by Jonathan Schorr
Jon and Matt review the “ultimate thrill ride” known as WrestleMania 33 and tackle the aftermath from Raw and SmackDown Live.
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
by Jonathan Schorr
Jon and Matt review the “ultimate thrill ride” known as WrestleMania 33 and tackle the aftermath from Raw and SmackDown Live.
Donate to our Patreon: www.patreon.com/thebonesaw.
by Frank Lucci
WrestleMania 33 is almost upon us, and it has to be better than last year’s WrestleMania…right?
The overall build has been very vanilla for the most part, with a few matches given stellar storylines while others feel like WWE just picked names out of a hat, announced a match, then moved on. Even more curious is that WWE has chosen to fill up much of the Raws and SmackDowns before the Ultimate Thrill Ride with mini rivalries that won’t even factor into the main show such as Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman, Luke Harper vs. Bray Wyatt, and Charlotte vs. Dana Brooke. Sure, there might be something to these throwaway matches on WrestleMania, but why cram all that into the preamble when you could just wait until after the Show of Shows and actually build up the main matches for the biggest show of the year?
However, it is WrestleMania after all, and there is always enough buzz in the air about the event to keep you excited enough to check it out. As I explained it to my manager at work, WrestleMania is like Christmas if it lasted for three days…so I guess that makes it a Mini-Hanukkwanzikkah. I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my WrestleMania 33 predictions!
2017 Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
I wish this opened the show proper, as battle royals are always fun and wacky affairs and a good way to cart out all the mid and lower card wrestlers to give them some attention before the “real” (AKA part time) wrestlers take over the show. WWE initially seemed to be trying to build up this event by announcing a few guys early, but then did absolutely nothing with this match for weeks. Then they plugged in all the guys from SmackDown’s tag team division (sorry lads, better luck next year!) and here we go.
Really, this is the Braun Strowman show, and it seems stupidly obvious he is going to win here. I think it will come down to him and Sami Zayn, Zayn will struggle a bit, and then he will get tossed into the second row of the arena and crowd surfed away. Or maybe James Ellsworth will be last and sneak out a victory before being thrown into the second bowl of the stadium. Or, Beth Phoenix will enter and recreate her spot from the 2010 Royal Rumble and kiss Strowman so she can eliminate him. Just kidding, Strowman is hoofing people over the rope like it’s his favorite activity (which it is).
Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries (WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match)
Aries, being the pro that he is, sold me on this match when a fan asked him if he was upset that he was on the pre-show. He responded with “The pre-show just became must-watch, so no.” Classic.
I think this has potential to be a top three match of the evening, and both men have elevated the Cruiserweight division. The problem is while they are riding high they forgot to bring the rest of the division with them. I really wish they would have made this a multi man ladder match to get more people involved, but whatever. Neville needs to keep the belt here, but Austin is not a bad choice to prematurely end the reign of the king. Neville wins and this feud lasts for quite a bit as both men step up their game and keep the division hot.
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin (Intercontinental Championship Match)
With the Smackdown women getting the bump back up to the main card of ‘Mania, I honestly think this will take it’s place on the pre-show. It’s not fair to the men involved because they have made the most of the limited minutes of TV time they have seemed to get over four weeks to build this.
Ambrose has done nothing since getting the belt, which is a shame considering Miz and Dolph Ziggler worked so hard to get people to actually care about the Intercontinental title again. Corbin does really well whenever the WWE give him something to sink into, and this feud has plenty of untapped potential. Also, if it were taking place at any other time it would be a marquee match. Instead, they’ll probably get the shaft and we get a condensed version of what could have been. Corbin wins because he needs the belt while Ambrose can bounce around wherever needed. Plus, Corbin has a better chance of elevating the belt to where it was before.
The Club (c) vs. Enzo and Big Cass vs. Sheamus and Cesaro (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Ladder Match)
This would have been my choice to get bumped to the preshow if it was not for the ladder stipulation that was tacked on after Sheamus had his head graphically split open. It seems like an odd stipulation given that there are plenty of huge men that I don’t see flying around and falling off ladders. I get the sinking feeling Enzo is going to bounce around like a pinball, and maybe Cesaro will fly around as well doing something inhumanly athletic (seriously, I’m pretty sure the guy is part of the X-Men. Is Cesaro secretly Cyclops? I’ve never seen them in the same room…). Anyway, I’d like The Club to retain now that they actually have the belts, but I think Enzo and Cass will get the win. They will have the feel good moment of the night, and since they are all over the Network’s build to the event it would make sense. They have deserved gold for some time, and it might as well be at WrestleMania.
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Carmella vs. Becky Lynch vs Natalya vs. Mickie James vs. Naomi (Six Pack Challenge for WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)
After some confusion with Naomi’s injury status we initially had this match advertised as SmackDown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss competing against every available women wrestler on the blue brand going for the belt.
However, WWE is now selling this as a Six Pack Challenge, so I’m not sure if any surprise entrants are coming. I’ll just take this match as is, but if any surprise entrants do show up I think it will be Tamina Snuka over somebody like Asuka (especially since she retained her NXT Women’s Championship at NXT TakeOver: Orlando). Despite the multitude of ladies in this match, this might as well be Bliss vs. Naomi since they are the only two with a real chance of winning. Naomi is the popular pick here to win in her hometown, but Bliss is just too good as champ to lose the belt this quick. I think Bliss will retain after we get the customary R1 chain of finishers spot and we can transition into continuing her feud with Naomi.
Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles
After putting the company on his back for months and delivering stellar matches with everyone under the sun, Styles deserves a better ‘Mania match than Shane O’Mac. The Boy Wonder pretty much has just one move – and while it is a spectacular one, this match is just a standard one, so I doubt we will see him dropping elbows off of something tall.
Instead, Styles will spend the whole match making his onscreen boss look good, despite Shane’s history of rather dubious boxing (drop the punches and focus on either diving off things or learning some real moves). That being said, they did do a fine job of building this contest, and they could not really do anything else differently to make it better. Shane is the weak point in it all, and we don’t need a Shane O’Mania match every year to go with the Undertaker and Triple H matches every year.
AJ wins and moves on to something bigger and better once the part timers are gone.
Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (Non-Sanctioned Match)
I have a big problem with this match from a kayfabe perspective. If Rollins signed the Hold Harmless papers and agreed to an unsanctioned match, what is to stop Triple H from bringing Samoa Joe or even some NXT callups from just dogpiling on Rollins?
Issues with the logic aside, this will be a fun little match depending on how healthy Rollins really is. WWE keeps running video packages telling us how devastatingly hurt he is, yet for a guy coming to the ring in crutches he sure can hit a lot of leg/knee-based moves (RIP kayfabe). Triple H will work said knee and generally be an evil bastard for a while, send Rollins to Dad Bod City before Crossfit Jesus recovers and wins the match via Holy Crossfit Powers (it is a Sunday, after all).
John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse
The build to this has been absolutely golden, and it is easy to get people into this match based on the easily consumable YouTube videos that the skits and promo wars have produced.
Props to WWE for realizing that giving The Miz a chance to jab and poke the bear is the best. He is so good, and while people think this is a step down for Cena I think this is a makeup made in heaven. Plus, getting their respective female life partners involved also helps elevate their own division in the process. Sure, Maryse has not competed since coming back to WWE, but she is a former Divas champ and can go if need be. Having these two alongside a bonafide Superstar like Cena and the veteran Miz shows WWE has faith in their women to compete with the best of the men.
Cena has said that he is going to run through Miz with no problem, which makes me think Mr. and Mrs. Miz are going to get the win. Maryse gets the sneaky heel rollup because The Miz’s are just that good of bad guys. As for the rumored proposal of Cena to Nikki, I honestly don’t care, but if they do get engaged then congrats – but only if it’s for real and not happy ending storyline purposes (which would actually prove Miz right, turning Cena heel in real life).
Bayley (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte vs. Nia Jax (Fatal 4-Way for WWE Raw Women’s Championship)
WWE shot their load early by giving the title to Bayley on Raw, which would have been the WrestleMania worthy moment. Instead, she ended Charlotte’s undefeated Pay-Per-View streak at Fastlane to further kill interest in this match and then said “screw it” and added Sasha Banks and then Nia Jax to this feud.
I think this was WWE’s only choice, and hopefully they mix things up soon because I am rapidly growing sick of seeing the same matches over and over again on Raw. Jax is my dark horse here, and I think she needs to eliminate Charlotte to establish how dominant she really is, then feud with her going forward. Sasha and Bayley should then team up to take Jax down before Sasha does a betrayal five to win the belt.
Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens (United States Championship Match)
THE MEGA BEST FRIENDS EXPLODE!
The Festival of Friendship is the new standard of ending friendships in wrestling, and since then these two men have done…not a whole lot. Sure, Owens lost the Universal Championship when Y2J meandered out at Fastlane to distract him, but since then Owens has been regulated to one of Triple H’s lackeys – the other being Samoa Joe (who for reasons unknown is not on the card at all). Jericho will probably be done with his current run by May, and since he has done nothing with the US title, I see Owens grabbing it here.
They then can have an Extreme Rules match to settle things and have Owens destroy him to write Jericho off TV. Then we can pray for an Evolution 2.0 with Owens, Joe, Pete Dunne, and Triple H because that would be excellent.
Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton (WWE Championship Match)
One of the best long term stories WWE has put on since Rock vs. Cena sees Bray finally getting his belt and defending it against WWE’s longest tenured crazy person.
Seeing Wyatt get his due was great, but the build to this match since has been hit and miss. Orton commits arson and nobody but AJ Styles seems to bat an eye, while Wyatt spreads ashes all over himself and gets some buddies to beat up Orton with him. This should be a Triple Threat with Luke Harper involved, but maybe next month he can get his chance at the main event. However, I see Harper making his presence felt before the returning Erick Rowan takes him out and helps Wyatt retain.
Side note: I really don’t want to see babyface Orton on top of SmackDown. He is a boring good guy and I just cannot handle it. Please don’t do this WWE.
Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar (WWE Universal Title Match)
You know you’ve got a barnburner of a match on your hands when the champ has wrestled five minutes in the past three months, has two moves in his arsenal, and has not defended the belt since winning it.
When your champion of a brand featuring some truly talented individuals threatens to hit a third move in interviews, you know your main event scene is messed up. Brock Lesnar has been severely damaged by all this, so I hope he destroys Goldberg to win the belt and we get The Beast returning to his unstoppable ways. With Goldberg’s run rumored to be finished after ‘Mania, he is probably going to lose.
The next night on the Raw after ‘Mania, Finn Balor comes out and challenges Brock to a match for the belt he never lost, kicks Lesnar’s head in, and I start caring about the Universal Championship again.
Side note: The Beast Incarnate vs. The Demon King is serious money. Please do this WWE.
The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns
This is rumored to go on last, and I think it should – especially if this is Undertaker’s last match (judging from his frankly rough look over the past few weeks, I believe this to be true).
Triple H has already stated in interviews that Reigns is the heel here, so I’m glad they’re smart enough to realize that nobody is cheering him over ‘Taker. ‘Taker does not seem very mobile, so this will be a plodding affair since Reigns is not good enough to elevate a match with a limited opponent. Expect a greatest hits package from Undertaker in a match that will be more memorable for the crowd giving Reigns the business rather than anything entertaining happening in the ring. Reigns wins due to ‘Taker being a pro and wanting to put people over, plus the rumored ‘Mania 34 main event of Reigns vs. Lesnar being more interesting if both men have beaten the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
For more of Spaceman Frank’s antics, check out Spacemanfrank.com and listen to our pro wrestling podcast, Manopera!
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.
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.
Several months after the brand split we get our first official WWE brand exclusive Pay-Per-View, the revived Backlash.
It’s interesting to see how WWE presents these new types of PPVs and if they decide to shorten the length of brand exclusive events, or keep on steamrolling fans with three plus hour shows (not including the pre-show).
Despite splitting the roster, the WWE still seems to have trouble focusing on building up storylines properly (at least the video editing department will always be there to salvage the build and make us care about the matches right before they actually start). With the usual mix of trepidation and vague hope as most Pay-Per-Views, Spaceman Frank is here to predict Backlash 2016.
The Usos vs. The Hype Bros (Qualifying match for SmackDown Tag Team Championship Tournament Finals)
While the WWE Universe may not have Roman Reigns turning heel, at least we finally get The Usos turning into bad guys and attacking American Alpha. The tag team tournament may be the best booked part of Smackdown, and the WWE has made sure that the fans have a reason to care about three out of the four teams that were in the semifinals of the tournament. The lone exception being The Hype Bros, who will be losing to the hot Usos team so they can advance to the obvious finale of them vs. Slater and Rhyno. Speaking of that match…
Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. The Usos (SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match)
Heath Slater may be the 2016 version of Damien Sandow in that he turned crap into gold. His “free agent” gimmick has worked well, and the crowd is actually behind his antics with his perfect foil Rhyno. I went from having zero confidence WWE could pull this off to rooting for Slater to actually get the belts with his new buddy. It would be amazing if all of the Slater clan is at ringside for this match (please do this WWE). That being said, I see The Usos winning the tournament to set up the obvious Usos vs. American Alpha rematch for the belts down the line.
The Miz (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler (Intercontinental Championship Match)
The Miz is an interesting case in the WWE. The guy has nailed his character and has recently been pure fire on the mic. However, WWE has dropped the ball with giving him feuds people actually care about. After Apollo Crews lost at SummerSlam, we have another big disappointment from the show in Ziggler as his next opponent. I like Ziggler (I even named my Fantasy Football team Team Zigglypuff), but his big chance to break out on SmackDown has fallen flat. The Miz needs somebody he can actually play off of who can carry his half of the build (Heath Slater vs. The Miz anyone???) Anyway, The Miz wins because that seems to be the default option for The Miz in these types of feuds.
Nikki Bella vs. Carmella vs. Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi vs. Natalya vs. Becky Lynch (Six-Pack Challenge for SmackDown Women’s Championship)
This match is interesting in that it will reveal who the WWE brass has faith in going forward. Carmella has been targeting Nikki Bella, which makes me think the former champ takes down the rookie quickly. Alexa Bliss and Naomi have been background characters, and while they are decent in the ring it seems as though they’re there just to make up the numbers. Natalya may be the dark horse here, but she and Becky Lynch will take each other out because of their history. That leaves Nikki Bella as the last women standing, as she can help establish the belt and give the veteran something to do moving forward.
Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt
Another month, another meaningless Bray Wyatt feud. The poor guy cannot get any traction, and now he gets fed yet again to somebody coming off a major match. At this point I’m desperate for him to actually go for the title, because this gateway to the main event place he is in for years is wasting a great talent (maybe we’ll get Luke Harper making his return?). Orton wins to regain his momentum and Wyatt just farts around as he does.
Dean Ambrose (c) vs. AJ Styles (WWE Championship Match)
This is the saving grace of Backlash. I can’t see this match being poor in any way. Sure the build has been pretty bad, especially with Dean Ambrose acting like an apathetic teenager the whole time (We saw you cry when you won the title at Money in the Bank Dean, we know you care!). AJ Styles on the other hand is having one of the best years anyone has had in wrestling, and considering how hot he is I see him winning the championship in an awesome match. This will setup both rematches with Ambrose as well as John Cena, as I see him and Styles going at it again, but with gold on the line.
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.
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.
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).