Nov 20, 2016

WWE Issues Apparent At Survivor Series

Well folks, WWE's 2016 Survivor Series has come and gone. What does this mean, you ask? It means that I've finally hit my boiling point. If anyone is actually reading any of my posts, you know that I try my absolute best to keep negativity out of the blog. Well, I've had it. This show has sent me over the edge as it illustrated so many of the missteps and mind-boggling decisions WWE has made over the past year or more. So let's get right to it, shall we?

The Cruiserweight Division. Holy mother of Christ above. How did you screw this up, WWE? Somehow, in a matter of weeks, you've managed to bury a division that wasn't even established. The Cruiserweight Classic did so much to introduce characters, display incredible athleticism in many forms, and bring out emotion all at the same time. Since Brian Kendrick is important to this whole botching, I'll use him as the center of this subject. Kendrick's story in the CWC was fantastic. He was the older wrestler that only had one more shot at greatness and was willing to do whatever he had to in the name of success. When he finally lost in the tournament, he had an incredible moment with Daniel Bryan, sharing both tears and an embrace. It was great and essentially a babyface turn for Kendrick. So what did you do, WWE? You brought Kendrick up as a heel and shot him straight to the top. Now, Kendrick being on top isn't the problem. Here's where everything immediately goes off the rails. Kendrick's work style isn't as high energy or in the air as the others in the division. In my never-worked-in-wrestling opinion, why not hot-shot the division to start with fast paced matches and high-flying? Once the crowd is behind the division, then bring Kendrick in as the slower-paced methodical heel that takes the belt? Then you can have a high-energy babyface chase the title.

Fast forward to tonight. Kendrick takes on Kalisto, a guy who has done a whole pile of nothing since around WrestleMania. The division has been in shambles for weeks now, due to poor booking and slow matches (which is not what the fans probably expected from Cruiserweight matches). The match has no heat, the crowd is dead, and not even an insane Spanish Fly from the apron to the floor could wake up the crowd. The point of the match is that if Kalisto wins, the Cruisers go to SmackDown, the show they should've been on in the first place. So sadly, they have a dead match and wouldn't you know it, Baron Corbin interferes for the DQ to extend the barnburner of a feud he has with Kalisto. I could go on all year with this, but I'm going to move on.

Quickly, I'll touch on the matches outside of the main event. The New Day gets beats really early to continue their nonsensical losing streak, Sami Zayn gets screwed again, and WWE seems to be begging the fans to boo Dean Ambrose as a babyface. Main event time.

Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar has been hyped massively over the past month. Lesnar has been protected for years and for good reason. Now, logic says that you want a full-time, up and coming star to eventually beat Lesnar, thus creating an actual superstar. So what does WWE do? Goldberg beats him in under three minutes. Just like that. The beast was slain. I will say that it's a feel good story as Goldberg's son got to see his father do what made him famous in a big-time match. Great. What's sad is it seems that WWE is making us watch as they kill long-term success of their full-time roster. I hope I'm wrong and this won't hurt Brock as bad as I think it just did. But the fact is if a full-time competitor does beat him, we'll always know that Goldberg beat him in minutes and is essentially better than anyone who does it in a longer match. Why build this up to the degree that it was and have a squash match? There has to be more to this, as in, another match. If there's not, then WWE just surrendered an opportunity to create a superstar.

So there it is. That's my rant coming out of Survivor Series. In a night teasing title changes and change within WWE's two brands, nothing really happened. As fans, we want shock and unpredictability. The main event gave us that, but at what cost? Maybe my outlook will change following the conclusion of WrestleMania 33. At least that's my hope.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Oct 30, 2016

WWE Hell In A Cell: Reactions & Thoughts

WWE's annual Hell In A Cell pay-per-view was tonight and featured three matches inside the structure. On paper, this seemed like overkill and it was in some cases. With that being said the show wasn't a complete dud and did showcase some great matches. For the sake of length, I'm going to hit the two more high-profile HIAC matches.

Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins was a pretty good match and arguably the best the two have had together in WWE. The finish was what it was. There had to be a play to extend this feud and keep Rollins from winning the championship as it's expected that Rollins will eventually enter a program with Triple H. Presumably, the Universal Championship will not be involved. The highlight of the match was a giant table bump that Owens took via a Rollins powerbomb. Eventually, Jericho got into the cage and helped Owens win. Good match and was what it needed to be.

Time for the biggest story of the night.

Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte for the Women's Championship was good, maybe even great. I'll get this out of the way quick: they should not have headlined the show. Now, before you call me a jerk, see it from this perspective. I absolutely believe that the women of WWE have the capability of main eventing a big show and they did a lot to prove that at Hell In A Cell. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer made a very solid point this week that I agree with. The point is that if the women are going to headline a pay-per-view, then use the weeks of build to that show to promote the fact that they are the main event. Make them the focal point from the beginning of the build. They didn't do that here, but luckily, the women are talented enough to get past that. So let's talk about the match.

The match opened with a quick attack by Charlotte before the bell even rang. Great idea to start as it extended the match preventing the two from spending way too much time in the cell. Sasha took a crazy table bump and was later put on a stretcher. Reminiscent of Mick Foley's career defining moment, Sasha rolled off the stretcher to meet Charlotte in the cell. They had an awesome match, even if some of their spots didn't go exactly as planned. Some of their table spots didn't exactly work, but for the two's first attempt at a gimmick match like this, they definitely succeeded considering the pressure of the evening. A great positive of this match is that though it was good, they left the door open for improvement. The women still have spots to burn in matches like this, so there is still a lot of ground to cover. The men have done some many crazy spots and taken so many different bumps that fans have come to expect that from every hardcore style match. The women just got their first run at it and it's still fresh. Basically, this means that every crazy bump or spot still means a lot more in a women's match. They still have the ability to do less and get a great reaction from the audience. The future of women's wrestling is bright as the competitors continue to make great strides with the division.

All in all, this was a decent show with some good matches. I could spend all day talking the woes of the Tag Team and Cruiserweight Divisions, but I'll save that for its own article. The shows have been thin since the brand split and Hell In A Cell was not an exception. Fortunately for the fans, tonight's highs were good enough to get this show a passing grade.

Brady Sauvageau
-The Heater

Oct 9, 2016

WWE No Mercy Results & Analysis (10/9/16)


8-man Tag Match:  VS. The Vaudevillains & The Ascension

Winners: American Alpha & the Hype Bros

Fun pre-show match. Good hot tag with everyone hitting a big move leading to Grand Amplitude for the pinfall victory.

Main Card:

WWE World Championship Match: AJ Styles (c) VS. Dean Ambrose VS. John Cena

Winner: AJ Styles

Cena and Ambrose both tapped Styles with simultaneous submissions, but the match continued due to there being no clear winner. 

This match was excellent from start to finish. The three used the match type to its fullest, and at times was reminiscent of the infamous "Night The Line Was Crossed" in the early days of ECW. There are way too many triple threat matches in WWE. That being said, this one felt fresh and was put together with storytelling mastery. AJ dodges a bullet, grabs a chair, and does what he felt he had to do in the situation he was in. Cena and Ambrose both have arguments to continue chasing the title. If I have to nitpick, maybe an argument could be made that AJ tapped and therefore should've been removed from the match. But since it's a triple threat and there are no eliminations, I'm fine with the finishing sequences. Technically, neither Cena or Ambrose won, so an argument can be made that AJ didn't actually lose. The fact of the matter is, the match was so good that I'm willing to take the controversial finish for what it's worth. Great stuff from start to finish.

Nikki Bella VS. Carmella

Winner: Nikki Bella

Not a lot to say here. Carmella lacks experience and it shows. There was definitely effort from both women and the crowd wasn't completely dead for the match.

SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match: Heath Slater & Rhyno (c) VS. The Usos

Winners: Heath Slater & Rhyno

Good match, but just slightly above what you'd see on an episode of SmackDown. Slater's comeback was solid, but in usual fashion, Rhyno was the deciding factor in the champions' victory.

Baron Corbin VS. Jack Swagger

Winner: Baron Corbin

Corbin wins after poking Swagger in the eye and hitting end of days. No heat in the match at all, but damn is Corbin's finisher sick as all hell.

Career vs. Title Match: The Miz (c) VS. Dolph Ziggler

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

This match was very, very good. By the end of this thing, the crowd was 100% behind Ziggler. The amount of emotion in this bout was at near peak levels. Ziggler wrestled like his life was on the line, because well, it was. Miz was also fantastic in this match, but Dolph did what he always proclaimed to do and that was steal the show. Can't say enough about how well this storyline worked. The payoff was definitely worth what was initially looked at as questionable booking. Great story, great match.

Alexa Bliss VS. Naomi

Winner: Naomi

Bray Wyatt VS. Randy Orton

Winner: Bray Wyatt

Biggest story of this match was the finish. Luke Harper appeared and distracted Orton, allowing Wyatt to hit Sister Abigail for the win. Harper has been out with injury for the better part of a year and it's great to see him back. He's a great performer in the ring and as a character. 

Aug 30, 2016

Kevin Steen's 16-Year Journey Culminates In WWE Gold

"I don't think that scouts would necessarily say that I don't have a future. They might say I don't have a future like this."

-Kevin Steen, The Art of Wrestling (Podcast, June 5, 2013)

Kevin Steen's talent was never doubted by wrestling fans. Though he has never been the most muscular or in-shape athlete, his mic work, in-ring prowess, and close emotional connection with audiences all over the world cannot be questioned. But traditionally in the mainstream wrestling world, physique is often noticed before technical skill-sets. It was this underlying principle that may have contributed to the doubt Steen held in his own mind that he'd ever make it to the largest professional wrestling company in the world, World Wrestling Entertainment.

While wrestling on the independent circuit, Steen earned the respect of fans and colleagues alike through his rugged style of brawling combined with a fine-tuned foundation of mechanical mastery. Though he was not in incredible physical shape and didn't quite look like the prototypical pro wrestler, fans related to him, as he was not a mammoth bodybuilder like most recognizable wrestling stars. He represented the average guy, though this was not Steen's design in developing his in-ring persona. Steen was a major contributor to independent promotions such as Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring of Honor.

In ROH, Steen's character and wrestling style evolved throughout the years. Early during his time in the promotion, Steen earned the moniker of "Mr. Wrestling," solidifying himself as one of the most sound workers, wearing a typical wrestler singlet and displaying his excellent in-ring skills. Fans could see that he truly loved what he was doing and an appreciation grew toward him.  He believed in what he was doing and the fans, in turn, believed in him.

Over time, Steen would undergo a major change in character. ROH's booker during this period was wrestling legend, Jim Cornette, a man critical of Steen's work style and physique. The two would have a real life falling out, which resulted in Cornette attempting to eliminate Steen from the ROH roster. Steen would begin to appear on shows in what is now his now trademark shorts and cut-off shirt, playing the part as the man that was looking for a fight, whether he was on the card or not. Steen explained in out-of-character interviews that he felt more comfortable in his new ring gear and that the outfit meshed well with the person he truly was.

Steen persevered during this time. Although aware that his body type was not sought after by WWE, he continued to wrestle his style, his way. He eventually caught the attention of wrestling icons "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Both expressed their support of Steen and against all odds, he was eventually hired by WWE and assigned to their developmental territory, NXT in 2014.

"When I first got [to WWE] I didn't know if I should be who I am," Steen said in an interview with Chris Jericho in 2015.

Steen explained that he had a singlet ready to wear for his first WWE promotional pictures and videos. The pressure of trying to look the part of a wrestler had gotten to him. Steen went on to explain to Jericho that a conversation with fellow NXT wrestler, Enzo Amore, changed his mind on the outfit right before the promotional shoot.

Steen said that Amore told him, "Bro, just cut the sleeves off that Guns N' Roses shirt, put your shorts on and go down there."

Amore helped remind Steen that he should continue to be himself, no matter the perceived notion of what a WWE wrestler should look like. Steen would later be asked to change his wrestling name, to which he accepted. Steen would become Kevin Owens, Owen being the name of his son and the last name of one of his favorite wrestlers as a kid, Owen Hart. The name was dear to his heart and the change was welcomed by Steen.

Steen would debut in NXT in December and then would quickly move up to the WWE's main roster the following May. In his first main roster match, Steen shocked the WWE Universe by defeating one of the decade's biggest stars, John Cena, at the 2015 Elimination Chamber event.

Finally, in August of 2016, Steen won the biggest prize on WWE's Raw brand, the Universal Championship, by defeating three men in a four-way elimination match. In storyline, Steen was the antagonist that was enabled to win the title due to the interference that WWE COO, Triple H provided. But in real life, Steen is the family man that bet on himself and realized his dream on the flagship show of the biggest professional wrestling company in the world.

Although Kevin Steen portrays the "bad guy" Kevin Owens on television, he has earned the respect of the audience through his hard work and well-developed character. He has a deep connection with the fans that watch him wrestle, whether they cheer or boo him. Upon winning the title, the fans in attendance chanted "you deserve it" out of respect for the real person underneath the villainous character. Though Cornette and many of his critics said he couldn't be successful outside the independent circuit, here he is, the WWE Universal Champion.

Kevin Steen is proof that if a person believes strongly in who they are and what they're doing, the critics can be proven wrong. Anyone can overcome their own doubts that may arise in times of hardship and sacrifice.

On television, the bad guy won. But in reality, the good guy was vindicated.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Aug 22, 2016

Biggest Stories Coming Out of WWE SummerSlam

WWE SummerSlam is in the books for 2016 and there are a lot of stories coming out of this six-hour show. From title wins, title changes, to injuries and beyond, the biggest PPV outside of WrestleMania definitely created buzz within the WWE bubble. Let's get to it.

Sasha Banks lost the WWE Women's Championship to Charlotte last night. The match was what it was. To the credit of both women, they set out to top previous Women's Title matches, though they did not succeed. After losing the belt, the internet exploded with rumors that Banks had failed a wellness test, thus resulting in the title change. As it stands right now, there has been no indication from WWE that Banks violated the policy. I'm leaning more toward an injury at this point. Hopefully there will be more information on this situation as the week moves forward.

AJ Styles and John Cena had a very good match early on the SummerSlam card. Many have criticized the bout on the grounds that there were too many near falls and too many simplistic sequences capped by finishers. While I agree that some of the match was simplistic, the fact of the matter is that this match accomplished its goal to the fullest. John Cena passed the torch. I realize that AJ is not young by any means, but he is now set up to be the number one heel on SmackDown Live as it can be presumed that his next program will be with Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship. Cena made AJ look very strong through notable kickouts such as one from an Attitude Adjustment from the second rope. After the match, Cena left his "never give up" armband in the ring and left to a standing ovation. Symbolic in that Cena will certainly be taking a lesser role moving forward as many outside-WWE ventures are on the horizon. This may have been the best match on the card.

In maybe the biggest story coming out of SummerSlam, Finn Balor beat Seth Rollins for the new Universal Championship. The sad news coming out of this is that Balor will be forced to vacate the title due to a shoulder injury he suffered in that same match. This is a huge blow to WWE as Balor has quickly become one of the company's brightest rising stars. The title match itself was great when you get past the fans' extreme displeasure of the look of the newly created championship. Balor will be out for six months. After an excellent debut and many good showings, it's a real shame to see a great performer out after the start he's had on the main roster. This might be an indication that WWE needs to reevaluate who stays in NXT for extended periods of time. Balor is one of many wrestlers that have a decade or more of experience that should probably move through NXT at a faster rate. Like Daniel Bryan, some of these guys and girls don't have a long shelf life arriving at WWE at this point in their careers. It might be time to give a serious look at shorter NXT runs, if not bypassing the developmental brand altogether.

Finally, Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton had a pretty good match in the main event. The match itself wasn't blow away by any means, but the finish really made it special. Orton took a legitimate elbow smash to the head and gushed a pool of blood in the middle of the ring. This forced the referee to stop the match due to Orton not being able to continue. From everything I've heard and read, this was an agreed upon spot between Orton and Lesnar (Dave Meltzer, Wrestling Observer). I enjoyed this match for one reason. There's a certain realism that comes with Lesnar that no one else in the company can equal. When Brock wrestles, you know you're going to get something special, something that blurs the lines of a work and a shoot. This match was a perfect example of it. It's tough one for Orton, though. It's hard to see where he goes from here as a top performer on the SmackDown. 

SummerSlam was definitely a solid show despite it's long length that hurt it in many respects. The PPV at the very least created some buzz. Again, injuries have come to haunt WWE and it will be interesting to see how they handle their plans and title runs being completely derailed as a result. More answers to come on tonight's episode of Monday Night Raw.

Aug 20, 2016

The Good Brother's Corner w/ Esai Saldana: SummerSlam Predictions

WWE SummerSlam is now the second biggest PPV in the company and this year's card is stacked. I expect this card to deliver a very entertaining albeit, long show. I am very excited for this event so let's get right down to business.

WWE Universal Championship Match: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

In the battle for the milky way galaxy championship, my prediction is that the "Demon King" Finn Balor takes it. He's a new character, he's exciting, and he's fresh. You can't build him up to lose. WWE has a chance to make another star or make another geek. It has to be the Demon King going over.

WWE Championship Match: Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler

In this match you have two guys who may not have always been booked as stars. But one is taking his chance and running with it. That's Dean Ambrose. He isn't going to the standard, “I've been wronged behind the scenes," approach. He's coming off as cool and realistic in this angle. Ambrose is really stepping up his game and will walk out of SummerSlam with the WWE Title.

WWE Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte (Dana Brooke banned from ringside)

This is an easy one. It'll be the boss taking it. There is no reason for her not to and I feel everyone knows that.

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz vs. Apollo Crews

This one is interesting. Apollo, while being extremely talented, is definitely floundering a bit since being called up. The Miz and Maryse are doing their job as heels really well thought Miz is not the one who should hold the Intercontinental strap. A title switch would be a great way to get Apollo over and give him a plan going forward as the new IC champion.

WWE Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day (Xavier Woods & Kofi Kingston) vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson

While this feud has been built off of Big E’s groin injury, I expect this match to be fun. People that are complaining of Gallows and Gun being too comedic clearly never watched their post-match interviews in Japan or know how they are. You can be smash mouth in the ring and still down the "b double l." I expect the good brothers to take the titles.

WWE United States Championship Match: Rusev vs. Roman Reigns

They gave this match away for free on Monday which was preposterous. But they did it and Roman won. With WWE’s 50/50 booking mentality, I expect Rusev to retain via some heel tactics to keep this program going.

First In Best of Seven Series: Cesaro vs. Sheamus

This match a few months ago would have bored me to tears. But the last few weeks they've had some great interactions. I like that it's an old school match, with two hard hitting guys. Cesaro will win the first match here at SummerSlam in what could be a real sleeper pick of a great match.

Randy Orton vs. Brock Lesnar

A match 15 years in the making and one that before two weeks ago, no one wanted to see. Paul E. being back to sell this match really helps. Any Brock match is interesting because he is still that special attraction. I expect him to suplex Randy to hell and get the win.

John Cena vs. AJ Styles

This match will be a great as their first encounter was epic. In usual John Cena programs, he usually ends up on top. But with him going away very soon and working a lighter schedule, he needs to be beat. AJ Styles is the guy to do it. I expect AJ to take this match and then challenge for the WWE Championship.

Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass

A thrown together team vs. an established team. Enzo will surely take the heat. Jericho will take the pin from Big Cass, whom you can tell Vince McMahon is smitten with. And you can't teach that.

Esai Saldana
The Heater

Aug 16, 2016

WWE Must Go With Finn Balor at SummerSlam

Finn Balor's WWE Raw debut was one of the most memorable, well handled pieces of booking in many years. In one night, Balor won two matches, most notably a clean victory over Roman Reigns to set up the first ever Universal Championship match at SummerSlam. Balor's opponent at that event: Seth Rollins.

As this feud has progressed, we've seen a face off between the two, Rollins delivering a promo dissing the "Demon King," Balor explaining the origins of his name, and finally the Demon emerging to bounce Rollins out of the ring on the go-home edition of Monday Night Raw. Before we dive into the finish of their SummerSlam match, let's briefly go over the unveiling of the Demon persona on free television.

A lot of people were shocked and disappointed that WWE gave away the Demon entrance for free this past Monday. I completely see that point and agree with it to an extent. I'll defend WWE's decision in this respect: Why not introduce this persona on Raw as opposed to throwing the two out there in separate singles matches or in a tag on opposite sides? I like the fact the both men haven't been in the ring wrestling much leading into this match. They've had a couple very brief exchanges and haven't over exposed either guy. The fact is that the main roster audience doesn't know Balor well. They've done a solid job of introducing his character to this fan base without relegating him to the pack of 50/50 mid-card Superstars. Instead of shooting the typical contract signing or promo battle, WWE opted for the Demon King to confront Rollins. The fans took to this persona and it got over easily with the go-home crowd. I would argue that this made the match more intriguing going into SummerSlam and the now the fans that may have been skeptical of Balor now see him in a completely different light.

Alright, time to discuss the Universal Title match finish.

WWE has no choice but to put Finn Balor over Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. There are no other options. It can be assumed that if this match is designed to crown the first Universal Champion, then there has to be a decisive finish. If there has to be a winner, then Balor must beat Rollins. Since the draft, WWE has pushed Balor to the moon and back. It would be completely nonsensical to invest this much time and energy into Balor to beat him in his first big match on the main roster. Also, the Demon persona cannot be beat this early. A major part of Balor's appeal and character comes from his transformation into his alter ego for big matches. If Rollins were to win this Sunday, all of the momentum and mystique Balor has right now will disappear. WWE would eliminate their investment and Balor would fall into the pack of wrestlers that are all positioned to stay in the mid-card. WWE's track record in these situations is not all positive, though.

Who can forget Kevin Owen's shocking win over John Cena in his first main roster match over John Cena? No one, really. But after the huge victory, Owens was defeated by Cena at two straight PPV's. Looking back on that, it's obvious that Owens should've won the best of three. Why not create a star with the first match and continue his momentum? Luckily for Owens, he's extremely talented and survived the mediocre booking. Another example is CM Punk's loss to Triple H just months after his famous "Pipe Bomb" promo. Why halt Punk's momentum? No one can really explain it.

The point of this is that Seth Rollins will not fall into obscurity by losing to Balor at SummerSlam. If the plan is for Rollins to eventually beat Triple H after a strong program, then losing to Balor is not a negative. Balor needs the win for his future, as well as WWE's. The Universal Championship will lend credibility to Finn while at the same time Finn will give credibility to the new title. It's pretty simple, really.

Considering everything that's in play here, it's obvious that Balor must beat Rollins for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. If WWE wants to establish a new star that will help the company for years to come, the finish must be that. Balor has a win over Reigns already and has proven to be a force on the main roster. Sunday will be very interesting as we will find out if the company has its head on straight for the future. If Balor loses, the repercussions could be felt for years to come.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Aug 8, 2016

RAW Trying To Continue Post-Draft Momentum (8/8/16)

This week's episode of Monday Night Raw was a somewhat forgettable one in many aspects. At the same time, we saw some decent segments and matches. Booking was here and there with positives and negatives both arising. I'm going to skip over a lot of minor happenings because like I said, there were many forgettable moments on this show. Also, I legitimately can't remember some of the segments that happened. I'm just being honest. With that being said, let's get right to it.

To start off, Cesaro and Sheamus had an awesome match. When they walked out to the ring I thought, "Dear god, they're doing this match again?" Well, these dudes beat the hell out of each other and entertained me to the fullest. Cesaro is over, but he was even more over as a result of this bout. He gave us new reversals and transitions which prompted the crowd to stand and clap for efforts in a great ovation. Cesaro is underutilized, but more on that later.

In a long segment, we saw Rusev and Lana attempt to reenact their recent wedding. There were flowers and cakes and everything. Roman Reigns interrupted, challenging Rusev to a United States Championship match at Summerslam. Rusev did not accept and a brawl ensued. The result of this was Lana being bumped by Rusev right into a cake. Mick Foley later made the US Title match official for the PPV. Vince's fingerprints were all over this one, but honestly, it was a pretty decent segment. WWE is again trying anything to get Reigns over as a babyface. It might work here, but the Brooklyn crowd for Summerslam will not be as accepting as the crowd at this show. Reigns was definitely more comfortable than usual in this segment, delivering his lines much more smoothly and genuinely than in segments past. He did a good job here and it'll be interesting to see how the latest Reigns experiment plays out.

Gallows and Anderson. Wow. I gotta say, I'm so glad that WWE seems to be realizing what they have with the two. In a comedy segment sent from heaven, Gallows and Anderson claimed to be doctors describing Big E's injury as a case of "Ringpostitus." The even had lab coats on. I can't recap this segment and do it justice, so you'll have to go back and watch it yourselves. The fact is that it was great, they're hilarious, and should do this more going forward. Not sure why Kofi basically did a job in the match after this, but hey, the booking is the booking and I really don't want to get into it.

Seth Rollins came out to do a long promo about how he's the best and he's going to beat Finn Balor for the new Universal Championship at Summerslam. The promo isn't the point of this paragraph, though. The positive coming out of this is that both guys aren't wrestling each week. WWE is holding them off thus creating more excitement to see the two wrestle. I don't want to see each guy wrestle each Monday leading up to the PPV. Keep it fresh, get the most out of the title match. Balor's appearance came in the form of a video, describing the demon persona and the folklore behind it. It was informative and another phase of the build to Summerslam. 

Straight away, I loved the final segments of this show. Mick Foley called out Daniel Bryan to discuss the Randy Orton/Brock Lesnar brand invasion situation. What really came out of this segment was to the benefit of Cesaro. Rusev came out to tell them that he was already a champion on Raw and that they didn't need another. Cesaro came out to say he deserved a shot. This is where things got great. Bryan announced his support of Cesaro by saying that he felt he was underutilized on the Raw brand. It was very smart to do this because it gives Cesaro a rub from Bryan. The fans got behind Bryan because he was a great performer. Cesaro is also a great performer. If the fans are getting behind Cesaro now, they may get into him even more if Bryan says he's underutilized. This may create the same type of situation for Cesaro as Bryan had with the fans. Cesaro ended up getting an impromptu United States Championship match, but lost due to interference from Sheamus. It was great booking in the fact that everyone was even more behind Cesaro, but didn't get to see him really win due to the screw job. WWE could be setting up a solid angle to shoot Cesaro to the moon and believe me, he'll deliver if given a real opportunity.

To wrap it up, Raw felt like a pre-draft era episode in many regards, but did some great things to build for the future. With Summerslam approaching we can expect a hot show next week for the go-home. The momentum of the first post-draft show is still visible and it'll be interesting to see how WWE continues to build on it.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Aug 2, 2016

RAW Misses Early, But Recovers Late (8/1/16)

We can all probably agree that the second Raw of the supposed "New Era" largely wasn't very good. The show had some low moments that seemed to revert back to the pre-draft era. For awhile it seemed that maybe last week was a dream and it didn't really happen. But luckily for all, the show picked up in a massive way in the final hour. Let's hit the biggest takeaways from Monday's episode.

The biggest story of the "New Era" thus far has been the immediate rise of Finn Balor. After winning two matches last week (one over former champion, Roman Reigns), Balor was set to be interviewed by Michael Cole in the ring. Balor began his promo but was quickly interrupted by his Summerslam opponent, Seth Rollins. They had a very strong back and forth and solidified their roles and the angle. Balor dissed Seth saying that he had everything handed to him every step of the way in WWE, while he himself fought for what he had and took the spots of all the people that previously outranked him no matter where he was wrestling. The crowd really came alive for this as it was apparent that they began to realize the excellent match the two seemed destined to have for the new, Universal Championship.  This was a fantastic promo segment and a continuation of great booking for the two wrestlers. Last week, Balor immediately made an impact and was able to get over over the course of one night. On tonight's Raw, Balor didn't wrestle but rather was just featured. It was a smart move in that it preserves the allure of Balor and keeps him from being overexposed for the time being. Seth was saved last week, but was featured in an in-ring role on this show.

Skipping ahead, Rollins had an excellent match with Sami Zayn to cap off the wrestling portion of Raw. It was certainly the best match of the show. Rollins won, but Zayn fought valiantly and wasn't hurt by the loss. Rollins proved he could beat one Raw's best competitors, strengthening him for his upcoming match with Balor. So far, the build for this feud has been fresh and exciting as the anticipation for the Universal Championship match grows.

The beat down that The Club laid on The New Day was brutal. I don't agree with the finish of the match as it seemed nonsensical to have a pinfall if the angle was going to be the focal point. I would've rather seen a DQ, but hey, that's just me. Anyway, after The New Day's victory, The Club destroyed them. And when I say destroyed, I mean damn near killed. After the segment, Big E appeared to be injured in the backstage area. The Club got some heat and The New Day looks as vulnerable to lose their championships as they ever have.

The final segment of the show saw the return of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman. Heyman delivered another classic promo hyping the Lesnar vs. Randy Orton match at Summerslam. When it comes to textbook ticket selling promos, Paul Heyman probably can't be topped. Personally, Heyman completely sold me on this match even though I wasn't too excited for it when it was announced. He did an epic job of selling Orton's RKO as a dangerous equalizer without underselling Lesnar's perceived invincibility. The promo was really flowing as Heyman had entered his promo zone. Then, all of a sudden, Orton appeared in a flash and hit an RKO legitimately out of nowhere on Lesnar. The crowd went wild for this as we were given clear cut proof that Orton could strike with his finisher from any angle. Orton bailed into the crowd, just as Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon rushed out from the back to confront the SmackDown Live invader. Through Heyman's hype and Orton's brilliant flash-RKO, the Summerslam match received an incredible shot of life.

To wrap it up here, Raw missed its mark for much of the night, but was highlighted with a few very strong segments. It couldn't live up to last week's hot-shot booking, but still accomplished its goal of building for Summerslam. WWE will have to continue to search for the middle ground between last week's show and this one. Regardless, what was worth while on this week's Raw elevated Summerslam, and that's all we can really ask for.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Jul 26, 2016

SmackDown Live Makes The Right Moves (7/26/16)

Was SmackDown Live better than yesterday's Raw? Not really. But it definitely wasn't a bad show by any stretch of the imagination. SmackDown accomplished some important things over the course of the night. Let's hit the big spots of the show.

To start off, SmackDown utilized a lot of the different camera shots that Raw did, but went in a different direction with its hard cam. It focused in closer to the ring and overall gave a fresh, unique look to the action. The graphics were cool and as always, Mauro Ranallo was excellent from the announce desk.

The was built around crowning a new number one contender for Dean Ambrose's WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Shane and Bryan announced that it would be decided in a six-pack challenge main event between John Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, Baron Corbin, AJ Styles, and a to be determined sixth participant. It was announced that there would be a battle royal to open the show to decide the sixth entrant. The battle royal ended up being fun and eventually Apollo Crews won it. Crews looked awesome in the match and instantly was made out to be more of a threat on this show than he has since his call-up.

Becky Lynch beat Natalya via submission. Lynch needed the win and in turn was positioned as the top star of the SmackDown Women's Division. From there, each member of the division came out and cut a short promo to introduce the full roster. This was a smart move by WWE. They showcased their whole female division in one night without wasting a ton of time. It helped get eyes on the arrivals of Alexa Bliss and Carmella. I don't like the brand split in relation to the Women's Division, but if this is the direction they're going to stick with, they've put their best foot forward.

Miz did Miz TV and honestly, it was kind of boring. But to be positive, Miz got to establish himself as the heel champion on the show. Randy Orton ended up facing him and they proceeded to have a match rich in story. I really like this match for a couple reasons. One, it showcased Randy Orton as a super-over babyface. Two, they told a story that directly builds to his match with Brock Lesnar. Miz worked over Orton's bad shoulder, the same shoulder that kept him out of action for nine months. This really got over the danger Orton will be in when he takes on Lesnar at Summerslam. They were on the outside, Miz tossed Orton in, and out of nowhere, Orton hit the RKO. He milked the reaction, hit one more RKO, and then pinned Miz for the clean win. Again, this directly built to Summerslam. Though Orton's shoulder does not appear to be 100%, he can still hit his finishing move from seemingly any angle. Loved this match.

Heath Slater hit the ring and seemed to have enter from through the crowd. He cut an awesome promo and really got the crowd behind him when speaking of his outrage that he wasn't drafted to either show. It was awesome for Slater in that he was able to show everyone that he can cut a good promo and has value on the roster. Rhyno emerged in a surprise appearance, goring Slater. It was an exciting segment and the first of many expected wrestler returns.

Since we're on the subject of returns, a vignette aired early in the show for Shelton Benjamin's return to WWE. It's a great move in that he's a familiar face that is synonymous with exciting in-ring moments. SmackDown needs more depth and Benjamin will be a great asset.

The main event did not disappoint. Corbin and Crews fit right into the fray, while Wyatt, Cena, and Styles all did what everyone expected from them. The big star of this match was Dolph Ziggler. Earlier in the show, a promo from Ziggler aired where he talked about how he always tried to steal the show but he lost his way. He didn't quite accomplish what many thought he would. He announced that this was a new era and a fresh start for him in WWE. Well, Ziggler put in his usual gutsy performance and won the match with a superkick on Styles. The only negative of this result was that AJ took the pin. I'm not a fan of 50/50 booking, though if AJ beats Cena at Summerslam, this loss won't hurt him. To defend the finish, the situation was so fast paced that AJ was really taken advantage of. In short, it was a squeaky clean win. Nonetheless, this was huge for Ziggler and in the long term, huge for the show.

No matter what you think of Dolph Ziggler, there's something we all have to understand. He was robbed of a heavyweight title reign when he suffered a concussion and was buried time and time again for reasons that have never really been explained. He was the star of the 2014 Survivor Series and then was promptly pushed back down the card. The guy never phones it in and is arguably in the top five in terms of selling in the ring. He has a lot of star power in my opinion and deserves to be in a much higher spot on the card than he currently resides.

The first post draft SmackDown may not have been as exciting and instantly impactful as yesterday's episode of Raw. But realize that the impact of this show deals more with the long-term success of the brand. Crews shined and has a future. Benjamin will debut soon with immediate impact. The anticipation for American Alpha is in motion. Ambrose wasn't used just for the sake of using him. Ziggler was showcased as a bigger star than he was on Raw. All of these are important to SmackDown weeks, even months down the line. Maybe the show wasn't as newsworthy as Raw, but it was a smart, efficient use of talent. SmackDown will build on this night as the weeks go on and has the potential to grow into something very special.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Jul 25, 2016

First RAW of New Era Delivers (7/25/16)

The first Monday Night Raw of the "New Era" marked a night that no one will be able to forget. From top to bottom, this show was filled with great moments and clear-cut proof that WWE is making a concerted effort to change its way of doing things. Let's hit the top stories.

Sasha Banks Wins the Big One

It was very surprising that WWE decided to go ahead and switch the Women's Championship before Summerslam. Regardless of that, Banks and Charlotte had a good match. It wasn't perfect by any means, but the context of the win is what made it so special. After winning the title, Banks was interviewed in the middle of the ring. The fans gave her a great ovation, chanting "yes" and "you deserve it." Sasha was emotional, but composed herself and delivered a great promo. This signified the true rebirth of women's wrestling on the main roster. It'll be interesting to see where WWE goes for a Summerslam program. Seems likely that the rematch will take place there.

Finn Balor's Debut, Booked to Perfection

After Balor won the first fatal four-way match to advance in the show's mini tournament, you had to wonder if WWE was going to give him the win. Personally, I bit my nails all night praying that they'd seen the light and wouldn't beat him on his first main roster show. To my surprise (and many, for that matter), Balor got the clean win over Roman Reigns to set up the main event of Summerslam. The first ever WWE Universal Champion will be crowned on that show.

Balor's win tonight signifies that WWE has seemingly turned a corner. Reigns has now lost three straight matches clean. Before his 30-day suspension, this would have been unimaginable. Instead of going with the same old routine, WWE made a star over the course of a single Raw. Balor looked magnificent and beat one of the company's top stars. He was made legitimate instantly and appears to be a great threat to Seth Rollins at Summerslam. Got to tip the hat to WWE on this one. They really came through and surprised me in a very positive way. As for Reigns, the company has to be careful. Though things haven't worked out for him as they had planned, they can't completely give up on him. He needed to lose tonight, but look for him to bounce back in a lesser role on his journey to reclaiming the top spot in the company.

A Fresh Looking RAW

As a whole, Raw just flat out felt new. We got a ton of new camera shots, much improved commentary, less talking segments, and consistent, sensible booking. Angles were set up, such as Gallows and Anderson challenging The New Day for the Tag Team Championships. Enzo Amore and Big Cass looked strong. Corey Graves seamlessly slid into his new announcing role, which was a much needed improvement to the show's commentary team. Hell, we even got a couple squash matches.

Let's be real here. Squash matches are important. Arguably, WWE's biggest issue over the past year has been 50/50 booking. Trading wins and losses has resulted in a huge roster of wrestlers that all seem the same in terms of positioning. Outside of a small handful of people, no one comes off as a star. Tonight was very different, though. Nia Jax had a strong showing in her squash match. It protected her and her lack of experience. No one in the current Women's Division had to take a pointless loss to accomplish that. Braun Strowman also benefitted from the same type of situation. He debuted a new look that had to have changed many people's perception of him on the surface. It remains to be seen if he'll be able to put together the ring work, but this is a great start. If WWE keeps its booking on this kind of consistent level, they'll be able to create way more stars than they have in recent memory.

WWE hit a grand slam tonight. This really makes SmackDown Live destination television tomorrow evening. After all, it's supposed to be a competition. Expect the first "New Era" SmackDown to swing for the fence in response to a high-quality Raw. 

Things are really looking up in WWE. It's going to be an exciting and interesting ride.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Jul 23, 2016

Rebooking The WWE Draft

Whether you enjoyed the 2016 WWE Draft or not, it can certainly be argued that it lacked excitement. The draft didn't necessarily excite fans to look toward the future impact that it would have. Specifically though, there was a lapse in logic that underlined the event. Before I start the rebooking process, I need to make one thing very clear. It it very easy to sit back and nit pick the mistakes WWE makes. I am in no way directly affiliated with the business of professional wrestling/sports entertainment. These are simply ideas that myself and my friend, Esai Saldana have spoken about.

To redraft, we've edited some of the NXT call-ups but used the real WWE Draft list. We also used the same picking format that we saw last Tuesday on SmackDown.

With that being said, let's rebook the draft, beginning with some guidelines dealing with NXT call-ups.

NXT Call-Up Guidelines

At some point on Raw, William Regal (In some kind of taped segment) would explain that NXT cannot be a victim of the WWE Draft. Regal says that he will allow the main roster to make six acquisitions as long as they have been signed to an NXT contract for at least one year and are not currently a champion. Tag teams will still count as one acquisition.

Phase I: The Cruiserweight and Women's Division Agreement

The first phase of this scenario begins after Mick Foley and Daniel Bryan are named as GM's. Daniel Bryan's first move is to announce that SmackDown is launching a Cruiserweight Division. Stephanie McMahon is obviously annoyed that Bryan and Shane have made the first big move of the brand split. Later in the show, Steph expresses that she will not be showed-up on her program and states Raw will also get an exclusive division. Stephanie demands that the Women's Division be exclusive to Raw to make things even. The two sides decide to make an agreement.

The agreement is as follows: 

-Cruiserweights are now exclusive to SmackDown and female wrestlers are now exclusive to Raw.

-Male wrestlers 205 pounds and under will negotiate with SmackDown if they wish to participate in the division. They will also be allowed to wrestle for other titles on SmackDown, but are also eligible for the Crusierweight Championship.

-Female wrestlers can only sign with Raw.
  • Raw acquires Bayley and Alexa Bliss
  • SmackDown acquires Kalisto, Sin Cara, and Neville
Justifying the agreement:

There are now 12 women's wrestlers going to Raw and 3 cruiserweights going to SmackDown. Since Bryan is going to sign both former talent and current talent from the Cruiserweight Classic, 12 to 3 is not as uneven as it appears. Bayley and Bliss count as two of the NXT acquisitions, though they are not draft picks. Regal specified six acquisitions, not necessarily draft picks.

Phase II: The Draft


1. Seth Rollins
2. Brock Lesnar
3. Roman Reigns
4. Finn Balor
5. The New Day (c)
6. Kevin Owens
7. The Miz (c) w/ Maryse
8. Randy Orton
9. Bray Wyatt
10. Enzo & Big Cass
11. Chris Jericho
12. Alberto Del Rio
13. Baron Corbin
14. Dolph Ziggler
15. Darren Young w/ Bob Backlund
16. The Dudley Boyz
17. Kane
18. Zack Ryder
19. Mark Henry
20. Breezango
21. Curtis Axel
22. The Golden Truth
23. The Shining Stars
24. The Big Show
25. Jack Swagger
26. Mojo Rawley
27. Heath Slater

      Agreement acquisitions:
  • Bayley
  • Alexa Bliss


1. Dean Ambrose (c)
2. AJ Styles
3. John Cena
4. Gallows & Anderson
5. Rusev (c) w/ Lana
6. Sami Zayn
7. The Usos
8. Cesaro
9. Apollo Crews
10. Sheamus
11. American Alpha
12. Braun Strowman
13. Tye Dillinger
14. The Vaudevillians
15. Titus O’Neil
16. The Ascension
17. Erick Rowan
18. Bo Dallas

Agreement acquisitions:
  • Sin Cara
  • Kalisto
  • Neville
-Finn Balor, Tye Dillinger, American Alpha, and Mojo Rawley make up the remaining four NXT acquisitions.

In any scenario, there will eventually be a major championship created for one show opposite of the WWE Championship on the other. That would give each brand three exclusive championships (WWE, IC, W's / WHC, US, CW) with the tag titles bouncing between each shows. 

Reasons For Brand Exclusive Divisions

If SmackDown is supposed to be the new, fresh show, they should have the revived Cruiserweight Division. There will be new faces and some familiar ones that will create an excitement unique to the brand. Daniel Bryan's wrestling style is synonymous with the cruiserweight's. He is also commentating for the the Cruiserweight Classic. Why would this not be his idea? It explains the launch of the division and how he had the resources to sign more talent to participate. In our current real life timeline, we know that Kota Ibushi will join the division. With him as well as the speculated signings of Cedric Alexander, Zack Sabre Jr., TJ Perkins, and Gran Metalik, the agreement appears to be fair. In this fantasy timeline, they will be allowed to sign with SmackDown because they're not under an NXT contract, thus the one-year of service stipulation does not apply.

Having the Women's Division on Raw would far outweigh any of the positives of splitting them between two brands. Yes, half on each show would allow them to shine more often. The issue is depth and longevity of feuds. Though in theory mid-card women would be able to move up, about six women on each show would run it's course in a matter of months. You can't add another Women's Championship because of the lack of depth and capable workers. In the fantasy scenario, all the women on one show makes them a special attraction and protects the value of the championship. As the women's division expands there may come a time when they need to be divided. When that day arrives, they should have their own draft unique to the division.

Tag Team Division

The tag team division is the tough part in all of this. Yes, the tag team division will be thin because they're split between the two shows. Consider this: more than likely there will only be one tag division match per show, per week. The champions will have to be responsible for being on both shows at certain periods. This division will require more inter-promotional matches to keep things fresh. Scenarios involving number one contender and championship matches are examples.

Phase III: Resulting Angles

Setting Up Balor vs. Styles

In this draft scenario, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson go to SmackDown, keeping The Club intact. To get to AJ (heel) vs. Balor (face), we'll have to wait for one of the big-four cross-branded PPV's. Let's say Gallows and Anderson cross paths at Summerslam. It's a Bullet Club reunion where they pal around and reflect on the fact that the three made it to WWE. Then let's say they meet up again at Survivor Series. At this show, AJ expresses a hint of jealousy that the Club is so preoccupied with Balor, but they make it clear to AJ that at the end of the day they're loyal to The Club. Fast forward to the Royal Rumble. Balor explains to Gallows and Anderson that even though they're friends, he's fighting to win the Rumble match. In the match, The Club is in the ring and it is clear that Gallows and Anderson are helping AJ along as the match goes on. Balor enters the match. He tries to eliminate AJ, but Gallows stops him. Gallows tries to argue with Balor, but Anderson attempts to attack Balor. Balor cleans house and eliminates the two. Then AJ strikes. They have no ties other than their mutual connection to Gallows and Anderson. Balor eliminates AJ, but does not end up winning the match. This sets up AJ vs. Balor moving forward, which is a feud that should culminate at WrestleMania 33. Balor beats AJ at 'Mania. After AJ's loss, either in the ring at 'Mania or Raw the next night, Shinsuke Nakamura debuts on the main roster to challenge AJ.

Separating Owens & Zayn

In this fantasy draft, we've chosen to separate Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Yes, Owens and Zayn have had a great feud, one that started well before WWE was in their sights. They absolutely must cross paths again in the future. Here's an example of how this could work. Let's say Owens, at some point, becomes the major champion of the Raw brand, months or year removed from this brand split. As Owens cuts an in-ring heel promo to gloat over his win, Zayn emerges to challenge him after being traded to Raw earlier in the day. You could get even more creative if Zayn wins a Money In The Bank ladder match. He could cash in and steal the title during Owens' promo. This all depends on how MITB would be handled post brand split in which, there are many acceptable options. This one can go a million different ways. The point of it is, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Zayn and Owens have had an awesome program. Just think of how much better it could be if both go their separate ways, win titles, have more high-profile matches, and then end up crossing paths again. They would both evolve into even more accomplished wrestlers but it would all lead back to the feud that has defined their entire careers.

Bringing In Bayley

Bayley's arrival into a Raw exclusive Women's Division will immediately position her as a top babyface. She would first be the surprise partner of Sasha Banks at Sunday's Battleground to take on Charlotte and Dana Brooke. They would go over with Brooke being pinned. Sasha heads to Summerslam and beats Charlotte for the Women's Championship, while Bayley beats Dana Brooke on the same show. Bayley could then enter a feud with Charlotte directly. After Bayley defeats Charlotte and makes it clear she's the number one contender, Banks turns heel to feud with Bayley, building towards a big championship showdown in a renewed NXT rivalry. In the fantasy scenario, Nia Jax is not on the main roster. But for the sake of the Banks/Bayley angle, Jax could be brought up to serve as Banks' heater, thus stretching out the build to the title match. With all angles included, this scenario could last from Battleground all the way to Wrestlemania 33. Once Bayley defeats Banks for the Women's Championship at 'Mania, the stage is set for Asuka to join the main roster and challenge for the title.


In wrapping this up I must reiterate that I am in no way attempting to say that I have all the answers to WWE storylines. Again, I've never worked a day in the business of professional wrestling. Esai and I are simply illustrating what we would've liked to see happen in the draft as well as the angles resulting from it. And who knows? Maybe WWE has a much grander vision than what we saw at the draft last Tuesday. Only time will tell. We will have a much better idea of the impact of the draft six months or more down the line. Regardless, our fantasy draft really shows that there are many ways that this thing could've gone and many ways for it to go as a result. Same goes for what we have in reality. There's still the chance that we see the return of a guy like MVP or Curt Hawkins. Though the WWE Draft may not have gone exactly how we had hoped, there are still many routes WWE can go in the coming months.

Brady Sauvageau
The Heater

Angles and additional draft scenarios were created in collaboration with Esai Saldana.