Tag Archives: Wrestling

Manopera! Episode 45: Great Balls of Battleground

by Chris Butera and Frank Lucci

After a month of adulting, Chris and Spaceman Frank are back to talk WWE Great Balls of Fire, WWE Battleground, and all the madness in between.

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Spaceman Frank’s WWE Battleground Predictions

by Frank Lucci

It’s almost time for SummerSlam, which means WWE is preparing for the second biggest show of the year, B-PPV’s be damned!

After Great Balls of Fire shone brightly upon the WWE Universe like an actual great ball of fire, WWE has seemingly put about three minutes of effort in per show. Immediately after one of the best PPV’s of the year, WWE has decided to have three foreigner heels on one show, John Cena brought up 9/11 to hype a Flag Match, and decided to run a bastard son angle.

As a reminder to readers, it is 2017. We have not traveled backwards in time, Vince McMahon is just having one of his senior moments. With not a whole lot to look forward to in Battleground, we can at least take comfort in the fact that NXT has been consistently excellent and 205 Live is the second most watchable show WWE puts on during the week. I’m Spaceman Frank and here is my Battleground 2017 predictions.

Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English

I feel like they began this feud roughly seven weeks ago with a single segment on SmackDown and now we get this match on the preshow. I suppose I should be happy that both men are doing something that vaguely seems important, but really I think they only reason they got this match is because somebody felt sorry for them.

English can be a good heel and Tye can be a good babyface, but WWE seems to think they can just coast on their NXT highlights until they get the random shot to the moon push WWE loves to dole out. Tye wins because he is so unpopular, Google Drive wants to change his name to “Toe.”

Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis

I wish Mike went by his original name Bennett because it is a lot easier to spell. This came about because Zayn kept accidentally interrupting the Kanellis’, before Mike beat Zayn on the SmackDown before Battleground. Both men can probably do better, but in the current state of SmackDown this is about as good as it gets (at least they are not on the preshow). Miracle Mike is the…well not hot but lukewarm newbie and Zayn can make anyone look good so I think Mike gets the win here.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin

Shinsuke continues to go through all the low tier main event types on SmackDown, setting his sights on the man that almost took him out of the Money in the Bank match. We all know that WWE is gearing up for a match between Nakamura and AJ Styles, which makes me wonder why they decided to throw this match in here. Corbin needs some decent wins to justify his Money in the Bank winner status, but Nakamura also needs some high profile wins if people are going to care about his match with Styles. Perhaps a non finish will happen here, but just for the sake of picking a winner I see Corbin DQ’s himself beating up Shinsuke, giving the King of Strong Style the disqualification win.

The Usos (c) vs. The New Day (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match)

After the excellent rap battle between these two groups a few weeks ago, WWE decided “eh, that will do” and given absolutely nothing for these guys to work with after. I want to be excited for this, but after the lame finish at Money in the Bank all I want is for somebody to pin somebody else this time. With no other obvious contenders for the belts besides maybe Breezeango I don’t think this will be the end of this feud. Maybe we get a best of seven rap battle series with the epic conclusion at SummerSlam (beats these guys filling time on the SummerSlam preshow). Usos retain because laziness.

AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens (US Championship Match)

I remember being super excited for the first encounter between these two men, before a meh match and a long delay in a rematch made me forget this was even happening.

Styles won the belt at a Madison Square Garden house show, so whatever payoff I expected to see here has gone up in smoke (maybe WWE is fast tracking the title change to wrap up this feud and have Nakamura challenge for the belt at SummerSlam?).

Anyway, with zero drama to play off of I still got some hope these men deliver a fine match, but until they get in the ring and start wowing me I simply do not have much to go on. AJ Styles wins because babyface champs in WWE are rare these days and WWE needs somebody fans can rally behind.

John Cena vs. Rusev (Flag Match)

Both Rusev and Cena return to restart their “classic” feud from 2015 which saw Rusev lose almost every single match in increasingly sad ways. This cuts right to the stupid gimmick portion of the feud, meaning we do not get Rusev hiring two smaller Bulgarian dudes to act as his Singh Brothers (I wonder what a popular Bulgarian last name is….(looks on Google).

With no Ivanov Brothers to help him, I do not expect Rusev to win here, especially because there are FLAGS and AMERICA and EAGLES AT STAKE, MAGGLE. Cena smashes Rusev and moves on to face another evil heel in Jinder Mahal before the Bulgarian’s body’s even cold, just in time for SummerSlam (mild shock there).

Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Lana vs. Natalya vs. Tamina (Fatal Five Way for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship Number One Contendership)

Is there a rule that says Naomi cannot defend her belt on consecutive PPV’s?

For the second SmackDown PPV in a row WWE has all the women on the show (minus one or two) all get in the ring and butt heads to see how is getting the next “big” push for the next several weeks. While I think the booking for the ladies is pretty weak, this will probably be the best match on the card if done right. Everyone has a defined role going in, and if not for the fact that we have seen every single one of these women fight every single other women in the division for what seems like a decade I might actually be excited. If anyone has the best chance of winning I would have to say Charlotte, and her vs Naomi would be a good match for the belt in the future.

Please send Asuka to SmackDown ASAP.

Jinder Mahal (c) vs Randy Orton (Punjabi Prison Match for the WWE Championship)

The feud nobody wants yet continues to be sees these two face of in a stupid gimmick match that makes other stupid gimmick matches feel better about themselves. At least the Kennel from Hell match can say to itself “hey, at least people could see what was happening inside me.”

While I do not have the time nor the patience to properly purge myself of the vile I have for this match, I will say this: Mahal looks like a moron for taking away his biggest advantage (interference from the Singh Brothers) by making this a Punjabi Prison match, and Randy looks stupid period.

My best case scenario is that this becomes a comedy of errors.

First House of Horrors, and now a Punjabi Prison. You seem determined to ruin people’s first WWE Championship runs, Mr. Orton.

Jinder wins because I genuinely feel bad for how crappy his title run has been.

 

Spaceman Frank’s Great Balls of Fire Predictions

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by Frank Lucci

It’s happening. It’s actually happening. WWE has named a Pay Per View Great Balls of Fire.

Despite the terribly lame name, WWE has built themselves a heck of a card for this Raw exclusive show, with the main focus being the much hyped Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe match. Sure, there are some duds that look to be on the horizon, but WWE has actually made many of these feuds compelling, even if some of these matches we did not even want initially.

Furthermore, it has been a wild few weeks in the world of wrestling what with New Japan putting on their first US shows, Austin Aries being released, and AJ Styles winning the United States Championship at a Madison Square Garden house show, yet at the end of the day, deep in my heart of hearts, Brock vs Joe is all the comfort and joy I could possibly want. I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my predictions for (sigh) Great Balls of Fire.

Neville (C) vs. Akira Tozawa (With Titus O’Neil) (WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match)

The latest challenger in a long line of “Hey, what has this guy been doing on 205 Live?” to the King of the Cruiserweights sees Tozawa trying to make a splash.

I really love Tozawa and having him be part of the goofy Titus Brand is pretty fun, but he has the skill set to be a damn good vicious killer in the ring. I would love to see WWE treat this match with some importance, but I see it as the typical cruiserweight preshow match on the card. Neville wins this and every title defense ever until WWE throws all the cruiserweights in the ring and have a hodge podge flipathon where Ho Ho Lun sneaks in and wins because his name is a tasty treat and Vince McMahon loves that kind of branding!!

The Miz (C) (With Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, and Maryse) vs. Dean Ambrose (Intercontinental Championship Match)

When the biggest news from this feud coming from Lavar “The Sum Total of All of Our Instagram Sins” Bell, you can be sure that WWE is out of ideas to make this feud interesting.

Sure, these two had a pretty solid match before, but after a screwy finish that made little sense it is hard to get pumped for a straight up rematch. These guys used to be exciting, then they went to Raw (strike one), then Axel and Dallas got involved (all the rest of the strikes needed to finish a baseball game). When WWE thinks to add those two to the mix, you know you´re having some trouble. Even The Miz can´t help you. Miz wins because he has three people in his corner how do you screw up and lose?

Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Sasha Banks (WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match)

What should be a dream match has fallen on deaf or apathetic ears as The Boss takes on Five Feet of Fury for the Women’s Championship.

Now, I think this match will be a killer encounter featuring two of the best females on the roster, so I will be hyped for this contest. I am not sure why it´s being treated like an afterthought, even though Banks won her right to challenge for the belt on the main event of an episode of Raw.

Perhaps it has been the way WWE has treated Bayley lately that has turned off people to the division, but until I see a stinker from these two I will be expecting magic. Or at least somebody to take a scary bump and leave me petrified.

I could make a argument that Banks takes the belt back here, but I think Bliss falls into the same category as Neville as the champ who is too good to randomly lose the belt. Perhaps we shall get some real storylines for the women and cruiserweights leading to SummerSlam, but for now, the champs are not going anywhere.

Cesaro and Sheamus (C) vs. The Hardy Boyz (30 Minute Iron Man Match for WWE Raw Tag Team Championship)

The feud that will not die goes to the next level when both teams face off in an Iron Man match because….reasons. With very little else to do besides milk their nostalgia, the Hardys seek to regain the championships they won at WrestleMania. I trust Cesaro and Sheamus to work for 30 minutes, but the Hardys? No thank you.

That being said, these four men have managed to put on fine matches with the occasionally clunky finish, so this will be fine. I think the champs will retain so they can finally move on.  Because the length of this match, I expect some other matches to be severely cut for time (gee, I wonder which match will get the shaft…)

Enzo vs. Big Cass

Big Cass boot to Medium Enzo for a three count.

I don’t see this match lasting any sort of time, and honestly, I can see Cass interrupting Fun Sized Enzo’s regular promo for some heat and just wrecking him. While I think it’s pretty dumb that the tag team broke up with the lack of depth currently in the tag scene, both men have cut some great promos that helped get me invested in this feud. I don’t think it will see another PPV bout as this has SummerSlam preshow written all over it. At least we can get more fire promos from Regular Person Enzo before Vince throws him in 205 jail and goes back to messaging Big Cass’ leg muscles while making disturbing sounds.

Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt

Another match people seem to have dismissed because of the lack of build (besides Bray’s nonsense promos) sees two great in ring workers facing off in what should be a killer match.

Both dudes needs a barnburner to regain momentum with fans, and I think since they both know they are treading water, I believe they will go all out.

Is this a filler feud for both men? Yes. Are they pro enough to tell a great story and make you care about the match anyway? Yes. As for a winner, I think this could go either way but I am leaning towards Seth Rollins since he has a win against Samoa Joe in his back pocket and would be a good foil for the Miz down the road.

Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman (Ambulance Match)

Confession Time: I’m actually excited for a Roman Reigns match.

Braun throwing The Big Dog around like a gassy beagle has provided me with Gif after Gif of gold, and knowing there will be more live has me salivating.

Besides the sin of booking Braun like a stupid person on the go home show (because we gotta make Reigns look strong by acting like there is a gas leak directly under his opponent) this has been an entertaining feud. Big moves, big men, Big Dog, and big beards. This feuds feels the most “pro wrestling” out of any so far this year, as how else can two rampaging monsters settle their beef besides comically dragging each other to a waiting ambulance? Vegas is banking hard on Strowman being the winner, and since they predicted Joe becoming number one contender, I am going to trust them.

Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Samoa Joe (WWE Universal Championship Match)

This match…oh boy, this match….(takes a cold shower).

Anyway, the Spaceman’s dream match is happening and I can’t wait to see these two square off like Godzilla and Voltron.

Joe looks like he is on par with The Beast, and he proved deserving of this shot when he put on must see segments that showed why WWE should give him a chance to be champion. He killed it on the mic, he kills it when brutalizing Brock, and he would be fantastic as the right hand of The Authority.

Brock to his credit has sold for Joe well when being physical, but his side by side interview on the go home show where he adopted a “too cool for school” attitude was a bad look (He choked out Heyman and you and you wanna act like  you are trying to impress the head cheerleader by making fun of the fat kid? Shame).

This small gripe aside, I almost contemplated taking the day after off of work so I could stay up late and fully immerse myself in the experience of Brock vs. Joe, that’s how freaking excited I am.

The obvious winner seems to be Brock, and as much as I want to believe Joe could walk out as champ, I think Brock will move forward to SummerSlam as champ for a big headlining match. What that match is I don’t know, but in the meantime, I plan to spend Sunday chanting “FIGHT FOREVER” at everything and everyone.

 

Manopera! Episode 44: Whose Briefcase is it Anyway?

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by Chris Butera and Frank Lucci

Chris and Frank talk WWE Money in the Bank 2017 – and they’ve got a lot to get off their chests about both MITB matches, the pay-per-view and what to expect from Great Balls of Fire next Sunday.

Spaceman Frank cuts a promo on the now former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

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Spaceman Frank’s Money in the Bank 2017 Predictions

by Frank Lucci

The world is focused on “Money” Mayweather announcing that his fight with Conor Mcgregor, but wrestling fans have Money in the Bank to look forward to instead.

Overall the card will be better than anything those two can put on, but WWE has been pushing fan’s patience with some terrible TV. It is like the closer the company gets to a live special the more they fall apart creatively. Throw in the massive hype for Brock Lesnar vs Samoa Joe and fans are looking past this PPV hard. Despite everything though WWE PPV’s are better watches than Raw or Smackdown Live, and there is going to be some (JBL three beers in voice) “HISTORY MADE HERE TONIGHT, TOM” as we get our first women’s Money in the Bank match. I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my Money in the Bank 2017 predictions!

The Hype Bros vs. The Colons (Preshow Box Social Funtime Hoopla Tag Team Doritios Pizza Rolls Match)

Zack Ryder is back in the most Zack Ryder way possible: coming back one week before the PPV for a preshow tag team match.

While he seemed to have some sort of push planned with his comeback videos on Youtube, instead he gets a nothing match with his buddy Mojo “ All Gojo” (feel free to send me a check for that one WWE) Rawley who can be seen taking sad selfies with his Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy on Instagram (Hey kids remember when he beat our current champ Jinder Mahal with the help of Gronk?! WWE doesn’t!).

The Colons have somehow even less momentum, so I predict a whole bunch of nothing. Hype Bros win because somebody has to win and it might as well be those spunky lads.

The Usos (C) vs. The New Day (WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship)

Everything on the main card is for a title or a Money in the Bank briefcase, which helps make every match feel important. However, it has been awhile since The New Day have had a major PPV match that mattered, as they seem to fart along in promo segments when the chips are truly down (IE Wrestlemania). Meanwhile The Usos are doing fine as champs, but have been overshadowed by Breezango’s (where are they anyway?) pretaped segments. I think WWE will give The New Day a run with the belt eventually, but that feels more like a match for a bigger show like Summerslam. Plus, the Usos should get the initial win via shenanigans to preserve their heel status and look more credible against all the jokey tag teams that dominate Smackdown.

Naomi (C) vs. Lana (WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship)

The only active women on Smackdown not in the Money in the Bank match (where are you Nikki Bella?) sees Naomi being challenged versus longtime manager/ master of maybe one move Lana. I think the time for Lana to transition into a wrestler has come and gone, and to immediately give her a title show sends off red flags for me. Rumor is this came about due to WWE wanting to have the Eva Marie push sans the (probably) gone redhead, so Lana gets the spot. She is not the one to pull it off, since she is way more popular than Eva Marie ever was, while at the same time Naomi is not the person to face off against her. If you want the Eva Marie stuff to work you need somebody the snarkier fans will rally behind like Bayley rather than the middle of the road Namoi. Namoi really has not done much since winning the belt back, but there is no way WWE has Lana take her out in her first match unless she secretly is a fantastic wrestler. Naomi wins in a five minute nothing match.

Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Carmella (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)

Fan booking for this match has been more interesting than the build for this, along with many of the other recent news coming out of the women’s division. Between the first official (and rumored) entrants into the Mae Young Classic, plus the potential new Smackdown signings and NXT matches happening  and this has been overshadowed quickly despite the history being made. Here are my rankings for who will win the briefcase on Sunday, from least likely to most likely.

Tamina- Has very little momentum, and while I think heels have more of a shot in these things she barely qualifies as a heel with the poor reaction she garners. I think she has a role to play on Smackdown, but she needs to get some wins to look like any sort of threat.

Becky Lynch- While she somehow has retained most of her popularity despite being booked like she has been hit in the head with an air conditioner unit moments before wrestling, it does not fit her character to cash in on someone. Thankfully Bayley has firmly taken the idiot ball from Lynch since Extreme Rules. Becky could be a good heel, but with a thin roster of women WWE needs a babyface they can depend on. She will do some cool spots, but if she does a disarmer on top of the ladder I will give out on her on Manopera. Submissions on ladders is one of my major kayfabe breaking spots in wrestling.

Carmella- The Princess of Staten Island has been gaining some steam online from those who think WWE will give her the briefcase, so that they can begin building her up as a major player in the division. While I do not mind if she wins the briefcase, paints it with leopard spots, and makes Ellsworth carry it around for her, I still think she is not ready to be anywhere near the title.

Charlotte-While being a decorated champion and probably better than 3/5ths of the women in this match combined, WWE seems determined to make her a face. It would not make sense for her to be able to cash in anytime, especially since we all know she could just declare herself number one contender and Shane Mcmahon would agree. Plus, the chances of Flair hitting a crazy moonsault off the ladder and crashing through the table to take herself out of the match is roughly at 90%.

Natalya- While there is no chatter about Nattie Ice winning, I think it makes the most sense here. Nattie has been away from the title scene for ages despite carrying the division through some dark times, and it is time for her to get a push. She still cannot cut a promo without sounding like an extra from a church production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat she can put on a good match. Bitter Natalya getting the briefcase and cashing in to remind the WWE who is the best there is would be a good move.

Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles vs. Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)

Not much to say about the build to this match, other than WWE has tried to get the crowds to have equal amounts of apathy towards everyone involved. Here is the power rankings for winners of this match, from least to most likely.

Dolph Ziggler-Ziggler is here because it would be weird if he was not, but I would believe I was winning Money in the Bank over Dolph.

AJ Styles- Similar to Charlotte Flair, I think AJ is going to get title opportunities regardless if he wins here or not. He already is very established and the crowd is quite taken with him, so he does not need the briefcase to add to his appeal. He also has a feud with Owens on the backburner that he can go back to once this PPV is over. I will laugh if he continues to get his foot stuck in things just when he is starting to get close to winning.

Shinsuke Nakamura- Not sure what WWE is trying to do with Shinsuke on Smackdown. He is still wildly over with crowds, but portraying him as just some weird Japanese man who struggled to put away Ziggler last PPV is not what anybody expected. He could win the briefcase to add some actual mystery to “The Artist,” but I cannot see WWE pulling the trigger on him so soon when he has not had any sort of big moment since his debut. Dream match with Cena at Summerslam please.

Sami Zayn- People seem to think that Zayn may win the belt, be a goody two shoes and announce he will cash in well in advance. I do not buy it. A Sami push would be lots of fun, but I see him having to climb the ranks and grab the US title well before WWE considers putting him into the main event. Plus I can 100% seen Owens reminding us of their fight forever feud and destroying Zayn just for the lulz

Baron Corbin- It seems as though everyone is banking on Corbin to win here, and it would be a fine way to show that WWE has faith in the Lone Wolf. It would fit his character, and WWE has given him enough big moments that fans will buy him invading the main event scene at some point. I do not think he is quite a main eventer yet, but he could be very soon. I just wish he would cut his rapidly retreating hair and go for a more skinhead look.

Kevin Owens- Take everything I said about Corbin cashing in Money in the Bank and double it for Owens. Sure, he has already been champ, but just imagine Owens with the briefcase stalking the champ and being on commentary every time the champ has a match. He would be a perfect Mr. Money in the Bank, and WWE knows they can rely on him if a main eventer gets hurt or if Jinder starts to struggle.

Jinder Mahal (C) vs. Randy Orton (WWE Championship Match)

The rematch you did not know you wanted but WWE is giving to you anyway!

While I think Rusev should have gotten in this match back when he called for a shot at the belt at Money in the Bank, Jinder is doing far better as champ than anyone predicted. WWE somehow is pulling off booking him well, as the individual fans can easily decide if they want to cheer or boo him depending on their own thoughts.

This nuance has been missing in WWE for so long, and his popularity in social media and Youtube definitely helps him out. Meanwhile Orton continues to act like he is on horse tranquilizers, and I think his lack of effort has given Mahal some fans. I think Mahal will win, and I think he has put in enough work to warrant it (something I would have never predicted I would say).

My big fear is Cena returns (on July 4th no less), declares himself number one contender because something something AMERICA and Jinder turns into a caticure. Then he beats Jinder and ruins him forever while become a record breaking 17 time champ because “BALD EAGLES AND PURPLE MOUNTAINS MAJESTY, MAGGLE!”

Spaceman Frank’s WWE Extreme Rules 2017 Predictions

x_njg6by Frank Lucci

Extreme Rules feels like the first proper Pay-Per-View for Raw after WrestleMania, as the previous Raw exclusive PPV, Payback, featured no mention of the Universal title nor did it have an Intercontinental title match. This PPV rectifies this somewhat, and it also has the advantage of not having a House of Horrors match thrown in as well (hopefully). Extreme Rules also does not have an NXT: TakeOver to compete with as well, or more specifically, WWE UK wrestlers to compete with.

Despite all these positives, there is most definitely an air of doubt surrounding this event, as Raw has continued to punish those brave enough to watch all three hours (I wonder what the crossover demographic numbers is for Raw fans and snuff films is). There is some decent action that could and should take place on this card, but if the matches are as painful as the buildup to them, the Spaceman may not be able to fight his allergy pill and watch Extreme Rules in segments. I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my Extreme Rules 2017 predictions.

Rich Swann and Sasha Banks vs. Alicia Fox and Noam Dar

This match is a positive in my book because it takes three people (plus Alicia Fox) and gives them something to do and a spotlight to showcase why they deserve to be on a higher level. Banks has lost all momentum since WrestleMania, and it seems like a distant fever dream when Swann was Cruiserweight champion. They will make a good team, and if this is what they need to do to get TV time and get over I am all for it.

Fox is a steady but unspectacular hand in the ring, but Dar deserves more of a spotlight. He is very young but one of my boys from before the CWC, so I am praying to the Cruiserweight Gods he gets more than this. Throw him in with Neville and TJP and form a power stable on 205 Live since there’s precious little room for heels on the show not affiliated with the King of the Cruiserweights. Based on popularity alone, I think Banks wins it for her team.

Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries (Submission Match for WWE Cruiserweight Championship)

These two have held down Raw PPV’s since ‘Mania, and once again I think this may be a bright spot on a lackluster card. The stipulation works well for both these men, but having Neville tap to Aries the week before this match was flat out stupid (WWE knows when this happens people expect the winner to lose on the PPV, right?).

I get the feeling the live crowds are starting to catch on that Cruiserweight matches are usually much more exciting than much of the filler on Raw, but again with the show so hard to watch that is like being proud that you hopped over a puddle on the sidewalk.

Aries deserves a run with the belt with all the excellent work he has done to make me forget what a natural heel he is, but Neville is just too good at being bad to drop it. Also again, he tapped out once already (WWE we get it, you have one play in the go-home show playbook. It does not work. We all know what a loss before the PPV means).

Alexa Bliss (c) v.s Bayley (Kendo Stick on a Pole Match for WWE Raw’s Women’s Championship)

Women climbing a pole to get at another pole, did Vince Russo write this?

What the heck has happened to two of my favorite women’s wrestlers??? Bliss was an all-star on SmackDown, and Bayley went from NXT’s John Cena (Joan Cena?) in NXT to a supreme doofus on Raw.

The only positive thing about this feud thus far is Bliss really whacking the hell out of her opponents with the kendo stick, but really it is time to retire the “on a pole” stipulation. Seeing people fart around one corner of the ring for a random object is dull, and it is time to think of something to replace it (I vote for a “Find the Kendo Stick in a Box Under the Ring Match” or a “Kendo Stick Tied to a Greased Pig Match.”). Anyway, Bliss wins because Bayley would not go nuts whacking her opponent with a foreign object due to her pure-hearted nature.

Dean Ambrose (c) vs. The Miz (Intercontinental Championship Match – Ambrose can lose the belt via disqualification )

Hey, kids! Do you know what’s more extreme than tables, ladders, and chairs? Rules!

No clue why of all PPVs, WWE pulls this type of match out at Extreme Rules. It fits the character of The Miz, but do we really expect Ambrose to be so stupid that he loses the belt this way? If anything, WWE should have had this be a no-DQ match where Dean clobbers the Miz, Miz complains that he would win in a regular match and makes this match happen at (sigh) Great Balls of Fire. I think Dean walks away with the belt because he is still a solid number two option as the champion to make up for the lack of a Universal champion on TV, plus both men need somebody new to set their sights on.

The Hardy Boyz (c) vs. Sheamus and Cesaro (WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Cage match)

Sheamus and Cesaro have a new fire under them now that they are heels, and their brutal dissection of the Hardys during and after their previous match has me invested in seeing what happens.

Will Jeff dive off the cage? Yes. Will he lose another tooth? Maybe. Will Cesaro swing the entire cage structure in a fit of dizzy rage? Probably. But the biggest question of all: Will Matt get broken? That question will haunt every Hardy feud until they actually pull the trigger (and they will), so while I will watch his PPV matches looking for any and all clues towards him going berserk, overall it does detract from the story being told in the ring.

I am curious what a heel Ces-mus (Sheamaro???) title run would look like, but I think the Hardys still can run up and down the country getting that nostalgia money for a few months more. Jeff throws himself off the cage to get the win.

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins (Fatal Five-Way Extreme Rules Match for the Universal Championship Number One Contendership)

WWE has finally figured out that, if the Universal Champion cannot be bothered to show up at every PPV, then they should build around who gets the next crack at him. I like this match on paper, and seeing who gets their hands of Borkin’ Heck Lesnar next is far more exciting than anything else, especially with the five men selected. The big downside I have for this match is the rumors that whoever gets a shot at Brock at (sigh) Great Balls of Fire will be one and done since Braun Stroman will be back before SummerSlam. Here is my breakdown of who I think is going to win, from least likely to most likely:

5. Finn Balor – He has had the most hype, even having Paul Heyman put him over. WWE obviously sees money in this matchup, so to have him taken out by Brock and then passed over with little hype is in bad taste. I think this match will set up the Finn-Wyatt feud hinted at before rather than wasting a money matchup on (sigh) Great Balls of Fire.

4. Samoa Joe – Again, Joe vs. Brock is a money matchup and something not to be wasted as a holdover for Braun. These two behemoths squaring off is my biggest dream match of the current roster, and when Jim Cornette on Table for 3 suggested Joe vs. Brock in a submission match at the next WrestleMania, I flipped out. Make Joe look strong here and keep him there for when it is time for the monsters to be unleashed.

3. Bray Wyatt – The feud that almost happened could very well happen here, as Wyatt is WWE’s answer to every top star who needs a throwaway feud. But Jesus man, there is no way WWE can keep kicking Wyatt when he is down. He was WWE Champion earlier in the year before the Orton feud and House of Horrors debacle undid everything his big win did for him. He and Finn take each other out to set up their feud which will probably see Wyatt lose in the end.

2. Seth Rollins – One of two men to have a match with The Beast before saw their previous encounter act as a sideshow to Undertaker’s return. A plucky babyface Rollins vs. Brock is interesting, especially if he shows more fight than when he was the cowardly champ. I can see Rollins taking an absolute beating but refusing to die, rehabbing his image in the process. Yet, he has too much history with too many men in the ring to win. Therefore…

1. Roman Reigns – WWE will have their cake and eat it too. WWE wants Reigns to be a top guy, so they will drum Reigns in here to setup the WrestleMania 31 rematch we have not gotten yet. This will fulfill WWE management’s desire to give Roman a big push, while letting Brock have an opponent he can demolish before Braun takes over. WWE wins, the people win due to Reigns immediately being out of the spotlight after (sigh) Great Balls of Fire, and the other men in the match win by avoiding the big job to Brockjack Horsner. Then Strowman vs. Lesnar for the Universal championship can headline SummerSlam…unless Braun costs Brock the belt and they fight each other while Reigns carries the belt into SummerSlam…OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE???

 

 

Manopera! Episode 42: The Death Of #DIY, The Maharaja Rises

by Chris Butera and Frank Lucci

Our hosts discuss the surprise endings and aftermath of WWE’s NXT TakeOver: Chicago and Backlash events. In addition, Spaceman Frank addresses the controversy surrounding the Alamo Drafthouse’s “women’s only” Wonder Woman screening event.

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

Why A Jinder Mahal Championship Reign is Best for Business

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Credit: WWE.com

by Chris Butera

Tonight in Chicago’s Allstate Arena, Jinder Mahal will get possibly his only opportunity at the WWE Championship when he faces Randy Orton.

Although Mahal is arguably the most unlikely Superstar to receive a main event push of all time, putting the title on the Maharaja would not only be one of WWE’s boldest moves, but one of the most beneficial in the company’s 50 plus year history.

While Mahal’s xenophobic foreigner angle is nothing new to the world of sports entertainment(and is also the main variation of multiple xenophobic heel angle’s on SmackDown Live currently), the former 3MB member has been crushing it on the mic and in the ring with what he’s been given. Considering his pairing with the Sigh Brothers (formerly known as The Bollywood Boyz) and revealing on Chris Jercho’s Talk is Jericho podcast that Vince McMahon has been writing his promos personally, it seems that Jinder and his impressive new physique actually has a legitimate shot at holding the gold.

This would not only do wonders for the sports entertainment juggernaut’s relations with India, who only recently launched their WWE Shop e-commerce website (the main speculation on the reason for Mahal’s seemingly out of nowhere push), but for the entire roster of WWE talent. India is one of the hardest markets to break into for business and WWE also has never really had a large depth of talent from that well to draw from. The company has also not had an Indian World Heavyweight Champion since The Great Khali’s reign a decade ago. A championship reign for the Maharaja shows that WWE is willing to invest stock in new talents and mix things up rather than continue to rely on the same four mainstays and already established part timers.

The blue brand’s on-air Co-General Manager Shane McMahon recently said on the Stone Cold podcast that talent is afraid to try new things and approach Vince with ideas, so WWE giving someone different a fair shake could be a great motivator for young talent to speak up and potentially get their well-deserved opportunities as well. This very moment in time is eerily similar to “The New Generation” era 20 years ago, where WWE was forced to push young talent such as Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels due to steroid scandals, declining ratings and top guys jumping ship to then-competitor WCW.

Besides Mahal, India and the rest of the WWE locker room, the fans would benefit from this shift as well. The WWE Universe is very critical of the product, mostly venting about how inconsistent and predictable the writing could be. Although it came at a time of low ratings, Mahal’s push threw a huge monkey wrench into their complaints, and the reception has been pretty positive so far (a villain is actually getting booed by the crowd organically for a change). It’s familiar territory, but different because it’s with an unexpected talent, which the fans like. It shakes things up in terms of talent competing for the main championship, and that’s a great way to get people talking about your product in addition to giving them a reason to tune in.

By pushing different people, WWE will elevate the title, the talent and most importantly, the product itself for the better. Giving Jinder Mahal a run with the WWE title is a high-risk maneuver, but it could result in one of the best eras in the company’s history.

Spaceman Frank’s WWE Backlash 2017 Predictions

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by Frank Lucci

Backlash is upon us, and SmackDown Live’s first crack at a Pay-Per-View after WrestleMania has been a roller coaster of emotions for fans even before it began. We saw several key members of the SmackDown roster get sent to Raw, a House of Horrors match over at Payback, and roughly half the card put together in the final week before the show.

It is telling that WWE had me on the hook before Payback when they announced A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens, then lost my interest once the rest of the card filled out. Due to lackluster writing, I am now again looking forward to a match on another card, the Fatal Five Way Match for the WWE Universal Championship number one contender status at Extreme Rules.

WWE should stop announcing main events of the next PPV before the last one has even air.

Throw in a random NXT TakeOver and Backlash could very easily be lost to time almost as soon as it is over. I’m Spaceman Frank, and here are my WWE Backlash predictions.

Tye Dillinger vs. Aiden English (Preshow Hoopla Funtime Carnival)

 He may be The Perfect Ten, but with WWE Creative continuing their habit of calling up talent with no real purpose for them, this is the best Mr. Dillinger can hope for.

Dillinger showed up on SmackDown with some decent momentum, but since then has just been responsible for filling time as SmackDown slowly becomes more and more like Raw with every passing week. He is going up against Aiden English, one of the many guys WWE has recently chosen to randomly push just to see what happens. English is now without a partner and back to singing (which I guess is a step forward from not being booked at all?).

Dillinger will get the win because English has less momentum and we cannot have all the random heels plucked from obscurity get the win.

Luke Harper vs. Erick Rowan

This next match is one that has already happened repeatedly, but is now getting (some of) the attention it deserves. With no Bray Wyatt to add mystery and Randy Orton moving on from his crazy teenage goth days of 2016, this feud pretty much boils down to the two going “Well, I guess we should fight each other now.”

Rowan is wearing clown masks and giggling, which sure is something to behold. Is it better than the genius guitar player/wine expert he was before? We shall see. Meanwhile, Harper has been meandering around looking vaguely confused, and since he is forever my boy, I hope WWE figures out what they want to do with the talented big man (maybe give him a tweener role/mercenary roll similar to King Cuerno in Lucha Underground minus the deer headgear so he can feud with a variety of people in need of a quality opponent?).

Rowan has the fresh gimmick, but Harper gets the nod because, hey, it was a few weeks ago that he was rumored to be added to the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Remember those days? Good times…(cries into Luke Harper body pillow).

Baron Corbin vs. Sami Zayn

Another “Hey, you two, go slug it out for a bit” feud that came about for reasons unknown (I swear after the Superstar Shake-Up SmackDown’s creative team made up a dart board with people’s faces on it and drew up future plans based on which faces each dart hit the most).

Due to his size and look, Corbin seems destined to reach the main event scene, so taking on Zayn to get some heat makes a micron of sense. Zayn has been rudderless when not being beaten up by Braun Stroman, so I do not have much faith in him here (when was the last time he won a PPV match anyway?). Corbin wins to keep hating on internet dweebs and potentially join the ranks of suddenly elevated midcarders along with Jinder Mahal and Rusev.

Naomi, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch vs. The Welcoming Committee (with James Ellsworth)

For whatever reason we can’t get a Women’s Championship match on Backlash, so instead we get a thrown together “meh” match featuring the (mostly) female response to the Social Outcasts.

On the flipside, this at least gives Ellsworth something to do, and him being the cocky d-bag on the fringe of the women’s division is better than seeing him waste a main eventer’s time in the WWE title picture.

The big story of this match is the dissension among the champ’s teammates, as Charlotte is still gunning for the belt and Becky Lynch has briefly teasing turning to the dark side.

My prediction is that Ellsworth interferes when the Lass Kicker is on a roll, with Lynch thinking Charlotte was the one who messed her up, leading to a big brawl. Thus, the Welcoming Committee steals a win and everyone gets the bathroom break they deserve.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Dolph Ziggler

Oh, Dolph. You try so hard.

What everyone assumed would be The Miz vs. Nakamura is now being filled with Ziggler doing his best Miz impression (Seriously, does anyone really think Ziggler wins here?).

My Prediction: This.

Nakamura steamrolls Dolph and moves on to steamrolling others until SummerSlam, where he wins the John Cena lottery and faces off against The Face That Runs the Place.

The Usos (c) vs. Breezango (aka The Fashion Police) (WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match)

Tyler Breeze and Fandango have been responsible for the best segments on SmackDown in the past few weeks, and between The Fashion Files and Southpaw Regional Wrestling, these guys own WWE’s Youtube content.

It’s hard not to love these goofballs, and they are faces in all but name. However, they are still treated like jokes, so I do not have hope they will win against the Usos. Jimmy (shouldn’t he be James now? No good heel is named Jimmy) and Jey are much better heels then doofus good guys, and really deserve more of a focus than they are getting.

Are Breezy and ‘Dango the new Heath Slater and Rhyno? Maybe, but not now. Usos win.

Kevin Owens (c) vs. A.J. Styles (United States Championship Match)

The match that hands down will be the best on the card sees two of the internet’s favorites clash for SmackDown’s secondary title.

Owens has regressed with his “Face of America” gimmick, and with him, Mahal and potentially Rusev all trying to get heat by speaking different languages is lazy writing and even lazier booking (remember when SmackDown was the watchable show? NXT quickly took that title back, and now we get audiences booing a Canadian for speaking French despite being on the friendliest of terms with our northern neighbors).

Meanwhile, Styles can still do no wrong, so at least this match will be excellent to watch. I just wish he was getting the main event push again rather than propping up the midcard. Owens recently traded the title back and forth with Jericho, so I see him winning here since he still needs them after the Goldberg debacle.

Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal (WWE Championship Match)

The main event is so hyped up that I have to remind my roommates what the main event of Backlash is roughly every three days.

There are many theories for why Mahal is getting a sudden main event push, from the WWE expanding into India to Vince McMahon loving his intensely muscled body.

To be fair, Jinder has done well with what WWE has given him, and barring the xenophobic “Boo me because I am speaking my native language” schtick he is playing the part well. After a few months of not being a joke instead of WWE’s usual “few weeks heel” build, I can believe him staying in the midcard.

Meanwhile, Orton is back to “zero effs given mode,” and I do not see him putting in any effort to get Jinder over as a legit threat considering he wouldn’t do it for Wyatt (Is Orton still supposed to be a good guy? I have zero interest in cheering him, and I think he is the most overrated superstar of the modern era. He does one move a year to remind you he is a good athlete, then coasts for the rest of the year). It would be great if WWE would just the belt off him and have him fart around away from the title picture forever, but not quite yet. Wait until Styles gets back into the title picture (or maybe even Rusev, the man more deserving of the Jinder push).

Orton wins and the crowd has a 50/50 chance of turning on this match.
…..DIVE

Spaceman Frank’s NXT Takeover: Chicago Predictions

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by Frank Lucci

NXT has snuck in a TakeOver event several weeks after WrestleMania, and the general reaction I’ve seen from people talking about this event is “There’s a TakeOver going on that week?”

It seems very random that WWE would pick Backlash of all Pay-Per-Views to piggyback a Takeover event onto, but when you consider that waiting until SummerSlam would be far too long for a TakeOver and the fact that Chicago is consistently one of the best crowds for wrestling, it makes a little bit more sense.

NXT has had a good run of television since ‘Mania and I dare say after a bit of a lull, the developmental brand has reemerged as the best weekly program WWE has going. Chicago promises to be a weird blend of established NXT talent with some new people thrown in to replace departed stars, which should be an explosive mix to watch. However, there are several notable people missing from the card (Kassius Ohno, Alister Black, Cien Almas, etc), and with only five matches announced as of this writing I expect a last minute match added just to screw with me. That said, I’m Spaceman Frank and here are my NXT Takeover: Chicago predictions!

Roderick Strong vs. Eric Young (with Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain)

The only (as of this writing) non-title match sees The Messiah of the Backbreaker taking on Tye Dillinger’s role as the thorn in Sanity’s side as he gets a one on one match with their leader Eric Young.

Strong has had a hell of a time in NXT since ‘Mania as he went from generically handsome dude who does not talk into someone I generally want to succeed. Part of this is the excellent vignettes NXT produced that addressed the gaping void where his personality should be. Another large part was his supremely enjoyable number one contender’s match with Hideo Itami that sold me on him being someone who can have main event matches. Finally, during his amazing vignette he wore an Every Time I Die “Hot Damn” album cover t-shirt, which is a golden ticket into Spaceman Frank’s heart.

Strong has all the momentum here, but since Young has the number’s game here I think he will get the win. He has a solid TakeOver record thus far, and I think this feud has legs so Young will draw first blood for Sanity.

Tyler Bate (c) vs. Pete Dunne (WWE UK Championship Match)

The title match with the least build, mostly because WWE shot the UK show tapings out of order so we knew Dunne was getting a rematch before we actually saw him win the privilege of facing Bate.

Bate was excellent during the UK tournament, but I can see Dunne on the main roster now and immediately becoming a player in the main event scene a la Samoa Joe. I’d go as as far as to say Triple H needs to make Evolution 2.0 (EV 2.0?? Oh wait…) with Joe, Dunne, Triple H (as Ric Flair) and Brock Lesnar where the group feud over who is Brock’s number one contender by proxy while The Beast Incarnate is off strangling Emu’s or whatever he does on his farm.

Anyway, Bate wins here because I feel like if they make the switch it will be on the new UK show to build interest in that rather than prop up a TakeOver special.

Asuka (c) vs. Ruby Riot vs. Nikki Cross (NXT Women’s Championship Match)

Ember Moon’s injury and subsequent withdrawal from this match has really deflated the hype surrounding it.

Moon vs. Asuka still feels like the endgame for the women’s division, though Asuka vs. Cross has me much more hyped than any other potential matchup. That leaves Ruby Riot to take the pin, and with Asuka oh so very close to breaking Goldberg’s record for longest undefeated streak there is no reason for her to lose. As of late, we have seen WWE make sure to break every possible record they can, and Goldberg’s will be next. Cross and Riot keep brawling with the Empress of Tomorrow avoiding them until she can kick Riot in the head and keep her title.

The Authors of Pain (c) (with Paul Ellering) vs. Team DIY (NXT Tag Team Championship Ladder Match)

I want to see the big boys known as the Authors of Pain fall of a ladder.

I am ready to see this match, and it is far and away the match I am most looking forward to. Team DIY constantly have the best match during TakeOvers, and even though they are tasked to carry the massive dudes in AOP in a match best fit for smaller guys, I’m all in. I see bodies flying, amazing feats of strength, and above all else, people tumbling off of ladders. NXT only does a handful of gimmick matches during the year, so it is telling how much DIY has management’s faith if they get the nod for a Ladder Match. With rumors swirling that Ciampa is getting a new theme and confirmation that Gargano’s new theme is in the works, people think DIY will split soon. Not sure about that leap in logic, but I think AOP gets the win here.

Author’s note: With the news that Ciampa has suffered some sort of leg injury, it seems even more in doubt that Team DIY will win the belts back. Triple H has gone on the record to say that the guy has turned an ankle and should be good to go, but reiterated the fact that it is up to the medical staff to make the final call. This gives AOP even more of an excuse to beat up Johnny Wrestling for 15 minutes as Ciampa recovers outside the ring for extended periods of time.

Bobby Roode (c) vs. Hideo Itami (NXT Championship Match)

Hideo is finally back (for real this time), and immediately punched his ticket to the title scene by beating Roderick Strong. It makes sense that he would face Roode, as he is a holdout of a class of WWE signees that, for the most part, have vacated NXT. It also makes sense that he goes right back to the main event scene since that’s where he was suppose to be this entire time if not for injuries.

However, plenty of time has passed, and now many of the attributes that made Itami stand out in 2015 are par for the course in WWE. Honestly, I can see him getting hot-shotted to the main roster, but only as a Cruiserweight on 205 Live. Roode is an engaging as ever, and he is a prime candidate for a callup in the summer. For now, I predict he keeps his championship and the sudden influx of main event caliber guys in NXT leads him to losing it in a multi-man match down the road.