Kayfabe Thoughts: Summer Slam Predictions Edition – 08/19/18

Last night’s NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 4 event may not have been as solid top to bottom as this year’s prior NXT events, but once again the “developmental brand” set a high bar to challenge for tonight’s 30th Anniversary Summer Slam.  2 of the 4 NXT title matches changed hands last night, and as Summer Slam can serve as an opportunity for WWE to make short term tweaks to the title scene or even test out possible storylines ahead of the Road to Wrestlemania, I expect some big moments in this evening’s show.

Predicted winners in bold and defending champions noted with (c).

Pre-Show

 Andrade “Cien” Almas & Zelina Vega vs Rusev & Lana – I can’t see Almas and Vega taking the loss here simply because they both have so much damn upside. It’s hard to believe at this point that Rusev was in a title match just last month, but here he is on the pre-show. I guess that’s better than being at catering with Naomi and Asuka.

Cedric Alexander (c) vs Drew Gulak (WWE Cruiserweight Championship) – It seems like 205 Live, while still solid and very much worth watching, has again lost some of its steam. Alexander is spectacular, but smiling babyface champs can be boring and at least a heel champion like Gulak can have a JBL/Cena “you’re too young to beat me” type feud with Lio Rush. Truthfully, my feelings on the whole 205 Live scene can be summed up in 3 words: I miss Neville.

The B Team (c) vs The Revival (Raw Tag Team Championship) – Listen, I love The Revival. Their matches in NXT with DIY and American Alpha were incredible examples of how great tag team wrestling can be when it’s executed by guys committed to performing as a team. But they’re short. Like noticeably shorter than all of their opponents. While that may have been ok for Arn and Tully in Crockett, that’s not what Vince likes. The B Team aren’t big guys either, but what they are is a comedy act and we know that Vinny Mac loves the ha-ha’s as much as he loves chocolate ti…well, you know. The B Team won’t be champs for much longer, but they won’t lose here.

Main Show

 Finn Bàlor vs Constable Baron Corbin – This story has gone on too long and has gone nowhere in the process. It’s clear that Vince and creative feel like Bàlor is missing something now, despite feeling decidedly the opposite way about him 2 years ago when he was made the first Universal Champion. Likewise, Corbin has muddled around the midcard since failing on his MitB cash in a year ago. Thankfully, Corbin saw the writing on the wall (not to mention the hair in the sink sadly) and ditched what was quickly becoming a “skullet” for a much better look. Too bad it came with a Corporate Kane starter kit. Oh yeah: there’s a match here. Bàlor wins, but it wouldn’t shock me if the WWE Creative Match Generator 2000 continues to glitch and we inexplicably get another turn on the booking merry-go-round.

Bludgeon Brothers (c) vs The New Day (SD Live Tag Team Championship) – There have been some very positive things to come out of the former Wyatt Family’s repackaging as the Bludgeon Brothers. For starters, I like the Bludgeon’s outfits just fine. I’m also glad Luke Harper got to change his clothes and they gave him a clip to hide his thinning hair. I’m happy that Erick Rowan no longer has to dress in a janitor’s jumpsuit for work. However, the hammers are bad cosplay though and every time Corey Graves has to try and sell us on the idea that the hammers are actually heavy, I hear him die a little inside. For Corey’s sake: ditch the hammers. For our sake: put the titles back on The New Day.

Braun Strowman (MitB) vs Kevin Owens (Strowman’s Money in the Bank contract) – Kevin Owens has no momentum going into this match. He’s spent the better part of the summer running from the Monster Among Men, playing the chickenshit heel perfectly and getting beat down by Big Braun at every turn. For these reasons I was thisclose to picking Owens. Only in the strange world of WWE booking would this make sense, but I’m still not convinced that Owens won’t win the MitB away from Strowman. WWE has had several opportunities to give Braun a run with the title, but hasn’t yet pulled the trigger. With Lesnar’s time as the WWE’s unbeatable monster coming to a close, this seems like a “if not now?” moment, and a Braun cash-in seems to be the easiest way to test those waters, but more on all that later…

Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs Jeff Hardy (United States Championship) –Sadly, reading this will probably take longer than their last title match and there hasn’t been much physicality between the two in the aftermath. Since then, creative has done little to set up an actual Nakamura/Hardy rivalry, instead focusing on pushing things toward Hardy/Orton. Maybe Orton interferes and costs Nakamura the title, adding a championship aspect to the Hardy/Orton angle, but I think in light of recent allegations, Orton should refrain from giving a hand to anyone. Nakamura retains because there’s no good reason to put the title on Jeff Hardy here and Nakamura as a heel is gold.

Dolph Ziggler (c) vs Seth Rollins (Intercontinental Championship) – Rollins brought Ambrose back on Monday Night Raw to even the odds against Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. Ziggler has been really good with McIntyre as his running mate, but they need to have a run with the tag titles to really solidify the latter-day Shawn and Diesel vibe and that can’t begin until Dolph loses the IC title. Besides, the newly jacked Dean Ambrose can’t complete his Super Saiyan transformation until he helps Rollins become champion, only to immediately turn on him by beating the crap out of his old Shield mate.

The Miz vs Daniel Bryan – Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this. On one hand, it appears that WWE is actually going to pay off a storyline that has been building for nearly a decade, something they rarely do. On the other, it’s been rushed in such a way that makes me wonder if Daniel Bryan is really not actually on his way to being All Out. Still, I can’t imagine that WWE would set up Bryan’s exit by giving fans the match they’ve been clamoring for. I always thought Miz and Bryan deserved a bigger stage (WRESTLEMANIA!) with some real stakes (WWE CHAMPIONSHIP!) and perhaps this is the beginning of the road and not the end. We can’t get there with Bryan winning this one, so I’m picking the Miz and hoping for the best.

Carmella (c) vs Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch (SD Live Women’s Championship) – I’ll go on record as saying that no one in WWE, man or woman, “gets” who exactly their character is more than Carmella. She knows that character needs to be loud, obnoxious, and generally unbearable to be successful and she absolutely NAILS it. She is the company’s most hatable heel; she’s the female Miz. It seemed like the Women’s division ultimate white-meat babyface, Becky Lynch, was going to get her chance to shine by beating her for the championship, but then WWE made a very WWE decision and added the returning Charlotte to the match. Now I can’t help but feel like it’s a near lock that Charlotte walks out champion and that makes me sad because Becky isn’t a heel (they tried that in NXT and it just didn’t work IMO) and that’s how I see this going. Becky needs the title for a stretch, not to end up in catering learning Japanese puns from Asuka.

Alexa Bliss (c) vs Ronda Rousey (Raw Women’s Championship) – Ronda was ringside at NXT for fellow Horsewomen and NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler’s somewhat surprising loss to Kairi Sane, which appears to free up Baszler to support Rousey. WWE also confirmed a match featuring Alexa Bliss and Trish Stratus for the inaugural Evolution PPV in October. Though it wouldn’t shock me if WWE found another way to keep the title on Bliss to pay it off with Rousey at Hell in a Cell in September, the amount of buzz a Rousey win would make in the mainstream media is too hard to ignore and they won’t.

AJ Styles (c) vs Samoa Joe (WWE World Heavyweight Championship) – I can’t help but assume this is the match that WWE wishes they would have gotten to book 10 years ago, when both had a bit more tread on their tires. That’s not to say both aren’t still great, because both men remain among the top 8 talents on the roster, but the end of the road is closer for both than the beginning and Joe has had some injuries that may have delayed his ascent in WWE. For me, this is another of those “if not now, when?” moments in regard to Samoa Joe’s championship opportunities in WWE. AJ Styles has proven to be an effective babyface champ and re-lighting the fire by having him chase an old nemesis in order to regain his lost championship would be a great way to stoke the AJ Styles fire further over the course of the fall season. It’s Joe’s time and I think he becomes king of SD Live’s mountain.

Brock Lesnar (c) vs Roman Reigns (WWE Universal Championship) – I can’t see Vince paying Brock Lesnar to take the Universal Championship to UFC, so this has to be Reigns. And then it immediately has to be Strowman with the cash-in. I’m not going to bash Roman beyond I think his gear is lame and his character is stale to me, and I don’t even think either of those things are Roman’s choice. I also am unsure if Strowman is necessarily fully-baked enough as a character to carry the company. What I am sure of is that adding a desperate edge to Roman by having him finally achieve victory over one monster only to lose to another is perhaps the best (and maybe only) way forward as a babyface (or at least non-heel) for Reigns in order to get Roman to become the universally cheered superstar WWE wants him to be. Reigns history with Strowman is far from decided (Roman did try to murder Braun afterall) and there is plenty of good meat on the bone to chew for both. Both men continuing to build their legacies together benefits the company and the performers best (see also: Bret/Shawn and Austin/Rock) and would be a great story to tell this fall/winter on the Road to Wrestlemania, so I’ll pick Reigns over Lesnar, but the show closes with a post cash-in Braun holding the Universal Championship high above a fallen Roman.

Wanna give me a high five for being right or tell me how wrong I was? You can contact me with any comments either by posting in the comment area below, @-ing me on Twitter (@factfreemedia) or by emailing me at factfreemedia@gmail.com You can also find me at my website: http://www.factfreemedia.com where I host my wrestling history podcast “Kayfabe Forever”, which drops each Friday-ish. The podcast is also available for download by searching “Kayfabe Forever” on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, iHeart Radio, or Tune In Radio and by following the show page on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kayfabe Thoughts: Roman Reigns Is So Fetch

(Note: This opinion column also appears over at NODQ.com)

“Stop trying to make “fetch” happen! It’s not going to happen!” – Regina George

Nope, this column isn’t misplaced. I’ve just been recalling this phrase a lot lately when watching WWE.

This iconic line from 2004’s Mean Girls rings in my ears each and every time Roman Reigns appears on my screen. It also quickly follows any utterance of the phrase “THE BIG DOG!” by Michael Cole. It’s usually accompanied by a deep exhale, an eye roll, and the sudden urge to stop paying attention to whatever is on the screen.

Simply put, like a portion of the WWE Universe, I have a clear-cut case of Roman Fatigue.

Now, if you’re expecting a Roman Hate column, you won’t find it here. Roman is over and is no doubt the face of the company.

In fact, this really has nothing to do with Roman.

It’s not his fault.

If anything, his only perceived “crimes” are being too talented, too good-looking, and too charismatic. In reality, Roman Reigns ticks all the boxes of a traditional babyface and the WWE is sticking to how that specific star has been booked FOREVER and that, for me, is the heart of my real issue.

Babyfaces should lose in order to keep heat on whoever they are chasing in order to build sympathy with the audience and that is fundamental storytelling. It’s why Luke didn’t kill Vader in Episode 4, why Rocky didn’t beat Apollo in Rocky, and why Mario still fights Bowser.

But that’s not exactly how our entertainment works now.

We live in a hot-take, hot-n-ready, world. Everything moves faster. We want everything now or in as little time as possible. We don’t want ties – we want winners and losers. If the team struggles – fire the coach or trade the players. Don’t tell us Rose’s story – stick to Luke’s. (BTW: I love TLJ, don’t @ me!)

But with Roman, all of it has taken too long to pay off, and it seems like he’s shouldering the blame for years of booking decisions that were no fault of his own:

Roman didn’t hotshot himself into the championship picture as soon as The Shield broke up.

Reigns didn’t fail to book Daniel Bryan for the 2015 Royal Rumble.

He didn’t choose to book Rollins to cash in and win at WM31 while Reigns was at his absolute hottest (a fantastic moment) and I’m going to assume that it wasn’t his idea to lose to Brock again at not only WM34, but also Greatest Royal Rumble.

Creative is to blame for all that.

Bad luck in the form of contagious illness scuttled any goodwill that might have come along with The Shield reunion last fall.

Now, could Roman do some things better? Sure.

He certainly didn’t help himself by being suspended for violating the wellness policy while WWE Champion in June 2016 and killing any momentum from a program with former Shield-mates Rollins and Ambrose.

Reigns also continues to wear the tactical vest and cargo pants that he wore while a member of The Shield which makes his gear seem a bit boring after 5 years (also, even D’Lo Brown wonders why no one makes a big deal out of Roman wearing that vest!).

Finally, his handsome face is rather punchable while playing the cocky babyface.

In fact, Roman has been most interesting in the past year or so when he’s been on the arrogant side of things, be it with AJ Styles or The Undertaker, because he naturally gets heat. He’s a big, talented guy and the underdog angle doesn’t work for him because WE know he’s been on top for so long.

And that’s why creative should turn him heel for a stretch and hook him up with The Authority.

He should be a heel long enough to “reset” the character by being a badass, smug, unbeatable corporate heel.

Long enough so that when Reigns has had enough of being Triple H’s errand boy (as he used to call Seth Rollins) and rebels against them or when The Authority feels like he’s outlived his usefulness and they turn on Roman, it feels like something major is happening.

Long enough so that when his Shield brothers save him, it means something.

Not forever.

Just long enough.

Romans greatest potential lies in being a strong babyface because he IS one. But he can’t hit that potential without starting over and to start over in wrestling means either a turn or to go away and WWE would be foolish to bench Reigns for a long stretch.

It’s imperative that WWE finds a way to reset fan perception of its most bankable star quickly, just the same as they once had to with a stale Bret Hart.

Make Roman matter again.

Make Roman Reigns a heel.

You can contact me with any comments either by posting in the comment area below, @-ing me on Twitter (@factfreemedia) or by emailing me at factfreemedia@gmail.com You can also find me at my website: http://www.factfreemedia.com where I host my wrestling history podcast “Kayfabe Forever”, which drops each Friday-ish. The podcast is also available for download by searching “Kayfabe Forever” on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, iHeart Radio, or Tune In Radio and by following the show page on Facebook.

Kayfabe Forever: My Wrestling Story – Greg Hyde (aka Stat Guy Greg) from ESPN’s Cheap Heat – 05/21/18

Greg Hyde, aka Stat Guy Greg from ESPN’s Cheap Heat podcast, is my guest for this installment of Kayfabe Forever’s My Wrestling Story series. Greg tells us how he became a fan, what he thinks is the greatest wrestling storyline of all time, and shares his thoughts on the current WWE product. Make sure you listen to the intro, as I reveal the identity of the next guest on “My Wrestling Story”. Also, make sure to tune in this Friday for my special Owen Hart career retrospective episode!

THE LINKS!

Stat Guy Greg on Twitter!

Cheap Heat on ESPN!

Check out our next guest Michel Mulipola’s stuff over at his website!

My article over at nodq.com from last week: John Cena Thinks You’re Stupid

My other article over at nodq.com from last week: Daniel Bryan Should Beat Brock Lesnar NOW!

My article for thechairshot.com from 05/11/18: WWE’s Vince Problem

Kayfabe Forever, Episode 13 04/06/18: WELCOME TO WRESTLEMANIA (WEEKEND)!

Unlike the stupidity surrounding the potential Undertaker and John Cena match, I’m not just teasing, I’m delivering! Join me as I talk myself into picking winners for every single match across this weekend’s most high-profile events: NXT Takeover: New Orleans and Wrestlemania 34. I also get a little cranky when talking about the battle royals and again towards the end when I discuss the whole Undertaker/Cena thing, so apologies in advance! Kayfabe Forever Episode 13: It’s What the World Is Listening To!