by Jonathan Schorr
Jon and Matt go on the ultimate thrill ride with their WrestleMania 33 and NXT Takeover: Orlando predictions while watching WrestleMania 13 from 1997.
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
by Jonathan Schorr
Jon and Matt go on the ultimate thrill ride with their WrestleMania 33 and NXT Takeover: Orlando predictions while watching WrestleMania 13 from 1997.
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
This past week was full of surprises in the world of WWE. Chris and Spaceman Frank tackle Jeri-KO’s tragic split on Raw, Elimination Chamber and the Chamber fallout on Smackdown Live! This episode is dedicated to the memory of George “The Animal” Steele.
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
by Frank Lucci
The first SmackDown! Live solo live special feels like a nice little Pay-Per-View. It does not feel like a huge deal, but considering this is a stepping stone to WrestleMania WWE has done a good job in two weeks to make this a worthy watch. WWE has noticeably focused on having multiple women matches, which is smart because the Smackdown women’s division is one of their biggest strengths. Throw in MY BOY LUKE HARPER getting a shot at Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton and this event has Spaceman Frank salivating. Here are my Elimination Chamber 2017 predictions!
Mojo Rawley vs. Curt Hawkins (Kickoff Time-Filler Spectacular)
This match came about in about 40 seconds when Hawkins made fun of Patriots tight end/Buffalo native Rob Gronkowski, who is buddies with Mojo. WWE put about 87 seconds of thought into this, so I will do the same. Unless Gronk shows up, I do not care. Mojo wins because Hawkins has the heat of ice cream at this point.
Nikki Bella vs. Natalya
These ladies have done a good job of imitating Nikki’s last feud with Carmella, with the two ladies just brawling 24/7 to protect Nikki’s allegedly hurt neck. With the Bella sister rumored for a tag match with her man John Cena for WrestleMania as well as time off/retirement rumors, it is likely Natalya will be eating the pin here. While Nattie Ice has been better as a heel, I really want her to cart out Tyson Kidd to give him something to do as well as coach her on how to do his NXT gimmick so she can actually succeed.
Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James
Another grudge match sees Lynch stepping away from the title picture to take on the returning veteran Mickie James. James looks amazing and is a much needed shot in the arm for the division, and Raw needs a similar vet to come back to mix up the division and get some new matchups on television. However, I do not see James as SmackDown! Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss’ henchwomen for long, and I would like to see her in the title picture sooner rather than later. Mickie wins in what is essentially a toss-up for The Spaceman.
American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan) (c) vs. Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. Breezango (Fandango and Tyler Breeze) vs. The Usos (Jimmy and Jey Uso) vs. The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor) vs. The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch) Tag Team Turmoil Match for the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships
Well that is a busy headline, isn’t it? The SmackDown! Live tag team scene has been a hot mess, and the fact that we do not get a PPV American Alpha vs. Wyatt Family match speaks volumes on where the WWE sees the division currently. Not that I don’t think this will be fun, but besides when new champs are crowned, there has been little to latch onto between all these teams. American Alpha is the best team out of all of these guys, and I do not think there is any reason for them to lose anytime soon. Can we get a champ vs. champ tag team match between Raw and SmackDown! at ‘Mania to give these guys something significant to do? Alpha wins because AMERICA.
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Naomi (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Naomi gets another shot at the belt after her previous push was halted due to injury. I appreciate the continuity, and her split-legged moonsault is a thousand times better than the bum to the face. Naomi is not bad by any means, but she does not scream “champion” to me. If it wasn’t for my obsession with Total Divas I would have a zero read on her personality. Bliss is simply too good to lose the belt now, and should carry the belt to Mania. Bliss wins and gives us even more gifs of resting Bliss face for the internet to enjoy.
Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton
IT’S WESTERN NEW YORK’S MAIN EVENT! Seriously it is crazy to me that a guy I use to live ten minutes away from is wrestling the Royal Rumble winner in a PPV match before WrestleMania. Harper has been on fire since Orton joined the Wyatts, and I really, really hope he does well here. The crowd seems to be buying into his babyface push too, which has me hoping he can get to the next level and sneak into the Intercontinental title scene or even further. After all, the best way to get him to show true babyface colors is to get him a real shirt and trim his facial hair. As much as I am incredibly bias towards Harper…he is here to lose. Furthermore, he is here to do an abbreviated blow off towards his feud with Randy so Orton can move on to ‘Mania mode. Much like my house show experience when Harper would get his 15 minutes of hero worship in Rochester, he will take on a big name, get an incredible near fall, and then eat the pin.
John Cena (c) vs. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz vs. Baron Corbin vs. Bray Wyatt (Elimination Chamber Match for WWE Championship)
There’s lots to break down here, so I’ll just go from who I think has the least chance to win to the most chance to win. To start, Dean Ambrose is already Intercontinental champ (I was really hoping Harper would get the nod here to add a bit more drama to the match, but the above singles match works also). Ambrose is here to start the match first, provide several hardcore spots for the crowd and then get eliminated 40 minutes in.
The Miz is here to set up his ‘Mania match with John Cena (if the rumors are true), probably by pinning the champ in a shocking twist. I’m fine with main event Miz at this point, but he’s not getting the belt. I just said Cena will get pinned by Miz, and it would be insanity for him to face Orton at Mania considering they just had their 21st match against each other on SmackDown! last Tuesday.
A.J. Styles is a wild card as he has history with lots of these dudes but no solid direction going forward. He and Baron Corbin seem like runners up for this match, and it would actually be kind of cool to see these guys face off. I am not completely sold on the rumored ‘Mania match between Styles and Shane McMahon, and Corbin deserves better than getting dumped into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, so why not have these dudes beat the piss out of each other at the Grandaddy of ’em All?
That leaves Bray Wyatt, who is the obvious and smartest choice to win. Sometimes the best choice is the clear choice, and Orton vs. Bray for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania feels right. It’s about time Wyatt gets singles gold, and after years of being the guy main eventers beat up between title shots, he deserves a chance to be the head honcho. Wyatt wins and we get some good television for the next few weeks.
by Frank Lucci
2016 was a very up and down year for WWE live specials. While the company has one of the most talented rosters they have ever had, but oftentimes the booking and build makes PPV matches transparent and predictable. So while many matches are of high quality, the endings sour the overall match. Call it the Lost effect. Another big factor in the up and down year for WWE is the sheer amount of events the company put on, which can be intimidating to people trying to catch of or find highlights from the year. Fortunately, Spaceman Frank is here to rank every single main roster WWE live specials (no Takeovers here cause they would pretty much fill up all the top spots) and give his highs and lows from the events.
This was one of the best events of the year, and since it came first it gave me plenty of hope for the upcoming year. Sure, it would have been difficult to match the dumpster fires of the previous two years. But with Reigns walking in as champ the doubt was there. Between the stellar Ambrose vs. Owens last man standing match to Alberto Del Rio’s best match of his second WWE versus Kalisto the undercard delivered. Then the Rumble was full of amazing moments from AJ Styles debuting to Zayn charging in to take out Owens to Triple H hoofing out Reigns as I screamed profanities at sad sack Reigns, this is an easy PPV to rewatch.
Highlights: Owens vs. Ambrose, Del Rio vs. Kalisto, Rumble Match
Lowlights: League of Nations failing to eliminate Reigns, Reigns acting tough in returning while Dean and Owens entered after a Last Man Standing Match
Building on the previous event Payback, this live special had many fantastic matches. The fatal four way for the IC title was amazing and began The Miz’s epic run as IC champ. Kalisto and Rusev had a nice little match as well. The New Day had one of their more memorable promos before their match which was better than their actual match. And the main event actually delivered with AJ Styles pulling the best match out of Reign with their extreme rules match. However, The Asylum match was pretty lame and Charlotte again failed to impress against Nattie.
Highlights: Zayn vs. Owens vs. Miz vs. Cesaro, AJ vs. Reigns, New Day promo.
Lowlights: Jericho vs. Ambrose, Flair vs. Nattie
On one hand you have my match of the year match with Cena vs. Styles II on this card. Throw in a great considering one member of the match had to pop his shoulder back in place bout between Finn Balor and Seth Rollins and a pure spectacle match between Brock and Orton and this was a very solid PPV. What was suppose to great was great and even the stuff that could have been better was at least memorable. Throw in Nikki Bella returning and a solid Women’s title match and there is a lot to like here. Mostly makes up for the long run time, though Miz vs Crews did nobody any favors and The New Day vs. The Club match being when the latter team officially went off the rails. Easy enough to skip the filler however especially if you ignore the pre-show.
Highlights: Cena vs. Styles II, Rollins vs. Balor, Banks vs. Charlotte, Orton vs. Lesnar
Lowlights: Miz vs. Crews, The Club vs. The New Day, Ambrose vs. Ziggler
The first SmackDown exclusive PPV was memorable, which is why it is high on this list. When the WWE crams as many live specials as possible into the calendar many PPVs just do not feel like they are significant. Yet this one had the crowning of multiple new champions, and in matches that were fantastic to boot. Sure the Wyatt vs. Orton match got cancelled last minute and we had to sit through Bray westling Kane instead, but that was the only blemish on the PPV. Good stuff that set the standard that SmackDown Live would dominate Raw.
Highlights: Six Women Elimination Match for Smackdown Women’s Championship, Slater & Rhyno vs. The Usos for Smackdown Tag Team Belt, Miz vs. Ziggler I
Lowlights: Kane vs. Wyatt
TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs
While this was a pretty high quality PPV, there was many matches that were repeats. Smackdown can get away with it a little bit because of the quality of the matches, but it is a systemic problem in WWE. Miz vs. Ziggler III was great as a ladder match, and Ambrose took Styles to the limit in their TLC match that was probably the best Ambrose match of the year. The rest of the card was pretty tight as well, even if Nikki Bella could not figure out how to use a kendo stick the right way.
Highlights: Ambrose vs. Styles, Miz vs. Ziggler III, Kalisto vs. Corbin, Bliss vs. Lynch
Lowlights: Ten Man Tag Team Pre-show Match
The big story out of Survivor Series was Goldberg destroying Lesnar, which is memorable sure but did screw over fans looking to see these guys actually face off in an actual match. Definitely something you do not need to re-watch again. One the plus side the men’s Survivor Series match was excellent and delivered on all fronts. The other elimination matches were also fun to watch as well and help reestablish why the gimmick match has worked over the years. Zayn vs. Miz was pretty lame though and WWE blew it by not having Kalisto win the Cruiserweight belt. Good for the gimmick matches but this will always be remembered for Goldberg’s return.
Highlights: Survivor Series Elimination Matches
Lowlights: Zayn vs. Miz, Kane vs. Harper
Money in the Bank
The obvious emotional highlight was Dean Ambrose cashing in and winning the WWE Championship on Seth Rollins less than two hours after winning the Money in the Bank briefcase. WWE finally put a bow on their epic rivalry and had an actual fan favorite win the belt and get a positive response from the crowd. We also got Cena vs. AJ Styles I, starting perhaps the best rivalry of the year. While there was many good matches there was also too much filler at 11 total matches on the PPV. Almost great but not quite there.
Highlights: Cena vs. AJ I, MITB Ladder Match, Ambrose’s Cash-In
Lowlights: Pre-show, Fatal Four Way Tag Team Match, Corbin vs. Ziggler III, Crews vs. Sheamus
This was a very good PPV marred by the usual questionable booking. Nattie vs. Flair was a joke that nobody laughed at. We got the beginning of the endless Ziggler vs. Corbin match that did nobody any favors. Plus we got one of the scariest scenes of the year when Enzo Amore got knocked out during his match.Yet this is a solid PPV that set up much of the live special content for the next few months. We got the first of the Zayn vs. Owens Fight Forever matches along with the best Ryback match ever vs. Kalisto (sensing a pattern with Kalisto here). Not bad but not the best.
Highlights: Zayn vs. Owens I, Kalisto vs. Ryback
Lowlights: Natalya vs. Flair, Ziggler vs. Corbin
Similar to Payback, WWE put on another event with weird booking. Putting the WWE championship match first was odd, and when it turned out to be the one of the best match on the card it definitely hurt the PPV. We also got the amazing Miz vs. Ziggler match with Ziggler’s career on the line, which again is hindered slightly in retrospect when they just reset this feud later on. Other than that not much here to get invested in or re-watch.
Highlights: Miz vs Ziggler II, Styles vs. Ambrose vs. Cena
Lowlights: Corbin vs. Swagger, Wyatt vs. Orton
I’m sure Fastlane was a decent show, but I honestly do not remember a single match from this PPV outside of the main event. Curtis Axel vs. R-Truth happened on this show for Christ’s sake. This was also during peak botching Charlotte time, and having Brie Bella as an opponet was not a good look for the Divas at the time. The main event was pretty fun though, and triple threat Brock is probably my favorite Brock. The Edge and Christian segment was also pretty fun, but too long. Very skippable and an obvious stepping stone to Mania.
Highlights: Brock vs. Ambrose vs. Reigns
Lowlights: Pretty much everything else
Hell in a Cell
We did some history here with the first women’s Hell in a Cell match. And Owens vs. Rollins was decent, and Reigns vs. Rusev can get a pass too. However all the Hell in a Cell matches diluted the quality of them all, and the rest of the card was just kind of there. More of the same from Raw in a pattern that continues with the red brand to this day. The best matches were things we have seen before.
Highlights: Banks vs. Charlotte II, Owens vs. Rollins II, Rusev vs. Reign II
Lowlights: Brooke vs. Bayley, The Club vs. Enzo & Cass
Simply put, Zayn vs. Owens II saved this PPV from being a complete disaster. So many unmemorable matches or just flat out bad matches that were a product of the upcoming brand split. Cena and Enzo & Cass vs. The Club was ok, and the Shield triple threat was decent but nearly as epic as it should have been. Really this is a very skippable PPV that was screwed by the brand split and made relevant almost as soon as it was over.
Highlights: Owens vs. Zayn II
Lowlights: Miz vs. Young, Rusev vs. Ryder, Wyatts vs. New Day
Roadblock: End of the Line
The last PPV of the year was also one of the worse. Raw continued to just stall for time, this time to make to the Royal Rumble in 2017. Many of these matches just did not matter, and very little changed. Banks vs Charlotte had their best PPV match, but the Iron Man Match was structured weirdly. Cesaro & Sheamus vs. The New Day was also a solid match which ended The New Day’s reign, but these two things don’t make up for the blandness of the PPV. Like a steamed carrot this was as meh as it gets.
Highlights: Cesaro & Sheamus vs. The New Day, Banks vs. Charlotte III
Lowlights: Rusev vs. Big Cass, TJP vs. Swann vs. Kendrick, Reigns vs. Owens, Jericho vs. Rollins
Clash of Champions
Remember how Backlash set up SmackDown Live as the standard bearer for WWE? Well that notion was solidified when Raw dropped Clash of Champions on us. Owens vs. Rollins should have been better than it was, though Rollins did crack a rib so that is forgivable. Meanwhile most of the other matches seem to feature people sleepwalking through them or just meandering their way through the event so we could get to the next event. Cesaro vs. Sheamus was good though, and now that the best of seven actually paid off it is better in retrospect. Still would have liked to see a definite winner (Cesaro) who got into the main event picture.
Highlights: Cesaro vs. Sheamus
Lowlights: Jericho vs. Zayn, Reigns vs. Lana, TYP vs. Kendrick, Jax vs. Fox
Mania 32 highlighted everything wrong with WWE 2016. The event was seven hours long, had too many matches, and a super predictable main event that should have killed the Roman push dead. Throw in The Rock to set things on fire and waste half an hour to let us know the attendance and murder Erick Rowan’s career and it is easy to see how this was one of the worse events of the year. I cannot imagine how disappointing this must have been to someone who finally got the chance to attend WrestleMania only to see this show. However, the young and hungry talent came through on the big stage, and the ladder match and the women’s triple threat match were great.
Highlights: IC Title Ladder Match, Lynch vs. Banks vs. Flair
Lowlights: The other 6 hours
Our hosts review WWE TLC 2016, talk Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 33 predictions, praise Cody Rhodes, and more.
Donate to our Patreon at www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
by Frank Lucci
The end of the year is closing in fast, and the last SmackDown exclusive PPV of 2016, TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, seeks to end things on a high note for the blue brand.
SmackDown Live has had the best weekly programming the WWE has to offer, which granted is not saying much. Each match on the card has been built up in enjoyable fashion, and even some minor feuds got some spotlight time in during Survivor Series. It definitely helps make this event stand out over the general sameness that prevaids over Raw, and throwing in stipulations galore also spices things up nicely. As long as WWE refrains from throwing in a stairs match (or another exploding TV monitor), this should be another solid event that overshadows its Raw counterpart Roadblock: End of the Line later in the month. I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my predictions for TLC 2016.
Heath Slater and Rhyno (c) vs. Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton (WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships Match)
This is the only match on the card that does not have a stipulation (so far), which is probably a good thing. For one, this match was made official on the go-home SmackDown. And two: I imagine if WWE had a stipulation for this match Slater would spend 90 percent of the match getting murdered.
Slater and Rhyno continue to be entertaining, but they clearly are not the focus of the tag team scene. At this point they’re just a stepping stone for the inevitable Orton vs. Wyatt feud. The X-factor here is Luke Harper, who might try to break up Wyatt and Orton out of jealousy. The (Quasi) Wyatt Family wins and sooner rather than later, both these teams will break up.
Kalisto vs. Baron Corbin (Chairs Match)
This match has been building for some time, which is amazing considering these guys were begging for time before and after the brand split. Co-General Manager Daniel Bryan promised Corbin retribution for costing SmackDown the Cruiserweight Division, and his punishment is…facing the guy he previously beat so bad he got legit hurt? Sure.
If Bryan really wanted to punish Corbin he would trade him to Raw or have him team with Apollo Crews. I’m pretty sure this whole match is just building up to Corbin hitting the End of Days on a steel chair, which is something I swear already happened on NXT. Corbin wins and then is one of those guys in the middle of the Rumble who lasts for ten minutes before Brock or Goldberg tosses him out.
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella (No Disqualifications Match)
Who knew these two had big enough vicious streaks to beat the holy hell out of each other enough for people to excited to see these two go No-DQ? The crazy part is Nikki legitimately had a tooth knocked loose a few weeks ago and now Carmella has a black eye (Hopefully WWE incorporates that into the video package for this match). Carmella has won a fair number of their matches, but Nikki is the bigger star here. However, I ‘m guessing we get Nattie Ice as Nikki’s mystery attacker at Survivor Series who also takes her down here. Carmella wins and sneaks into the title picture in a sink or swim feud.
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (Tables Match for WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
I hate tables matches. Unless you have a James Ellsworth type who manages to shove somebody through a table to win, I do not see the appeal. Lynch is probably the most well-rounded woman on SmackDown, but Bliss is the second best heel on SmackDown period. Plus, it is easier to see Bliss hitting a Sparkle Splash through a table to win the belt than Lynch awkwardly hitting a pump handle slam through one. Bliss wins to test the waters on her being the top dog and Lynch gets her shot with Carmella at the Rumble.
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler (Ladder Match for Intercontinental Championship)
After about a three week break for Survivor Series, these two are back at it again. Their first go around was amazing, but do we really want to see Ziggler chase The Miz again? We already had the payoff, and the unceremonious way Ziggler lost the belt took most of the wind out of his sails. In addition, The Miz’s only good ladder spot throughout the years is cockily sitting on top on a ladder before getting knocked off of it. Some fresh faces are needed for these guys, but I have a feeling they’ll end up in the Rumble and this angle gets drawn out even further. At least The Miz has Total Divas to make him much more likable outside the ring. The Awesome One wins after Maryse throws a newly adopted dog at Ziggler.
AJ Styles (c) vs. Dean Ambrose (TLC Match for WWE World Championship)
It is about time Ambrose gets to throw down in an extreme match with Styles, and for the first time it seems as though he might have an advantage as the champion. This figures to be the blow off match between the two, and I expect these guys to beat each other like Cookie beating Hakeem with a broom. Ambrose is fired up after Ellsworth was murdered to death by a Styles Clash off the stairs, so I think these guys might have enough leeway to get crazier than usual. That being said, Styles is keeping the belt until John Cena comes back. Maybe Ellsworth returns and turns heel on Uncle Deano? We shall see.
Much like Hell in A Cell, WWE is going all out by having three of Survivor Series’s gimmick matches on display. WWE is trying to hype up these matches at a big event to try and get bragging rights between the brands, which would work better if the brand split was less than six months old. That being said we do get an extreme case of “fantasy warfare” and cramming this much talent into one Pay-Per-View must make it good right? Right???? I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my predictions for Survivor Series 2016.
Brian Kendrick (c) vs. Kalisto (Cruiserweight Championship Match – If Kalisto wins, the Cruiserweight Division moves to SmackDown Live)
WWE pretty much shot themselves in the foot by announcing 205 Live before this match. I think Brian Kendrick could be a fine champ, but the way he was booked before and after being crowned is pretty pathetic. As saw in the CWC, he can still put on amazing matches, but WWE would rather have him fart around and beg his opponents to let him win.
Kalisto was always the odd man out as the cruiserweight on SmackDown, but maybe WWE was smart (or insane) enough to put him on SmackDown for this scenario. Seeing as Raw has epically botched the Cruiserweights, I’m ready for SmackDown to get their hands on the super talented division. Kalisto wins and becomes the first respectable champ the brand has had.
10 vs. 10 Tag Team Raw vs. SmackDown Survivor Series Elimination Match
This hodge-podge of a match has the teams fighting because…reasons. For all the segments featuring the teams trying to get me to care about this match, clearly this is the redheaded stepchild of the Raw vs. SmackDown matches (and no, I’m not just saying that because Heath Slater is involved). I realize now how many joke tag teams WWE has on the main roster.
Really, this breaks down (for me at least) as American Alpha vs. The New Day and Enzo & Cass, and I see American Alpha snagging a win for SmackDown because it’s about damn time Chad Gable becomes the megastar he could be.
The Miz ((c) with Maryse) vs. Sami Zayn (Intercontinental Championship Match)
I would love to see a proper feud between these two. Sadly, I feel as though this is going to be a one-off match for them, especially because it seemed like everyone expected the IC champ to still be Dolph Ziggler. With SmackDown almost certainly getting the Cruiserweight belt, I see Raw grabbing the IC belt to even things out. This gives SmackDown a unique flavor, while giving all the traditional titles a home on the flagship show. Obviously this means Sami Zayn will win, and since he did, you know, beat Kevin Owens in their last match of the “Fight Forever” feud, this gives him a better spot to launch from. Perhaps hey could even book The Likeable One semi-decent if he’s champ.
5 vs. 5 Raw vs. SmackDown Women’s Survivor Series Elimination Match
Which team will pull it together after weeks of fighting? Who cares! I was kind of into this match until the go-home SmackDown where the Raw ladies beat down Becky Lynch. This included Sasha Banks and mega babyface Bayley doing a five-on-one beatdown (BAYLEY JOINED IN ON A GROUP MUGGING OF HER FRIEND!!! THAT IS VERY HEELISH!!!). Poor writing all around sucked me completely out of this match. SmackDown has more potential dissension moments between the teams, so I think Raw will win. Plus, they have Nia Jax who is due for a main roster statement match and eliminating most of SmackDown will do just that.
5 vs. 5 Raw vs. SmackDown Men’s Survivor Series Elimination Match
This match has been heavily hyped, with Stephanie McMahon threatening to fire people if they lose on Raw and SmackDown’s men having The Undertaker threaten to bury people alive (sounds like Raw has the better deal since they, you know, don’t have somebody threatening to murder them). There are many interesting angles that can play out here, from champ Owens vs. champ Styles to Roman Reigns vs. the crowd to Braun Strowman versus everyone.
This can be the match of the night if booked properly, or it can be a disaster if they decide to push certain people (cough, Reigns, cough) over everyone else. Honestly, I think the biggest mystery is how Strowman will be booked, and how they preserve the new monster on the block. Raw wins, with Owens and Reigns being the last two standing so they can hype Roadblock in December.
Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) vs. Goldberg
I really want to hate on this match but I won’t. There will be plenty of fine technical wrestling this weekend, but sometimes you need some sizzle and this match has sizzle in spades. I was at the go-home Raw for Survivor Series and it was palpable how badly people wanted to see these two fight. I’m not saying this will be a five-star classic or even a serviceable match, but this figures to be one hell of a moment. I think we’ll see a match similar to Lesnar’s match with Orton at Summerslam where it builds to Brock beating Goldberg until the bell is called. Or they both get themselves disqualified and they just bloody each other up. Either way Brock stays strong and Goldberg can have his superhero moment before getting the Hall of Fame nod.
SmackDown Live continues to bring back old Pay-Per-View titles with their October PPV, No Mercy. An appropriate title considering that WWE is showing no mercy in their onslaught of content they put out every week. SmackDown is the clear winner so far in the brand split, as they have outshone Raw in every aspect (except the women’s division, but it’s close even there). With less time than Raw and a smaller roster, the blue brand has put out consistently better content, to the point where even the post-show interviews have become important.
This has helped my interest in No Mercy, but it’ll take a stellar effort from WWE to make it stand out over the deluge of content they produce. Spaceman Frank is here to short out the card and bring you my predictions for No Mercy 2016 (sponsored by the anti-euthanasia lobby).
Jack Swagger vs. Baron Corbin (Kickoff)
Both these guys do not have much momentum, leading them to fight for the new pre-show Time Waster Championship for SmackDown (Raw has Neville and Bo Dallas). Swagger got traded to SmackDown in the first draft of the New Era and has…existed on the show ever since. Corbin is not terrible and can keep his end of the bargain when it comes to feuds and wrestling, but he’s constantly had to deal with go-nowhere feuds. It would seem weird that Swagger would switch shows and lose, but Corbin’s the one who needs the win here. Corbin wins and goes on being a Lone Wolf character and career-wise.
Curt Hawkins vs. TBD
Hawkins has come back to the WWE to be make filler vignettes for SmackDown, but now it’s time for the veteran to get into the ring (on television anyway; he already lost a match at a live show). No clue what WWE’s plan is for the former Edge doppelganger, so I’m going out on a limb and saying Apollo Crews squashes him to give him something to do.
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella
Two women’s matches on a show?? And neither on the main event (LE GASP!)!!! Anywho, Carmella is a surprisingly good heel and has taken down Nikki Bella in convincing fashion. However, since this is so one-sided and Nikki Bella is Nikki Bella, Carmella is going to take the loss here. After all, it’s not like it’s called Total Carmella and we can see Big Cass obsessively keep his giant house clean as Enzo keeps walking around in his dirty Jordans (but maybe someday).
Heath Slater and Rhyno (c) vs. The Usos (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match)
Speaking of surprisingly good heels, The Usos have been fantastic as vicious bad guys (perhaps a certain cousin of theirs should copy them so he could finally get over). This has deadened Slater and Rhyno’s momentum, as their feel-good story has stalled. Sure, they’re still entertaining, but it seems unlikely that the team will beat the Usos and their mean streak. Plus American Alpha is waiting in the wings to take a shot at the Usos again with the titles on the line this time. Then Rhyno betrays Slater leading to “Broken” Heath Slater.
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Randy Orton got hit on the head, taking him to Spookytown and making him able to counter Wyatt’s madness with his own! Who will win this epic battle? Find out on the next episode of Goosebumps!
This match is finally happening, and while the build has not been terrible, it stands out among the more serious feuds on SmackDown. Erick Rowan is also out with a torn rotator cuff and with rumors pointing to Luke Harper heading to Raw, it will be telling to see how much faith the WWE has in a solo Bray Wyatt if he beats the Viper. However, an Orton win makes more sense since he would naturally slide into the main event scene that is red hot right now and could feud with any of the top three guys.
Becky Lynch (c) vs. Alexa Bliss (WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
Bliss is finally getting the proper championship push she never really got in NXT, and so far she has done a very good job. Sure, both her and Camella have been written to just beat down their foes every week, but Bliss has the better mic skills and has built this feud up right. I’m high on Bliss’ potential, but this is not her moment. She will get a shot to carry the belt and division, but now it’s Lynch’s time to establish the new belt with a solid run. Lynch wins and runs the gauntlet of new opponents every PPV to prove her mettle.
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler (Title vs. Career Intercontinental Championship Match)
This build to this feud has been perfect. SmackDown has two hot feuds going on surrounding their top belts, which is a testament to how well the show is doing post-brand split. The Miz is on a whole ‘nother level compared to his peers on the microphone and Ziggler has stepped up to make him the sympathetic babyface we saw flashes of (such as the conclusion of Survivor Series 2014). Do I think his in-ring career is over if he loses? Hell no. Do I think The Miz is going to lose? Hell no. The Awesome One wins and continues his never ending title reign.
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose (WWE Championship Match)
Oh Boy. This match has plenty of layers and with all three men firing on all cylinders it’s guaranteed this match will be the highlight of the show. Ambrose seemed to be sleeping through half his title reign, but he’s awake now and playing the tweener to a fantastic degree we haven’t seen since the PG era started. Cena has played his boy scout self, but this time he has his merit badge in Knifework as he cuts his opponents down with lethal precision on the mic. Styles has been in third place in terms of selling this feud with words, but since he’s the villainous champ he can coast on his amazing ring work instead. Much like Charlotte vs. Banks vs. Bayley at Clash of Champions, I think this is pretty even on who has the best chance to win. Therefore, I’m going with the champ AJ Styles to retain in what should be a stellar match.
by Frank Lucci
NXT has become the hottest brand in all of wrestling and it’s easy to see why. The “developmental” promotion has sought out many top wrestlers in the industry with seemingly little regard to the unwritten rules of what the WWE wants in their superstars.
Triple H, the man playing the wizard of this veritable land of pro wrestling Oz, has signed big guys, little guys, guys who have been told before they “would never make it to the WWE” and perhaps the most important of all, women for his brainchild. Throw in key elements that have been missing from the main WWE roster (simplified, cohesive stories, emphasis on in-ring ability, focus on both women’s and tag team wrestling) and the brand that was once a third-rate reality TV show has eclipsed the WWE in the eyes of many fans.
When NXT began touring outside of Florida for the first time in May of 2015, I saw no reason not to drive over 200 miles from Rochester, New York to Albany for a chance to see NXT. With the company once again coming to the Washington Avenue Armory on February 20 of this year, I jumped at the chance to see the superstars in training once again.
Of course, it’s never quite as simple as jumping into a car on a Saturday afternoon and driving down the thruway. I had to get up early (i.e: 10 in the morning, I worked until one A.M the previous night) and scramble to secure five tickets. Shockingly, the tickets cost more per person than the WWE live show that had come to Rochester the previous September. I purchased five tickets, (enough to fit into one car) and then had to figure out a) who to offer tickets to first and b) how to gather people who lived out in Buffalo and Oswego to my place so we could all drive together.
I was confident in my ability to go, as that day happened to be a guaranteed day off from Saturday overtime for the shift I was on. Lo and behold, two weeks before the event my work changed my shift to the morning shift. This meant I went from having the day guaranteed off to being on the shift that was primary for working Saturday.
I began to panic slightly. However, it had been several weeks since anyone had needed to work Saturday, so perhaps I would still be in the clear. God and the weather laughed at me and proceeded to dump a foot of snow on Rochester the Tuesday before the show. While I managed to get to work, the main highways were actually closed later in the day due to the storm, a feat unheard of in Rochester lore. Sure enough, the other shifts were cancelled that day and we got to “leave early” (aka shovel our cars out of the parking lot and brave the storm). This lead to Saturday overtime, leaving me high and dry for NXT unless I could find a volunteer to work for me. Despite my best attempts to convince people that a painted up Irishman and an adorable woman in a side ponytail needed me to cheer for them, people did not want to wake up at six in the morning to work for me.
Things were bleak until I asked the women on night shift (who were also coming in for Saturday, but due to their schedule worked through Friday night) If she was willing to work a 12 hour shift. Finally I had a success, and she agreed to stay, leaving me with only four hours to give away. Thankfully my good buddy and fellow wrestling fan John (who had the privilege of seeing Andre the Giant perform) agreed to come in for the rest of my shift knowing how important seeing NXT was to me. John, a diehard Phish fan (as if there are any other types of Phish fans) compared my love of wrestling to that of his love of Phish. I took that as a huge compliment and with my wrestling plans secured braced myself for the long drive ahead.
Saturday came and my four traveling companions were ready to make the long drive with me. Marques (aka occasional Manopera guest Lord Boximus) was ready to see his girl Asuka kick people’s heads in. As the most veteran wrestling fan of our group (he saw the premiere of the Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002) he got to ride shotgun for part of the trip. Kim, the owner of the car we piled into, intrepidly drove the first half of the trip. Her boyfriend Dan, being the next smallest person in the group, had to ride in the middle seat the entire way. Rob, our fitness freak friend who proudly lost over 100 pounds to become the height and weight of Cesaro, managed to squeeze into the rouge as well. With the weather doing a complete 180 from Tuesday’s storm, deciding to be 50 degrees and sunny, things were on the up and up. With this good fortune we barreled down highway 90 discussing who we thought would be on the card, theorizing about Wrestlemania plans, addressing internet wrestling rumors and in general forgetting that Fastlane was the next day. The 200 plus mile trip was conquered in three hours and change; and after a brief trip of downtown Albany in a quest to find parking we were set.
Feeling good about arriving half an hour before the show was scheduled to start, our spirits were high. Groups of wrestling fans converged on Washington Avenue and everyone was excited to attend the sold out show. On the way to the building we passed a dead crow who had slammed into a window while flying, broke it’s neck and face planted into the ground below. I decided this hardcore sight warranted an “ECW” chant – unaware of the bad omen the crow represented. We got to the doors to see the line snaked around the side of the building, which was expected. Little did we know, the line went around the building and had almost passed the end of the line walking from our car to the building’s front door. With the clock rapidly counting down to the start time of 7:30 the familiar panic began to set in. We joked that Rob, fit as he was, should have stripped down to his underwear and pretend to be a local jobber working the show to get us in. With five minutes until the start time seeing us still snaked around the building, we debated bum rushing the garage entrance of the building when a car pulled up. 7:30 hit and we were still outside.
All seemed quiet so we thought perhaps WWE officials had wisely delayed the start time. We were wrong however, and soon we reached the point where we could heard the crowd inside cheering. It turns out that Triple H had come out to hype up the crowd before the show’s first match started, and a large portion of fans missed it. With the doors nearly in view we heard the first wrestler’s theme hit. It was Asuka, and the mood in the line soured quickly. Many fans were peeved that poor planning was leading them to miss one of NXT’s brightest stars, myself included. Once I recognized Asuka’s theme I let out a F-bomb at the top of my lungs, public decency and the children (which there was a surprisingly large amount of, though nowhere near the amount found at WWE shows) be damned. We were even more pissed when her opponent was announced as Eva Marie, as we knew the match would be a disappointment anyway. Finally, realizing the crowd outside was getting hostile, the event staff opened up the VIP entrance to the crowd, and we filtered in to see Asuka make Eva Marie tap out to the Asuka Lock. With my group finally in the building we settled in to our seats and got ready for the show.
Next we had Apollo Crews come out to a decent crowd reaction. His opponent Alex Riley received a very mixed reaction, as some people were either confused as to whether he was heel or face. Some wondered why he was facing Crews when the official fight card poster for the event had Elias Samson wrestling Crews. Either way, the two had a short but relatively uneventful match that saw Riley kill time by running out of the ring repeatedly and Crews trying to hit his signature moves. Eventually Crews rallied against the former announcer and hit his five moves of doom for the win.
Nothing against Riley, but he is a pretty bland wrestler in a sea of colorful personalities and has become the Curtis Axel of NXT. Crews needs an opponent who can work at a higher work rate so he can really shine. Until then, he is destined to be second banana in NXT.
Carmella came out solo for the third match on the card and did her usual stick on the mic. The princess of Staten Island was bursting with energy, but without her main men she lost a step or two. However, she is miles ahead of her opponent Peyton Royce when it comes to having a character. At this point I decided to check out the merch booth, but the line was long enough that I could still check out the action in the ring. However, roughly 70% of this match was the crowd chanting “smell her flower” – referring to the flower Royce brings to the ring as part of her frankly terrible “Venus Fly Trap of NXT” gimmick. When Carmella got ahold of said flower, she smelled it to the delight of the audience as Royce acted like Carmella had just bit the fingers off her newborn child. Once the actual in-ring action took place it was decent, but as I neared the merch booth the bleachers obstructed my view. With only a few people ahead of me I heard the bell ring and Carmella won the match. I was comfortable with my choice to skip the match to grab the awesome fight card poster they made for the event as well as a Samoa Joe shirt.
Just as I had almost made it to the merch booth my heart sank as Enzo and Big Cass’ music hit and the crowd collectively lost their minds. The tag team easily got the loudest sustained pop of the night and the two New York City natives responded accordingly. I got my gear just as they got to the ring after Enzo’s introduction speech and the crowd chanting “How you Doin?” Enzo and Cass relished the Albany crowd, as they considered wrestling there a hometown crowd. It’s astonishing how over the tag team are, although part of the crowd’s love may have been due to the (false) rumor that the two were to appear at the Fastlane Pay-Per-View the next day. Their opponents were The Vaudevillians, who got a nice pop before the crowd settled into the routine rhythmic clapping audiences use to show their love. The two veteran teams have wrestled countless times in the past, but the four men put on a great show for the crowd. In particular, Aiden English played to the crowd while Simon Gotch was in the ring and Big Cass threw Enzo around almost as much as his opponents. Seeing as Enzo and Cass had the crowd in the palm of their hands, the two walked away with a victory before intermission hit.
After a fairly quick intermission (that the venue botched hard by not having enough food prepared for the audience and ridiculous lines to boot) the crowd was ready for more action. What we got was Elias Samson, who got booed like he just ate the last known bison. When he meandered his way to the ring and began playing his guitar things got even worse. The crowd started chanting “drift away” to the New Day Rocks beat. Channeling my best Zoidberg impression, I yelled “Your music’s bad and you should feel bad” which at least made the guy in front of me laugh. While Samson’s gimmick is really lame, he generated so much heat I couldn’t hear him over the boos, so at least he can say he is the male Eva Marie. In addition, his negative reception perfectly dovetailed into monstrous cheers for his opponent Sami Zayn. The ska-tastic Zayn made Samson look good, although to be fair Samson is perfectly fine in the ring. Zayn gave The Drifter plenty of offense, probably because he is polite and Canadian. However, Zayn stormed back and delivered a Helluva Kick to end the contest.
Bayley stormed into the arena next, and the Women’s champ got a very high pitched pop for the many young ladies in the crowd. Bayley spent several minutes giving high fives and knick knacks to fans at ringside because Bayley is pretty much the perfect woman. Her opponent was Alexa Bliss, who was without Blake and Murphy. Quick side note worth mentioning: Bliss has a fantastic butt. Our entire group and everyone in our section agreed. Meanwhile, back in the ring Bayley opened up the match by doing the worm several times, because once again, she is perfect. After the third time Bliss attacked, showing some good heel instincts. Both women put on a good match, and the Glitter Blizzard by Bliss is a thing of beauty. Like most heels, however, Bliss ended up losing to Bayley. Another worm was in order, and the crowd showered the champ with cheers for a great match.
The main event of the evening was a tag match with Baron Corbin and Samoa Joe facing Austin Aries and NXT Champion Finn Balor. Corbin got a decent amount of boos, but the crowd cheered heel partner Joe. Meanwhile, Aries got a tremendous pop from the crowd as most everyone knew who the indy veteran was despite not yet appearing on TV. Balor also got a great pop, but the leather jacket/flashing the title thing makes him look like he may be a pervert. Just once I want him to open his jacket to reveal Krang.
There was a nice bit of psychology to start the match as the face team sent out Aries to please the chanting crowd, only for Joe to refuse to start the match unless Balor was in the ring. Corbin did a series of hokey strikes in the corner followed by posing and yelling, which was super goofy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ares ended up taking loads of punishment and the small boy behind us tried in vain to start a “let’s go Austin” chant for five minutes before his mom told him to stop. This match inspired many great moments from the crowd, with a guy near us yelling “NXT lifer” at Corbin, who clearly heard it and looked pissed afterwards. The Lone Wolf had one fan who kept cheering for him, despite the “shut the fuck up” chant he drew. Because I have the maturity of a five-year old, I tried to start a “Baron Corbin’s a weenie” chant (which did not take off). The four men gave a great performance, ending with the champ cleaning house and winning with the Bloody Sunday. The good guys swept the event, making sure everyone went home happy. Balor thanked the crowd and as a special treat called out Bayley so he could dress up like her and imitate her entrance to the delight of the crowd. Immediately after we hightailed it out of the arena, as we had a three hour drive home to deal with.
The event was a huge success, despite the staff trying hard to throw a wrench in NXT’s momentum. They were probably the biggest heels of the whole show. As our car drove the long stretch from Albany to Rochester listening to Deltron 3030, Action Bronson, and 18 minute long prog metal songs we went through highlights of the evening and tried to picture a scenario where Fastlane could top even an untelevised NXT show.
While a stadium full of fans screaming for the spectacle of a Pay-Per-View is always a treat, an armory of passionate fans watching passionate performers trying to give back what they have received to the fans cannot be topped. Not by the WWE as it stands now, but perhaps when Balor, Bayley and the others make it to the main roster (hopefully with their personalities and gimmicks intact), the company can find its way out of the rut it’s in and start flying high again.
by Frank Lucci
The halfway point of Breaking Ground sees Cal Bishop attempt to get back in the ring, the return of Tino Sabatelli, and Nia Jax making her debut.
Episode five starts with ZZ struggling with cardio to the point where he quits during a drill. It’s pretty much the same stuff we saw before, only with Coach Bloom finding ZZ with the trainer recovering from the drill (makes me curious how much working out ZZ and other trainees are doing per day and if trainers make exceptions for people like ZZ with a less than athletic background).
To the shock of nobody who saw NXT Takeover: Respect in October, Jordan and Gable beat The Hype Bros to get a match at the live special. While the recap type segments such as this and the ZZ spot are good if you waited several weeks between watching episodes, watching this and the previous episode feels pretty boring. After losing, Zack Ryder expresses frustration with being unable to get cohesiveness with tag team partner Mojo Rawley in the ring.
We are reintroduced to Bishop in yet another rehash of the previous episode. We see the second time his shoulder dislocates (ow) off a simple slam. After several months he again dislocated his shoulder taking a hip toss. Things are not sounding good for Bishop who seems like a hell of a nice guy. He does get cleared to return to the ring even though his scar tissue makes moving his shoulder difficult.
Ten minutes in and we finally get something new with Jax making her official debut on the program. Jax both claims that her character is who she is on the inside (turned up to 11) and also someone completely different than herself (what???). Of course she has to mention the fact that her cousin is The Rock 30 seconds into her first talking head interview. Annoying, but if if Rocky was my cousin I would announce that everywhere I went and make T-shirts with photos of us hanging out on them. After watching The Rock’s match at Wrestlemania 28 she was inspired to start wrestling and after a year at NXT she is gearing up for her NXT TV debut. A casual way to insert a basic intro segment.
Nhooph returns to the program to complain how she has not been booked to wrestle at shows. I would feel bad for her if she wasn’t so young and way down the totem pole compared to vets like Bayley and Alexa Bliss. Tyler Breeze is also in the house to give the newbies tips both for in the ring and getting their characters together. Breeze gives amazing pointers for how to present yourself in the ring and asks the girls to imagine how a child watching the show would imitate their characters.
A weekly coaches meeting reveals that pretty much everyone loves Bishop but worry his shoulder will give out again. Coaches also worry that Sabatelli is a cylon in the ring and is way too robotic despite having a great athletic background. Sabatelli is also trying to help his brother Shaun get his foot in the NXT door. Hilariously, Shaun is the one who initially wanted the wrestling career and Tino only got signed because he was there with his brother (who didn’t make the cut. Way to Sideshow Bob your brother dude!) Tino feels bad that he is so successful while Shaun is still chasing his dream. Humblebragging Tino everybody!
Back to Nhooph, who finds out her ring name will be Aliyah. She decides to call William Regal to figure out a character for herself (smart). Apollo Crews and a few other wrestlers get together to play video games and chill. Unsurprisingly, the game they choose is WWE 2K16 (product placement much?). Solomon Crowe makes a brief appearance, which makes me wish NXT did something with the talented wrestler. Tino finds out his brother sprained his MCL and can’t make his NXT tryout (D’oh!). Nhooph meets with Regal and says she wants to be a Kardashian/Brat Doll character. Regal shoots that shit down because by the time she would be able to show that character on the main roster they will be no longer popular. Regal clearly does not know the cockroach-like powers of the Kardashians. Nhooph is hesitant to play up her Middle Eastern background, claiming she wants to be something different than anyone else, which Regal approves of.
Bishop finally gets back into the ring, but has to limit what he can do because of his shoulder. Coach Bloom is worried about the safety of Bishop’s opponents in case he injures himself in the ring and calls Bishop out on trying to avoid using his injured right arm on basic moves. All the NXT women gather to watch a Nikki Bella interview to help them dial in their character performance. Lots of segments are devoted to showing how much work NXT wrestlers put into their characters, which is a nice change of pace from showing in-ring drills.
Side note: Never noticed this before but lots of wrestlers drink from gallon jugs. Is this a weird athlete thing? A gallon seems like too much fluid during working out. Does the WWE provide them jugs to use, because if not they are missing out on a prime marketing opportunity. BUY YOUR OFFICIAL NXT WORKOUT JUGS NOW!!!
RUN FOR YOUR LIVES COLD-BLOODED CANYON CEMAN IS IN THE PERFORMANCE CENTER! His goons round up a bunch of people including Crews, Jax, and Bishop. Everyone is nervous, but Ceman’s actually here to give everyone raises (except for Bishop, who is blindsided to find out he is being released). Episode five closes with him getting let go in a super downer ending.
Bishop’s release is really sad, especially considering the WWE spent the last two episodes getting to know how much he wanted this chance and how hard he took his injuries. Even more egregious, he was let go on the same day as Devin Taylor – meaning the WWE manipulated the show’s timeline to make it seem like he was there longer. Combine that with lots of recycling/rehashing footage and this episode is a low point for the series.