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Opinion

Rob: More Releases – What’s Going On?

Rob takes a look at the driving reason why these recent releases came to be; as well as waxing a little poetic. Take a look!

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This Friday brought another round of releases from WWE.  A dozen in all, a few of which were not noteworthy but some which were.  Bobby Fish was part of the biggest faction in NXT history, The Undisputed Era.  Mercedes Martinez is one of the best veteran women wrestlers around and was recently in a title match with Raquel Gonzalez.  Leon Ruff is a recent North American Champion, as is the most shocking release in Bronson Reed.  Tyler Rust was part of the new stable The Diamond Mine.  Kona Reeves has been an NXT roster member for over five years.  It really begged the question of just what in the hell is going on over there?

Are they gearing up to sell?  No.  Please, just stop that already.  You don’t get rid of people like Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman if you’re going to sell.  Is the brand split about to end?  Again, no.  As long as they have two shows and are getting a billion dollars from two different networks then there are going to be two separate rosters.  A report from PWInsider has shed some light on it.  NXT is reportedly re-branding and going younger, which means that people like Fish and Martinez are not in that equation.  But 32 year old Reed looked to be a real prospect to turn into something and isn’t old by any standard, so that’s really baffling.

As crappy as all that is it’s time for a hard conversation about NXT.  For all intents and purposes it’s been taking on water since last Spring.  Bianca Belair, Matt Riddle, Mia Yim, and Keith Lee all moved on to Raw and SmackDown in 2020.  Damian Priest would be off to RAW this January.  Velveteen Dream, who was poised to become a major star on the main roster and was one in NXT, completely flamed out after he was named in Speaking Out and is now out of the company altogether.  COVID breakouts at the PC essentially kept them out of participating in Survivor Series after they dominated it in 2019.  And the absence of these folks wasn’t fully matched by the names that came in their place.

The last few months have had some bright spots – Legado del Fantasma, Cameron Grimes and LA Knight, Hit Row, and the Index storyline – but beyond that a lot just has not hit.  The fallout from the Undisputed Era breakup has somewhat fizzled as Adam Cole has been in limbo pending his contract resolution and the other three members have kinda settled at the level we expected without him.  Karrion Kross second title reign has been underwhelming, as he has been lit up on the mic by all of the top contenders and the returning Samoa Joe.

And while I am still a complete anti-ratings zealot, the fact that moving to Tuesday night did not give them any real bump has to be troubling.  As somebody who has stuck with them I can tell you that the show itself still has some good weeks but there are others that feel like very little is happening.  The atmosphere has been panned as well; COVID took them out of Full Sail and first into an empty Performance Center and then to letting fans back in but the new setup still has not captured that old Full Sail energy.  Atmosphere alone is not the only thing.  As I mentioned earlier the roster, particularly the men’s side, just has not measured up in terms of buzz or excitement.  Even Cole feels past his sell by date to either move up to RAW or SmackDown or move on to AEW.

Which brings us to the original source of these cuts – the roster size.  As I’ve mentioned before they had 300 people under contract in 2020 before the first batch of releases began, which was entirely too many.  While the pandemic surely sped up the process a major bloodletting was eventually coming and here it is.  And while it sucks for people to lose their jobs under any circumstances a lot of these folks fall under the category of good wrestler and little else, particularly on the men’s side.  With NXT reportedly going younger expect more emphasis on people who have some kind of character or personality beyond just being good in the ring.  Which brings me to another realization:

The super-indie era in NXT is ending.

From 2014 through 2020 NXT was flooded with signees from Ring of Honor, Japan, and the indies.  With the exception of Cole the best ones have found their way to Raw or SmackDown.  But a lot of the ones who remain in NXT are largely guys who were pretty bland when it came to the kind of character work that has always been a staple in WWE.  Out of this batch of releases the only one that I can say had zero basis was Reed.  The rest are people who were nice to watch work and all but weren’t anyone I was dying to see on my television.  They had no future on Raw or SmackDown and they weren’t exactly drawing a crowd in NXT.  The future is going to be guys like the Parker Bordeaux or Odyssey Jones and not more Kyle O’Reillys.

Despite all these releases they still are bringing in more people.  They’re holding a tryout SummerSlam weekend and I imagine whoever makes it from there is more likely to be a young athlete who’s never wrestled than an indie veteran.  They’re already heavily courting Olympic Gold medalists Gable Stevenson and Tamyra Mensah-Stock.  That’s the wave now, everybody.  Indie veterans looking to get signed are going to have to take their prospects over to AEW, with the exception of those who have shown that they have some personality and/or some character.  Think Franky Monet and LA Knight.  The days of bringing in guys like Fish or Roddy Strong or Chris Hero are likely finished.

And I know this is tough to take as a fan seeing all of these people let go in such callous fashion. It’s a tough break for all of those who were let go, but something had to give.  They should all find work, and some will get signed by some of the other companies out there.  Now let’s be honest, nobody outside of Bobby Fish’s family and his friends are crying over his release.  But some of the names are troubling for all of us; Reed was a personal favorite of mine and I am legit worried for some other favorites of mine on Raw and SmackDown, at all levels of the roster.  It really does feel like no one is safe now.  But there is absolutely a plan here – one that is going to be uncomfortable to us to watch unfold, but one that if it works will put them in a much better place for the future.  And that plan is centered around the last letter in WWE, the E for Entertainment.

 


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Opinion

King: Top 5 Championship Matches in WWE Royal Rumble History

Chris King looks at the best championship matches that have taken place at a WWE Royal Rumble event!

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2020 WWE Royal Rumble

Chris King looks at the best championship matches that have taken place at a WWE Royal Rumble event!

I have gone back in time to reflect over Royal Rumble’s over the last decade. From 2012 to 2022 the WWE Universe bared witness to some amazing matches including AJ Styles defending his WWE Championship against Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, The Rock defeating CM Punk and ending his historic championship reign, and even the ‘Beast Incarnate’ Brock Lesnar successfully defending his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena & Mr. Money in the Bank Seth Rollins in a classic triple-threat match.

Here are the top five championship matches at the Royal Rumble over the last decade.

Honorable mentions:

  • Brock Lesnar VS. Finn Balor (Universal Championship): Royal Rumble 2019
  • Brock Lesnar VS. Kane VS. Braun Strowman (Universal Championship): Royal Rumble 2017
  • Randy Orton VS. John Cena WWE World Heavyweight Championship (Royal Rumble 2014)
  • Daniel Bryan VS. AJ Styles (WWE Championship): Royal Rumble 2019

Top 5 Royal Rumble Championship Matches 

5. Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns (Universal Championship): Royal Rumble 2017

In August of 2016, the WWE Universe was shocked when Triple H turned on his former protege Seth Rollins and essentially handed the Universal Championship to Kevin Owens in a crazy fatal-four-way match. Over the next few months, Owens and Chris Jericho would become best friends and true enemies of Rollins and former Shield-mate Roman Reigns. After Reigns was screwed out of the title at Roadblock they would deliver a Shield bomb through the announce table to Owens.

Reigns and Owens would battle again at the Royal Rumble this time, Jericho would be locked inside of a shark cage to prevent interference. Both superstars delivered an impressive performance and threw out everything to defeat one another. Reigns was minutes away from winning the Universal Championship until Braun Strowman obliterated him, which allowed Owens the conniving champion to keep his title.

4. CM Punk vs. The Rock (WWE Championship): Royal Rumble 2013

The self-proclaimed ‘Best in the World’ CM Punk was on a complete tear going through the roster successfully holding the title for a historic 434 days. At Raw 1000, The Rock came back and challenged whoever was the champion at the time to a WWE Championship match at Royal Rumble. Later in the night, Punk would turn heel attacking ‘The People’s Champion’ and aligning himself with Paul Heyman shortly afterwards.

The Shield would work as mercenaries for Punk to retain his title since the 2012 Survivor Series where they debuted. Vince McMahon informed Punk that if The Shield got involved in the championship match he would be stripped of the title. After twenty minutes of back and forth action between champion and challenger, the lights went out and The Shield interfered yet again. McMahon came out to strip Punk of his championship but, The Rock had other plans and the match was restarted. The People’s Champion would deliver the People’s Elbow to end the historic reign of Punk.

3.  Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins (Universal Championship): Royal Rumble 2022

‘The Head of the Table’ Roman Reigns had conquered all of his challengers on Friday Night SmackDown, so a handpicked wild card was chosen from Monday Night Raw to challenge for the Universal Championship. Enter Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins. The two former Shield-mates had faced each other in the past but, this time felt different. Reigns was the arrogant and cocky heel while Rollins portrayed more of a tweener character. Rollins mocked the champion’s historic title reign and infuriated Reigns the go-home episode of SmackDown.

The Universal Championship match was the first match to open the show to a white-hot crowd. Reigns made his long grand entrance waiting for his challenger until a familiar theme erupted throughout the WWE Universe. Rollins not only mocked The Shield’s old entrance through the crowd but, was also decked in full Shield attire which pissed off the champion.

I feel like it’s impossible for these two superstars to have a bad match. They have incredible chemistry whether as partners or rivals. Reigns locked in his challenger with the Guillotine Choke but Rollins made it to the ropes. The Tribal Chief was relentless and would not break the hold so Rollins won by disqualification.

2. AJ Styles vs. John Cena (WWE Championship): Royal Rumble 2017

Let me start of by saying this was a very difficult choice to make because I went back and forth on making this number one. ‘The Phenomenal’ AJ Styles shocked the world in 2016 not only for turning heel on John Cena but, beating him at Money in the Bank via shenanigans and SummerSlam completely clean in the middle of the ring. Styles went on to have an incredible run as WWE Champion over on SmackDown Live.

Cena went off and did his own thing after a devastating loss to his rival but, came back returned in time to challenge for the title to not only become a sixteen-time champion but to tie the illustrious record held by Ric Flair. Both superstars used every maneuver in their arsenal to win the match, but it came down to the final sequence to understand where Cena’s passion lies. Mr. Never Give Up hit the Attitude Adjustment and deadlifted Styles to deliver another thunderous AA to become the sixteen-time WWE Champion. What a freaking match!

1. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena (WWE World Heavyweight Championship): Royal Rumble 2015

Even though the match before was tieing the legendary Ric Flair’s championship record, I still can say with full confidence that this triple threat match is one of the best matches in Royal Rumble history. Brock Lesnar had an impressive 2014 starting off with ending The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, and then obliterating John Cena at SummerSlam to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

At Night of Champions Cena was minutes away from winning the title and defeating ‘The Beast Incarnate’ until the arrogant Mr. Money in the Bank Seth Rollins caused a disqualification. Leading up to the Royal Rumble, Cena and Rollins would face off in a tables match at the TLC pay-per-view, while Lesnar vanished. A huge triple threat match was set for the 2015 Royal Rumble pitting all three superstars against each other. Rollins who was still holding the briefcase bragged about if he didn’t win the title with Plan A, he would just cash-in and become the champion with Plan B.

From the moment the bell rang, the action began between Cena and Lesnar. Rollins played the manipulative cocky heel picking his moments to strike. Rollins and Cena took out The Beast on the outside to make it one-on-one. Lesnar was stretchered out of the match but miraculously came back and displayed his freakish strength taking anyone who moved to Suplex City. Rollins hit the champion twice with his briefcase and set up for the Curb Stomp. Lesnar bounced up and delivered a thunderous F5 to retain in a fantastic match.

I love this match so much because it was the first time that I believed Lesnar can deliver a great match and good story when he wants to. We’ve experienced this in his matches against AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, and even Finn Balor. The Beast is a very smart performer and knows how to sell for his opponents to make them look like a megastar.

There you have it, those are my top five championship matches at Royal Rumble. Let me know what you think!


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Opinion

Greg DeMarco’s Top 5: WWE WrestleMania 39 Opponents For Roman Reigns Not Named The Rock

The Road to The Royal Rumble is here, which means we will soon have an opponent for The Tribal Chief! Greg DeMarco explores potential candidates…

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Roman Reigns Seth Rollins WWE WrestleMania 39

The Road to The Royal Rumble is here, which means we will soon have an opponent for The Tribal Chief! Greg DeMarco explores potential candidates…

Daddy’s back with something for you that is meant to be fun–and a distraction from the news surrounding Vince McMahon’s (likely terrible) return to WWE. Being a fan is meant to be fun, and one of the most fun things we get to do is look ahead to WrestleMania.

The main question, for this article at least, is who will be Roman Reigns’ opponent at The Granddaddy Of ‘Em All? Now everyone wants it to be The Rock, so we will explore the alternatives to that match.

In order to do that, I am making the following assumptions, even if some might not be true in the end:

  • Roman Reigns only wrestles one match, the final match on Night 2.
  • Roman Reigns is defending both the WWE and the Universal Championships in that match.
  • Roman Reigns–and this is just purely me–is not losing.

Honorable Mentions

I did have a few ideas who simply didn’t make the list. Check ’em out:

  • Drew McIntyre – Simply put: Why? Why would we put Drew McIntyre against Roman Reigns in a football stadium when we just saw him against Reigns in a football futbol stadium last fall?
  • Kevin Owens – Similarly, why would we do this right after we do it at the Royal Rumble?
  • Karrion Kross – Ok, now I’m just trolling you. He ain’t the guy, brother–not with this gimmick.
  • Ricochet – Personally, as an underdog babyface against Roman Reigns, I love Ricochet winning the Royal Rumble and challenging The Tribal Chief. But we have a better underdog on the list already.

With that all out of the way, it’s time to have some fun. I give you…

My Top 5 WWE WrestleMania 39 Opponents For Roman Reigns Not Named The Rock

5. Sami Zayn

The bloom is off the rose for Sami Zayn, at least in the eyes of The Tribal Chief. The eventual turn is one of the most telegraphed things in recent memory, and in this instance that is perfectly fine. Sami Zayn is insanely over, and him fighting the uphill battle with The Bloodline would get him Daniel-Bryan-Danielson-at-WrestleMania-30 levels of heat along the way.

People love Sami Zayn. His awkward charm and seemingly unlimited charisma won over the audience so well that his storyline with The Bloodline had to get extended multiple times over. However, it’s obviously coming to an end.

The obvious match is Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn against The Usos, but you could also slot Kevin against Solo Sikoa if Sami were to indeed get the nod.

4. Bron Breakker

You probably think I’m crazy, and I totally get it. Bron Breakker comes from NXT and goes right to the WrestleMania main event?

If you want to create a new star in Bron Breakker, this is how you do it. (At least, it’s one way you can do it.) Look at Roman Reigns himself–part of the story of his WrestleMania 31 challenge of Brock Lesnar was that he was growing into the role. JBL told the story on commentary, and the match was all about Roman ascending to the level of Brock.

Of course it was all the perfect set-up for Seth Rollins to give us the greatest Money In The Bank cash-in in WWE history, but in the process Roman proved that he belongs.

So make this year’s Royal Rumble the ultimate opportunity–the most shocking winner since Rey Mysterio, the NXT Champion Bron Breakker.

3. Seth (Freakin’) Rollins

Seth Rollins seems to be in a never ending program with Austin Theory, and it’s time to move on. Seth is an automatic main eventer in WWE at this point. He’s a made man, probably the next biggest star (on the men’s side) in WWE after Roman Reigns.

And he also has a very specific distinction that no one else has: a singles victory over Roman Reigns since he made his huge return in 2020. Yes, it was by disqualification, but he has proven his abilities to get inside the head of the Tribal Chief.

And Seth Rollins is going to have a match at WrestleMania, and 50,000+ in Sofi Stadium are going to be singing his song. Might as well be in the match that closes WrestleMania Night 2.

2. Sheamus

This is purely a match on my playlist–but this is MY list. And to me, Sheamus makes perfect sense.

In fact, I thought the feud between The Bloodline and The Brawling Brutes would lead to Sheamus challenging Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. And had Sami Zayn’s involvement in The Bloodline not taken off the way it did, we still may have.

Sheamus is more popular now than ever, and at 44 years of age he is doing some of his best work. Sheamus winning his second Royal Rumble and challenging Roman Reigns would be the Lifetime Achievement Award he deserves.

But it’s more than that! The match? It would deliver in a big way. History? There’s plenty between Sheamus and Roman, going back to when Sheamus cashed in Money In The Bank on Reigns, and when Reigns eventually beat The Celtic Warrior to win one of his world championships. The fans? They would be solidly behind Sheamus, and would go nuts for every near fall. Don’t sleep on Sheamus as your WrestleMania 39 main event opponent for Roman Reigns.

1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Full credit for this idea belongs to PC Tunney and Dave Ungar, as shared in the Chairshot Radio Twitter DM thread. And it’s steal-worthy indeed.

Three major legendary names are rumored for WrestleMania 39: The Rock, John Cena, and Steve Austin. All three make sense for a multitude of reasons. But The Rock will be launching a football league (which might be a reason to do this–the publicity), and is still in insane demand in Hollywood. Cena seems to be free at the present time, and we’ve seen the videos of Austin working out.

Remember, I am assuming Roman Reigns is going to win. If that’s the case, then this WrestleMania is but another moment in Reigns’ legacy. Why not add Steve Austin to his list of victories?

It would sell. ✅
The fans would buy it. ✅
Austin proved he can go. ✅

This type of match is what WrestleMania is all about. If it’s not The Rock, it should be “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

And there you have it, my list of–

Wait a minute Greg, what about Cody Rhodes?!?!

Man, I thought I could slip this one past the goalie!

Cody Rhodes is a great question. But you have to look at my assumptions above. I am assuming Roman only wrestles one match, defends both championships, and–most importantly–doesn’t lose. Given those assumptions, you want Cody Rhodes as far away from this match as possible.

If we do split the titles, then Cody needs to be the guy to walk away with the WWE Championship. He does that either over Seth Rollins, or in a triple threat on Night 1 against Reigns and Rollins–but Rollins still eats the fall.

But under my conditions, losing at WrestleMania doesn’t do anything for Cody.


What do you think? Let me know on social media!

Hit me up:

Until next time, remember: enjoying wrestling is a choice…make the right choice!


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