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Chris Deez’s WWE FastLane Predictions

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So, it’s that time of the month where I bury my head in the sand and try to pretend that wrestling doesn’t exist. You guessed it… it’s a SmackDown Live PPV! I won’t beat around the bush here, the blue brand has been pretty poor for a good few months now and the polar opposite of where it was 12 months ago. Fastlane is just a few days away and is your typical ‘final stop on the road to Wrestlemania’ PPV, with a below average card, two matches with great potential and a few which have been hastily thrown together to fill time.

So, with that said… who is going to win? Who is taking a giant step towards WrestleMania? And who even cares anymore?

Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. Natalya and Carmella

Erm… what? I have no idea where this match has even come from and it’s a clear attempt to fill time and keep Carmella relevant while WWE continue to tease her Money in The Bank cash in which seems to have been going on FOREEEEEEEVER. At this point I feel I should point out that I’ve not bothered watching SDLive for the last two weeks, I can’t bring myself to anymore, so for all I know this match could have had Austin v Rock at Mania 17 levels of hype and build up. But I imagine it was put together as a result of 6-woman tag matches and various clusterfuck pile up run ins. Becky Lynch and Naomi deserve better… Naomi was champion less than 12 months ago and Becky is one of the most talented women wrestlers of the last decade. Bleugh

Prediction – Becky and Naomi win in this thrill a minute match of the year. 5 Star Meltzer star rating incoming.

United States Championship Match: Bobby Roode (c) vs. Randy Orton

I absolutely LOVED Bobby Roode in NXT. We all did. He was a heel but by god he was a fantastic heel. Main roster Roode has been weak in comparison, with WWE trying to cash in on the GLORIOUS gimmick for far too long. Randy Orton is another case altogether. Despite winning the Royal Rumble, becoming WWE Champion and being billed as a top guy… he continues to be completely irrelevant and hang on to a living off the back of one move. The mid card on SDLive is so uninspiring it hurts to watch, and they continue to waste Rusev despite him being the most over guy on the entire roster and potentially the entire company.

I fully expect golden boy Orton to pick up the much undeserved win here because the commentary team wont shut up about the US Championship being the only one missing off his CV. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say he might…. MIGHT win with an RKO. Crazy right? Rusev absolutely HAS to be given an opportunity after this, the only issue being he has already suffered through a dull as dishwater feud with Orton only a few months ago. Christ almighty, SDLive needs some new talent post Mania desperately.

Prediction – RKO. Because RKO. Oh RKO? Yeah…RKO. Hahaha, RKO!

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev

Poor RuRu. Out of absolutely nowhere, he became on of the most over talents in recent memory, struck up a hilarious partnership with Aiden English and was part of some phenomenal Fatal 4 Way matches alongside the Uso’s, The New Day and Benjable (Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin). FINALLY, his stock was rising again, as he finally got rid of the unsavoury taste left from being buried by John Cena and being part of the cringeworthy love square storyline with Dolph Ziggler, Lane and Summer Rae. If you weren’t watching SDLive at the time and missed it all go down, do yourself a favour… don’t go back and watch it. Avoid it like the plague.

But anyway, I digress. With all of that behind him, surely Rusev is being booked like a monster now right? Tearing through the roster? Nah, don’t be silly, this is SDLive. He is booked in for a match against Shinsuke Nakamura, the winner of the Royal Rumble, which he will quite predictably lose. I used to love WWE when you genuinely had no idea who wold come out victorious, but in this match we find Rusev booked against a guy who is going on to main event WrestleMania against AJ Styles. Oh, and he’s also doing it to avenge his best friend English who was injured at the hands of Nakamura. You couldn’t make this shit up if you tried.

Prediction – Nakamura wins because the Bulgarian/Russian markets aren’t nearly as profitable as the Asian market.

Smackdown Tag Team Championship Match: The Uso’s (c) vs. New Day

Don’t get me wrong, this match will more than likely be fantastic and could well be the match of the night. But damn, do we really need to see it again? Hell in A Cell was meant to be the final act in what was hands down the rivalry of 2017, but since then we’ve seen the teams clash while involved in the title scene towards the end of 2017 and now we find ourselves in familiar territory again despite there being at least two more teams who could be challenging right now. I absolutely LOVE these two teams, am a huge fan of everything New Day related and between the two of them they’ve completely revolutionized tag team wrestling, but this is yet another unnecessary throwaway match.

There’s no chance in hell The Uso’s will lose this one. The going plan seems to be the Blugeon Brothers challenging for the titles at WrestleMania and inevitably capturing the gold because they are big men and Vince McMahon LOOOOVES big men. I would expect Harper and Rowan to make their presence felt during this match with a post victory beat down on the victorious brothers.

Prediction – The Usos and nobody else

 

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ruby Riott

Now, call me a cynic, but hasn’t the SDLive women’s division been hot garbage for quite a while now? Charlotte is absolutely one of the best female wrestlers of all time, but she is being wasted in a massive way on the blue brand. Her rivalry with Sasha Banks on RAW is a huge part of the reason that the women of WWE find themselves finally earning the respect they thoroughly deserve, but on SDLive Charlotte is in desperate need of a rival who brings out the best in her. The Rock had Stone Cold. HBK had Bret Hart. Ric Flair had Sting. Charlotte has… Ruby Riot? Lord give me strength. This is in no way an attack on Riot as she has certainly impressed since stepping up from NXT, though next to Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan she was always going to look incredible, but she is in no way close to Charlotte’s level yet. The other thing making this lose all relevance is WWE’s insistence on having Charlotte operate as a babyface. Her in ring style and mic work has always suited her to being a dirty heel just like her daddy Ric, but SDLive don’t have many great faces anymore and have forced Charlotte into a role that makes her look less imposing, dominating or legitimate.

Could this be the night when we finally see Carmella cashing in? No. Absolutely not. That is something we want to see; therefore WWE won’t allow it to happen yet. At this point a lot of people have probably forgotten she even has the briefcase anymore, and even if she cashes in at Mania it will be a short-lived title reign as she is absolute trash still. WWE need to sort out the women’s divisions urgently before they slip back into the dark days of being a sideshow. But hey… 3v3 matches are exciting right? Guys? GUYS…!?

Prediction – Riott Squad attempt to interfere, Charlotte’s mates come to save her, and she picks up the win. Because god forbid we should have a good 1v1 women’s match when we could instead have 8 of them involved in a botch filled mess.

Six-Pack Challenge for the WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler

Why invest time into multiple great feuds with your top talent and flesh out the show when you can instead stick them all into one match? On paper this looks great and I’m sure they’ll be some good spots, but its just yet another sign of how far SDLive has slipped in terms of great storytelling. Prime example being Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin. Dolph wins the US Championship out of nowhere from Corbin. Relinquishes the title two nights later and ‘quits’. A tournament is set up to determine a new champion. Corbin loses in the first round. Dolph comes back at spot 30 in the Royal Rumble. Doesn’t go back after the US Championship. Both men gave singles matches which they win and get entered into this match for the top title. I mean… who is telling Road Dogg that he is doing a good job? Lazy writing like I have never seen before.

Then to ramp up the lazy writing a notch or 10, lets chuck John Cena in there too! And better yet, lets have him defeat the current champion and best wrestler in the world to gain entry! Way to make your champion look less credible guys! The only positive thing going on with this title scene at the moment is that Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan seem to have nothing to do with it anymore and we focus on the actual superstars as should have always been the case.

I’ve no idea how this one is gonna play out. The best-case scenario would be to see Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn split up and feud until Mania, with Styles keeping the belt and going on to face Nakamura in potentially the match of the night at Mania. The only other possibility I see here is Cena winning, becoming the all-time record holder for championship reigns, Styles invoking his rematch clause and we see a phenomenal triple threat on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

Prediction – AJ retains in a messy match full of spots and just general nonsense.

I, like many fans right now, have no interest at all in this PPV. Probably wont even watch it to be fair. It’s a predictable and unnecessary step before Mania which will likely do nothing to impact the landscape leading up to that fateful day in April. WWE’s decision to go back to one PPV per month from May onwards was definitely the correct one, even if it means extending the run time of the event itself.

Please can it just be WrestleMania already?


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Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 5/20/2018

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There were a lot matches to watch this week, and a rainy miserable week in Jersey lends itself to catching up on some shows I let slip past the wayside. Even though we’ve got two tournaments going on in Japan, this was a quality week from most companies. Either way, last week’s winner was, Buddy Murphy vs Mustafa Ali 205 Live. The vote was a little close, but the cream rose to the top this time.

Now let’s see what matches made the Top 5 this week:

5. ROH: Jay Lethal vs Punishment Martinez

Jay Lethal is on his tour of trying “get his wins back”, by challenging people who’ve recently defeated him.

This match started off shaky with Lethal jumping on Martinez immediately and slipping on the streamers (but saving it) while he goes for seven suicide dives. After that Lethal went after Martinez’s knee and didn’t really let up.

As the story of the match unfolded, we got to see Lethal start regaining that edge he lost after turning babyface. He focused the knee, put on numerous Figure Four Leglocks and made sure to attack the leg whenever given the chance. Martinez had a few glimmers of offense, but quickly lost any momentum because the knee would prove to be his downfall.

After a few strikes, a timely Lethal Injection picks up the victory for Jay. So that’s one loss redeemed, now on to the next.

Rating: *** 1/2

 

4. MLW: Pentagon Jr vs Rey Fenix

MLW Fusion Pentagon Jr Fenix

This Double Jeopardy match happened because of Pentagon and Salina de la Renta’s tactics against MLW Champion Shane Strickland.

So we get another match between Fenix and Pentagon, and that’s not really negative, it is however something we’ve seen often the last few months. But as always, they deliver a damn good match. Pentagon loves to go to the outside and steal hats, but Fenix’s offense looked much better.

The interesting wrinkle right before the match was that Salina de la Renta signed Fenix to her stable, so she won regardless. It did seem like she was a little more invested in Pentagon winning, but she played impartial fairly well most of the match.

Fenix pulled off most of his rope jumping, springboard offense bt he still couldn’t finish off Pentagon. After a Fear Factor onto the apron, Pentagon rolled in Fenix, hit his Pentagon Driver, and Fenix kicked out. This just annoyed Pentagon as he hits one more Fear Factor to pick up the pinfall.

Rating: *** 3/4

 

3. NJPW Best of Super Juniors 25: Taiji Ishimori vs Will Ospreay

This is Ishimori’s second BOSJ. He made it to the semi-finals of his last one before losing to the eventual winner Prince Devitt.

The most refreshing aspect to this match is that Taiji actually focuses a body part. Everything Ishimori did, meant something. Enziguiris that aim for the neck instead of the head, a sliding second rope German suplex, neckbreakers and an assortment of strikes aimed at the problem area. Early on he hits his new finish called Bloody Cross, but Ospreay managed to kick out.

Ospreay continued his Okada style of working from underneath and still finding the resolve to pull off his bigger moves, but he actually falls a little short here. He goes for Storm Breaker, but Ishimori rolls off, hit’s a bicycle knee and then a big Reverse Rana. Ospreay has one more flash with a Standing Spanish Fly and goes for the Oscutter, just for Ishimori to catch him and counter it with another Bloody Cross.

Even if he doesn’t win BOSJ, this helps establish the Reborn Bone Soldier and gives him a legitimate claim at a title shot.

Rating: ****

 

Honorable Mentions:

WWE Raw Intercontinental Championship: Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins (c)
Rating: *** 1/4
NJPW Best of Super Juniors 25: Yoh vs Bushi
Rating: *** 1/4
ROH: Marty Scurll, Hangman Page & Cody vs SoCal Uncensored
Rating: *** 1/4
WWE SmackDown: Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles
Rating: *** 1/4
NJPW Best of Super Juniors 25: Chris Sabin vs Kushida
Rating: *** 1/4
AJPW: Toyou & Senshin vs Shuji Ishikawa & Suwama
Rating: ***
Lion’s Gate Project: Daisuke Sekimoto vs Shota Umino
Rating: ***

 

2. NJPW Best of Super Juniors 25: Dragon Lee vs Sho

Dragon Lee has proven himself over and over in Mexico, but is slowly gaining more celebrity since Hiromu returned from excursion. Sho on the other hand, is known primarily as the power guy in Roppongi 3k, so having both halves in the tournament will help to flesh them out as characters.

This match went back and forth between a swiftly paced Lucha match, and a strong style Japanese match. Dragon Lee showed more power than he usually does, while Sho kept turning up the aggression. Big moves, nice ways of using the outside of the ring and the apron, just made this match fun to watch.

Given the fact that there isn’t a ton of storyline, this was just a well paced tournament classic. After trying it once, but Sho countered, Dragon Lee finally hits his Desnucadora finisher and picks up a well earned pinfall.

 

Rating: **** 1/4

 

1. Dragon Gate King of Gate Tournament: Kzy vs Ben-K

Two of the men that challenged for the Open the Dream Gate championship earlier in the year, and both carrying gold of their own in the tag team and trios divisions.

So sufficed to say, these are up and coming stars for Dragon Gate, and this match proved it. The pacing was fairly high energy the entire time, and did wonders for Ben-K, since it protected his Ben-K Bomb.

A big running shoulder tackle sent Kzy flying, and Ben-K showed off a lot of technical and power ability, where Kzy was the quicker more opportunistic one. La magistral pin attempts, frog splashes and DDTs weren’t enough to put down Ben-K. As the match was coming to an end, Kzy did his best Hiroshi Tanahashi impression and hit a Swanton Bomb followed immediately by a Frog Splash, but Ben-K kicks out right as time expires.

Even though the match ends in a draw, it was exciting, well paced and did wonders for both men. In no way does the match feel incomplete with no definitive finish, especially since both men are faces, so it plays nicely.

Rating: **** 1/2

Now I feel like people will sob since nothing made the Top 5 from WWE so god forbid the computer would need to be used for something beyond porn, Twitter and Facebook. But as I usually say, when you have tournaments in other companies, their quality will go up, as compared to a usual television match. It’s not like WWE had nothing good, but that’s the beauty of their being more wrestling available than just what you get from one company.

Either way, I’m gonna go with my rankings for this week and vote for, Kzy vs Ben-K Dragon Gate. The match was fantastic, works well for two rising stars and adds some more suspense to the A Block since 1 point each makes the standings less swingy.

So if you want to cry about WWE not making it, or need to learn how to use a browser for more than porn, shoot me an e-mail at andrewbalaz@thechairshot.com – but regardless, make your opinion heard and Always Use Your Head.


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The Case For Ronda Rousey To Lose

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Ronda Rousey WWE Lose

“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey may be one of the hottest commodities in wrestling right now but she should lose her first title match.  I know this is a very hot take but I think the best thing the WWE can do for Rousey’s character development, if she plans on joining the roster full time, is to lose to Nia Jax at Money in the Bank. I’m not saying by Pinfall or Submission, as that could hurt her character, but a well executed DQ finish. More on that later.

If, and most likely, when she beats Nia at Money in the Bank, she would become the third fastest WWE SuperStar to win a premier title at 141 days. The fastest being “The Dirtiest Player in the Game”, Ric Flair. He accomplished this feat at the 1992 Royal Rumble by eliminating Sid Justice and becoming the only one to win the Heavyweight strap by doing so. This was 113 days after he debuted but “The Nature Boy” was a 9 time Heavyweight champion at this point, 8 times in the NWA and 1 WCW reign. She has her accomplishments to this point, former UFC/StrikeForce Women’s Bantamweight champ and two Olympic medals, but this is Professional Wrestling. As much as I like “Rowdy” Ronda, she is not even on the same playing field as Flair was when he earned The Strap so quick. If Rousey beats Nia Jax it would slot her between Sheamus, at 116 days, and Brock Lesnar, who at 126 days beat The Rock at SummerSlam ’02. She and Lesnar have similar pedigrees, but the difference is we actually saw something in the ring from Lesnar first. All we have gotten from Rousey is a gimmick match at WrestleMania, which was great by the way but a gimmick still, and NO singles matches. Don’t get me started on the mic skills.

Ronda Rousey WWE

I think the only way to end this and still leave credibility for Ronda Rousey’s character is to have her loose by DQ. Be it by Alexa Bliss having a “Moment of Bliss” and trying to regain the trust of Jax after the “bully angle’ or whatever the “Road Dogg” throws together over there at Titan Towers.With this angle we would get the hype, like we have had with the Styles/Nakumara feud of late, and they could even finish in a cage match at Extreme Rulez. Imagine “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey winning her first WWE Women’s Title in the cage. That would make for good TV.

But we won’t get this. The same “Marks” who BOO Roman Reigns will cheer to the high heavens when Ronda wins from a premature, undeserved push. Roman deserves it. He has been around for awhile now and even came up through the NXT system. But because he comes from a wrestling family, The Anoa’i Dynasty, and has the proverbial “Machine” behind him the fans don’t give him the time of day. Or, maybe it’s because he falls in the “MAN” category (more on that here)  That’s a discussion for another day. We will most likely see her become a Brock Lesnar type champ, with part time appearances and this guy as her mouthpiece.

Make sure to tell me what you don’t like about my opinion on TWITTER @james_callear


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What Happened To The Heels?

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Ric Flair Heel WOOO

Where have all the good heels in professional wrestling gone? Why aren’t there characters like the ones from my youth that struck fear in me while watching the NWA on Saturday mornings with my father?

Granted, I am a bit older than I used to be and I know what professional wrestling is now as opposed to being seven years old. Still, the heel wrestler has been eliminated like the “Loser Leave Town” matches from the days of territorial promotions.

After finally watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on Ric Flair, it has occurred to me there will never be a heel as solid as the “Nature Boy” and a generation will never know what “real” wrestling was about.

I will need a moment of silence to get over this pain I feel.

Back in the day, when Kayfabe was alive and well, Kevin Sullivan terrorized my mind at night with his cryptic messages on Championship Wrestling from Florida. The Wild Samoans scared fans in the stands at Madison Square Garden. Gary Hart and his band of Japanese heels proved to be evil. They were just a few of the “bad guys” fans hated with a passion. There was no blurred line. Heels were hated, babyfaces loved. It’s a phenomenon that is scarce in WWE or TNA or even ROH.

We can thank Vince McMahon for that and the creation of Sports Entertainment. The name on the marquee used to be “wrestling” and that is what superstars did, helping to create my childhood memories of Dusty Rhodes and Sullivan, Dory Funk, Jr. and Jack Brisco.

Blake Oestriecher of Forbes.com wrote a story recently about the deficiency of heels in WWE. He makes a valid point, addressing the issue of fan support for the bad guys while the scales are tipped toward the babyfaces on both Monday and Tuesday nights. This would never have been the case if McMahon had just let wrestlers wrestle and honored the traditions of 1970s grappling.

Those days are gone forever.

“Overall, WWE has a lot of depth on the heel side. There are quality villains on Raw in the form of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin and Jinder Mahal and on SmackDown with guys like Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, and The Miz,” Oestriecher writes. “It’s not the number of heels that is the issue. Rather, it’s WWE’s presentation of those heels and the creative team’s inability to establish them as bona fide superstars in that role that have really hurt the quality of WWE’s programming.”

Oestriecher hits it out of the park with that one paragraph.

Mahal is as close to a throwback heel you will find in WWE. His look, his gimmick, the venomous dialogue he spews and takes heat from the fans. It’s a perfect combination. Mahal, who has become a fringe main event star, would be successful in the 1980s NWA with Rhodes championing the cause of fighting good versus evil.

Other than the former WWE champion, who else besides Brock Lesnar, who is back hibernating with the Universal Title under his pillow, is there to fill that role? Even Lesnar, who by all accounts is a heel based on his gimmick, his look, and his mouthpiece Paul Heyman, is cheered simply because of size, power and his ability in the ring.

“Now, with Brock Lesnar, who is widely viewed to be WWE’s No. 1 heel, apparently not set to wrestle again until at least July, WWE finds itself with a gaping hole on the heel side of Raw,” Oestriecher adds. “There is not one particular thing that will make up for the loss of Lesnar, who many still consider to be WWE’s biggest draw, and doing so on Monday nights won’t help the blue brand.”

This might be a case of fans learning to deal with deficiencies in booking, that creative writers don’t see three steps in front of them and the bad guy is really the good guy and the good guy is really bad because he doesn’t have the qualities fans want in today’s business. If that is the case, then why is Roman Reigns so hated by the wrestling community?

That’s another column for another time and place.

No matter what WWE does to try and correct its problem, there will never be a viable solution. The present and future dictate the company sticks to the script of uneven booking. And until the problem is eased – not fixed – we will all wonder whatever ever happened to the “real” heels of professional wrestling?


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