Tag Archives: Finn Balor

Manopera! Episode 40: All Shook Up

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We cover a lot of ground as the dynamic duo analyze the Superstar Shake-Up, the growing Mauro Ranallo/JBL situation and more. Chris recaps his experience at the WWE shareholder meeting and reads the news as Dusty Rhodes. Spaceman Frank cuts a promo on United Airlines.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Matt “Rosey” Anoa’i.

Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.

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Spaceman Frank’s Royal Rumble 2017 Predictions

 

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by Frank Lucci

Let’s get mildly prepared to rumble! The Royal Rumble always has the bonus of being one of the few Pay-Per-View’s guaranteed to offer a surprise or two, and despite some stinkers in recent years, last year’s Rumble was my favorite PPV of the 2016. This year is actually very similar to last year’s. There is a possibility that Reigns could walk out as champ, people assume Brock will lose the rumble match due to his probable WrestleMania opponent knocking him out. People are ready to fantasy book New Japan (Kenny Omega, though that looks pretty unlikely) and NXT stars (Samoa Joe) into significant roles into ‘Mania. Getting some major deja vu from the PPV, but can WWE pull off the same magic for a second time? One big factor is the eight (!!!) matches for the Rumble, through three déjà vu are pre-show matches so they do not really count. This could seriously drain the crowd before the Rumble match begins, but the possibility of surprise entrants and the hype surrounding the match should help. And for the first time in ages the winner of the match is in doubt, with many different people in the running to win. I’m Spaceman Frank, and I am here to predict the Royal Rumble 2017.

Cesaro and Sheamus (C) vs. The Club (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match with Two Referees)

Oh boy, talk about an exciting stipulation! Totally do not expect a screwy finish here! The Club keep hovering around and losing to everyone, so why are they getting this shot again? If they are just going to fart around and not win the bets, then can they just go to SmackDown and be AJ’s henchmen again? Cesaro and Sheamus are a much better tag team then they have any right to be, but I still have zero reason to care or cheer for their future success. I predict that The Club will actually win, so that Sheamus and Cesaro can brawl while in the Rumble and we can get the Best of Seven Series: Twice in a Lifetime.

Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella, and Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James, and Natalya

What to do with the SmackDown women when they got a PPV in around two weeks? Why, throw them into a six women tag match of course! If the ladies actually get an Elimination Chamber match at Elimination Chamber I expect it to be this match but every person for themselves. Really hard to care about this match, but it is better than listening to the pre-show panel spout nonsense. Heel team wins because they have the newcomer in Mickie James and the Champ in Alexa Bliss.

Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks

The only pre-show match I actually am invested in. It is time for Nia Jax to have a real opponent, and having shown up in NXT after the Four Horsewomen (minus Bayley) guarantees she has some interesting matchups. She needs to get more involved in the division to freshen things up, so hopefully she takes advantage here and shows she is worth a push sooner rather than later. My only hangup is Banks’ bumping. If she flies around and gets banged up by Charlotte, imagine what will happen when the much larger Jax starts tossing her around. Jax crushes Banks in dominating fashion.

Rich Swann (C) vs. Neville (WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match)

This match should be plenty exciting, but Swann has fallen into one of the biggest pitfalls for babyfaces in the WWE: he does not talk like a human. He went from giving heartfelt sitdown interviews about his past to making fun of Neville’s ears. He, Reigns, and Rollins need to form Shield 2.0 where they act like Kiefer Sutherland in Stand By Me and expect people to cheer for them. Anyway, both these guys are magic in the ring regardless of the actual built for this match, so this should be a highlight for the division. It seems as though Neville is destined to win the belt, but four champions so soon into the division’s run is too many. Swann retains to stop the hot potatoing between the belt and so WWE can stall until they inevitably just throw eight or ten guys into the ring at WrestleMania to fight for the belt.

Charlotte Flair (C) vs. Bayley

Will Bayley beat Charlotte and hand her the first PPV loss of her career?? No, no she will not. If WWE was going to go all in on Bayley getting the belt, they would have done a better job at hyping the match. As it stands now, all the WWE did was have people make fun of her and then for Bayley to be like “eh whatever.” I really do not see Charlotte losing the belt before WrestleMania to add extra emphasis to her first big PPV loss, and they can draw this out much like they did for Charlotte vs. Banks until the big show. Maybe have Charlotte get the DQ win to taint the streak?  Dana Brooke saves her friend/ boss/ abusive girlfriend and Charlotte keeps the belt.

Kevin Owens (C) vs. Roman Reigns (No DQ match with Chris Jericho suspended in a shark cage above the ring for the WWE Universal Championship)

I just felt dumber after writing the above sentence. We get it WWE. You have a toy with a cage suspended above the WWE ring. Kids are the only people who love Reigns. Why not have Reigns beat up that dastardly Owens as kids imitate it with their playsets? I just do not have words for how stupid I feel this is. This match was effectively ruined the moment Jericho, for reasons completely unknown to me or sanity in general, Loony Tunes-style stepped into the cage when it was first revealed so he could be locked in and suspended above the ring. At least have Reigns push him into the cage rather than him just wander in. WWE has made it clear that they think Owens is nowhere near the level of Reigns, and this match is to get the belt off him so he can feud with Jericho finally. Reigns wins, hopefully after Owens beats the piss out of him so I can at least laugh at Reign’s pain.

AJ Styles (C) vs. John Cena (WWE Championship Match)

My third match between these two promises to be as epic as their previous encounters, with the added bonus of the championship on the line. AJ Styles has knocked it out of the park for his entire run, even when he was dealing with Ellsworth. Cena has come right back to SmackDown and has not lost a step. The promos between the two are the highlights of the week for me, and credit to the two men for making me fine with Cena picking up the belt again. For indeed, I believe Cena will finally get his win and the belt at the Rumble. It is WrestleMania season after all, and WWE is going with the strongest hand that they can. With the constant rumors that Styles and Owens are being pushed aside for Cena and Reigns, it makes sense for Cena to grab the belt here. I am not completely certain that Cena wins here considering there seems to be a new rumored opponent for him every day, but I cannot see the WWE having Styles go into ‘Mania as champ. Big John gets the win and we establish his challenger at Elimination Chamber as Styles hopefully gets a better match at Mania than him versus Shane McMahon.

Royal Rumble Match

I’m going to do something a little different here and rank, from least likely to most likely, the chances of each announced competitor of winning the Royal Rumble match. There are 22 announced entrants for the match, so I predict the match will be rounded out by Samoa Joe (because c’mon, he has to be in this match after missing Takeover), James Ellsworth (to get destroyed by a much larger man), Breezeango (for extra bodies), Kane (because he is a legacy character), AJ Styles (needs more SmackDown stars), TJ Perkins (needs more Cruiserweights), and Nia Jax (because why not?).

22. Big Cass- Tag team people never win.

21. Rusev- Always is out first despite being the best human being on the planet (as seen in Total Divas).

20. Sheamus- Already has one match on the PPV and it’s on the pre-show.

19. Xavier Woods- Here for faction warfare.

18. Kofi Kingston- Here for faction warfare/agility.

17. Big E- Here for faction warfare/sexy dancing.

16. Sami Zayn- Going to last for minimum 45 minutes, only to be thrown out by the real stars.

15. Baron Corbin- Most likely going to throw out a fan favorite to get some heat/acquire new rival.

14. Cesaro- Going to last longer than Sheamus, but still following the rule of people with a previous match having no chance in the Rumble.

13. Mojo Rawley- my roommate Kim loves him, so I give him a slight chance to do something significant here at the Rumble. Plus, he has to do something while Zack Ryder is out with injury.

12. Big Show- Gonna get tossed by someone (Mojo?) to show how strong said person is.

11. Luke Harper- Despite being my boy, he is going to get tossed by the rest of the Wyatts. Perhaps he will turn face here after his treatment, or they will have Randy turn and Luke forgives Bray instantly. Personally, I’d rather see all three get into it and we get a Mani triple threat out of this.

10. Dean Ambrose- Already Intercontinental champ, so he will find a way to lose here. Perhaps he will find a new rival here, or they will have him enter the Elimination Chamber and find his ‘Mania opponent there (or we get the ladder match. Either way he is not winning).

9. Dolph Ziggler- Ziggler is one of those guys that will last until the final five or six people, but get tossed when it is time to clear out the pool. Evil Ziggler is best Ziggler but I see WWE waiting to establish where his ceiling will be for the future.

8. The Miz- Momma Mizanin’s baby boy had a hell of a 2016, but he is not ready to get into the main event just before the biggest show of the year. In the doldrums after SummerSlam? Sure. Springtime quickie run to shake things up? Maybe. But not right now.

7. Randy Orton- This is where the serious contenders start showing up. I can see him throwing out Bray when they are the final two, and I can see Bray doing the same to Orton. I do not think he really needs the win though, and his future feud with Wyatt does not need a belt thrown into the mix too.

6. Bray Wyatt- See the previous entry, with the added bonus of being a creepy cult leader who has henchmen to help him win.

5. Braun Strowman- The massive mountain of a man could pull a 2001 Kane and eliminate a record number of people. Then be the second to last person left and get booted out, again just like 2001 Kane. There are plenty of rumors surrounding the big guy winning, but with so many big stars in the match I do not think he is going to walk out the winner.

4. Chris Jericho- I can see Jericho being a dark horse to win the match, but only if Owens retains the belt. Since I already said Reigns is going to lose, this drops him down a  few pegs in my book.

3. Goldberg- Already has a big feud for ‘Mania almost certainly happening, and with a contract that has even less dates than Lesnar I do not see him challenging for the belt.

2. Brock Lesnar- I wanna say he will not win the Rumble, due to the whole Goldberg deal. But it is still very hard to discount him. I can see WWE having him win, then giving Goldberg a quick reign with the belt so he can drop it to Lesnar. Since Lesnar has dropped off significantly in 2016 a good title reign would boost him (and his value) back up.

1. Undertaker- This seems like the sure bet. Having ‘Taker be the only free agent in the match adds extra intrigue and plot to the build to WrestleMania, as he can go to either show. Throw in retirement rumors and this is the best way to make WrestleMania 33’s main event superior to last year’s.

 

Fantasy Booking The Undertaker vs. Finn Balor at WrestleMania 33

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On the 900th episode of SmackDown, The Undertaker appeared for the first time since WrestleMania 32.

Many speculated it would be to either announce his retirement or to select his WrestleMania 33 opponent. However, the Phenom did none of these things. He simply stated that he’s back to “take souls and dig holes,” and that WrestleMania will no longer define him before giving the SmackDown Survivor Series team a pep-talk from beyond the grave.

As vague as his statement is, it’s safe to assume he will now be appearing sporadically in some type of authority role, almost in a way President Jack Tunney would in the 80’s and early 90’s. ‘Taker will probably end up in the occasional tag match as well as more Pay-Per-Views leading up to ‘Mania 33.

But if the Show of Shows in Orlando is the endgame for The Deadman, he should have an opponent, and it should be a demon. Not Demon Kane, but a Demon King.

The Undertaker’s WrestleMania 33 opponent should be none other than the returning Finn Balor, and unlike his ‘Mania 31 encounter with Bray Wyatt, it should be a passing of the torch.

But how can this feud be built with Balor on Raw and ‘Taker on SmackDown?

After Survivor Series this Sunday, the next inter-brand Pay-Per-View is Royal Rumble.

In the Royal Rumble match, Balor should make his return to the ring as the surprise number 30 entrant to a Road Warrior pop and battle his way into becoming one of the final competitors fighting for a World Championship opportunity alongside John Cena, Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins.

With the way things are heading, it looks as though Rollins and Triple H will meet at either the Rumble or ‘Mania, so we’ll keep it for the latter. Here, The Game screws Rollins out of the title via shenanigans and Rollins is promptly eliminated. We now have our final three Rumble combatants. One from Raw, two from SmackDown. Cena and Wyatt will set their differences aside for the sake of their brand and team up against Balor.

The lights then go out inexplicably and we hear the one sound every WWE Superstar dreads.

GONG!

The lights reactivate as The Undertaker stands in the ring and stares down all three men. As a red herring, he chokeslams Cena. Still setting his sights on being “The New Face of Fear,” Wyatt tries for a Sister Abigail but it’s countered into another chokeslam by the Phenom. Balor has been down the entire time from the Cena/Wyatt smack down (pun intended). As he slowly recovers to his feet he turns to The Deadman, who stares into his eyes and makes his signature throat-cutting gesture before driving Balor into the mat with a Tombstone. He picks up the fallen Irishman and tosses him over the top rope, eliminating him from the match and his chance to reclaim the title he was forced to vacate due to injury.

The stage is set. The Demon of Death Valley vs. The Demon King at the Granddaddy of ’em All, where after putting on a clinic, Balor puts ‘Taker to rest en-route to winning back his WWE Universal Championship from Rollins, who defeats both Triple H and Kevin Owens in the same night.

Since the current Cena angle is his journey to tie Ric Flair for the all-time World Championship record, he goes on to win the Rumble and dethrone A.J. Styles at ‘Mania. As for Wyatt, we could see a match against stablemates Randy Orton, Luke Harper, or both. Regardless of whether or not any of this happens, April 2, 2017 is going to be a hell of a show.

Manopera! Episode 24: SummerSlam 2016 Spectacular Part 2 – SummerSlam Results and Feedback

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In a mega-sized episode for a mega-sized show and fallout, Chris and the Spaceman discuss SummerSlam 2016.

Check out Chris’s post on the WWE Universal Championship here.

 

Why WWE’s Top Heel is the Universal Championship

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The biggest heel in Sports Entertainment today. Credit: WWE.com

To sum it up nicely, this year’s SummerSlam had way more valleys than peaks.

One of the deepest of those valleys was the reveal of the WWE Universal Championship, in addition to the odd placement of the match that would crown the first participant to hold that title – Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor. Besides the winner not being able to hold the title for a complete day due to an injury that would occur as a result of Rollins’ running turnbuckle powerbomb on the barricade (which should be banned as it has cut Balor’s career short while ending Sting’s completely), the title was rejected by the fans immediately. Instead of paying attention to the match, fans were focused on expressing their displeasure for the newborn belt with chants of “This belt sucks,” “Heeeyyy, we want a new belt” and even the TNA inspired “Delete.”

WWE’s reaction to the fans’ reaction, is of course, bitter – and who could blame them? They named the title after their fans – the WWE Universe. Unfortunately, what they didn’t realize was that in doing this, the WWE did what they haven’t been able to do in a very long time: create a legitimate top heel. How did they perform this often unachievable feat in an era where kayfabe is dead?

Pretty easily.

Exhibit A – The Design Is Lazy

First things first. When the title was announced the name choice, while not the best, is something fans are slowly getting used to as the logic behind the titles title made sense. With a name like the Universal Championship, fans speculated as to what it could look like. Will it have a globe on it? Could it hearken back to the days of older titles? They wouldn’t make it spin again, would they?

Instead, we got none of those things. What we did get was the same exact plates of the WWE Championship with a red strap (you know, so we didn’t forget which title was on Raw).

The design itself is boring, uninspired, and lazy. Rather than a fresh new look for a fresh new belt, The Universal Championship’s lackluster template comes off as a cheap imitation of something we already have (that we already weren’t too fond of to begin with). If the idea was to change straps all along, why not just put a blue strap on the WWE Championship, call it the SmackDown Championship and instead name the Universal title the Raw Championship? It would have made more sense both name and design name-wise. Seeing as SmackDown went that route for their Tag Team titles, it seems as if the idea had already been taken into consideration, but executed elsewhere.

A better thought: take a good look at the best looking titles; the two Women’s Championships. While both straps are white, the negative space is filled in with brand specific jewels – red for Raw’s and blue for SmackDown Live’s version. Although the designs to all heavyweight championships are identical, the extra miles gone to separate the women’s belts look great. Why not do the same for the men’s heavyweight titles but with black straps? It would have at least shown effort and continuity, things we barely get on WWE programming (NXT, on the other hand…).

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A much better design for both titles. Credit: UltraAimG/Cleveland.com

Exhibit B – The Presentation Was Awful

While the build was initially not bad with two Fatal Four-Way matches, a singles match between the two winners and a match against handpicked contender Seth Rollins, it didn’t keep the fans eyes on the prize. Over the next few weeks, WWE slowly started to show us that even if Roman Reigns isn’t in the main event, he’s still in the main event. Rather than revolve the last segment of every three-hour Raw around the Rollins/Balor title match, we instead got Reigns and Rusev or Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton in that spot.

The Universal Championship hadn’t even been officially called up to the main roster and it was already floundering in the midcard.

Lesnar is a special attraction, but when you’re trying to introduce your new biggest championship to your audience, you don’t make him top priority – especially after said special attraction was caught doping after his now unrecognized UFC victory against Mark Hunt.

This goes triple for Reigns, who continues to be booed out of the building no matter where he is on the card.

It also doesn’t help that there was barely any interaction between Balor and Rollins. Aside from the initial encounter and Balor awakening The Demon King, there was nothing. Just vignettes that while good, didn’t carry the build by themselves. We really needed those in-ring segments with both competitors there to make this title feel like a big deal – and they had to go on last. It is very important that your Heavyweight Championship interactions go on last – even when they don’t revolve around John Cena.

When the big day finally arrived, there had been no contract signing, no title hype and more importantly, no unveiling ceremony for the star of the match that should have gone on last. Even on the big show, the title was again shuffled down the card in favor of Reigns and Lesnar – who’s matches were a) for lesser championships or none at all and b) had no legitimate finish (heck, Reign’s match didn’t even officially start). What happened was a casual uncovering of the brand new belt right before the match. It was essentially WWE telling it’s universe, “Here’s you go, don’t you like it?” like a relative who gets a seven year-old clothes for Christmas.

With hype like that, what did they think was going to happen? But it gets worse. Like Jesus Christ, the Universal Championship was betrayed by one of it’s own before being condemned by its many followers.

Exhibit C – WWE Told Us Not to Like it

In the month leading up to the red belt of disaster’s debut, all SmackDown Live did was trash the title.

Brand Manager Shane McMahon and General Manager Daniel Bryan poked fun at the Universal Championship’s name every second they got, both on and off-screen. From jabs in interviews saying it should be called the” Galaxy Championship” because a galaxy is bigger than a universe to tweeting mock designs in the form of a giant “U” with a strap (which actually looks better) to lambasting the title on TV, SmackDown basically told us the title was stupid from the get-go.

The idea was to create a sense of competition between brands, but this can only work if the new design blows everyone’s expectations out of the water. Since this was obviously not the case as evidenced by Exhibit A, the plan backfired completely. In Exhibit B, WWE showed us that despite being Raw’s new main title and that the crowning of its first champion would take place at SummerSlam, it still had less importance than both the United States title (which is considered the SECONDARY championship) and a beast that cheated in a legitimate sport when he didn’t have to. Finally, in Exhibit C, WWE goes on to tell us it doesn’t mean anything and we should treat it as such.

But it’s the fans that are in the wrong.

Conclusion

Was the WWE Universes behavior disrespectful? Absolutely. Balor and Rollins put on a stellar bout and should not have been overshadowed by a mediocre title. The problem is that it’s not the just the Universal Championship’s concept that caused fans to riot in their seats. It’s the overall carelessness that went into the belt, its match placement and overall booking itself that really did the damage.

At the end of the day, no matter how much WWE wants to blame smarks, the IWC and the rest of their “beloved” Universe, Mick Foley (who used to agree with the internet and slam the company on a regular basis before he and his family suddenly started working there), Vince McMahon and the rest of his glad-handing “Yes” men have no one to blame for The Passion of the Universal Championship but themselves.

Spaceman Frank’s SummerSlam 2016 Predictions

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by Frank Lucci

According to wrestling, SummerSlam is the biggest party of the Summer…or at least it was until NXT showed up and stole their thunder last year. With the WWE’s main roster shows now split up, this year’s SummerSlam is the first of the New Era, but it still feels the same as before due to it featuring members of both brands wrestling. With a staggering 13 matches scheduled for the event, there are bound to be a few duds in the mix, but this is still a pretty solid if unspectacular card. Spaceman Frank is here to predict who will walk out of SummerSlam the victors and who will be the sad sacks.

Kickoff: Sami Zayn & Neville vs. The Dudley Boyz 

In a match where the pairing of the former NXT champs just kind of happened at the last minute, Zayn and Neville should pull off a decent showing. While Neville hasn’t had much direction since returning from injury, this is a huge demotion for Zayn as he’s been featured in higher profile matches since debuting on the main roster. Seeing as The Dudleys are basically the Chris Jericho of tag teams, they will take the loss in a somewhat entertaining match that will not have the time it deserves.

Kickoff: American Alpha, The Hype Bros & The Usos vs. Breezango, The Ascension & The Vaudevillains 

The SmackDown tag teams, while abundant have, no champions. Seeing as there were no rules in the draft about champions floating between brands, this is a problem for the blue brand. Where Raw has picked up the pieces in crowing a new heavyweight champion (more on that later), SmackDown has instead waited to pull the trigger on that for both their tag and women’s divisions, putting every egg in each division in separate but similar baskets (match and storyline-wise). Seeing as American Alpha is the hot new team, they will probably pick up the win for their allegiance against someone in Breezango.

Kickoff: Cesaro vs. Sheamus (Best of Seven Series: Round One)

It feels like these guys have already been in a best of seven series considering how often they go against each other. This will be a decent match, but much like Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens from last year’s SummerSlam this is going to be swallowed up by the other matches on the card. I hope the WWE treats this like a big deal and dangles a title shot or something for the men to fight for rather than it being WWE’s way of having two guys tread water for awhile. Perhaps we can get different stipulations sprinkled in as well? Anyway, I see heel Sheamus getting the win to go up 1-0 on Cesaro to give him some extra motivation to win going forward.

Natalya, Alexa Bliss (and formerly Eva Marie) vs. Naomi, Carmella, and Becky Lynch

The All Red Elephant in the room for this match is the suspension of Eva Marie for her first wellness policy violation. Her husband/manager Jonathan Coyle is calling it unjust, flashing me back to Adam Rose’s suspension drama earlier in the year. That being said, the WWE has an easy out considering Eva’s whole actually avoiding wrestling gimmick, but then that leaves the heels with the rare disadvantage. I honestly don’t think SmackDown has any more women left, so the WWE may be stuck here. I hope this will be a good showcase for Alexa Bliss, but I think she will be losing along with Nattie Ice to the faces here.

The Miz vs. Apollo Crews (Intercontinental Championship Match)

I honestly forgot this was happening.

Crews has been getting a solid push lately, but I have not been terribly impressed with him thus far. I know he can potentially do great things, but it seems like WWE has but a governor on the poor guy. It doesn’t help that his paper thin character has been exposed compared to Miz’s usual excellent character work (Can we please get Crews and Kalisto to go balls out for twenty minutes on each other to show everyone what they can do?). The Miz wins because he is the Miz and if the Miz does not have a title he usually ends up being pretty awful.

Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Dads on a Mission (Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho)

The WWE has put two of their biggest trolls together. Smart. They face off against Enzo and Cass, who I was sure were going to end up  against The New Day, if only for the epic promos we would get. This should be an interesting encounter, especially if both teams get a chance to talk beforehand. The problem is I cannot see Y2KO lasting long, as Owens needs to be a singles wrestler at this point eyeing the main event picture rather than just in a throwaway tag match. Enzo and Cass win and move on to the title scene while Jericho and KO continue to be spectacular assholes.

Roman Reigns vs. Rusev

This feud is deader than the steak in my burrito.

I guess Reign’s punishment for failing the wellness policy test is to bury Rusev farther down the card? At least he got married to Lana during this feud, so we know Rusev is the real winner in life. Reigns wins. Rusev, America, and Hope lose.

The New Day vs. The Club (WWE Tag Team Championship Match)

The booking choices for this feud have been…odd. Not bad, but I mean everything surrounds Big E’s penis. I am sure it is a fine penis (as Natalya and her sister discussed on Total Divas), but I  feel like it shouldn’t trump the tag titles in importance. I’ve been ready to take The Club seriously for a while, but I guess that’ll have to wait. At this point The New Day are bigger than the championships and made history, so now is the time to drop the belts to The Club so they can begin going on a tear and New Day can continue to be goofballs.

Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (WWE Women’s Championship Match)

Can these women top their match on Raw? Obviously. What about when they’re smashed between twelve other bouts (Ehhhhhhhh maybe)? I don’t think this will be bad by any stretch, but I really hope they get time to tell their story. Maybe putting the ladies first will help it get buried under all the other matches.

Sasha has been great as the underdog champ, and Charlotte has pretty much been doing to Dana Brooke what she did to Ric Flair earlier in the year (WHY DO YOU PUSH AWAY THE PEOPLE THAT LOVE YOU CHARLOTTE???). Champion Banks retains, Bayley comes to the main roster after SummerSlam and we get the slow build to Bayley vs. Sasha at WrestleMania 33.

John Cena vs. AJ Styles

What will probably be the end of this feud will surely be an instant classic. I wish this had a stipulation attached, as we are pretty light on those this Pay-Per-View. Plus with Cena rumored to be going on hiatus again they could have easily had Styles punish Cena enough to have him kayfabe on the shelf for awhile. Unfortunately this is a big fight match being dragged down by the other big marquee matches on the card, plus the fact that we already saw this match takes away some luster. As stated on Manopera, I really want AJ and The Revival to become a thing, so perhaps this is the time to bring them up. With or without help, Styles wins since he’ll be the one working every Tuesday and probably in the title hunt sooner rather than later.

Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler (WWE Championship Match)

After what feels like forever, Ziggler finally gets his shot at redemption, but will WWE pull the trigger on him being a top guy in the company (for reals this time)?

Ambrose has really found his groove as champ, as he is less “LOOK AT HIM MAGGLE, HE DON’T KNOW WHAT’S HE DOING!!! LUNATIC FRINGE!!!!” and more just a badass dude who doesn’t care if he dips his toes into heelish territory. This feels a lot like Neville vs. Zayn from 2014, but I see the champ retaining here. The company could easily milk this for a few more PPV’s as Dean plays dirtier to keep the belt and Dolph gets unhinged trying to win.

Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins (WWE Universal Championship Match)

Balor came in and had an amazing first week, and then for some reason WWE decided that was enough and have coasted up until now. Rollins no-selling the appearance of The Demon King was particularly bad. Build aside, these two could be forced to eat ten “Death Wings” from Duff’s (Buffalo reference) and still put on one hell of a match.

Much like the WWE Championship match, the big question is if WWE will put the title on Balor. After all, Rollins seems to be the golden boy for WWE, and it’s not their style to just give a top belt to a guy so soon. Finn will get a run, but not at Summerslam. Rollins wins to become Raw’s first-ever Universal Champion and keep the status quo going strong in the New Era.

Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton

Have we ever gotten a better version of babyface Randy Orton than now? I’m guessing going on the shelf and putting on jeans really helped the dude out. Lesnar and Paul Heyman have been their usual great selves to build this up, and what could have been a mediocre match has me intrigued. They’ve set up the match well, with Orton just needing one chance to hit the RKO to win while Brock can just beat Orton to a pulp whenever he wants.

Orton is the best choice to face Lesnar right now, because A) he is one of the few stars big enough to realistically take on The Beast, and B) is not a big enough star to actually take him down. Lesnar wins and disappears while Orton remembers he is supposed to be on SmackDown and feuds with the mysteriously SummerSlam absentee Bray Wyatt.

Manopera! Episode 22: New Era or S.O.S.?

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Battling a rough bout with the hiccups, Chris and Spaceman Frank return with their thoughts on the WWE’s New Era (post-draft) in terms of how it’s doing so far, where it can go and why the “Broken” Matt Hardy gimmick may be the greatest thing going.

Spaceman Frank’s WWE Battleground 2016 Predictions

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by Frank Lucci

WWE Battleground 2016 is the first Pay-Per-View in the brand split 2.0 and the event promises to be…interesting, to say the least.

By booking every matchup before the draft, what was once considered a dream card is now a jumbled mess. With many opponents now on different brands, the WWE has given off the impression that they don’t know what they’re doing with the new rosters – which is definitely not where they want to be going into SummerSlam. There are no bad matches on the card, per se, but the company has given fans little reason to care. Spaceman Frank is here to sort out the mess and predict the results of Battleground 2016.

The Miz (c) w/ Maryse vs. Darren Young w/ Bob Backlund (Intercontinental Championship match)

Darren Young has finally returned to television with the ageless Bob Backlund as his manager by winning a battle royal in baffling fashion to earn his shot at The Miz’ Intercontinental Championship and if he wins, the title will be moving from SmackDown Live to Raw.

After a series of great title defenses from The Miz featuring some of WWE’s top talent, Young is a step down  by default. Unless the WWE plans on swapping the Intercontinental and United States Championships to different shows, there’s no reason for The Miz to cut short his great run as a d-bag champ.

Rusev (c) w/ Lana vs. Zack Ryder (United States Championship match)

The build has been slightly better for this match than the Intercontinental Championship match, with Rusev being a bully by accepting Ryders challenge after a sneak attack on the Long Island native. But once again, unless the titles are switching shows there is no way Rusev loses to the guy he has squashed repeatedly.

Becky Lynch vs. Natalya

The two new SmackDown! Divas are set to settle their differences at Battleground and the booking has mirrored the Zayn/Owens feud sans the massive amount of history and several match of the year candidates to back them up.

Build aside, if these two operate at their full potential they should be able to pull of a great match; although it’s bittersweet to settle a feud like this without a title involved. Natalya wins because she is overdue to win a feud after her series with Charlotte and can now cheat to go full-heel on the loveable Lass Kicker.

The New Day (c) vs. The Wyatt Family

This match (which is not for the Tag Team Championships) has been all about The Wyatts scaring Xavier Woods as well as the audience with their Final Deletion ripoff. The New Day survived the draft intact, while The Wyatts will split with Bray and Erick Rowan on Smackdown and powerhouse Braun Strowman on Raw (no word on my boy Luke Harper).

Since The New Day are still champs, they will win this match so they can stay strong while the WWE finds them a new team for them to feud with but not face for the titles.

Sasha Banks and TBD vs. Charlotte (c) and Dana Brooke

This showcase for the Raw women’s division has some buzz around it as people speculate who will be the mystery partner for Banks. Many are clamoring for Bailey to make her long awaited jump to the main roster, but it wouldn’t make sense for her to make her debut without being drafted beforehand.

I see the recently called up Nia Jax forming a team with Banks to give the newcomer a big boost right out the gate. Indeed, Banks and Jax will win the match so both can be contenders for Charlotte’s championship – whenever she gets around to defending it, that is.

John Cena, Enzo and Cass vs. The Club

The battle of divided teams sees Cena giving the rub to Enzo and Cass before he retreats to Smackdown Live versus The Club, who will be without A.J. Styles on Raw (although their New Japan pal and original Bullet Club leader Finn Balor will be waiting in the wings for them on Monday nights).

I see this match as a way to set up two different matches for SummerSlam: the most likely rematch between Cena and Styles and the logical Enzo and Cass vs.The Club. Since this is a tag match featuring Cena, I see him getting the win for his team by jobbing out one of the members of the Club (looking at you, Anderson) before a big beatdown to  set up the future matches.

Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens

The alleged “final match” between these bitter rivals is set to be one of the best matches of the night and is easily one of the best built matches on the card as well. However, the WWE still managed to throw a few wrenches into this feud by having both men on the same show post-draft, meaning it is highly unlikely this is the actual “last match” for these two.

On a minor note, having this be a plain old singles match like the one they had at Payback instead of a No-DQ stipulation means this lacks the finality required for this feud. Since Zayn was drafted much higher than Owens and he has generally been on the losing end of the feud he will win out in the (so-called) end.

Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Championship match)

The dream match that has been derailed by poor booking and suspensions has an extra wrinkle with the brand split. Ambrose is the sole SmackDown! competitor and as the champ, he seems to have an advantage over the other two wrestlers. Rollins meanwhile, has been doing fantastic in his role of the scorned former champion who resents the so-called cheater Ambrose. In addition, he successfully navigated the Reigns dilemma by addressing it and trashing Reigns as only Rollins can.

The big problem here is the rumors that Rollins will win the title and feud with Reigns, who fans have turned against even more due to his suspension. Ambrose deserves a real shot with the belt and with Raw in need of a top championship this match will end with a screwball finish that leaves Ambrose as champ for the blue brand so Rollins and Reigns can have a separate feud for a new heavyweight championship on Raw.

Spaceman Frank’s WWE Fantasy Draft

 

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by Frank Lucci

The WWE has finally released the rules for the WWE draft scheduled for the first edition of SmackDown! Live on July 19th, 2016. Long story short: Raw gets the first pick, Raw gets three picks for every two SmackDown! gets (due to the Monday show being an hour longer), tag teams count as one unit unless a GM wants just one member and each show gets 3 NXT picks.

Going with the assumed format of Raw/Smackdown/Raw/Smackdown/Raw/Raw for the order, here is Spaceman Frank’s mock WWE Draft with some explanations/fantasy booking to boot.

Author’s Note: I wrote this before the edition of Raw before the draft, so i’m assuming Dean Ambrose is still champ because please don’t take that away from us WWE I beg you! Also i’m assuming that the televised portion of the draft will be around 15 picks for Smackdown and 20 for Raw, but depending on how thing go it may be much shorter. Here’s to hoping they do a Network Special after Smackdown continuing the draft.

  1. Raw: Brock Lesnar – Since Brock is labeled officially eligible and he is coming off his (controversial) win at UFC 200 over Mark Hunt, Stephanie McMahon comes out and says, “Lesnar duh blah blah blah best for business” while JBL creams his pants yelling random facts about something possibly related to Lesnar that happened at least 30 years ago.
  1. SmackDown!: John Cena – Good guy Shane picks “The Face That Runs the Place.” Although working a lighter schedule, he’s still one of the most popular guys on the roster and can help work with the up and coming guys in a role similar to The Undertaker on the original brand split in 2005.
  1. Raw: Seth Rollins – Steph picks another “best for business” type person so JBL can shoot his load again. Even if he doesn’t win the WWE Championship at Battleground Rollins will most likely be in the running for whatever top title Raw gets heading into SummerSlam.
  1. SmackDown!: Dean Ambrose – The WWE Champion (hopefully) comes in at number four and gives a promo about how with Rollins now on a different show, he’s going to make sure he tears him to pieces at Battleground (because, you know, that’s still happening).
  1. Raw: Roman Reigns – With the other two members of The Shield drafted, Stephanie uses her first of two picks to grab Roman Reigns because the WWE loves symmetry like this; if only so Jerry Lawler has an easy to remember factoid to say between shotgunning cans of Mountain Dew Kickstart. Raw’s evil commissioner does the obvious “Oh nooooo somebody isn’t here, womp, womp” speech that Rollins has been doing before reminding us that Reigns beat her and her husband up at WrestleMania and vows to make his life hell. Or Reigns finally turns heel (but probably the first thing).

6. Raw: Charlotte – In order to push the Divas Revolution, Stephanie IMMEDIATELY does a 180 and turns face for a good minute or so. With her so-called “free pick,” she drafts Women’s Champion Charlotte. This would A) make the women look as important than the men, seeing as she is drafted before the Intercontinental, United States and Tag Team Champions, B) keep the whole Stephanie as women’s division advocate thing going and C) give much needed variety and content for the three-hour Raw so that they, you know, actually make those three hours entertaining.

  1. SmackDown!: A.J. Styles – I’m tempted to say at this point that Shane panics and picks another champion for his show, but since he already has the WWE Champ (and no heels so far) he goes with Styles. We see him celebrating with The Club backstage as all three are like, “Woo, we’re going to Smackdown!”
  1. Raw: Randy Orton – The last of the “God Tier” people on the roster, Stephanie picks her old champ from The Authority days (hopefully The Draft doesn’t bring this angle back and lets it die the quick death it deserves). This leaves Orton on the same roster as Lesnar, his SummerSlam opponent.
  1. SmackDown!: Rusev  Shane locks up his second singles champion to give The Blue Brand their championships. Rusev seems more like a SmackDown! guy over the flashier Miz and would be a good workhorse for Tuesday nights. Also, Lana goes to SmackDown! in the non-televised portion of the draft because the WWE already learned their lesson on splitting them up.
  1. Raw: The Miz – The Miz comes out and starts lashing out about what a travesty it is that he fell to number ten. He thinks he should have been number one and gives a big shouty promo about Hollywood A-List yadda yadda yadda.

11. Raw: The New Day – Stephanie figures she might as well lock up the last champions and picks The New Day. However, The Tag Titles will be defended on both shows, but the current champs will call Raw their home base. Similar thoughts to having the women on Raw for The New Day: they can eat up part of the three hours while making it actually worth watching.

12. SmackDown!: Samoa Joe – With all the champions and upper tier people chosen, Shane chooses at this time to continue his whole “New Era” schtick and makes the first NXT selection in Joe to a huge pop. Cut to the locker room and everyone has crapped their pants over potentially being a victim of Joe’s wrath. The camera lingers on A.J. Styles’ reaction because of their history (that WWE kinda-sorta acknowledges).

13. Raw: Bray Wyatt – Steph goes monster for monster with her brother and (rather nervously) picks Bray Wyatt. The Eater of Worlds comes out and creepily smiles at her to further freak her out as Triple H steps up to Wyatt, playing on their Royal Rumble interaction and maybe teasing a match in the future?

14. SmackDown!: Kevin Owens – KO gets drafted, does his KO thing by insulting everyone, tells Shane he’s glad all his daredevil antics left at least a few of his brain cells working and leaves.

15. Raw: Sasha Banks – Somebody reminds Steph that Charlotte needs somebody to wrestle on Raw and picks The Boss, because we all know the inevitable match between the two is coming at SummerSlam.

16. Raw: Finn Balor – Balor goes to Raw to another big pop to the crowd. Steph makes fun of Shane for stealing what would (presumably) be one of the cornerstones of his “New Era.” Backstace, The Club is happy for their boy finally being called up to the main roster.

17. SmackDown!: Cesaro – The Swiss Superman goes here because something, something, SmackDown! will be a wrestling show while JBL shrieks, “UPPERCUT PARTY MAGGLE” for no reason.

18. Raw: Sheamus – “Oh yeah, Sheamus is still a thing.”- Stephanie McMahon moments before drafting The Celtic Warrior.

19. SmackDown!: Sami Zayn – KO comes back out to flip out on Shane. He demands to be traded to Raw rather than have to deal with Zayn after their Battleground match. Things get heated and eventually an army of referees have to hold back KO from Zayn and Shane (I’m so excited for their match I have to stand in front of the fridge to cool down).

20. Raw: The Big Show – The Big Show literally eats a pick here before shuffling off to the back.

21. Raw: Chris Jericho – I’m tempted to put Jericho on SmackDown! as he seems more focused on working with younger guys, but given his part-time status and the fact that Cena already can fill that role more regularly he will be on Raw.

22. SmackDown!: Enzo and Cass – These two are constantly rumored for being split up in the draft, but considering people only take about four of the WWE tag teams seriously they need to stick together. The two act much like The New Day do on Raw: delivering fun promos and eating up time.

23. Raw: The Usos – At this point I see a run on tag teams to help fill in the rosters. The Usos stay on the show with their cousin because family and such.

24. Smackdown: Kalisto – I’m not sure if this counts as a tag team split, since Kalisto and Sin Cara are listed as singles competitors instead of the team they usually are. Nonetheless, Kalisto goes to Tuesdays just in case they start the Cruiserweight division up again.

25. Raw: Becky Lynch – I see Raw using these extra picks as a way to emphasize the women’s division while still making them feel tacked on. The Lass Kicker (side note: please give her a new nickname. I love Lynch, but there ‘s no way I go out in public with “Lass Kicker” written on my chest. Don’t need people thinking I hit women)  goes to Raw to continue her role as “early 90’s Sting” to the ladies.

26. Raw: The Club – A.J. is super upset his boys are leaving and they have a big bro hug. It’s a touching moment…interrupted by Finn Balor. The Club and Balor immediately partake in an even bigger bro hug and start “Too Sweet-ing” each other and go away laughing. This leaves Styles with a bit of sympathy for his inevitable babyface return and plants the seeds of a Balor heel turn with The Club.

27. SmackDown!: The Wyatt Family – I know all the Wyatts are listed as individual competitors but hear me out. Shane, realizing Raw has way more superstars than SmackDown!, makes a bold move and drafts Erick Rowan, Braun Strowman and Luke Harper. Rowan and Strowman come out followed by Harper, who at this point should be healed up enough from his knee injury to at least make an appearance. Harper goes on a tear and declares they don’t need Bray Wyatt and the three of them can take on anybody in the WWE. Honestly, I feel like the Wyatt Family is toxic for everyone involved due to their horrendous booking. Bray has his family eat loses for him on free TV while he loses nearly every Pay Per View feud he has. Time to split them up and let Bray run wild on Raw while Harper guides Rowan and Strowman in the tag team division. Everyone wins…hopefully.

28. Raw: Dolph Ziggler– My how Ziggler has fallen. Hopefully with the split roster he can get back on track.

29. Smackdown: Alberto Del Rio– See Dolph Ziggler.

30. Raw: Nikki Bella – With the show running out of top picks, Stephanie picks the former Divas Champion, who comes out looking classy with or without a neck brace. She reminds everyone that she is now officially the longest running Diva’s champ of all time thanks to the title being retired and that the only reason Charlotte beat her was because her neck wasn’t 100 percent. Even if Nikki does not return immediately they should address her status during the draft.

31. Raw: Darren Young – I would have had Young getting drafted off camera, but since he’s challenging for the Intercontinental Championship at Battleground he will probably show up here with Bob Backlund screaming inaudibly behind him.

32. SmackDown!: Zack Ryder – Same story as Darren Young, only for the United States title.

33. Raw: Nia Jax – With her second NXT pick Steph strengthens her women’s division with Jax, who (along with Balor) is frequently rumored for a call up.

34. SmackDown!: American Alpha – Shane uses his final (televised) pick on the hot NXT tag team, just in case you forgot that Shane and GM Daniel Bryan love you and want you to be happy.

35. Raw: Paige – Just to hammer home the Divas, here is Paige going to Raw.

As for the rest of the roster, here is where I see them going; along with the final NXT picks.

Raw: Baron Corbin, Demon Kane, Jack Swagger, Sin Cara, Titus O’Neil, Golden Truth, Shining Stars, The Vaudevillians, the rest of the women and Mojo Rawley (NXT call up).

SmackDown!: Apollo Crews, Mark Henry, Neville, Breezango, The Social Outcasts, The Ascension, The Dudley Boyz, Hideo Itami (NXT call up).

Manopera! Episode 21: Balor, Nakamura and the Wyatt Family Deletion

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Chris and Spaceman Frank analyze the infamous “Final Deletion,” The Wyatt Family vs. The New Day, Nakamura and Finn Balor’s epic encounter and way more in a heavy-hitting podcast.