makes me sad. Please come back Neville. We Need you. I need you. Dusty and Pat Patterson are in the crowd which makes me even sadder. Angel Grove/Somebody Call my Momma theme song Xavier Woods come out for a match. Woods really overcame some bottom of the barrell booking when he first debuted on Raw. Tyler Breeze is out with his wordless original them which still works for him. Can they bring back the selfie video thing again? At this point this is where my original watching of the show in 2014 froze up. This match lasts half a minute before (Alexander) Rusev and Lana show up and he murders the men in the ring. It is crazy to think how over and beloved all three of these guys would become years later, but here they are just here to kill some time and get over Rusev as a killer.
Bo Dallas is seen resting his head some lockers before a Bo montage begins. God, Dallas was such a great character in NXT. His face is just so punchable. It is a real shame how butchered his character became on the main roster, and you would think a guy who made a name for himself on the mic would get more chances to talk. I blame his white trunks. Seriously, White/grey trunks are one of my most hated things in wrestling. It looks like you are wearing a diaper and grey trucks show off your swamp ass pretty well. Larry Zbyszko and Steve Keirn are in the crowd as we get the second video package in three minutes explaining the build to the championship match. Long story short they both are ready for their first ladder match, which Triple H made because something something HISTORY. HBK shows up first to ramble through a promo and plug his DVD. Woo?
Finally after all the stalling Neville comes out first. Dallas is out second to some generic rock music instead of the instrumental music he had during his Bo-leve days. Bo’s hair is already dripping wet, which is gross as hell. Neville starts off strong with some explosive offense until Bo takes control and slows things down with forearms every 30 seconds. Neville gets caught in the ropes and Bo causally gets a ladder instead of sprinting to get one and win the match. Not sure why everyone does not try hog tying their opponents during ladder matches. Almost as if they want to fall off ladders repeatedly. Neville tries to take control with a baseball slide and plancha, but Dallas counters with some generic offense. Pretty sure Bo has the same moveset as a default create a wrestler. Back and forth spots of people trying to climb the ladder only to be knocked off. Bo takes perhaps the safest fall of the ladder possible as he jumps off and lands on his feet. Shows the difference between a guy like Dallas and a guy like Neville who has flown repeatedly off the ladder and taken a few hits from one as well.
The action begins to pick up finally as Neville hits an awesome tornado DDT off a ladder wedged in a corner that Dallas sells like a champion. Neville loses control again and takes an inadvertent ladder shot when it falls on his head. Look like it was the most painful bump so far. More generic ladder spots until Dallas shoves Neville off the ring post and he hits his back again the ring apron. Bo is about to climb the ladder the ladder but Neille leapfrogs him. Its all for naught as Neville takes a buckle bomb on the wedged ladder. Dallas finally takes a serious bump with a slam onto the ladder and then the Red Arrow on the ladder. The Red Arrow is just as spectacular as I remember. This is enough to put Dallas down long enough for the Englishman to grab the ladder and win the belt. Dry ice shoots down as Neville celebrates on the ladder, the ring, and a golf clap from John Cena as the broadcast ends.
Overall: Decent match. Not a whole lot of crazy ladder spots due to the smaller size of the arena if I had to guess as to why. Neville is a way better wrestler than Bo and it showed here. As much as I liked Dallas’ character he was always a C+ wrestler in the ring. Putting the belt on Neville started the template of NXT champs who were the best wrestler in the company over cartoon characters like Bo. This title run has been the highlight of Dallas’ career as soon after his main roster debut he was treated like a jobber. R-Truth of all people snapped his winning streak. Neville meanwhile would be a reliable workhorse for the company until they decided to have him lose to Enzo Amore. Considering how terrible that decision has proven to be it is easy to see why Neville walked out of the company. Hopefully we see him return to a WWE ring eventually,as his King of the Cruiserweight run was a highlight of 2017.
Final Thoughts: When I watched this event live it really blew me away. Now with the main roster filled with high quality workers this feels like a typical episode of NXT. The opening match and the women’s match were highlights and the NXT championship match was ok in places. The rest was a bunch of filler. NXT did not really become the hottest brand in WWE until Sami Zayn’s chase for the title, and this very much felt like the first attempt to start taking the brand more seriously. At just shy of two hours this was an easy watch, and even the slow portions of the event were not bad. I watched this in two chunks and the matches flew by for the most part. I’d say this is a solid B, with the big matches worth a watch and everything else being skippable.
It’s the final stop on the road to WrestleMania… unless you could all the Raw’s and SmackDowns that take place in the next few weeks.
Somehow Fastlane has even less hype than Elimination Chamber, which is somewhat impressive. At least that had some historical firsts while Fastlane just has a bunch of guys farting around pretending that they matter as much as Ronda Rousey, Brock Lesnar and DA BIG DAWG ROMAN REIGNS.
This is evident by SmackDown having two halves of a match (TBD vs Nakamura and potentially Asuka vs TBD if she jumps brands) in the books for Wrestlemania while has three full matches ready. We get it WWE DA BIG DAWG is the biggest dawg in the pound even though Shinsuke is the Royal Rumble winner and is universally beloved. But hey, at least we get Nakamura vs. AJ…unless they take that away from us (DON’T YOU DARE TAKE THAT AWAY FROM US WWE!!!). I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my Fastlane 2018 predictions!
(Note: as of this writing at 3:35 PM the day before Fastlane there is no preshow match announced, so I will go ahead and say Jinder Mahal will beat Mojo Rawley in a match that makes everyone sad.)
Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. Natalya and Carmella
This match is brought to us by the inevitable heat death of the universe.
Such is the depths of my apathy for the women’s division on SmackDown right now (Fun Fact: Becky Lynch has not won on PPV in over a year. Your first women’s champion of SmackDown ladies and gentleman). I do not know what the point of this match will be besides reminding us at 75% of the women involved in this match are former champions and Carmella may be one in the near future with the Money in the Bank briefcase. The good gals win because why not? (Probably WWE’s actual booking logic).
Bobby Roode (C) vs. Randy Orton (US Championship match)
As much as I love Bobby Roode his US title reign has…sucked. He pretty much has just hung around to kill 15 minutes and give us a singalong to partake in. Meanwhile, Orton has also been drifting around delivering RKO’s outta somewhere to remind us that he is a big deal.
I am concerned that Orton will win the belt here because he has to do something at WrestleMania, and Roode is can be in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal with all the other directionless schmucks. Orton wins in a slow, plodding match between two masters of the “methodical” style.
Charlotte Flair (C) vs. Ruby Riott (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Please God let this be the end of the constant matches between Flair and members of the Riott Squad. At this point the Squad seem to have wrestled 8,000 matches since their debut and have killed any hype we have for the gang. If you think WWE is going to go with Ruby over Flair for a title match at the biggest show of the year you need to stop drinking so much moonshine.
I hope Asuka jumps to SmackDown to face Charlotte at WrestleMania since that feels like it belongs at ‘Mania over two separate matches between the two. We got to cut time somewhere in the evening and this would be a better quality match than whatever else they book. If WWE wants to impress any fans tuning in for Ronda they should put their two best together. Charlotte wins and Ruby and the posse creep in the shadows for a while selling weed to middle schoolers.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev
WWE cares about Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura that they booked him a match with zero match less than a week before Fastlane (Yayyyy). At least we get two of the most over guys in the company facing off in what should be a fun match.
Rusev appears to be not quite committing to being a good guy, which is odd considering he is literally the greatest person in written history. But he exists to sell t-shirts and calendars and job out to people. Nakamura wins the battle of the singalong champions and goes on to hopefully face AJ BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE WANT WWE DO NOT DARE MESS THIS UP.
The Usos (C) vs. The New Day (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship)
This match is here to give fans something to wake them up, which is weird because if WWE was going to walk this feud back you would think they would wait until WrestleMania.
The Usos are trying to make the main ‘Mania card for the first time ever, and besides their hosting duties last year The New Day have very little time on the main show as well. I do not think these guys can have a bad match, so this is a very likely match of the night candidate. It also is the one I am least sure of for predictions, because New Day’s popularity may trump the Uso’s workhorse cred.
In the end, I want The Usos to be rewarded for stepping up their game and retain so they get their moment at WrestleMania.
AJ Styles (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin vs. John Cena vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens (WWE Championship Match)
WWE blew the most interesting story joining into this when they had Sami go after his super best friend on the go home show, thus shutting down the storyline that he would lay down for KO when he got the chance. That two vs. all gimmick would have at least yielded some drama, but now I expect Zayn to rediscover his heart of pure pureness at attack the dastardly Owens.
As for the rest of the people in this match, Ziggler came back after his sabbatical to continue his Zigglypuff ways. Corbin continues to be a person who is employed by the WWE, snd Big Match John threatens to digivolve to ManiaJohnamon at any second.
I have a shadow in my heart that whispers “it does not matter how good AJ Styles is: Cena will beat him for the championship because he is John Effing Cena.” I pray that does not happen because AJ VS. SHINSUKE WILL BE THE BEST MATCH EVER WE LITERALLY HAVE VIDEO EVIDENCE CONFIRMING IT WWE STOP YA NONSENSE AND GIVE US A MATCH WE WANT TO SEE AT MANIA.
….AJ wins or I drink a bottle of mouthwash before bed on Sunday.
Chris and Spaceman Frank review WWE Elimination Chamber 2018 and talk shop on the state of WWE on the road to WrestleMania!
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
Jon and the Jewaharaja discuss the current state of WWE post-Elimination Chamber and pre-‘Mania, and finally get back to current sports talk with MLB and NFL updates.
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
The Elimination Chamber! The massive thing shows up every February and pretends to be super important but in reality, we all know what is going to happen already.
The Elimination Chamber is the Puxatony Phil. Yeah, Phil, we are stupid we know spring is coming eventually along with Roman Reigns’ WrestleMania push (You ain’t special, ya just a rodent)!
Tangent aside I do not expect much fireworks at this event or Fastlane, but it is easier to watch than tens of hours of Raw and Smackdown.
Considering until Friday there were only four matches announced shows just how little effs WWE gives about this Pay-Per-View. The only thing they seem to care about is Rhonda signing a paper and MAKING WOMEN’S HISTORY BUH GAWD. I’m Spaceman Frank and these are my Elimination Chamber 2018 predictions.
The Club vs. The Miztourage (Pre-show Thing That Gives You A Chance to Stop Listening to Booker T for a Bit)
It’s the members of the teams nobody cares about! On the Pre-show nobody cares about!
Is it possible both teams manage to job out to each other during this match? A match featuring the popular members of both teams could be cool, but will WWE really go along with Miz vs Balor? Or will they decide come Wrestlemania time to just throw all these dudes together for another preshow brawl?
Time will tell, and I predict The Club will win since I would be shocked if Axel and Bo are employed by WWE by the end of the year.
Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt
Hey, Remember when this was a lowlight of Raw 25?! Well, now you get to experience it again! Until they pull out the shenanigans at The Hardy (or Wyatt), I have zero effs to give. I just enjoy that Hardy is officially labeled as “Woken Matt Hardy” on Elimination Chamber’s Wikipedia page.
Remember when Wyatt won the WWE Championship at last year’s version of the event? Pour one out for our lost internet darling. Matt Hardy has lost tons of momentum since his Woken videos started airing, and Bray has zero momentum, so Hardy wins.
The Bar vs. TItus Worldwide (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match)
Can I confess something? I am a big fan of all the members of Titus Worldwide.
I just wish this group actually did something worth investing in. Like, they have won a whole bunch lately, but it has all felt like a giant fluke. I do not consider them much of a threat to a team on the level of Breezango, let alone The Bar. Speaking of The Bar, is Sheamus actually hurt? I keep expecting him to go on the shelf because of his alleged neck injury, but here he is still putting on fantastic matches with his Swiss buddy.
As much as I enjoy The Bar, if he is really closing in on retirement I hope it means Cesaro gets a chance to be a singles star finally. The Bar win so they can begin the Irish Wake for Big Shamo’s career.
Asuka vs. Nia Jax
If Nia wins, then she will be involved in Raw’s women’s championship match at WrestleMania…so she will lose.
Look, I love Jax but she has lost every big match she has ever been in. Why would she start winning when it matters? Oh, wait they did that last year with Bray Wyatt….
Anyway, Asuka losing before ‘Mania would make about as much sense as knitting berets for a pack of wolves. Hell, Asuka losing during Mania makes very little sense, Rousey or no. She needs the championship first, and with several women’s matches potentially lined up for the event, I feel like a five-minute Asuka squash is in order. Asuka wins and Jax goes off to promote Total Divas.
Women’s Elimination Chamber Match
HISTORY AND SUCH! Once again WWE has pulled that trope out of the hat, and at this point, it is the only one left for them to use.
As for the participants, it is a mixed bag here. Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose are here as fodder, though if they split up I would be mildly curious to see how they far by themselves. Mickie James is another body here to make people look good, but the veteran should be able to pin one or two people before going out. Bayley and Sasha Banks are the potential show-stealing pair here, and if we get true Boss Banks out of the chamber then I will be happy.
Meanwhile, I can 100% see Alexa Bliss sneaking out with the belt for the Asuka squash, much like how she got wrecked in five minutes at last Wrestlemania.
Men’s Elimination Chamber Match
The supersized chamber match sees slightly more people in it for slightly more fun! SIGHTLY MORE FUN, GUYS! GET EXCITED!
Look, we all know what is going to happen. The rumors have been in place for a real. It is transparently obvious every time the fans real favorites (and future mayor Kane) get taken down by Brock Lesnar with one F-5. Meanwhile, Roman Reigns has been off in the shadows losing to a surprising amount of people, yet nobody is convinced he is suddenly vulnerable.
The Roman rehab tour has yielded some decent matches, but honestly, he is the fifth most over guy in this match at best. At worst he is facing six guys who have managed to get over with the crowd through different combinations of pristine wrestling chops and character work that does not feel like an old, out of touch man wrote it for him.
Roman is going to win, we all have accepted it in our hearts, and we just have to hope the other men in the chamber have something interesting to do at Reign’s “fourth time’s the charmaMania.”
by Frank Lucci
It’s almost time for one of the most exciting nights in sports entertainment, and WWE hopes to start 2018 right at the Royal Rumble.
There has been plenty of news, both good and bad, involving the company. From restarting failed football leagues, superstars getting into legal problems, and a dull office party being held for the 25th anniversary of Raw less than a week before the Rumble.
Throw in huge amounts of rumors for who might show up from ex-Impact stars to UFC champs and maybe even some WWE Legends and speculation is running wild. But what will really happen? Probably not as much as people are hoping, but this can be the night the WWE pulls out some of that classic magic…or do the same thing they did last time the Rumble was in Philly (sigh). I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my Royal Rumble 2018 predictions!
Bobby Roode (C) vs. Somebody (US Championship Match)
I thought WWE decided to cut some time from the show by giving the US title tournament finale to Smackdown, but then we get new champ Roode facing a mystery opponent for the belt on the preshow.
Since this, like all the other preshow matches, literally came out of nowhere I do not think this is going to be much of a match. Roode should be in the Rumble to help fill out the dozen or so vacancies in that match, instead of filling time on the two hour preshow. Bcause really, we need to here Booker T ramble more on WWE programming.
I have a nasty feeling Dolph Ziggler is going to return here rather anticlimactically instead of being in the Rumble. What I hope is we get a random legend or a Zack Ryder type to fill in five minutes so Bobby can save his energy for later. Either way Roode retains.
The Club vs. The Revival
This rematch from Raw 25 sees the humiliated Revival take on The Club who are desperately trying to avoid filling the hole that Dash and Dawson now fill. There is nothing really to care about here, but it could still be a good match. Both teams deserve better, but this is what we get.
Maybe one day this will be a real feud, but I doubt it. The Club win because they need to be taken seriously so they can take losses to main eventers for Finn during his future feuds.
Kalisto, Gran Metalik, and Lince Dorado vs. TJP, Jack Gallagher, and Drew Gulak
This time filler theoretically could be used to figure out to see who may succeed the now disgraced and fired Enzo Amore as champ. But really, this is here to make the crowd pop as the small men do some flips and hit each other really hard before some dinosaurs plod around the ring.
Conspicuous by his absence is Cedric Alexander, who went from challenging for the belt to not being booked for the PPV. I hope that means he is in the Rumble. Drew Gulak is the only one here with any personality, so I think his team will win. As for what to do with the belt I would have a tournament to recreate some of that CWC magic that concludes on Wrestlemania…’s Preshow.
Meanwhile, as for the new GM, nobody seems to know who it will be, so I’d like to see Christian do it. He is a great face or heel, has a history of being a smaller competitor, and he could really add some flair and sta rpower to 205 live.
Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan (C) vs. The Bar (WWE Raw Tag Team Title Match)
The Bar look to get their titles back from the oddball duo of Seth and Jason, who seem to be ready for a split sooner rather than later. The problem is literally nobody cares, and while Jordan is getting better week to week as the spoiled friend who insists on being player one and playing as Raphael in Turtles in TIme he still is dealing with that go away heat.
I would like the champs to have one big PPV match where you get hooked into believing this team could work before the rug is pulled out from under Seth. Have Kurt get in his face for not helping his baby boy succeed to plant a seed for a possible match between Rollins and Angle in the future. Team Roll-Son wins and the split happens at the next PPV.
The Usos (C) vs. American Beta (WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match)
The Usos appear to be getting off scot-free for that whole DUI thing, which is a bit odd all things considered. They will be facing Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, who are desperately trying to get the crowd to care about them by putting on really solid matches. It has not clicked quite yet, but they are getting there.
Despite the legal snafu, the Usos are still one of the best teams on the roster and I do not see much reason to have them lose. Mostly I just want them to make the main show of Wrestlemania for once, so I think they will retain here.
AJ Styles (C) vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (Two on One Handicap Match for WWE Championship)
I am not sure what WWE is trying to do with this feud. It all comes down to Shane vs DB, with these guys and the belt being bit players for the authority figure fight. Nobody cares, and with KO injured both in real life and in kayfabe I am not sure why this is happening. I’d rather see AJ take on Zayn solo at this point since that should be a barnburner of a match.
Of course, we just saw that on the go-home Smackdown, but hey who cares. AJ deserves to be champ going into Mania, and there is plenty of dream matches for the big show he could be part of. AJ retains in what could be interesting or just a time filler.
Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Braun Strowman vs. The Demon Mayor Kane (WWE Universal Championship Match)
WWE has continued to give Braun Strowman epic moments that make great Youtube videos. Meanwhile, Brock is never around to make for interesting viewing and Kane is a mayoral candidate.
I want so badly for Braun to win because he is the most interesting man to watch in WWE and somebody I could see as their next breakout star. I 100% see a future where Marvel and DC are in a bidding war to get Braun to play a character in their cinematic universes.
We all know Brock vs Reigns is happening at Wrestlemania, and we shall see exactly how they get to that conclusion soon enough. I can only imagine Kane is here for the pin since he has spent the entire build getting beat up so bad he disappears. Brock wins in what could be fun or completely boring.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
The main questions going into this match have been:
- Is Ronda Rousey going to win?
- Who exactly is going to fill in the dozen empty spots in the match?
- Will Asuka stay undefeated?
- Seriously though Is Ronda is Columbia or in Philly right now?!
If WWE is seriously bringing in Rousey this would be the splashy time to do it, and the more she posts about being in South American the more suspicious I get.
As for the other mystery opponents, I do not want too many NXT regulars showing up. Throw in The Iconic Duo, Ember Moon, and Nikki Cross and that’s it. Fill out the rest with some legends (since female legends do not nearly show up as much they should get some love, especially if Trish and Lita enter) and maybe some of the more well known Mae Young ladies like new signee Candice Lerae. Otherwise, if you add people like Bianca Belair people will know they got no chance and will just build up the Ronda expectations even more.
At the end of the day, it comes down to the UFC star and Asuka as potential winners. If Ronda is in the match she is winning, and if not Asuka wins.
Men’s Royal Rumble Match
This match has a little more mystery to it, but still has an equal number of spots needing to be filled.
I heard Pete Dunne is flying in for the match, and if he and Tyler Bate are in the match that would be amazing. Let them enter early and last a long time to keep the action fresh. We just saw a bunch of legends on Raw, so maybe keep some around for the Rumble.
If I had to predict a surefire legend I’d go with Bubba Ray Dudley since it is Philly after all. Garnish with some cruiserweights, a few NXT boys and Curt Hawkins and we got an interesting Rumble. The potential five winners are as follows (from least to most likely):
5) Roman Reigns- He is officially in, and I think WWE might just be crazy/spiteful enough to have a repeat of Reign’s previous Rumble win in the exact same arena. Having him lose the IC belt to The Miz and sneakily declare for the match adds to my conspiracy vibe. But at the same time, somebody has to be the voice of reason and avoid the scene that would befall the city if this happens.
4) Dolph Ziggler- A random favorite in Vegas could sneak in and get a weird Jack Swagger at Mania 29 push. If Jackie Boy could get a title shot at the biggest show of the year, why not Zigglypuff? If he is the mystery challenger to Roode’s US Championship match then disregard this guy from winning/
3) John Cena- Because it is John Cena and we should assume he is going to win every match he is in.
2) Daniel Bryan- Another guy who is a betting favorite in Vegas. The ultimate boom or bust candidate could win in a surprise return, but too many people may just be getting their hopes up. WIth the potential legal problems a returning them concussed Bryan could cause I feel like WWE is still going to lean no on his return. That being said I could see him returning at number 30 to further his feud with Shane, who shames him for putting his wrestling desire over his GM duties.
1) Shinsuke Nakamura- While Nakamura has not exactly been built as a world beater, that match with Styles for the belt is looming. The company has teased them fighting for over half a year, and really WWE needs the goodwill a classic match such as this would bring to the Mania marathon. Unless WWE is plotting an evil surprise I think The King of Strong Style will be the one to point at the big Mania sign at the end of the night.
by Frank Lucci
It is time for the Road to Wrestlemania, which also means we are taking the footpath to Takeover: New Orleans as well.
Currently NXT is the bastion of sanity in a WWE Universe full of shock releases, hot debut rumors, and disappointing 25th anniversary shows. With WWE having plenty of open spots for both the men and women rumble matches, this could be a last glimpse of NXT in its current form. Every random match featuring the likes of Lacey Evans or Bianca Belair makes me wonder if these folks will soon be stepping into more prominent roles. But Shayna Baszler looms over all the women as the hot newcomer who is way better than expected in her role.
Meanwhile, on the men’s side there is plenty of rumors of who may be jumping up to the main roster via the Rumble, and each men’s match could see a participant leave NXT once the event is done. I’m SPaceman Frank and here are my NXT: Takeover Philadelphia predictions!
Kassius Ohno vs. Velveteen Dream
Despite hyping a potential Killian Dain or Roderick Strong vs Lars Sullivan NXT decided to throw this match together because reasons. Not that I am necessarily disappointed by seeing this match, but they spent several weeks building someone challenging Lars and now we got nothing. Ohno seems to settled into his role of opening TakeOvers and losing to the next big talent, and Dream is going from trying to be number one contender to jerking the curtain in less than a week.
Still, this should be fun, and I hope Velveteen throws Ohno a pair of shorts to cover his cellulite (sorry for body shaming but please Kassius stop with the tights). I really want Kassius to get a victory on a Takeover, but Velveteen Dream has some momentum going in and he is the future so he will win here.
The Undisputed Era vs. Authors of Pain (NXT Tag Team Championship Match)
This match has the feeling of a swan song for the Authors of Pain. Sure, they could grab the belts again and hold the fort down, but there would not be any point in it. They have been floating around since losing the belts, and while War Games was nice it didn’t mean much to the team’s status. Meanwhile Undisputed Era have been establishing that they are plotting the run the show going forward.
Really, I see Adam Cole potentially challenging for the belt around ‘Mania time if they don’t go for the other obvious choice for Mania time (more on that later). Kyle and Bobby have done pretty well as a team, but I see this being their true coming out as a team without Cole. The Era wins and AOP show up and start wrecking main roster teams and eat Heath Slater or Kurt Hawkins.
Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole (Extreme Rules Match)
A rare stipulation match sees Old Dutch Al (New nickname pending) taking on Michael Cole’s troubled stepson in an extreme rules match because Philly. I like how they firmly established why this match is happening, and the escalating violence really sold this as a blood feud to watch. It is tempting to give Aleister an advantage here, but really Undisputed Era can just pile on the numbers and help their man win this match.
I think the Undisputed Era are going to be NXT’s big thing in 2018, and a win here would solidify that feeling for me. Meanwhile Black could show up in the Rumble and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash. Cole wins after some shenanigans.
Ember Moon vs. Shayna Baszler (NXT Women’s Championship)
When they first started building to this I was very skeptical. I do not like the shoot to the top immediately push for “legit” athletes, and nothing in the Mae Young Classic told me Shayna would be a star within a year. But she is doing really well with her character work, particularly with her sit down interview with Percy “My head looks like a turtle” Watson and Ember Moon.
Meanwhile, since winning the belt I have seen the same old Ember as before, and I feel like I have seen the limits to her character and ring work. She is good, but not quite attention grabbing enough to carry a division. She is a prime candidate for a call up, where she will do fine…but just fine. With Ember being in the main event scene for over a year in NXT I am ready for here to get gone and let the hot newcomer take over. Lazer Blazer wins and gets the Brock treatment while she learns to actually wrestle.
Andrade “Cien” Almas v.s Johnny Gargano (NXT Championship Match)
Did anyone think this would headline a TakeOver event? Sure, their first TakeOver match was great, but who could have predicted this would be the headliner before the Rumble? Cien has been ok, but Zelina Vega is the real star here and everyone knows it.
Meanwhile, Johann Von Wrestling has been milking his steady rise for all it’s worth and it truly feels like he earned this spot. There is plenty of options on the table here. One is a returning Tomasso Ciampa costing Johnny Wrasslin’ a victory, but does anyone see Cien Almas as the headliner going into Mania season? Wouldn’t Team DIY exploding make much more sense for the biggest TakeOver of them all?
If Almas wins I see him moving on to Adam Cole, but again would Jonathan Grapples vs. Cole match more sense? I think the outcome is Johnny wins for the feel-good moment leading to Ciampa showing up to stare down or attacking his former partner.
Jon and Matt quick discuss the NFL Conference championships and then a huge RAW 25 review and Royal Rumble Preview and Predictions.
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Chris, Spaceman Frank, and ProWrestlingOpinion’s Nicholas Jason Lopez gather ’round the squared circle and talk the best and worst of wrestling in 2017!
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