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Manopera! Episode 18: Extreme Rules 2016 Ups, Downs and Brand Splits

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“Spaceman” Frank reveals his new “Dudley” inspired gimmick before he and Chris divulge into WWE Extreme Rules, the brand split returning and Money in the Bank possibilities.

Bullet Club Must Debut at Extreme Rules

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For months WWE has been teasing the debut of the Bullet Club.

Rather than deliver the goods at what appeared to have been gift wrapped by booking, WWE continued to play mind games with the WWE Universe at both last Sunday’s WWE Payback and this past Monday Night Raw.

It now seems very obvious that possibly the hottest stable since the NWO will make their debut at WWE Extreme Rules on Sunday, May 22 in New Jersey’s Prudential Center.

Unfortunately, due to the near perfect setup at Payback it looks as though the debut will come out of necessity.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns and A.J. Styles had a phenomenal match until the (initial) finish, when Styles defeated Reigns via countout. Unsatisfied with this decision, Shane McMahon decided to restart the match and added a no countout stipulation.

This was fine until Reigns hit an accidental low blow on the challenger, resulting in a disqualification. Equal parts unhappy with the outcome and wanting to upstage her brother, Stephanie McMahon re-restarted the match with no countouts and no disqualifications to determine a clear winner.

Out came Styles buddies the Good Brothers, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson followed by Reigns’s cousins the Usos.

Things just got interesting.

The match went on with minor distractions for each competitor and their feuding cohorts as they all began brawling. It seemed as if any moment Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura would make their main roster debuts and give the WWE Universe the notorious Bullet Club.

Nope.

Instead Reigns defeated Styles with a Spear, who was given an Extreme Rules rematch at (you guessed it) Extreme Rules almost immediately by the McMahons due to his incredible performance (which is fine).

With a six man tag match main event between Styles, the Good Brothers, Reigns and the Usos set for the following Raw, it almost seemed as if the Bullet Club would surely debut the next night.

Nope.

With Extreme Rules coming up at the end of the month, the fans are getting restless and the surprise factor is fading. WWE must strike while the iron is hot or they run the risk of shooting the Bullet Club down before it has a chance to fire its first round.

Spaceman Frank’s WWE Payback 2016 Predictions

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by Frank Lucci

With WrestleMania 32 in the books, the WWE has wisely decided to switch Payback and Extreme Rules around on the Pay-Per-View calendar; or at least it would have been if WWE had booked more WrestleMania rematches instead going with fresh feuds (with only two feuds receiving a continuation from previous events).

Semantics aside, this Pay-Per-View has an exciting vibe to it due to those new rivalries and Payback could make up for a lackluster ‘Mania if done right. Here is Spaceman Frank’s Payback 2016 predictions.

Side note: Vince Mcmahon will be at the event to decide if either Shane or Stephanie gets control of WWE. Since this isn’t an actual match I won’t do a full prediction for it, but if I had to take a guess I’d say Stephanie gets Raw and Shane gets SmackDown! so the WWE can have their cake and eat it too.

Kickoff Match: Kalisto vs. Ryback (United States Championship Match)

One of the few ongoing rivalries from ‘Mania where both men had a surprisingly good match. WWE rewarded Kalisto and Ryback by giving them even less build for this match and another pre-show time slot.

It’s unclear what plans WWE has for the U.S. title, as it seems pushed down the card in favor of trying to rebuild the tag team division. Why we can’t have both I have no idea. With all the new talent coming in and taking up TV time, this is hurting not only both men involved, but the U.S. Championship as well (Open challenge anyone?). Kalisto wins because he is bright, colorful and will pop the crowd.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin

Corbin finally made the leap to the main roster at ‘Mania 32 with his shocking Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal victory and so far his build mirrors that of his NXT booking.

Ziggler is also being booked much like Corbin was in NXT, acting as the gatekeeper to the main event for new people trying to break the glass ceiling. The Lone Wolf has a good shot at impressing fans in his first proper Pay-Per-View match, but I see Ziggler getting the sneaky win so Corbin can beat him up some more so the two can have a match at Extreme Rules with a wacky stipulation (kiss my arse match anyone???)

Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho

Cool dad Jericho is still around trying to hang out with all the hip young people in the WWE. Ambrose is a decent opponent for the part timer, but beating Jericho won’t make up for his weak showing at ‘Mania.

Rather than build off of their incident at last year’s Night of Champions, WWE decided that this feud should play out over increasingly bland talk show segments. Considering that last month Jericho beat the WWE Championship’s number one contender A.J. Styles and Ambrose was taking on Brock Lesnar, it’s hard to get excited for this. Ambrose wins and Jericho threatens to bury more people on Raw.

The Miz vs. Cesaro (Intercontinental Championship Match)

The WWE finally get an injured wrestler back and Cesaro has been killing it as stripper James Bond despite the one-liner contest he had with The Miz on the go-home Raw.

The Miz has also been fantastic since winning the Intercontnental title and having his real-life wife Maryse on television with him. I didn’t think it was possible to want to punch The Miz in the face any more than I wanted to before, but believe it or not I actually do. Even more shocking, I see The Miz cheating to keep the championship from Cesaro as The Miz needs a legit IC title reign and at this point Cesaro doesn’t because he’s still fresh off of his triumphant return.

Charlotte vs. Natalya (Women’s Championship Match)

This match has been overshadowed in recent weeks by the behavior of the two men in each women’s corner. Ric Flair made headlines when it was rumored he was drunk at an airport, though it appears he merely injured his hand and went to an airport bar to kill time. Bret Hart on the other hand (pun intended), has openly criticized the WWE, stating that he has no interest in appearing at Payback (Way to sell the feud, fellas!).

Charlotte has hit her stride as champ, but WWE could easily give Nattie a title reign  to help build the the championship’s lineage. With outside drama overshadowing the in-ring story, I see Charlotte retaining in a good match.

Enzo & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillians (Number One Contenders match for the WWE World Tag Team Championships)

While the Vaudevillains have quietly been a solid addition to the main roster, Enzo and Cass have absolutely crushed it since appearing on the post-‘Mania Raw.

It still seems crazy that these two teams are facing off for the number one contendership and both teams will make great foils to The New Day (who again are not defending their titles on Pay-Per-View).

The Vaudevillians will win this match for two simple reasons: First, The Vaudevillians are the only heels between the three tag teams, leading to a more natural feud. Second, if the Dudley Boyz do not interfere in this match and cost Enzo and Cass their title shot then they will be the biggest putz’s in Dudleyville for letting the rookies walk all over them.

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

The epic rivalry between these two is fully reignited after several teases and they are going to have an absolute slobberknocker of an encounter. For many fans, this match alone is the big reason to watch Payback.

If Owens and Zayn get a good amount of time this is 100 percent stealing the show. The only negative I can think of is that it seems obvious that this rivalry is continuing into Extreme Rules. Zayn gets a surprise victory followed by Owens beating The Underdog From the Underground into a pulp afterwards.

Roman Reigns vs. A.J. Styles (WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match)

Roman Reigns in a feud we care about (GASP!)?

With so many moving parts at play, WWE has built up a lot of potential for this match and fans are eager to see what twists and turns will play out. It seems obvious that the Good Brothers and the Usos will be factors. There’s also been subtle hints former NXT Champion Finn Balor and possibly Nakamura could also be at play here (Bullet Club debut anyone?). Throw in the potential for many different heel/face turns from everyone involved and this may be the best feud Reigns has had since becoming a main-eventer.

The only slight criticisms I have for the build is Reigns constantly repeating his “I’m the man” schtick (Even his attempts at being nonchalant seem incredibly forced. Reigns reminds me of people who constantly claim that they are “for real” and “don’t have time for fake ass people.”) and the hype surrounding this match is all about what will happen at either the end or after rather than match itself (which will be excellent). Reigns wins, Balor debuts and takes control of the Bullet Club who then lay waste to Reigns and Styles.

3 Ways WWE Can Introduce Bullet Club At Payback

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This Sunday at WWE Payback, AJ Styles will face Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

With the recent additions of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to the main roster as well as Finn Balor losing his NXT Championship and Shinsuke Nakamura’s semi-alignment with Balor, everyone knows what’s coming.

The imminent arrival of the infamous Bullet Club.

Although nothing directly has been done to say what’s going to happen, the tease has been generating a buzz and mass speculation on how WWE will form the beloved New Japan stable (and what name they will be given as New Japan not only continues to use the name with its latest incarnation but also recently blocked WWE’s attempt to trademark “Bullet Club.” In the meantime, WWE has been testing the waters with “Balor Club” t-shirts and occasionally using the hashtag #Bulletproof around the members).

With that said, here are three possible scenarios for the stables WWE invasion.

Option I: Bullet Club 

The easiest route of the three, AJ Styles has been saying for weeks that while Gallows and Anderson are his friends, he is not in cahoots with them. That hasn’t stopped the “Good Brothers” (as they’ve dubbed themselves on social media and the GB hashtag on their entrance robes seen on this weeks Raw) from interfering in Styles matches and segments, attacking Reigns and his cousins the Usos nearly every time one of them is in front of a camera. Naturally, Reigns isn’t buying Styles argument and it seems as if we shouldn’t either.

This possible outcome goes like this: Moments before the finish, Styles comes clean and aligns himself with the Good Brothers. The three men trade blows with Reigns and the Usos for awhile until the Samoan family begin to get the upper hand. Out come Balor and Nakamura to finish the job and the Bullet Club lay waste to Reigns and his cousins. It would be great to see Styles take home the gold due to these shenanigans but it’s more likely that Reigns would retain due to a disqualification. Either way, the Bullet Club has a strong debut; standing in the middle of the ring with all guns blazing.

Option II: Bulletproof AKA The Roman Empire

This one is a bit messy.

Rather than have Styles come out as the ringmaster, WWE could pull a 180 and have Reigns be the mastermind behind a new stable.

During the match, the Usos and Good Brothers start fighting alongside Reigns and Styles. Balor and Nakamura slowly make their way to the ring and everyone stops. The two look at Reigns, then at Styles and everyone subsequently attacks the Phenomenal One with the freshly turned heel Champion Reigns smiling while his also newly turned cousins hold up the Bullet Club’s former third leader. Rather than a five man stable, we now have seven warriors that make for an extremely dominant faction.

Despite MAJOR plot holes in the storyline, Reigns can revert back to his role in the Shield as the heavy, brooding leader while Styles is immediately the white-meat babyface the company so desperately needs. Long story short, everybody wins (for the most part).

Option III: Balor Club

While surely the least likely, there’s nothing more sinister than option three.

All six men (Reigns, Styles, the Good Brothers and the Usos) are engaged in combat when Balor and Nakamura enter. Like option two, everyone stops when they get in the ring. Like option two, Balor and Nakamura exchange glances with Styles and Reigns. Unlike option two, the Good Brothers, Balor and Nakamura destroy everyone.

With Reigns, Styles and the Usos laid out Balor picks up the mic and announces the Balor Club’s arrival. He mentions how Styles was a good leader in Japan but he’s come back to take his rightful place and announces himself as the next WWE World Heavyweight Champion (which he becomes). In the aftermath, Styles and Reigns set their differences aside and create an alternate on/off stable with the Usos to fight the good fight and end Balor Club’s reign of terror.

This is the most logical route because of Styles and Balor’s history in the Bullet Club (Balor is a founding member and the original leader while Styles became the third leader after Balor had departed to NXT. The two were never in the faction at the same time).  The two can have a storied rivalry while building it off of real life situations. Styles becomes a tremendous babyface, Balor becomes the company’s top heel and who knows, the crowd might finally start cheering for Reigns and the Usos again.

Manopera! Episode 16: Remembering Chyna with Bullet Club Dreams

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After the breaking news of WWE Superstar Joanie “Chyna” Laurer’s passing, Chris and Frank pay their respects to the Ninth Wonder of the World before getting into TNA’s possible new partners, WWE Payback’s build so far and fantasy booking the Bullet Club’s official WWE arrival.

Spaceman Frank’s NXT Takeover: Dallas Predictions

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By Frank Lucci

With WrestleMania upon us, it’s for fans and Superstars alike to gear up for the biggest night of WWE’s calendar year. Before ‘Mania fully takes hold, NTX’s  Takeover: Dallas special proceeds WWE’s flagship Pay-Per-View this Friday on the WWE Network.

It’s no secret that NXT is slowly gathering more eyes on the product, generating consistently positive reviews and selling out a large portion of their events. Due to WWE’s lackluster booking of their main roster, even WrestleMania has been overshadowed by the NXT Takeover series. While ‘Mania will always have a special aura around it, the young talent at NXT have Wrestlemania 32 beat. But enough doom and gloom, here is Spaceman Frank’s NXT Takeover: Dallas predictions.

 

Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin

Aries received a hero’s welcome when he stepped into Full Sail University (and when I saw him at NXT Live in Albany) and Corbin’s vicious attack on the former TNA talent roughly 30 seconds after he stepped through the curtain was perfect. Aries is a great foil for Corbin and his indy wrestler hating ways (although whenever Corbin shows up on Raw I imagine that gimmick will change to hating cruiserweights). Corbin is primed to takeover (pun intended) the number one heel spot of NXT after Samoa Joe inevitably jumps to the main roster, and for that reason I see him defeating the newcomer in a fun match.

The Revival vs. American Alpha (NXT Tag Team Championship match)

Both teams are red hot right now and with the titles on the line, this could steal the show. The Revival have proven they can work with anyone and their smash-mouth old-school style has been sorely missed among the tag team division. Dash and Dawson had the best match against Enzo and Big Cass at WWE Roadblock and they seemingly can do no wrong when it comes to being bad. Meanwhile, American Alpha has been playing lights-out ball both in the ring and on the mike since they burst on the scene. The extremely likable duo of Jason Jordan and Chad Gable is like watching Attitude Era Kurt Angle team with himself. Both teams could easily walk away with gold, but I predict The Revival to win simply because their personas are more wrapped around being champs (plus I don’t want them to fall into the abyss former champs Blake and Murphy are currently wallowing in).

Apollo Crews vs. Elias Sampson

Directionless but lovable babyface versus heel with “go away” heat from the crowd. Crews has yet to find a rival that bumps him up to the upper echelon of NXT through a show stealing performance. In addition, his smiling yet oddly passive aggressive interview personality needs to evolve before he is ready for the big time. Sampson has a gimmick that garners Eva Marie heat from the crowd, but needs to channel that initial momentum into something the crowd can respect. It will be interesting to see how both men do in this match, given that it has the least amount of hype and neither can afford a loss at this junction. Sampson wins via cheating to solidify his stance in the company as Crews continues to drift.

Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Nakamura has NXT fans abuzz and his main roster debut seems to be heading in a similar direction as AJ Styles was in January. The big international superstar looks to be WWE’s biggest signee of 2016 and Nakamura could find himself in the title picture before the year is out. Standing in his way is Sami Zayn, one of the most beloved NXT wrestlers of all time in what very well may be his final Takeover appearance. This match should be great, but I would not be surprised if Zayn keeps some energy for his Wrestlemania ladder match later in the weekend. With the former NXT champion having to work double duty, I see Nakamura winning this match in a fun but safe affair.

Bayley vs. Asuka (NXT Women’s Championship match)

The battle between two of NXT’s best and brightest women will most definitely have fans divided as to which competitor they want to see win. Asuka has been on fire since her debut and the Japanese star has been raising the bar when it comes to physicality in women’s matches. At the same time, Bayley continues to be the face of NXT (perhaps even more than NXT champ Finn Balor, who has been notably absent from NXT television as of late). Bayley is afraid of the threat that the aggressive Asuka presents, which is refreshing when compared to her usual John Cena-lite attitude towards rivals. This points to a potential heel turn from Asuka, but I see that happening after Bayley retains her title at Dallas.

Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe (NXT Champion match)

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be the logic behind the NXT title picture.

The two men put on a clinic at the last Takeover event in London and their second encounter will definitely be another classic. One big problem I have however, is the lack of Balor in NXT compared to Joe. While Balor has been nursing an injury, Joe has had a great rivalry with Sami Zayn that was Pay-Per-View worthy in and of itself (how often do we see a full broadway aka one hour match on Pay-Per-View, let alone TV?). This puts Samoa Joe way ahead of Balor in terms of momentum.

On the other hand, the constant Bullet Club (or Bulletproof as WWE now calls it) still has fans buzzing about the NXT Champion in 2016. Either men could make the jump to the main roster after WrestleMania, but considering Joe’s age and hot streak I see the Samoan brawler getting called up first. Balor retains the title so Joe can head to Raw and the champ can reunite with his friends sooner rather than later.

Manopera! Episode 12: Roadblock and a Half Shell

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After a brief hiatus, Manopera is back with a vengeance. Chris and the Spaceman talk WWE Roadblock, WrestleMania and more in a podcast sure to knock you’re New Day socks off (we know you bought them).