Posts Tagged ‘Finn Balor’

If at the end of 2015, somebody were to show you this image, and told you that it would be happening in 2016, odds are that you almost definitely wouldn’t believe then.

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SmackDown is live? AJ Styles is WWE Champ? And OH MY GOD James Ellsworth is… who’s James Ellsworth?

Looping best-of-three-PPVs feuds are so formulaic that it is easy for some to shrug proceedings off as boring. Has booking really been that uninteresting though? Of course not.

2016 sought to prove otherwise, and for better or for worse, did a great job. Over the last twelve months, WWE have dreamt up things that comedy sites like Kayfabe News wouldn’t have done. This is less about just devestating moments (for example, the retirement of Daniel Bryan caused massive upset), and more about the surprises. Here are some 100% true headlines surrounding booking choices that would have seriously confused any wrestling fan just one year ago.

CHRIS JERICHO (AT PEAK OF HIS CAREER) DEFEATS A.J. STYLES
(WrestleMania 32, April 3rd) 

Fans have been drinking in the Gift of Jericho. 2016 has been incredible for him, and he has been revered for his role in the top-tier, alongside Kevin Owens. He has been incredibly in touch with fans’ desires, even if it is wearing a scarf, growing a moustache and calling everyone “stupid idiots”. With such popularity, a victory for him might forgiven on most days. But this wasn’t ‘most days’. His opponent was A.J. Styles, who had arrived in Royal Rumble 2016.

The match itself was great, but the result angered many. Jericho had stated that he would be leaving WWE (liar!), and did not need this win. Regardless of the result, a lot of spectacular rare signature moves by Styles were wasted (such as Styles’ 450 Splash) and weakened in reputation by the 45-year-old Jericho kicking out. Looking back now, the result did no harm, and Styles is WWE Champion.

 THE ROCK DEFEATS ERICK ROWAN AT WRESTLEMANIA 32, TO MIXED RECEPTION
(WrestleMania 32, April 3rd)

This would have caused a lot of confusion, and disappointment when actually explained. This, for me, was the most infuriating part of WrestleMania – The Rock’s surprise appearance. It turned out that the disaster of his appearance at Royal Rumble ’15 was a one-off. Rocky came out to address the crowd for over twenty-minutes, reeling off (disproved) info on the record-breaking attendance, and the standard checklist of catchphrases.

The Wyatt Family arrived to face-off with The Rock. The Wyatts got a far more positive reaction than WWE had probably hoped, considering how The Rock insulted absolutely everything about their demeanour, rendering them obsolete. The last nail came when The Rock challenged Erick Rowan to a match, which lasted for six-seconds. Then a still injured John Cena helped take out the rest of The Wyatts.

Fans have wanted The Wyatts to catch their break forever. This segment was the epitome of booking stupidity.

SHANE MCMAHON’S WWE OWNERSHIP DREAMS REVIVED, AFTER HIS HIAC LOSS AGAINST THE UNDERTAKER, AT WRESTLEMANIA
(Raw, April 4th)

Where on earth does one begin with this one? How about at the end of the story. Shane McMahon was shockingly back and Vince McMahon welcomed him on the Raw after WrestleMania. However, the second half of the above statement shows that the journey to this point had been a ridiculous and messy one. Under what circumstance would Shane-o-Mac be booked to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania, in a Hell in a Cell match? As it turned out, according to his statement live on Raw, to give Shane “another fucking beating”. There really was little-to-no substance to Shane’s presence. Although this match started the road to the brand split, there is nothing to add to that headline, and nothing else to say.

The match itself was nothing to write home about. It was a show of Shane’s signature moves, leading to him throwing himself off of the cell, onto Taker. Fans had joked for a long time about one last jump, and said that it would never happened. Well now we’ve seen it. Sadly, too much of it, as the producers backstage screwed up and we got a full look at the airbag that he really landed on. And hilariously, you can also see Michael Cole reading his big “as God is my witness, he is broken in half speech” directly from a clipboard.

Looking back now, the end result was OK, but was a waste of a year for Taker, whose days are clearly numbered, and has a few dream opponents left who will never get their Taker at WM match.

AFTER CLEANLY DEFEATING ROLLINS AND REIGNS, FINN BALOR IS FORCED TO VACATE WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP DUE TO INJURY
(SummerSlam, August 21st)

This really was a moment that took some people a while to comprehend. Finn Balor had been drafted to RAW, having graduated from NXT. On his first match on the main roster, Balor became the first man to cleanly pin the overly protected Roman Reigns, in four years. And what on earth is this WWE Universal Championship? It might sound like a really daft writing idea, belonging in the same canon as Broken Matt Hardy, but is (luckily) just RAW’s humourously desperate attempt at one-upping SmackDown’s World Championship. Hopefully neither brand will create a Galactic Championship, but it wouldn’t be of any surprise.

Of course, this closes on the sadder note as straight after Balor vs Rollins at SummerSlam, Balor was forced to vacate the title, due to a shoulder injury. One noteworthy moment of the match was Rollins unleashing the very dangerous God’s Last Gift move on Balor, which Rollins hasn’t performed since actually being ‘Seth Rollins’. It’s a pity that it was done so unceremoniously, and kicked out of afterwards. Speaking of which…

KOTA IBUSHI KICKS OUT OF BURNING HAMMER IN MATCH AGAINST BRIAN KENDRICK, FOR THE WWE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE
(Cruiserweight Classic Quarterfinals, August 26th)

Impressed by the new WWE Universal Championship? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Absolutely everything about the sentence above is completely mind-boggling. To start with there are the wrestlers – the presence of Japanese legend Kota Ibushi in a WWE tournament, and the return of The Brian Kendrick (who would later become the WWE Cruiserweight World Champion). Oh, and there is the fact that there is even such a thing as a WWE Cruiserweight World Championship – brilliant news, however purple the belt is.

The cherry on the cake here though is the use of a ‘Burning Hammer’, commonly considered one of, if not the most dangerous manoeuvres in wrestling. Considering the dark cloud surrounding the dreaded and forbidden piledriver, this was stunning. Sadly, Ibushi was booked to kick out of the move – a bigger waste than Jericho kicking out of Styles’ 450 Splash, and Finn Balor kicking out of Seth Rollins’ God’s Last Gift. It’s a disappointing ongoing policy of WWE – ever match that ends with a pin, can’t end with anything that isn’t a finishing move.

AFTER THE SPIRIT SQUAD ARE REMOVED FROM RINGSIDE, THE MIZ LOSES WWE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN A TITLE VS CAREER MATCH, AGAINST DOLPH ZIGGLER
(No Mercy, October 9th)

Welcome to probably the best feud of 2016 – The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler. Considering Ziggler’s reputation as a fan favourite who is booked mostly as filler in the mid-card, it would have been baffling to even see Ziggler on the brink of becoming a champion once again. The fact that it would be booked as important enough to warrant a stipulation like ‘Title vs Career’ brings the highest degree of importance to the mid-card title. Oh, and who could ever expected the appearance of The Spirit Squad?

This feud was absolutely incredible, as it acknowledged the on-off history of Ziggler’s booking, and made The Miz the most horrid villain in the WWE. As top-tier heels have been misguidedly booked and perhaps been too likeable (for example, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho are too entertaining that nobody wants to see defeated. And AJ Styles is… AJ Styles). However, The Miz has been the most incredible man on the mic this year (peaking during his shocking segment in Talking Smack). The feud took the best possible route, as Ziggler won in a massive feel good moment at No Mercy, and lost the title weeks later in a brilliant ladder match with The Miz. With The Miz champion again, he is destined for another amazing feud in 2017.

CHARLOTTE DEFEATS SASHA BANKS TO BECOME THREE TIMES RAW WOMEN’S DIVISION CHAMPION, HEADLINING HELL IN A CELL
(Hell in a Cell, October 30th)

There is a RAW Women’s Championship? Charlotte has won the title three times already? And the women have finally been allowed into the cell? And they headlined the event? It sounds like a dream come true, although some have since argued that this was not the monumental occasion that it should have been. To a point, I agree.

To start with, is the number of times that the title has changed hands. While there is no reason why it couldn’t happen, it probably shouldn’t have happened for two reasons: 1. Too much attention had been drawn to these two women over anybody else in the division, and 2. Having held the title three times in less than a year, somewhat dilutes its importance. As for the match, it was definitely styled to look like an important event – for example Sasha Banks being stretchered off having been put through a table, styled like a lighter version of Mankind’s famous fall from the cell in 1998. It wasn’t perfect, and as of December 2016, the title still seems to be fought for by only these two wrestlers. Hopefully, with the list of matches happening for the first time in the Women’s Division, is shrinking, more wrestlers will become involved.

ASUKA DEFEATS MICKIE JAMES, TO RETAIN THE NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP AT NXT TAKEOVER: TORONTO
(NXT TakeOver: Toronto, November 19th)

On the other end of the scale, NXT really have opened up when it has come to opportunities. Look no further than the decision to bring Mickie James in for her first WWE match in six years, to take on Asuka – new champion in 2016. This could have been a very poor decision, and considering how one of the primary talking points of her career was when she grabbed Trish Stratus’ crotch at WrestleMania, one could be forgiven for being pessimistic. However, there was no need. While NXT has seen a few superior women’s matches, Mickie did not disappoint, delivering what some have called the greatest match of her career.

Looking back on this, I am in two minds about this event. I’m very positive due to the quality of the match itself, however I was admittedly quite disappointed when this match was first announced. This was the first women’s TakeOver match to be more novel that a standard singles match, since TakeOver: Respect (headlined by Sasha Banks and Bayley’s Iron Man match), and NXT decided that the twist would be from bringing in another veteran. This to me indicates the confirmation that NXT has well and truly lost the agenda of being developmental territory, and has grown to a scale that it can never step back from. Fingers crossed that this doesn’t jeopardise the progress of talent such as Peyton Royce and Liv Morgan.

GOLDBERG CLEANLY DEFEATS BROCK LESNAR AT SURVIVOR SERIES, IN EIGHTY-SIX SECONDS
(Survivor Series, November 20th)

For the most part when writing these, it has been a matter of shoehorning as much unlikely information into the space of one sentence. In this instance, there is no point. Bill Goldberg showed up, was signed up for a match against the unstoppable Brock Lesnar, and he won. This is perfectly representative of WWE being so painfully formulaic that something so barmy as a 49-year-old wrestler, turning up for his first match in twelve years and defeating Lesnar in eighty-six seconds, is accepted.

Fans even surprised themselves, pondering “why am I so happy about this?”. Venturing a guess, this was the opposite of the upset surround The Rock and The Wyatts at WrestleMania – neither side needed a victory, so the most ridiculous enjoyable result was allowed to happen. If Lesnar had done the same thing, groans would resume about the pointlessness of the match.

While it’s confirmed that Lesnar and Goldberg will be in the 2017 Royal Rumble, we can’t be entirely sure what comes next. The novelty might wear off quickly, but for the time being? Wow.

SHINSUKE NAKAMURA BECOMES FIRST TWO-TIME NXT CHAMPION IN MATCH WITH SAMOA JOE, AT OSAKA HOUSE SHOW (NXT, December 3rd)

The NXT singles championship has changed hands at a house show before – Samoa Joe won his title at a house show Lowell, Massachusetts in April 2016. However, this is not what makes the matter especially shocking. It is the fact that the title was taken by SHINSUKE NAKAMURA!

His shocking arrival in 2016 was great, debuting in-person (having challenged Sami Zayn to a match on the screen in the Full Sail studio) at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, in what might be my favourite match of 2016 – Nakamura vs. Zayn. NXT promoted his arrival as though it was the most important moment in the history of NXT. If the promotion has decided that it isn’t developmental any more, it may as well do things properly, and man they are.

And most surprising of all? Considering how the company have changed names to mononyms, such as (Adrian) Neville, Big E (Langston) and (Alexander) Rusev, Shinsuke Nakamura is at least as of December 2016, still called Shinsuke Nakamura. Will it last?

Which other WWE moments of 2016 would have sounded outrageous in 2015, and what is the most outrageous thing that you think is actually possible in 2017? Post below.


 

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One thing that has disappointed some fans already is that with its new roster, Smackdown did not become an indie wonderland, or an NXT 2.0 with the soap opera being more reserved for Raw, with fan favourites such as Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Neville and Cesaro going to the red team. This was given a solid confirmation by the announcement that the Cruiserweight Division was on its way to Raw as well.

For this reason, so to prevent Smackdown from becoming what many would find a meagre Raw-lite, the division of certain wrestlers needs to be heavily exploited to emphasise feuds and the value of the draft happening in the first place. If Smackdown functions as a shorter Raw, their separate existence needs to be put to use. A few weeks ago, an article was posted on this blog on the subject of ‘Wrestlemania Moment’ matches, perfectly capable of being treated as a massive deal at massive PPVs were in danger of being thrown away anti-climactically.

Admittedly, this predictions may have been disproven by the division as not only won’t happen, but they can’t. This is brilliant to slow down this process as various wrestlers who fans are desperate to see fight or collaborate, will be gradually and naturally given hype. Here are some examples of such crossings that if treated well, can benefit hugely from this.

Dean Ambrose (Smackdown) vs Seth Rollins (Raw) vs Roman Reigns (Raw) 

The feud amongst the ex-Shield members is an unusual scenario. Considering the popularity of Ambrose/Rollins feud, especially during 2014, Rollins and Ambrose being designated to Raw and Smackdown respectively. to some might seem slightly disappointing. However, this could also be exploited brilliantly as they both will be able to go about their own business, with natural excitement as it appears that they are finally approaching each other once again in one of the ‘Big Four’ pay-per-views. 

It is the flagship feud of the company, so needs to hold its steam, as it has done for literally years. A Shield Triple Threat match has been predicted by many to happen at the last two Wrestlemanias, only not to materialise. Some might argue that this has already been slightly put to waste as fans already know that a Shield Triple Threat is happening at Summerslam. That doesn’t mean that all is necessary over, as Royal Rumble is masterfully placed in time for all three to cross paths and set up the sequel Triple Threat match. At least this will mean that the entanglement of the ‘Hounds of Justice’ will be Ambrose/Reigns/Rollins II, rather than VIII by Wrestlemania 33.

Finn Balor & The Club (Raw) vs AJ Styles (Smackdown)

Balor vs Styles is an extremely anticipated feud that since the chances of Undertaker/Sting brushed away, has perhaps become the most desired feud possible with the current WWE roster. However, the possible questions surrounding their eventual crossings should not begin straight away.

Before their WWE runs, Styles and Balor (then Prince Devitt) both fronted the Bullet Club group, which also contained Gallows and Anderson (now just ‘The Club’). That leading position is just waiting to be fought over as Styles watches angrily from Smackdown as Balor is automatically given that role over on Raw. The idea that this could lead to feuds or even a collaboration between Styles and Balor would work beautifully for suspense. There is so much that could happen between Balor and Styles before a single punch is thrown between them. How much this will be exploited by WWE is yet to be seen.

The Division of The Wyatt Family

At four members, the decision by WWE to split up The Wyatt Family does not come as much of a surprise. That said, that does not make it any less exciting. The fact that Braun Strowman has been designated to Raw, and Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan to Smackdown, and nothing yet has been heard about the injured Luke Harper, could mean just about anything in the unusual context of The Family.

Is this the end of The Family, or will Wyatt exploit his ability now to dominate the whole of WWE as his followers can be found in both brands? Is Strowman going to be redesigned as a new solo giant, similar to Big Show? Will Harper return and side with Strowman to feud with Wyatt and Rowan? Will Harper return at all?

Being such oddities means that all of these are entirely possible, for better or for worse, and that all four will not have any trouble finding roles.

Sasha Banks (Raw) vs Bayley (TBC)

As yet, this is here as a wild card, primarily on the grounds that many fans watched the draft completely stunned when Bayley made no appearance. However, there is a somewhat infuriating absence waiting to be filled with an NXT talent. For starters is the irritatingly incomplete-looking Women’s Division on Smackdown (at least by comparison to Raw), with only victimised Becky Lynch and Natalya ready to be at the very front, due to the surprising arrival Carmella from NXT, as well as the outrageously unpopular Eva Marie. For anyone especially pessimistic on the matter, this might look quite dark, with Smackdown being designated the place for the secondary women’s feud (presumably Diva-like). After all, there is no title currently on Smackdown for the women.

However, the fact that WWE Battleground has an intriguing ‘mystery guest’ spot on Sasha Banks’ tag team, is an annoying taunt. Was this unannounced to prevent spoilers of the draft (possible debut spots for Raw’s Alexa Bliss or Nia Jax), is it a spot reserved for a legend, or is that a spot ready for Bayley? It might be a great idea for a brief collaboration and subsequent tension by Bayley and Banks before being torn apart by the draft. They are both people for the front of a draft, and especially a Raw vs Smackdown feud at Survivor Series, as Bayley and Co. venture to bring the Women’s Title to their brand, leading to a long awaited singles collision.

Of course, this is just total speculation, but hey, we can dream.

Heath Slater (TBA) and The Social Outcasts (Raw)

This is minor, and will possibly be resolved in one dark match, but bizarrely worth a mention. Never in a million years would anyone have thought that they could ever say (considering the desire for Bray Wyatt to get a powerful solo push) is that the most eagerly anticipated reunion of a team billed as a team are The Social Outcasts. Incredibly, it looks like WWE might actually be recognising this, especially after acknowledging that Heath Slater wasn’t drafted last night, with a tragic epilogue. If treated well, Slater is actually good and ready for the same kind of fandom that Zack Ryder has been – an underdog more than capable of success. Slater could be pushed in a fun plot to find his fellow Outcasts (I suppose technically having been cast out of the Outcasts), or a desire to move on with solo success.

From now until Summerslam is enough time for him to lament his seperation before a collision there.

Enzo/Cass (Raw) and Carmella (Smackdown) reunion 

Alright, this is no big deal, but on the basis solely of my irritation, I can’t resist listing this. This is Caaaarmella, and she’s hot as hell… and not with Enzo and Cass. Sure there probably isn’t a whole lot more to get out of this than the chance of a crowd pop if she arrives by their side at a Big Four event, but it is still a fun moment that fans will be happy to see. We can only hope though that Enzo/Cass complaining about missing Carmella isn’t the foundation for their booking.

For the record, her separation at least for the time being is a nice idea if only to prevent her from instantly being designated to being a cheerleader, and as of now, unless booked poorly over the next few weeks, is very much a wrestler.

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WrestleMania 32 was a saddening moment for The Wyatt Family with just about everything about them was ridiculed in a pointless segment. Both their wrestling skill (with Rowan losing an impromptu match against a semi-retired wrestler, in six seconds, followed by the full Family destroyed with the help of the still injured John Cena) and their conceptual appearance were badmouthed by The Rock, fed to the tedious seg
ment, leaving the Wyatts with nothing credible.

Or so it seemed. Then came the revelation of the following PPV Payback’s promotional poster.

Does that not suggest that The Wyatt Family might just have a bit of involvement at Payback. Of course, posters have been used on occasion that feature wrestlers who has no attachment to the event, such as Eva Marie being a face of Fastlane 2016 (now there’s a comparison no one ever thought they could make. She’ll be Sister Abigail next…). There is also something especially intriguing by the use of Luke Harper. The fact that he is recovering from a knee injury (making an appearance unlikely), suggests both that The Wyatts’ appearance on the poster means nothing, or that the image is being used to emphasise their potential scale.

What is it going to be, and how? So, until Payback on May 1st, one can only ponder on where Bray and his Family will emerge. Comment below how you think they might appear, and you hope that they will.

ROMAN REIGNS vs AJ STYLES

This is the main event, and The Wyatt Family dominate the poster. How can they not get involved? Well, this is actually more complicated than one would have expected. A couple of weeks ago, the booking of this match as well as the emergence of former Bullet Club members Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson would have meant that all arrows pointed to The Wyatt Family heading straight for the duo. The curious collaboration between Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns on Raw also suggested that if AJ Styles has Gallows and Anderson by his side, then Reigns might have the newly babyface-booked Wyatts watching his back also. Wyatt even got the pin in a fantastic moment of both calm adoration and discomfort between the two.

However, something has since changed over at NXT which throws a spanner in the works – Finn Balor, another man connected to the Bullet Club, lost his NXT Championship at a house show. Not only does that signify that a transition to the main roster is near, but the impromptu changing of hands to Samoa Joe appears desperate, and his main roster debut is due very soon. Therefore, Balor may instead make a surprise appearance instead of The Wyatt Family.

Considering that it is highly unlikely that Reigns will lose this match at all, let alone cleanly (Fact: He has not been pinned 1-2-3 without foul play by his opponent in a match since January 2012), meaning that a ‘no contest’ following an entanglement involving all of the above, with Balor either siding with Styles, or joining Gallows and Anderson in sabotaging Styles’ hopes. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if this match were booked entirely with Styles more in mind than Reigns, and for Reigns just billed to be present in the most important segment of the show (remember the adoration for Ziggler at Survivor Series 2014, when the man of the moment was Sting).

STEPHANIE MCMAHON vs SHANE MCMAHON SEGMENT

Yes, a ‘segment’ rather than a match. Shame.

WWE Raw brought the announcement that there would be a revelation segment of which of the products of Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s semen (your risky click of the day…) would be in control of Raw from here on in. While it might be an overlong and unwanted segment that would ordinarily be reserved for the opening hour of Raw, the fact that such an announcement has been saved for a PPV suggests that this will involve the surprise appearance of an unlisted star (first to come to mind is Mick Foley whose attachment to WWE has been recently revived due to being the centre of a new WWE Network show) or the intervention of seemingly unbooked wrestlers.

It is an ongoing habit of the Wyatt Family, but this seems especially likely after constant rumours of them providing support for Shane McMahon during his Hell in a Cell match against Undertaker at Wrestlemania 32. This didn’t materialize, but never say ‘never’. If this does happen during the segment, and if booked properly, it could be great. The Wyatts have long been figures perfect to completely shut down an episode of Raw in a similar panic-inducing way to Undertaker and Brock Lesnar’s brawl, to show their power and dominance. Their appearance in a segment about ruling Raw suggests a different kind of approach to the same effect.

DEAN AMBROSE vs CHRIS JERICHO

This is an unlikely occurrence, especially considering The Wyatt Family have been in a feud with both combatants. However, when one considers that besides his adoration for a plant, there aren’t many places for Dean Ambrose to go at this period in time, this is disappointingly logical. If Bray Wyatt is only due to be waiting for the return of Brock Lesnar (and considering Wyatt’s discussion of Lesnar in an interview, WWE may well be after strength-building filler until Lesnar’s July return) then the revival of the entertaining Ambrose/Wyatt feud would be the most understandable.

Considering that Extreme Rules is on its way just weeks after Payback, and that we know that they have had some brutal collisions in the past (such as their infamous Tables, Ladders and Chairs match, and completely ridiculous ‘Miracle on 34th Street Fight’), this could be great fun.