Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bell to Bell: Wrestlemania Preview

This is it, folks. Wrestlemania is here. Sting is here. The Undertaker is here. Brock Lesnar is here. Still, all things considered, this isn’t the strongest ‘Mania card there’s ever been. We’ve got three squeeze matches, and a main event with a babyface that isn’t exactly a babyface, and a heel that isn’t exactly a heel…

Let’s dive in.

Tyson Kidd & Cesaro (c) vs. The Usos vs. The New Day vs. Los Matadores

Neither The New Day or Los Matadores feel worthy of this match. With due respect to the talents of those four men, they should have been stuffed into the battle royal.

I’d be okay with either Kidd & Cesaro or The Usos taking this one. But I’m making my prediction based on an unlikely source: WWE just came out with a t-shirt for Kidd & Cesaro. That leads me to believe they’re going to be in the forefront of things for the foreseeable future. So I’m thinking the titles will stay with them.

PREDICTION: Tyson Kidd & Cesaro

The Bella Twins vs. AJ Lee and Paige

The Bella Twins are going to take this one. Why? Because WWE loves them for some odd reason. Personally, I respect the fact that they’ve put the effort they have into wrestling. But I just can’t stand listening to them. AJ hit the nail on the head on Smackdown: They’re like the Kardashians. And if there’s one thing wrestling doesn’t need, it’s Kardashians.

Still, at least AJ and Paige got to be featured in a match at Wrestlemania, and they weren’t stuffed into some “lumberjill” match. Then again, plans can always change, I suppose.

PREDICTION: The Bella Twins


You know who should be pissed about this match? The Big Show. He’s been relegated to this match for the second year in a row, but will almost certainly not win. He’s been compared to Andre the Giant his whole career, and how he’s been stuck in a match dedicated to him, but can’t win!

This should be the match where we finally get our Miz/Damien Sandow pay off. If I’m booking this sucker, our last four guys in the ring are The Big Show, Ryback, The Miz, and Sandow. Ryback dumps out Big Show, then Miz gets the jump on Ryback and tosses him out. Then we get our confrontation between “star” and “stunt double,” resulting in Sandow finally standing up to Miz, and tossing him out of the match for the win. This should be a huge Wrestlemania  moment for Sandow. The question is, how do they follow up on it? That part sure as hell didn’t work out for Cesaro.

PREDICTION: Damien Sandow

Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Stardust vs. R-Truth vs. Luke Harper

I know this match will probably be entertaining. But the purist in me doesn’t like it. I’m also not thrilled with the fact that Daniel Bryan got relegated to a squeeze match a year after winning the main event at Wrestlemania. But that’s WWE booking for you…

I’ve read reports that Daniel Bryan will win this one, but I’m not sure I buy it. This feels like a Bad News Barrett win to me. WWE likes him, as evidenced by the way they put the belt on him right when he got back. And then they had all these guys take his title away from him, and then he finally got it back, only to have it taken from him again. This all feels like a build up for him to take it back once and for all at Wrestlemania, and then perhaps turn babyface. The fans like this character, and the heel status still seems forced to me. I’m really spinning the wheel on this one, but I’m going with Barrett.

PREDICTION: Bad News Barrett

Rusev (c) vs. John Cena

In all honesty, I don’t want to see Rusev’s winning streak end. Originally, I was not a fan of his, simply because he was so cold and expressionless out there. But he’s improved substantially, and is one of the company’s best villains right now. That being said, if you have to lose to someone, a loss to John Cena at Wrestlemania isn’t a bad deal. And given the beating Cena just took from Rusev on Raw, it seems like he’s due for a win. And hey, Cena winning the US Title might just restore some of it’s prestige. Lord knows those secondary titles could use a little more shine on them these days.


Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins

From a pure performance standpoint, this match could steal the show. Randy Orton’s previous Wrestlemania dance partners haven’t always lent themselves to great matches. But with the right ones, he can deliver. His match with CM Punk in 2011 comes to mind, as does his work with Daniel Bryan and Batista at last year’s show. With a guy like Seth Rollins, the potential is obviously there.

The build-up with Randy Orton pretending to join The Authority was decent. Not great, but decent. Hopefully the match makes it all worthwhile. I see Rollins going over here. He’s unquestionably WWE’s most hated villain right now. What better way to keep his momentum going than a cheap victory over Randy Orton? Mind you, he’ll probably take an RKO somewhere in there. But it’ll be his victory nonetheless.

PREDICTION: Seth Rollins

The Undertaker vs. Bray Wyatt

For yours truly, this is the biggest match on the card. I’ve been a fan for almost two decades. So seeing The Undertaker in the ring again is worth the price of admission by itself. He could be wrestling Barry Horowitz (look him up, kids) and I’d still pay to see it.

To his credit, Bray has made the majority of this program work with his verbal skills alone. The only input we’ve had from The Undertaker has been in the form of props and video clips. But Bray made it work. This program, as one-sided as it’s been, has elevated his game significantly.

Obviously, “The Streak” is no longer on the table. We can debate the pros and cons of that at a later date. But either way, The Undertaker could, in fact, lose this match. But I don’t think he will. After last year, the fans deserve to have their faith in this legend rewarded. The Undertaker losing last year left a really bad taste in everybody’s mouth. So now it’s time for him to win again. Will it hurt Bray? Absolutely not. I don’t think anyone’s career has ever been truly harmed by losing to The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Bray will be no exception.

PREDICTION: The Undertaker

Triple H vs. Sting

If what we heard on Raw this week is any indicator, I don’t think there’s any risk of the WWE fans not reacting favorably to Sting. They were really into him on Monday, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case here.

I expect we’ll see classic Triple H here, not to mention classic Stephanie McMahon. They’ll use underhanded tactics, and probably that sledgehammer, to get the upper hand. Then Sting will have his big babyface comeback, and of course, get the win. There’s no way they brought Sting to Wrestlemania just to have him lose. And as I said this week, I’m hoping this isn’t a one shot deal. A guy like Sting could really help elevate and up-and-comer. But either way, this night belongs to the Stinger.


Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

This match is “car wreck interesting.” In other words, I’m intrigued to see whether the whole thing just breaks down into a mess. What it really comes down to is the crowd. That’s the big drawing factor. What kind of reaction is Roman Reigns going to get? As Brock Lesnar just resigned with WWE this week, the die-hards and the smart fans don’t have much of a reason to boo him. And as Wrestlemania is a show that the die-hards come from all over the world to see, things don’t exactly look good for

I expect the crowd to be the main story in this one. I don’t see either Reigns or Lesnar as “ring generals,” so to speak. So I’m not expecting a classic. In terms of it’s outcome, while this match could end up going in a lot of directions, I still see Roman Reigns getting his hand raised at the end. One of WWE’s major priorities these days (thankfully) is making new stars. Whether we like him or not, Roman Reigns is one of those stars. So this moment belongs to him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Paul Heyman plays into this. He’s more than pulled his share of the weight in all of this. But now that we know Lesnar has re-signed, I’m curious to see if their relationship evolves at all. Will Heyman still be at Lesnar’s side once Wrestlemania XXXI is in the books? Or will he find himself a new conqueror in Roman Reigns? Has all of this been leading up to a Roman Reigns heel turn? Now that would shake things up…

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bell to Bell: Lesnar and Reigns’ Sissy Fight, the Ladder Match Fallacy, and More

Paul Heyman cuts another killer promo. Then Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns have…a tug of war? Firstly, the last thing Brock Lesnar said in that video package? “I’m going to f#$% Roman Reigns up.” Bone chilling.

Secondly, I’ll give WWE credit for making me actually want to see Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns. I don’t know if it’s going to be a train wreck or not. But Paul Heyman has made me believe Roman Reigns is in borderline mortal danger this Sunday. And they had me in this last segment. They really did.

Then Lesnar and Reigns had that weird tug of war with the belt. I get what they were going for. The whole back-and-forth pull with the WWE Championship. It put a huge damper on the segment. Plus, it seemed really out-of-character for Brock. If I’m Lesnar, and Reigns literally pulls the title out of my hand, I take him down on the spot and knock his teeth down his throat. When Reigns grabbed the belt, it seemed like a fight was about to break out. Something the refs would break up. Brock has done that kind of thing with both Cena and Triple H before. Mind you, we’d already seen a couple of big fights on this episode. But one of those was definitely worth changing up to end the go-home Raw to Wrestlemania on a high note.

Sting opens Raw, comes face-to-face with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. It was great to see the crowd react to Sting so well. All that sound and fury definitely leaves me hoping Wrestlemania is more than just a one night stand for the Stinger.

I was also very pleased to hear Sting using his actual voice this week. Why they felt the need to mess with his voice during that vignette last week is still a mystery to me. And it makes even less sense when you take into account that we were bound to hear his real voice eventually. That ring at Wrestlemania is going to be miked, obviously. So weird…

Bray Wyatt cuts an impassioned promo on The Undertaker, stealing some of his lighting cues. Boy, they really should have just gone to commercial after this one. Michael Cole kind of killed the moment when he had to play up the next segment. But that notwithstanding, this was one of the best promos Bray Wyatt has ever done. All that stuff about the truth, “the angel with the burnt wings,” the end of ‘Taker’s winning streak. It was fabulous. In my mind, Bray’s mic work is finally living up to all the hype. And of course, the classic purple Undertaker light and the thunder effects worked well.

Internet fans have poked a little fun at The Undertaker not being around much for this one. But realistically, there’s no other way to do it. Undertaker’s appearance on the show undeniably one of it’s biggest selling points. Quite possibly its biggest one.

Rusev def. Jack Swagger, and subsequently destroyed John Cena. . Hey, remember when Jack Swagger was a Heavyweight Champion, and wasn’t getting his ass handed to him by Rusev whenever they needed a squash match? Yeah, me either.

From a heat perspective, the John Cena/Rusev program is more or less where it should be. Cena has played up the importance of the United States Championship, and what it means to stand up for America. It should be an interesting match on Sunday.

The way the announcers played up Lana’s absence (she’s filming a WWE flick) was interesting, referring to her granting Cena a match at Wrestlemania. I imagine she’ll be with Rusev come Wrestlemania though.

Dean Ambrose & R-Truth def. Stardust & Luke Harper, with Bad News Barrett on commentary. A solid match, amplified by how into it the crowd was, obviously. I still maintain that Stardust and hist brother Goldust have unfinished business. But perhaps that’s a story for Extreme Rules.

I find it mildly amusing that WWE has guys like Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, and Bret Hart tweeting about how this ladder match could make somebody’s career. When those guys wrestled for the Intercontinental Title in a ladder match, they weren’t competing in a squeeze match with seven guys. They were in one-on-one matches, engaged in rivalries that weren’t watered down for the sake of getting a bunch of guys on the Wrestlemania card. No offense to anyone involved in this match, but come on!

And if you were wondering where Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler were during this match…

Daniel Bryan vs. Dolph Ziggler, with Dean Ambrose as the guest referee. I realize I’m beating a dead horse here. But if you want a Wrestlemania match for the Intercontinental Title that at least has the potential to be worthy of Savage vs. Steamboat, Hart vs. Piper, and HBK vs. Razor, this would be it. Just give these guys some time and let them do their thing. Their work speaks for itself. And hot damn, Ziggler even got the win this week! Good finish, too.

Kevin Nash announced for WWE Hall of Fame. Given all the notoriety Nash has earned over the years, I almost wish he were headlining the Hall of Fame a different year. But regardless, it’s tough to deny Nash deserves it. Even if you’re not a fan of his wrestling ability (as many aren’t), he’s been one of the biggest stars in wrestling for the past two decades. Congratulations are most certainly in order.

Hulk Hogan makes a surprise Raw appearance to confront Curtis Axel alongside Snoop Dogg. Hey, at least Axel got a mildly entertaining segment out of this whole #Axelmania thing, and got to stand next to an icon like Hogan on worldwide TV. To his credit, he milked a Royal Rumble elimination like nobody ever has.

Los Matadores & El Torito def. Tyson Kidd, Cesaro, & Natalya in an “Interspecies” tag team match. I was hoping to avoid talking about this match, as it already happened on Smackdown last week. But since it was apparently so memorable they had to have it again this week, let me say this: The only time Natalya should be involved in an “interspecies” match is if she’s wrestling her grandpa’s old buddy, Terrible Ted the Wrestling Bear. (Look it up, kids.)

Incidentally, Cesaro was the winner of last year’s Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. That should serve as inspiration to all the guys in this year’s match. If you work hard, gut it out and win, you too can be on next year’s Wrestlemania pre-show.

 Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

The Walking Dead S5E15 – Idealism vs. Stone Cold Reality

Well damn. Now THAT was a hell of a swerve turn!

But more on that later. Let’s nit pick a little bit…

Sasha takes her frustrations out on the walkers. At one point, Michonne and Rosita join her. If we’re comparing the comics to the TV show, Sasha is clearly a stand-in for Andrea in terms of her sniper duties. I find it a bit odd that she’s this worked up over Noah, though. In the grand scheme of things? Noah wasn’t around that long. Tyreese, on the other hand? Different story. Still, after all that’s happened, Sasha has as much to grieve about as anybody else, I suppose.

 Carl and Enid go out to…play? This whole sequence with Carl and Enid was really well-written, simply because it seems like the kind of stupid thing two teenagers would do. “Hey, let’s hide in a tree while the zombies walk by!” What a stupid girl…

But hey, Carl is a teenage boy, and Enid is the only teenage girl in sight. If I were a teenager, that’s probably what I’d do too.

Glenn confronts Nicholas about the run that got Noah and Aiden killed. This was a gutsy move by Glenn, considering his level of seniority compared to Noah. But it obviously fit with the “Our Way vs. Their Way” theme of the show. We’re not seeing as much of “sensitive Glenn” this season. Actually, since we got to Alexandria we haven’t seen much of the Glenn/Maggie relationship. The Glenn we’ve gotten this season has been much more aggressive, which is cool.

The Rick/Pete conflict comes to a head, resulting in Michonne knocking Rick out. Those last few seconds of the episode were a great surprise. Michonne, one of Rick’s people, didn’t stand with him. Talk about awkward…

What we have here seems to be (as our title suggested), the idealism of Alexandria against Rick’s stone cold reality. Deanna and the Alexandria community are trying to preserve something that was lost. Namely, civilization. But for Rick, a man who’s been out in this post-apocalyptic world so much more, the reality is that the world humanity knew is gone. And in a community like Alexandria, I imagine that balance would be really hard to find.

 The question now, as Rick presumably faces exile for trying to murder Pete in front of so many people, is how many of Rick’s “family” members are willing to stand with him? Seemingly Michonne feels the preservation of Alexandria outweighs her loyalty to Rick. So what about Daryl? Glenn? Carol? What about Carl?

So many questions…

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Batgirl #41 Controversy: Think McFly, Think.

DC seriously needs to hire some kind of “feminist consultant” to look over their stuff before they release solicitations. Because once again, they’ve stepped in it with their controversial depiction of a female character. This time, Batgirl is in the eye of the storm.

Recently, in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Joker’s debut, DC unveiled a series of variant covers for many of their June releases. Among those releases was Batgirl #41. The cover, drawn by Rafael Albuquerque, can be seen below.
It’s important to note this cover is a tribute to The Killing Joke, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s widely popular 1988 graphic novel in which Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is shot in the stomach (and thus paralyzed), then stripped nude and photographed by The Joker. So the discomfort surrounding this photo goes beyond its simple creepiness, and the way the characters are positioned. There’s something implied here.

In light of the negative response to the cover, as well as Albuquerque’s request that it not be distributed, DC has pulled it from solicitations. Apparently no one on the Batgirl creative team was in the know about this cover, as series writer Cameron Stewart noted on Twitter. Stewart also said that while he stands by Albuquerque as an artist and friend, the cover was completely at odds with what’s being done with the series currently. If you’ve read an issue of Batgirl in recent months, you know that is indeed the case.

But let’s be frank, here…is this cover really offensive?

At the risk of offending people (Aw heck, it’s the internet. You’re always offending someone.), I’m going to say that on its own, the image is passable. It’s an eye-roller, and they’re really pushing the boundaries of good taste, but it’s passable.

However, in light of all the bad press DC has gotten in recent years in regard to their portrayal of female characters, they really should have known better than to go this route. Marvel isn’t blameless in this respect, mind you (the infamous Milos Manara Spider-Woman cover comes to mind). But DC seems to have a knack for stepping in this same pile of poo over and over again. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here’s a quick refresher of all the trouble DC has been in as it relates to their female characters since the New 52 began in September 2011…

- The absurd objectification and sexualization of Starfire in early issues of Red Hood and the Outlaws.

- A similar oversexualization of Catwoman, followed by the anatomically absurd solicited cover of Catwoman #0.

- DC having Superman kill a pregnant Lois Lane as a plot device to get the story to Injustice: Gods Among Us going. In all fairness, the game was developed by NetherRealm Studios, but writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey were reportedly serving as creative consultants. The event was also depicted in the comic book adaptation by Tom Taylor and Jheremy Raapack. 

- DC hosting a controversial art contest, a portion of which challenged artists to depict Harley Quinn sitting naked in a bathtub surrounded by electrical appliances, apparently resigned to suicide.

I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind. Again, I can’t say that DC is alone in making this mistake. But if I had to pick one company that personifies the mistreatment of women in comics, sadly, it would be DC. As a longtime DC Comics fan, that’s a pretty painful realization to come to.

DC obviously doesn’t MEAN to piss off their fans to such an extent. Obviously a little controversy never hurt anyone. But this kind of stuff isn’t good for anybody. So why does it keep happening?

From my perspective, it’s a matter of DC continuing to fall back into an old trap. For the longest time, female characters in male-written comics book were often the victims of horrific violence, or simply used as gratuitous sex objects. The latter is nothing new, if you look at female superhero costumes. The former was so often the case that the trend earned itself a name: “Women in Refrigerators” (named from a story that saw Green Lantern’s girlfriend chopped up and jammed into a fridge). As comic books have for so long been catering to such a male-dominated audience, this wasn’t as much of an issue as it perhaps should have been.

But in 2015, writers and artists have to approach things a little differently. You’ve got to have a bit more of a conscience, and keep in mind that kind of content isn’t always what people want to see. Nor is it always necessary, for that matter. Did Lois Lane

need to die horribly for Injustice to start? Did Starfire need to be hypersexualized to sell comic books? And given how Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr have reinvigorated Batgirl over the last several months, was there even a need for a variant cover like that?

Please keep in mind that I’m not saying comic books should all be squeaky clean, or follow the same set of rules to a T. What it really comes down to is knowing your audience and what they want to see. This whole fiasco isn’t so much Albuquerque’s fault for drawing a picture, but DC’s fault for not being mindful of their audience, let alone the hot water they’ve been in recently.

So in reviewing their content for the foreseeable future, I would advise DC, and all comic book creators for that matter, to adopt a certain policy. It’s actually a policy that can be applied to anybody in any walk of life. It boils down to three simple words…

“Think, McFly. Think.”

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E14 - Trimming the Fat

I liked this episode. We trimmed the fat a little bit, and we also got to see a few characters show their true colors. It's tough to ask for much more than that as we close in on our season finale…

 Noah is eaten during a supply run. Truth be told, the Noah character had already run its course. He was basically there to be an ally for Beth. But once she died, his days were numbered. I'll credit the show for making his death mean something, though. Having Glenn watch him being eaten alive reminded us of what the stakes are when our heroes are out among the zombies. Steven Yeun's reaction was also very well done.

Deanna's son Spencer is eaten after foolishly shooting at a walker in soldier gear. This was also inevitable, of course. Though I expected it to happen another episode or two down the line. Spencer's death obviously opens a huge door for Deanna to mistrust Rick and his group. Speaking of which…

Father Gabriel tells Deanna she can't trust Rick and the group. As if there wasn't enough to dislike about this guy already. Rick and his people have saved Gabriel's live how many times? And yet he's basically throwing them under the bus because he thinks he's found a better deal. He conveniently failed to mention all those people he let get eaten as they were trying to find sanctuary in his church, of course. I hope this guy gets eaten before this season is over.

Eugene touts pointing the group to DC, saves Tara's life. This was a good episode for Eugene. Clearly he's trying to prove he's still a worthwhile addition to the group. Saving Tara's life will no doubt be a step in the right direction in that respect. But where does he go in the long run? In the comics, as I recall, he began making bullets for the team to use. Is that in his future?

As Pete is revealed as an alcohol-abusing father, Carol tells Rick he'll eventually have to kill him. Not exactly a big step in the world of The Walking Dead. Still, considering how new Rick, Carol, and everyone else are to Alexandria, killing Pete would be a pretty big risk. That's especially true now that these seeds of mistrust have been planted in Deanna's mind. And the death of her son certainly won't improve matters. Rick seems to be on yet another collision course as we start to wind down our fifth season...

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bell to Bell: Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman, and Grains of Truth.

Much of this week’s show was hit or miss. We had a dud musical performance (they’re all duds, aren’t they?), a lame duck tag team match with The Big Show and Kane, and an appearance by the always awful Los Matadores. But there was some good stuff too. Let’s dive in.

A video package airs hyping Roman Reigns. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman respond. I actually like the package they played a lot. I usually don’t like it when Roman Reigns talks. But it seems that he’s, ironically, like Brock Lesnar in that he’s good when he’s in produced video packages. They can edit, they can give it a proper pace, and they can make certain people look like they’re better talkers than they are. So kudos to the team that worked on that video package.

In terms of Heyman’s response, it looks like they’re intentionally hyping up Lesnar potentially defecting to the UFC. There’s no way WWE would let Heyman say all that stuff about the Montreal screwjob, or what they’re paying Brock, or any of that stuff. Plus, the notion that somebody in the back keeps screwing with Heyman’s mic is interesting.

Still, the fans still seem to want to cheer Brock. And why not? A large percentage of fans don’t like Roman Reigns anyway. And when you boil it all down all Heyman is really saying is that Brock is going to kick Reigns’ ass at Wrestlemania. So why wouldn’t Reigns’ detractors want to see that?

That comment about The Undertaker needing to be “resurrected” was also interesting. I so wish we could get an Undertaker/Lesnar rematch so the Dead Man could even the score. Speaking of which…

The Undertaker sends a response to Bray Wyatt, setting his rocking chair ablaze. The metaphor Bray Wyatt used about finding The Undertaker when he “followed the buzzards,” along with the statement “It was always about you,” are interesting to me. They seem to imply that Wyatt was gunning for ‘Taker from the start. That’s an interesting notion.

I’m not sure what I was expecting in terms of Undertaker’s return. I suppose it had to be something like this. I give Bray a lot of credit for selling it all the way he did. He flubbed a couple of lines during his promo, but considering how big and important this segment was, it’s understandable. He got all the important parts across.

Sometimes it’s tough to answer the question of why The Undertaker’s cheesy “magic” stuff works, but when WWE tries similar hokey stuff with other wrestlers, it doesn’t. But when you get right down to it, The Undertaker is so universally respected that you almost believe in his tricks. Especially older fans who’ve been watching him for so many years. Seeing him again is undoubtedly one of the major selling points of Wrestlemania this year.

Randy Orton turns on Seth Rollins after main event. I almost wish they’d waited a little longer on this one, and let the tension grow even hotter. But what the hell? We all knew where they were eventually going anyway. If they’re given a good amount of time, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins may just steal the show at Wrestlemania.

After brutalizing Curtis Axel, Rusev gets brutalized by John Cena. This segment had some great intensity to it. Rusev mowed down Axel, and then to his credit, cut a really good promo on the United States. But as good as Rusev was, Cena’s babyface comeback was better. It had that edge that a lot of people want from Cena. He made Rusev pass out, then woke him up just to do it again. He’s basically torturing Rusev, and forcing Lana to give him what he wants. This was the kind of John Cena I’d have liked to see in September when he was still working with Brock Lesnar. And did you hear some of the male fans chanting for him? Great segment.

A hype video reveals why Sting targeted Triple H. Why did they make Sting’s voice deeper? All you have to do is subscribe to that damn network they keep pushing, and you’ll be able to hear his real voice. So why change it? It doesn’t make sense. Still, Sting’s got the motivation he should have. He’s fighting against injustice. That’s what heroes do. Good hype for Wrestlemania.

R-Truth once again joins the commentary desk during two matches. While I always enjoy hearing R-Truth talk and just do his thing, it was also an illustration of just how bad the announcing has gotten in WWE. During Bad News Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan, they’re supposed to be trying to sell this angle about how Barrett is the Intercontinental Champion, but he hasn’t actually had his title belt in a number of weeks now. Instead of talking about what’s happening in the ring, and actually telling the story, Michael Cole, JBL, and R-Truth spent the most of that match amusing themselves. They were better during Dean Ambrose vs. Stardust, as they at least talked about the characters in the ring, and the match itself.

I give WWE credit for spending a few segments building to this big ladder match at Wrestlemania. But this whole angle about Barrett not having his title belt and losing match after match doesn’t really work for me at all. I get that it’s supposed to build up the idea that Barrett could easily lose the title at Wrestlemania, But Barrett losing to all these guys time after time is kind of ridiculous. One would think it’s also confusing to those “casual viewers” WWE is always trying to get. Barrett is the champion, but Ambrose had the belt for a few weeks, and this week Stardust had it. Then at the end, Truth had it.  It’s just a little too out there for me.

Wiz Khalifa performs on Raw. No. Musical performances just don’t belong on Raw. I’m sorry, it just isn’t what wrestling fans want to see. Thank you, but no.

 Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bell to Bell: Raw Gets Political

Seth Rollins hosts “The Daily Show with Seth Rollins,” Jon Stewart shows up to do some mic work. Regardless of your politics, it was pretty cool to see Jon Stewart on Raw. His enthusiasm and his knowledge of the product was pretty cool too. I remember him mentioning his son is a fan. Stewart did some great ad-libbing too. You could tell he was having fun.

This was some great pre-Wrestlemania publicity. As far as celebrity appearances on Raw are concerned, Stewart is right up there with Hugh Jackman and Pee Wee Herman in my book. In other words, he did a very good job.

Amid rumors of Brock Lesnar walking out before Raw last week, Paul Heyman puts on a promo clinic. Heyman seemed to be genuinely frustrated with the non-functioning microphones. You can’t blame the guy. He is on national television, after all.

Still, WWE’s Master of the Mic managed to address the rumor that Brock Lesnar walked out before last week’s show, as well as the speculation about him leaving after Wrestlemania, without directly mentioning either of them. He also managed to put Roman Reigns over in the process. At this point, if Paul Heyman says your name in a promo, you come out looking good whether he’s for or against you. His role in the hype for Wrestlemania cannot be understated.

Also, that “Brock Lesnar simply Rhonda Rouseys your ass” line was awesome. Quote of the week, easily.

Seth Rollins def. Roman Reigns, with an assist from Randy Orton. I like how they’re weaving Seth Rollins and Randy Orton into Reigns’ build up for Wrestlemania. Not that they have much choice, mind you. Brock Lesnar obviously isn’t there. But it bodes well for after Wrestlemania, when they’re looking to give Reigns somebody to work with.

Reigns looked really good this week. And I loved that dive over the top rope. It was reminiscent of what The Undertaker used to do. Slowly but surely, I’m becoming a Roman Reigns fan.

Paige and Nikki Bella get a two-segment match, seemingly in response to #GiveDivasAChance. AJ Lee subsequently returns. To WWE’s credit, they listened to their fans on this one. As much as I really don’t like the Bellas, Nikki and Paige got my full attention on this one. I’ll say this much, I appreciated WWE giving some extra emphasis to the Divas Title here, what with the in-ring intros and the added build up. I STILL wish it didn’t look like a trinket you’d put on a Barbie doll. But one step at a time.

I won’t say the match was fantastic. But there was some really good stuff on display here. Paige showed some great fire during her comeback. I also liked Nikki’s use of the Alabama slam. She’s strong, I’ll give her that much. And of course, it’s always great to see AJ Lee. It looks like we’ll have ourselves a tag match at Wrestlemania.

All in all, this could be a nice start. Could be. If they stick with it.

Alundra Blayze announced for the WWE Hall of Fame. Firstly, in the video package, I love how they lumped the Bella Twins in with the likes of The Fabulous Moolah, Wendi Richter, Trish Stratus, and Lita. Sorry ladies, not quite yet.

I’m happy to see the real life Debra Anne Miceli get this moment. She definitely deserves it. As far as the infamous title belt in the trash incident on Nitro is concerned, time definitely heals all wounds.

John Cena tries to enter himself into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Stephanie threatens to leave him off the Wrestlemania card. Didn’t Cena try to do this last year? Not that it would have made a difference, for all that battle royal win did for Cesaro’s career…

But seriously, Cena getting left off Wrestlemania? Even to the marks, that must be laughable. It does bring to mind what WWE would be like without Cena, though. That’s a much more plausible scenario in 2015 than it was in, say, 2011 or 2012. Guys like Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt, and a slew of NXT talents are stepping up…

Incidentally, Curtis Axel was just about the last guy I expected to see come out after that segment. This “Axelmania” thing seems to be getting him some TV time.

Bad News Barrett to defend against multiple opponents in a ladder match at Wrestlemania. I call bouts like these “squeeze matches.” They’re essentially just trying to squeeze as many guys on to the card as they can. Barrett and Dean Ambrose would have been fine on their own, but instead we’ve got to have a bunch of other guys in there. I suppose the upside is that Dolph Ziggler will be featured in a match, as opposed to simply being jammed into the battle royal. The purist in me wishes they’d stick with one-on-one title matches, in the spirit of Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper, and yes, the Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon ladder match.

Incidentally, I really enjoy R-Truth on commentary. He doesn’t make any damn sense half the time, but he’s fun to listen to.

The Miz unintentionally stars in a “Niagra” commercial, furthering his feud with Damien Sandow. Penis humor. Yeah, that’s got Vince McMahon’s name all over it. Still, that rant Miz went on afterward was pretty awesome. The notion of Miz blackmailing Sandow with the memory of where he was before they were a team is interesting, as is Miz referencing when Sandow was actually released from WWE several years ago. This feud is still hot.

Triple H “fires” Booker T for saying he “blocked” Sting from coming to WWE. Want to play a fun drinking game? Take a shot every time Booker says “I’m just saying” in that segment. Good lord. Still, Hunter brought the segment home really damn well. Some of his best mic work in awhile.

Bray Wyatt sets fire to casket during another promo on The Undertaker. Ah, the old flaming casket routine. A classic. Bray’s promos have been very focused, and much more polished in recent weeks. I won’t lie, I’m dying to see The Undertaker. And the longer they make us wait, the more we’ll love it when he finally emerges. 

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Walking Dead S5E12 – What’s the Catch?

So Rick and his crew have officially entered Alexandria, and by the end of the episode, some of them looked very different. None moreso than Rick himself…

Much like it is in the comics, Alexandria seems to stand as a time capsule from the old world, complete with houses, running water, etc. And you thought you loved a hot shower.

Throughout this episode, the one thing running through my mind was: “What’s the catch?” In the world of The Walking Dead, something very good is usually followed by something very bad. People died after they found the prison. Woodbury was home to The Governor, etc. So what’s the catch here?

Among the Alexandria survivors is Enid, a girl Carl’s age who came from the outside. If you’re reading the comics these days, you know that Carl’s taste in girls is somewhat…odd. I’m just saying. If there isn’t a catch with Alexandria itself, there’s definitely some kind of weird catch with this girl.

 Deanna, Alexandria’s leader, interviews Rick and his group individually before allowing them into Alexandria. This gave the episode something of a found footage vibe, which of course we haven’t seen before on The Walking Dead. I get the impression we’ll see more of those tapes before the season is over. If there’s one thing this show has taught us, it’s that everybody has a skeleton in their closet.

Daryl doesn’t seem to fit the Alexandria mold. Daryl only began to thrive after the zombie apocalypse. As odd as it sounds, he’s not made for the more civilized lifestyle they’re going for in Alexandria. He’s good at killing zombies. That’s his calling in life, seemingly. Betcha 10 bucks he ends up getting exiled, which would bring Deanna into conflict with Rick.

Glenn gets into a fight with Aiden for toying with a zombie. I don’t understand the notion of playing with these things. They make horrible sounds and eat people. They’re the stuff of nightmares. Unless you’re killing them or running from them, just leave them the hell alone!

 “Sheriff Rick” returns. By the end of the episode, Rick looks much as he did in season 1. Oddly enough, the one thing that stood out to me about the return of this look was that Rick is still wearing his wedding ring. Has he always done that? That’s interesting…

Written by: The Fanboy Wonder, Rob Siebert