Ringside Reads: Opinions of Raw, Best of Nitro pics, Rumble fanfest

episodeYour Tuesday afternoon wrestling linkage:

– Author Kevin Sullivan weighs in with his Weekly Top Five from last night’s Raw, giving Paul Heyman the number one spot.

– Arda Ocal of The Score gives his thoughts on Raw at the Baltimore Sun‘s Ring Posts blog.

– Of course, don’t forget to check out my recap of the show.

WWEDVDNews has some exclusive photos of the upcoming Best of Nitro collection.

And some Royal Rumble related reading:

– Our friends at TnF Wrestling recap the pay-per-view.

– The aforementioned Arda Ocal has some thoughts and interviews from the Royal Rumble fanfest.

1.28.13 Raw recap: Brock Lesnar returns, Tensai dances in drag, and some Roulette stupidity

brockmcmahonI went into Monday’s Raw with hesitant anticipation, knowing that Raw Roulette episodes are generally among the worst of the year, and this one proved me right. However, there were some pretty notable developments which may not have been enough to save the show, but made me at least not regret watching. Is that a good thing?

– Brock Lesnar returned during the show closing segment, just before Vince McMahon could fire Paul Heyman after video footage revealed that Heyman had hired The Shield. The pop was tremendous when Lesnar’s music hit, even with WWE’s Twitter account spoiling his arrival at the arena. Lesnar delivered an F5 to the 67-year-old Chairman of the Board, likely setting up the Triple H – Lesnar rematch as HHH will seek to defend his father-in-law. While it seems like that will be a WrestleMania match, there is a chance WWE could book it for the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. We can only hope.

– The reveal that Paul Heyman was the man behind The Shield leaves a few interesting possibilities as we move forward. Will CM Punk play it off like he didn’t know Heyman had hired The Shield? Will we see a stable with Punk, Lesnar, and The Shield?

– Chris Jericho, following his return at the Royal Rumble, also appeared on the broadcast, breaking out all of his old catchphrases to the delight of the crowd. Dolph Ziggler came out to interrupt, likely re-igniting their feud from the summer of 2012 and hopefully leading to a WrestleMania match between the two.

– The interaction between The Rock and CM Punk was very good and Rock is at his best in situations like these, when he’s more intense and less worried about getting his catchphrases out or trending on Twitter. CM Punk is pretty much always on-point but especially last night. He got a nice dig in on The Rock about not showing up for anything other than TV and PPVs but in a subtle way, and we eventually got a rematch booked between them at Elimination Chamber.

– John Cena tried to create suspense through another long, rambling promo – wherein he also buried the World Heavyweight Championship – before he finally announced he would challenge the WWE Champion at WrestleMania. Yawn.

– The rest of the show was pretty much as bad as you would expect a Raw Roulette to be. Tensai and Brodus Clay had a danceoff after they were supposed to have a lingerie pillow fight, which led to Tensai showing up in women’s undergarments. He then danced with some prodding from Jerry Lawler and Clay and the crowd actually got into it.

– We also got this disgusting display of WWE “comedy”:

2013 Royal Rumble recap: An entertaining, if predictable, pay-per-view

Image courtesy WWE.com
WWE put on an entertaining, if predictable, Royal Rumble pay-per-view last night in which the crowd was hot for most of the night and the match quality was very good. The Rock won the WWE Championship and John Cena won the Royal Rumble, likely setting up the “Twice in a Lifetime” rematch at WrestleMania XXIX.

– The pre-show United States Championship match between Antonio Cesaro and The Miz was your typical Miz match until he landed awkwardly from a top-rove move, apparently twisting his ankle. Miz tried to work through it but was clearly hobbled. The finish was awkward as well as Cesaro threw Miz into the ring from the outside and then hit the Neutralizer with no real progression and got the win. Obviously that had to do with Miz being legitimately hurt so we can’t fault them too much for how this all went down.

– The Last Man Standing match between Alberto Del Rio and Big Show was better than expected. Usually I don’t have high hopes for LMS matches because it’s basically, “hit a move… stand there” forever, but this one had some good spots. Big Show’s chokeslam of Del Rio off the staging onto a table with no padding underneath was probably the highlight of those. I don’t like the Cena-Batista finish off taping Big Show’s legs to the ropes so he couldn’t stand, but it was clever and Del Rio is over huge right now, so it made sense to keep the belt on him somehow. I like that WWE is going for a sort of Eddie Guerrero-esque “lie, cheat, steal” face gimmick with Del Rio and Ricardo.

– Team Hell No defeated Rhodes Scholars to retain in the Tag Team Championship match. Nothing stellar, but not boring either. Keeping the belts on Team Hell No allows them to keep their comedy act going, although I don’t think they need the straps to continue that. While Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes would have benefited from winning the titles, they should be okay as well. That is, as long as WWE re-invests itself in the tag team division once again.

– Other than the somewhat predictable conclusion, the Royal Rumble match featured some nice surprises. The biggest surprise was Chris Jericho entering at number two and then remaining in the Rumble almost to the end. It’s a testament to the athletic conditioning of Jericho that he hasn’t wrestled since August and was able to come back and go as long as he did. We also got the returns of Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara and Santino Marella, and likely one-off surprise appearances from Goldust and The Godfather.

When Dolph Ziggler, who entered at number one, was finally eliminated by Sheamus, it seemed to take the air out of the crowd, as did John Cena’s anti-climactic victory. Once Cena ended the Rumble match, it was safe to assume The Rock would be beating CM Punk, which also took a little steam out of the crowd for that match as well.

– The WWE Championship match was much better than Rock’s bout with John Cena at WrestleMania, as one would expect. I wouldn’t call it a wrestling classic, but Rock was always known to be able to go in the ring and CM Punk is one of the best at putting on an exciting match. This one felt a little like a late-1990s match with a lot of outside the ring action and we got a scary moment when the Spanish announce table gave out on the competitors as The Rock was trying to give CM Punk a Rock Bottom. The lights went out as The Rock was about to hit the People’s Elbow and Michael Cole told us that The Shield was powerbombing Rock through the announce table. When the lights came back on, The Rock was out cold and The Shield were nowhere to be found. Punk pinned the Rock to retain the title.

After some celebration by Punk and Paul Heyman, Vince McMahon appeared and told Punk he had no choice but to strip him of the title, but The Rock spoke up and said, instead, to restart the match. After a few minutes, The Rock completed the People’s Elbow and won the belt.

While many thought The Rock would win, I absolutely hated that it was off the People’s Elbow. He couldn’t have at least finished Punk with the Rock Bottom? It seems like we’re headed for Rock-Cena II at WrestleMania but I’m curious to see the twists in the road as we get there. I’m also wondering if we get a swerve and it turns out Brock Lesnar was the man who attacked The Rock when the lights went out.

2013 Royal Rumble Preview

punkrockWWE Championship Match
The Rock v. CM Punk

If we follow “Wrestling Booking 101,” all signs point to The Rock winning this match since he was laid out by The Shield and Vince McMahon added the stipulation that CM Punk will be stripped of the title if Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns interfere. But that caveat – McMahon only mentioning The Shield – leaves the door open a bit. Might we see Brock Lesnar? Will Brad Maddox be involved?

Or, they could just book CM Punk to win the title without a ton of shenanigans for once, but that’s not how WWE books heels.

While my preference is that CM Punk retains the title, it seems like we’re destined for a Rock v. John Cena rematch at WrestleMania where Cena will avenge his loss to The Great One and regain the WWE Championship. Plus, The Rock swore to God that he would win the title and when faces do things like that, they usually happen.

Royal Rumble Match

As I mentioned, the common thought is that John Cena wins the Rumble and challenges The Rock at WrestleMania. I hate that idea. John Cena doesn’t need to win the Rumble match to get a title shot. From a booking standpoint, Cena has always been tossed into title bouts without “climbing the ladder” or winning any No. 1 contender matches. So why waste such a coveted thing as winning the Royal Rumble on someone who has already been a champion many times over? You can get to Cena v. Rock without Cena winning the Rumble.

Monday’s development of Dolph Ziggler entering either first or second makes me wonder if we’re about to see a Ric Flair-esque start-to-finish Rumble win. While Ziggler already has the Money in the Bank briefcase, it would seriously legitimize him as a main event player and potential double future champion if he wins the Rumble.

Or could we see one of the surprise entrants win the match? Rumors have been floated that The Undertaker is set to appear at the Rumble and him winning and challenging one of the champions at WrestleMania would help make him possibly losing the streak believable.

World Heavyweight Championship Last Man Standing Match
Big Show v. Alberto Del Rio

I think Del Rio retains here since he’s a newly minted babyface and the crowds have been really into him lately. The match type also enables whomever wins to be so beaten down that Dolph Ziggler could easily cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase. Imagine “The Showoff” becoming World Heavyweight Champion and then winning the Royal Rumble in the same night, while going start-to-finish to do it? Talk about “making a star.”

WWE Tag Team Championship Match
Rhodes Scholars v. Team Hell No

I refuse to call them “Team” Rhodes Scholars.

This one could go either way. Kane and Daniel Bryan probably don’t need the tag team titles to continue their comedy act together, whereas Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow would benefit from holding the straps. I see Rhodes Scholars becoming the champs, which allows Kane and Bryan to continue their partnership but also veer off into some singles programs before WrestleMania.

Preshow: WWE United States Championship Match
The Miz v. Antonio Cesaro

This match is on the pre-show as a way to entice viewers to buy the pay-per-view, but I’d much rather it be part of the main card. Being that it isn’t, I think Cesaro probably retains the US Title. Also, I wouldn’t pull the belt off him just yet as he’s seriously gaining momentum.

Todd Pettengill will host WWE’s The Best of In Your House DVD

Photo courtesy AveleymanThere had been some rumors going around that Todd Pettengill, the former WWE backstage interviewer and long-time radio DJ at WPLJ, was seen at WWE headquarters, leading many to assume he was going to be hosting WWE’s upcoming The Best of In Your House DVD release.

Pettengill responded to a fan’s question today on his Facebook page, confirming the rumor by saying, “lol Yes it’s true…had a great time seeing the ‘old gang'”

It’s good to hear WWE will be adding to the already prevalent nostalgia that the In Your House DVD will feature by bringing Pettengill back into the fold, even if it’s just this once. The Best of In Your House is scheduled to be released April 30th in the United States.

(Hat tip to WWEDVDNews)

Jerry Lawler’s girlfriend is 24 years old

#InB4TheDirtsheets

Jerry “The King” Lawler appeared on WFAN NY’s “Boomer & Carton” show this morning to promote WrestleMania XXIX. During the entertaining interview, Lawler discussed his heart attack, his relationship with Andy Kauffman, and mentioned that he went to see a Broadway show while in town with his girlfriend. His 24-year-old girlfriend.

I don’t think I need to add anything else here. Let the jokes commence.

Ringside Reads: Return of the Cool Dudes, prop bets for the Rumble, 90s gimmicks

Some links of interest from around the wrestling interwebs:

– In great news, Norm Sousa announced today that he and Archi Zuber, formerly of the Aftermath Daily Dose have made their triumphant return to podcasting with The Cool Dudes Wrestling Podcast. It’s available now on iTunes and Podbean. These guys are seriously great to listen to and they’ve also shouted me out a few times, so go check them out if you’re unfamiliar.

– The always entertaining Brandon Stroud with his usual Raw review and thoughts at With Leather.

– Arda Ocal has his five prop bet predictions for the Royal Rumble match at the Baltimore Sun.

– Some 90s gimmicks that would be fun to see again, from The Wrestling Blog.

Analyzing Take Two’s acquisition of the WWE video game license

take2logoIGN, as well as other outlets, reported last night that Take Two purchased the WWE video game license from THQ, not EA Sports as had been previously assumed and rumored. While this still hasn’t been confirmed by Take Two, an official announcement is expected at some point today.

Currently the WWE franchise is published by THQ, with Yukes developing the game and owning the physics engine used for gameplay. It isn’t known at this time but one would assume Take Two would be interested in partnering with Yukes at least for this year’s incarnation of the WWE video game. Otherwise there could be delays in development, leading to the cancellation of WWE ’14 and even possibly WWE ’15.

Another uncertainty surrounding the sale of the franchise is what happens with the online servers, which are currently hosted by THQ. Those servers are already pretty pathetic as it is, so it would be safe to assume they would be killed when the properties are transferred from THQ to Take Two. Unless, of course, Take Two wanted to keep those servers active as a show of good will and to build optimism toward their future WWE releases. Unfortunately, Take Two doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to online gaming either.

It’s not all bad, though, when thinking of what the future of WWE Games could look like with Take Two in charge. They are, after all, the studio behind the NBA 2K franchise, widely regarded as one of the best in sports. If Yukes stays attached in some capacity it could merely be Take Two tweaking the formula to their style while not changing the overall scheme.

On the flip side, Take Two is also the studio that brought us the MLB 2K series, regarded as a terrible game every single year. This year, with most pundits thinking the company wouldn’t even release a baseball game, Take Two announced that they would be releasing MLB 2K13 after all. It will likely be the final game in the series, though, which is even more reason for Take Two to want the WWE Games license, filling a hole created by the absence of the baseball franchise.

1.21.13 Raw Thoughts: Ziggler “wins” Beat the Clock Challenge, The Shield attacks The Rock

WWE attempted a little harder sell for the CM Punk v. The Rock title matchup on the go-home show for the Royal Rumble and we also got some pretty solid wrestling on last night’s Raw. It still feels, though, like the company is betting on people buying the pay-per-view simply for the Rumble match and the WWE Championship contest, regardless of how they hype them. They’re probably right but WWE could likely get some more buyers with a little extra nudge.

Below are some of my quick thoughts on last night’s show:

– The Beat the Clock Challenge proved to be meaningless after Vickie Guerrero decided to allow Dolph Ziggler to choose his entry spot…with the choices being number one or number two. At least we got solid matches out of the Beat the Clock Challenge, though, unlike the usual 3-, 4-, and 5-minute affairs. Ziggler entering at either No. 1 or 2 makes me think he might just win the whole thing. (Also, be sure to vote for who you think will win the Rumble in our poll below!)

– Speaking of Beat the Clock matches, that figure four The Miz put on Dolph Ziggler was one of the worst attempts at the move in wrestling history.

– I found The Rock to be less jokey this week than usual, which was good since his increased intensity was needed leading into this Sunday’s title match. I would have preferred last week’s pull-apart brawl to happen this week between Rock and CM Punk, but it made sense to have The Shield get involved and keep the two separated to build more tension for the moment they do enter the ring together.

– The show ending promo of John Cena’s was incredibly lame, as usual, and led to the tired “Everyone comes out and says they’re the one that will win the Rumble and then we get a mini-Rumble match.” If I were booking it I might have had the attack by The Shield in that slot with Vince McMahon coming out to declare that CM Punk would be stripped of the title with their interference as the show-ending moment.

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