Extreme Rules 2017 Spotlight: Austin Aries vs Neville

Tonight WWE goes Extreme! Or so they say. There really hasn’t been that much excitement around the WWE product recently, with a series of subpar shows and autopilot booking making Raw and SmackDown pretty bland. The match I’ve picked is one that I think typifies the repetitive nature of WWE programming in recent weeks, and it also allows me to take a look at a division that I haven’t really touched on in this column for months. I’m talking about the Cruiserweight Championship match.

The last time WWE’s purple division was the focus of one of my Spotlights was in the very early days of the division, with the featured match being TJ Perkins vs The Brian Kendrick. Oh how times have changed since then. We have seen more talent added to 205 Live including Tozawa, Noam Dar and Neville; we saw Rich Swann inserted into the title picture, win the championship, lose it to the resurgent Neville and fall out of contention again.

Neville Swann

And Neville didn’t even care. Look at him acknowledging his adoring kingdom.

But still the Cruiserweights as a group are really struggling for momentum. It’s one thing to say give it time, but by this point the women’s revolution had started to take off and become a focal point of Raw and SmackDown. Right now, the Cruiserweights are a tired part of a bland show. Continue reading

Bray Wyatt – WWE’s 21st Century Proving Ground

The main subject of my wrestling thoughts these last few weeks has been Bray Wyatt. I essentially turned the Payback Spotlight into one long extended rant about how little his move to Raw was going to do for him. But it feels like years that there has been a feeling that WWE are holding Bray back – he has been in championship pictures for a miniscule part of his run, and he always seems to lose the big feuds.

It looked like WWE might have changed their ways with Bray earlier this year, as he put away SmackDown’s top two stars in AJ Styles and John Cena with one Sister Abigail each inside the Elimination Chamber to become the WWE Champion for the first time. He then defended the title two days later against the same two men in a triple threat match. But WWE’s Eater of Worlds, and their current darkest, creepiest superstar, quickly and too easily succumbed to Randy Orton at Wrestlemania.

Orton Wyatt WWE Title

Wrestlemania – and the weeks since – have not gone particularly well for Bray

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WWE Payback 2017 Spotlight: House of Horrors

I’ve been quiet since Wrestlemania and the superstar shake-up, and that’s because I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. If I had written a column in the immediate aftermath of the draft last summer, the tone of it would have been far angrier than if I had waited a week. My main reasoning for that is I want to give WWE the chance to let things play out, as maybe something that as a fan I find frustrating one week is actually building to something bigger. But tonight is Payback, and since the build has been muddled and just generally not that good, I’m going to address something from the shake-up that ties into a match tonight. I’m just going to go ahead and say it.

I have no idea why Bray Wyatt was moved to Raw.

braywyatt

Should WWE’s “Face of Fear” stayed the face of SmackDown?

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Six Superstars Who Need Shaken Up

And here we are at the end of Wrestlemania season! We’ve had six straight nights of content from WWE alone with the Hall of Fame, TakeOver: Orlando, Wrestlemania 33, Raw, SmackDown and NXT. It almost feels strange not having more wrestling to look forward to tonight. BUT, we can look back at all the awesome stuff that’s happened in the last week, and look ahead by asking the question “where do we go from here?”

We saw Kurt Angle return to the company, first as a Hall of Famer then as the Raw General Manager. We saw what looks like a full on heel turn from Asuka. We saw Matt and Jeff Hardy return to the WWE and become the Raw Tag Team Champions. We saw the career of The Undertaker likely come to a close. We saw The Revival debut on the main roster on Monday night, and Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger get the call up on Tuesday night. And crucially, we also saw Vince McMahon announce that next week we would shake up the rosters.

And that’s what I want to focus on here. Who is most likely to switch brands, or maybe rather who needs to switch brands the most? Here I lay out six picks, three from each show, who could really benefit from a shake up of their surroundings.

 

Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn

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Wrestlemania 33 Spotlight: Seth Rollins vs Triple H

It’s finally here! It’s the day of Wrestlemania 33. It’s been a long build up, in more ways than one. We’ve been on the road to Wrestlemania for all intents and purposed for the last three months. We’ve been hearing constant plugs for Mania several times a week on each Raw and SmackDown. But it’s been a long build up for some matches too, as I’ve already written about some matches that’s roots can be traced back to SummerSlam, a whole seven months ago.

But there’s one match where the history, across several tracks, goes back years. And that’s the match I’m rounding off this preview series on. It may be unsanctioned, but that just means there are boundless opportunities here. It is, of course, Seth Rollins vs Triple H.

Trips Rollins

Serious Trips. Mean Trips. Grrrrrrrrr. #HeelBeard

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8 Feuds for Post-Wrestlemania SmackDown

As we head into Wrestlemania, all eyes are on the ultimate thrill ride, and rightfully so. It’s not WWE’s pinnacle for no reason. But, as ever with WWE storylines, a big part of the excitement around Mania is the possibility for what will come next. So I’ve put my fantasy booking hat on (I mean come on, I don’t really ever take it off) and come up with eight rivalries I want to see on SmackDown coming out of Wrestlemania season. In case you’re wondering, I’m only doing SmackDown because I’m too uncertain about who will be in what spots and roles on Raw, and I’m doing eight feuds because there are eight segments in a typical SmackDown broadcast. And the roster isn’t really big enough for more. Got that? Let’s go!

WWE Championship – Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt ©

Orton Wyatt WWE Title

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Wrestlemania 33 Spotlight: Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt

As the premier prize in the industry, the WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania should always be the most highly anticipated spectacle at the showcase of the immortals. But we’ve seen during the brand extension that that’s not always the case. When there are two world titles, one has to take priority over the other at the biggest show of the year, and just as it did in the early stages of the original dual world title era, this year it’s the WWE Title match that’s taking the back seat.

Part of that is because the build up to Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt this year has been… weird. In theory, this is a seven months storyline that has had its twists and turns, elevated both men with some character development and is peaking at the right time for maximum impact. Practically though, the last month or so especially has been confusing and very hit or miss.

Orton Wyatt

We’ve had to surrender to the supernatural in the last couple of weeks

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Wrestlemania 33 Spotlight: Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker

Day five. Wrestlemania is just two nights away, and the excitement is definitely building. We have the Hall of Fame ceremony tonight, NXT TakeOver tomorrow night, and then the big one. This time of the year, and this show in particular, has almost become synonymous with one man over the decades. That man’s match on Sunday night is today’s spotlight match: Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker.

The Undertaker will be competing in his 25th, and possibly final, Wrestlemania match, with a win-loss record of 23-1. Roman Reigns will be competing in his 5th, and definitely not final, Wrestlemania match, with a record of 3-1. There are twenty years worth of difference between their Wrestlemania appearances, twenty years worth of wins between their records, and twenty years difference between their ages. Passing of the torch anyone? Continue reading

Wrestlemania 33 Spotlight: Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho

It’s day four of my Wrestlemania previews, which means we’re past the halfway stage! We’re just three days away from wrestling’s biggest annual event, so let’s get cracking!

It’s the match that has had the longest regular build, features one of the all-time greats, and has the potential to absolutely steal the show. It’s the United States Championship match between the reigning champion, the g.o.a.t, Chris Jericho, and the prizefighter himself, Kevin Owens.

This is a storyline that goes all the way back to the weeks before SummerSlam. Chris Jericho had been having his issues with Enzo Amore, and of course with Big Cass in his corner Big Chris was outnumbered. So, apparently quite randomly at the time, Kevin Owens – fresh off a rivalry with his former best friend Sami Zayn – told Jericho that he had his back.

Jeri-KO

The two Canadians formed a formidable partnership that would bring both success

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