WWE Extreme Rules 2015 Preview & Predictions: What’s Going To Happen?

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This year’s Extreme Rules feels like a special edition of Monday Night RAW. That is not good.

While no one should ever just roll over and shrug their shoulders, it’s a position we were always going to find ourselves in. With the death of PPV and the rise of the WWE Network, there’s no longer a need to make each main event, for lack of a better term, feel special. Yes, to keep viewers subscribed there needs to be an intriguing hook, but the Network as a whole can take that brunt. It no longer lives or dies based on what happens at the end of the month.

On top of all this, Extreme Rules is suffering from the usual post-Mania slump. For one reason or another, those at WWE are incapable of being creative as soon as ‘The Mains’ draws to close, instead decided to book by the numbers shows until the summer starts to draw close. It’s why Seth Rollins and Randy Orton are appearing multiple times when in reality, there’s no need.

So, what can we expect from the one night in the year when WWE goes extreme? This… maybe:

Tyson Kidd and Cesaro (c) vs The New Day – Tag Team Championship Match

20150420_THUMB_ER_Match_HP_TagMatch_Kickoff.0.0The New Day sucks. And not just because that’s the chant which has now become associated with them. Stop reading this for a second and take a minute to think about The New Day. Who are they? What do they stand for? What’s their point? Almost no work has been done to establish any identity, other than the fact Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods and Big E have been thrown together and given a stupid name.

Flip this coin, and Tyson Kidd and Cesaro are doing the exact opposite. They may have been partnered because neither had much to do as a singles wrestler, but they’ve developed a personality as a team. Fact.

As long as WWE allows them to continue to run with it, they have a decent chance of actually rejuvenating the tag team division. Unless these bouts keep getting dumped on the pre-show…

Winner: Kidd and Cesaro

Nikki Bella vs Naomi – Divas Championship Match

NaominikkiNaomi’s heel turn is the most GCSE booking of all-time. Even if Booker T does think she’s, potentially, the greatest Diva in history.

Given how good women’s wrestling is in NXT, WWE needs to bite the bullet and bring some of this roster up as soon as possible. I’m not sure if I can take ‘You can look, but you can’t touch’ for much longer.

Winner: Nikki Bella

Dean Ambrose vs Luke Harper – Chicago Street Fight

20150420_EP_ExtremeRulesAmbrose_HOMEPAGEIt’s hard to imagine Dean Ambrose sinking any lower than he currently is. At the end of 2014 he was, arguably, one of the most popular, and over, characters in the company, and even a quick scrawl of any pro-wrestling focused forum today shows this is still very much the case.

And yet he’s treated as an affable mid-carder and nothing more.

This was summed up yet again when WWE decided it was fine to let Harper and Ambrose beat each other up on RAW before Extreme Rules. ‘No one is excited about these two scrapping. It’s just filler. So, therefore, let’s just put it on TV now as we can’t be bothered to inject any creativity into it.’

Luke Harper seems to be suffering from a similar fate, so ultimately the outcome of this could go either way. But let’s plump for the man who has the bigger upside.

Winner: Dean Ambrose

Roman Reigns vs The Big Show – Last Man Standing Match

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Winner: Roman Reigns

Dolph Ziggler vs Sheamus – ‘Kiss Me Arse’ Match

Ziggler-Sheamus-ER-660x400Never forget that Sheamus is Irish. WWE forbids it. Hence why we have to be subjected to the first ever ‘Kiss Me Arse’ match.

Forget that the usual ‘Kiss My Ass’ stipulation is ridiculous enough. Now we have to endure it with a xenophobic twist. Excellent.

The real shame is that the fight itself will be pretty good. Ziggler will, once again, bump as if his life depended on it, and Sheamus’ stiff style is entertaining to watch. I wouldn’t mind if he decided to Jerry Lawler it up again and commentate while on the offensive.

The problem comes in the fact that unless WWE finds a way out of it – which negates the idea of the PPV entirely –  this ends with Dolph pecking Sheamus’ buttocks.

That doesn’t help anybody…

Winner: Sheamus

Daniel Bryan (c) vs Bad News Barrett – Intercontinental Championship Match

20150402_LIGHT_ER_Match_DBBnB_HP.0.0The fear is back. After Daniel Bryan was pulled from the WWE’s European tour with little to no reason as to why – other than a secret injury – the same question has been asked over and over again: Is Bryan in more trouble than we currently know?

The man did come back far too early from his neck issues, or so it would seem, and given how he’s been used since then, it’s a mystery as to why he was wasn’t just told to sit at home during Mania season. The extra few months would have given him some needed down time, and his reappearance would’ve ignited the current stale product.

My dreams still hope that Bryan is healthy, has a long IC Title run before going head-to-head with John Cena at SummerSlam in a unification match, but first and foremost he needs to be fit.

If he is, losing the strap this soon after Mania does nothing for nobody.

Winner: Daniel Bryan

John Cena (c) vs Rusev – Russian Chain Match for the United States Championship

wweWWE is a funny old world. Six months ago I would have been happy for John Cena to be taken off TV entirely until I wasn’t sick of seeing him. Now, his segments are some of the best on television.

Using his star power to make the US Championship feel credible again, the ‘open challenge’ gimmick is creating interesting and new matches each and every week. Barrett, Stardust, Ambrose… Even Kane’s failed attempt was watchable, mainly because the commentators remembered what their damned job was: to get Superstars over. Kane may be a shell of his former self, but at least ‘Maggle’ Cole and friends treated it as if it was a big deal.

The worry with Rusev is suffering another loss to Cena. At this juncture taking the belt off Johnny boy is a bad move, but the Russian being defeated again is no better either. It’s probably why the Russian Chain Match stip has been added in: no one actually needs to be pinned.

Given that ‘Cena Wins (Lol)’, Cena will win, but WWE needs to do everything possible to ensure Rusev leaves looking strong.

Winner: John Cena

Seth Rollins (c) vs Randy Orton – No RKO, Steel Cage match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

20150402_LIGHT_ER_Match_HP_RollinsOrtonI like Seth Rollins. I really do, and he has all the tools needed to be a great champ for years to come. But this match doesn’t interest me in the slightest, mainly because of how dull I find Randy Orton.

These two had a great tussle at WrestleMania 31 with a fantastic finish, but the build from then to now hasn’t made me want to see the two tangle again. It doesn’t help I have no belief whatsoever that ‘The Viper’ has any chance of winning.

A short-lived Rollins title run ruins all the hard work the company did in 2014, and not one seed of doubt has been created over the last few weeks to make me think otherwise. Orton doesn’t like to lose clean, though, so expect a DQ finish when he uses the RKO.

That’s right. A disqualification. In a steel cage match.

Wrestling…

Winner: Seth Rollins

Want to hear all the fallout from Extreme Rules and the following RAW? Listen to the new Be-Mpowered Podcast, Wednesday 29th April:

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YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/c/simonmiller316

 

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WrestleMania 31: Review and Fallout

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WrestleMania 31 was excellent. Considering the build had been questionable at best, the fact WWE produced what they did is a credit to everyone involved. From the pre-show to the main event, it summed up wonderfully what Vince McMahon has and is so keen to focus on when it comes to modern day pro-wrestling: it was ‘entertainment’.

The highlight of the night was easily Seth Rollins stealing the championship from Brock Lesnar, a move that showed when necessary, WWE can still conclude a show that leaves everyone in their rightful, and needed, position. ‘The Beast’ remains an incredibly dominant and seemingly unstoppable powerhouse, Reigns showed signs of that spark we’ve all been looking for (although I’m still not certain he’s the right man to ‘carry’ the company), and Rollins finally had his moment to shine. Each man has come out the other side stronger than when they went in, and such booking has set up a number of intriguing matches post-Mania. This isn’t the hard reset that has happened so many times in the past.

It was executed so well, it doesn’t even matter that it’s Randy Orton getting the first shot at Seth’s title. A forgotten element in 2015, any match has the potential to be interesting so long as the audience can make sense of it. ‘The Viper’ RKO’d the new champ to hell in ‘the spot of the show’ at Mania, justifying his right to contend for the belt. Hell, as Orton himself alluded to, he never received his rematch after losing the strap a year ago. It’s just more story that’s simple to buy into.

20150329_LARGE_WM31_POST_HQ_BrockRomanMore importantly than all of this, however, is the magnificent use of Brock Lesnar. The former UFC fighter has become so legitimate – even in the world of fake sports – that I’d be more than happy to never see him lose again. His matches feel real, and even though I know deep down they’re not, I’m constantly happy to suspend my disbelief and pretend maybe… just maybe… Lesnar has gone off script.

At no point was this sensation more apparent than when the man went ballistic on RAW, almost killing the entire commentary team in the process (and what better way to make someone a babyface than having them do that?). Brock is so easy to get behind because all his actions make so much sense: he fought in the Octagon, therefore his matches in WWE have that believability factor to them, a concept that’s constantly backed up. He never lost the championship, and had the rug pulled out from under him on RAW… so what does he do? The only thing he knows how to. He destroys.

The main purpose here was to get him off television until he returns, probably around SummerSlam. While I understand the criticism that him vanishing for so long is problematic for the WWE, there’s far more positives than negatives, the greatest of which is that I don’t want him to go. Leaving your fans wanting more is never going to hurt someone’s aura or mystique. If Brock stays around, how long would it be before his ‘monster’ routine started to wear a little thin? I don’t doubt it would still be fun to watch, but deliberately taking it away from me when I’m enjoying it the most just means I’ll enjoy it all the more three months down the line. Brock Lesnar remains special.

March 29th was also the day we can hopefully look back on and say ‘That was when the secondary titles started to matter again’. Anyone of a certain age will remember that when wrestling was the most popular entity on the planet, one of its biggest draws was the happenings on the undercard. You may have had your familiar superstars on top, but the likes of HHH and The Rock fighting over the IC belt, or Austin reigning supreme with it served as a fantastic way to get the audience ready for a new main eventer.

20150329_LARGE_WM31_POST_HQ_cenarusev2It will take an incredible amount of work on WWE’s behalf to return to such an era, but putting these championships in the hands of Daniel Bryan and John Cena is half the battle already done. Even after all the ups and downs the vast majority of fans are still very much behind and invested in DBry. With that in mind, these individuals automatically start caring about the Intercontinental Title because it’s in his possession.

If he goes on to have memorable feuds and matches that revolve others wanting the belt – and not some ridiculous hot potato narrative that does nothing but make a mockery of the whole thing – then before long you’re back to where you need to be. And let’s face it: nine times out of ten, ain’t no one putting on a better performance than Bryan.

Cena’s positioning could follow the same route. Whether you like it or not the man is still the face of WWE; by proxy anything he does matters just that little bit more, including having the US Title. So far – and let’s be honest, it’s still very early days – everything is in place to give it a level of long forgotten importance, and his ‘open challenge’ – which will ultimately respark his Rusev feud one would imagine – is a solid direction to head in. Yes, the patriotic subtext takes away from it slightly, but even with their personal issues these two still want the US Title. I vividly remember the US Title being ignored entirely even though it was around someone’s waist.

31 wasn’t all highlights, however, the biggest disappointments coming in the two encounters I thought had been built up the best. We’ll start with HHH/Sting.

Just so we know where everyone’s head is at, there was a time when I was ‘The Game’s’ biggest supporter. His meandering promos and occasional ‘I wanna work like Harley Race because I’m like Harley Race and I love the business’ matches didn’t massively appeal to me, but as the kickass heel, I was a fan. He was also the reason I started to lift weights. I’ve no shame in admitting he was an inspiration to me.

But for the fictional COO to go over Sting in his debut match? I cannot see the logic. Whether he fought for WCW, NWA, ECW, GWF, WWWF, LPW, UYW or QMW, Sting is a professional-wrestling legend. Even if you didn’t follow his World Championship Wrestling or TNA run there’s still a very good chance you know who he is. His longevity and catalogue of classic feuds are there for all to see.

More so than this, people wanted to see ‘The Vigilante’ on the grandest stage of them all. The sight itself would’ve been more than enough, but the fact the 56-year old managed to have the match he did is just more leg for his legacy.

So why did he lose? Who, other than Vinnie Mac and Trips, wanted to see Steve Borden’s shoulders pinned to the mat for the 1… 2… 3….? The argument for this has been twofold.

First of, Sting winning would serve as a representation that WCW was the better and superior ‘brand’. Nonsense. Absolute nonsense. There’s an easy way to end that debate: WCW is dead. 14 years ago ‘Vince bought his competition’, meaning even if Goldberg, Sting, Alex Wright, The Disco Inferno and Buff ‘My Mum Was Once On A Forklift’ Bagwell bust down the door and kicked everybody’s ass, WWE still emerges victorious. Only one person is pulling all the strings.

stingtripleh1Secondly, the assumption that HHH needed his ‘heat’ to ensure the altercation with The Rock later that evening felt important is ridiculous, too. If we are to see these two go at it at 32, it doesn’t matter what their W/L records are. I can’t imagine anyone saying ‘Well, HHH lost to Sting, therefore The Rock’s gonna pummel him’. Even if they did, in that universe you can just fire back with ‘The Rock lost to John Cena, though.’ It’s all ludicrous.

That face-to-face sells itself because of the nostalgia it echoes and the memories it triggers. It doesn’t need any bells and whistles attached to it because it’s a marquee bout. The names bring people in, not because one of them has momemtum. Besides, it’s likely HHH won’t wrestle again till next year’s event. By then, if the company wanted to, they can erase this result from whatever narrative they wanted to present anyway.

The ‘feel good’ conclusion – which is what the Mac Man is fond of, or so we’re told – would’ve seen the long-awaited Sting with his hand raised. Instead, ‘The King of Kings’ wins again in an overbooked mess (but yes… I did pop for both DX and the nWo)…

Using the power of hypocrisy for one moment, we turn our attentions to Bray Wyatt and The Undertaker. I’ve seen a lot of coverage over the last week that insinuates the most important aspect to take away from this is Wyatt even having a spot against The Deadman. And yeah, I can understand that way of thinking. The wannabe new ‘face of fear’ featured in the semi-main event of WrestleMania. But then he got his ass beat.

Out of context this wouldn’t have been a problem, but unless Husky Harris faces off against Dean Ambrose, the man never comes out victorious. He lost to Cena 12 months ago. He lost to The Undertaker seven days ago. Why should I buy into a word he says or a promo he gives, because when push comes to shove, he never backs it up.

20150329_LARGE_WM31_POST_WyattTaker_PhotoWins and losses, theoretically, are irrelevant in this make-believe world, but if that’s the case, why does it matter that The Undertaker lost again? Why did he have to win? I already know The Phenom is special. He has a history that few can match. Bray Wyatt? From a fictional standpoint he comes off as a bit of a damp squib. Going toe-to-toe with The Deadman – and even kicking out of the Tombstone – doesn’t showcase him as someone who should be considered a threat. He’s all talk.

As for the rest of the card, well, it was excellent, the only real disappointment coming with Rusev suffering his first defeat (and HHH’s Terminator costume… that I apparently made for him… five minutes before he was due to walk the aisle). Given that the US Title may come out of it stronger, however, and I’m okay with it. Furthermore, the Russian’s first loss falling to Cena is ultimately better than suffering a shock defeat to, say, Jack Swagger. In that scenario, Michael Cole and the terrible twosome mention it every time the ‘All-American American’ comes to the ring. This way, it gets brushed under the carpet relatively quickly.

This did what WrestleMania should always do, mind: create talking points that you’re desperate to share with others. Be it Ronda Rousey getting in Steph’s face, Rollins cashing in his MITB, the lesser titles receiving a push or The Undertaker returning, you’d have to be slightly cold inside to think this show sucked.

It’s fair to say that if you’re fed garbage for months any solid meal is going to taste mighty nice, but even if that’s the case, it’s a step in the right direction.

The same can be said for RAW the following night. A slightly lackluster finish, yes, but there’s plenty of intrigue to take away from it. The fallout of Brock’s rage, how Reigns ties in to the Rollins/Orton feud, the arrival of Neville and Kalisto from NXT, Bryan and Ziggler tearing it up, Sheamus’ return as an Irish hobo, Cena’s open challenge, Mizdow’s attempts to remain over, Rusev’s rebuilding and Ambrose’s continuous journey to the land of obscurity.

Okay… maybe it’s not all good…

 

 

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WrestleMania 31: Predictions, thoughts and ‘Miller’s Musings’…

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WARNING: THE FOLLOWING BLOG IS WAY TOO LONG. BUT IT’S WRESTLEMANIA…

WrestleMania 31 is this Sunday. While there’s been a lot of chatter that the build hasn’t been good… at all… and that it’s shaping up to be one of *those* shows, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited simply because it is WrestleMania. That’s one push Vince and co. have got right over the last few years: the event itself has become the major draw.

Furthermore, it’s incredibly intriguing as to who will walk away with an extra tick in their ‘win’ column. With many matches there’s a very strong argument for both competitors.

But what can we expect from this Sunday? Only a few know for sure, but here’s my two cents:

Kick-off Show ‘Fatal Four Way’ Tag Team Match – Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (c) vs The Usos vs The New Day vs Los Matadores

WWE’s has done a great job ensuring no one cares about this, but given the teams involved it’s unfair to ignore it entirely. Taking the bigger picture into account, it’s about time these titles were brought back to a certain prominence, even though that’s unlikely to ever happen.

Ultimately, the best result here is for Tyson Kidd and Cesaro to come out on top and try and make something of their title run. The Usos are entertaining enough to watch, but lack the personality to actually turn the division around. Kidd and Cesaro have the integrity where a long reign could light a much needed fire.

So, with all that in mind:

Predicted Winner: Tyson Kidd/Cesaro (Confidence Of Success rating: 5/5)

Divas Tag Team Match – The Bella Twins vs Paige/AJ Lee

While the build hasn’t been anything to write home about, at least some seeds of interest were planted on RAW this past Monday when AJ Lee ‘accidentally’ elbowed her partner Paige in the face.

Admittedly this match was also responsible for portraying Nikki Bella as some sort of shooter, but at least there’s some story here. Even if it’s still treated by WWE as if they couldn’t care less.

A break-up between Paige and AJ Lee – which then leads to a feud between the two post-Mania – is probably a likely outcome. That way the #GiveDivasAChance movement has two workers who can try to repair the damage done where the Divas are concerned.

Then The Bella Twins can continue to do whatever it is that they do…

Predicted Winner: The Bella Twins (Confidence Of Success rating: 3/5)

Seth Rollins vs Randy Orton

Randy Orton’s returns is all the evidence you need as to why five-hours of WWE programming each week is a huge problem. ‘The Viper’ had a tremendous amount of momentum when he returned at last month’s Fast Lane, only for WWE to suck it all away by inserting him into a storyline for storyline’s sake.

The crowd were happy to see him back. The crowd were happy for him to exact revenge on Rollins and his goons week-after-week. But screw that. Let’s have him pretend to like The Authority before arriving at the exact spot we already were.

Genius.

It killed Orton’s comeback, and soured what could’ve been an intense feud. Thankfully, there’s a huge upside to all of this as ‘The Man Who Hears Voices In His Head’ and Seth Rollins should have a great match. Both have proven in the past that they’re more than capable, and Rollins is, arguably, the best wrestler in the company right now.

While my head tells me Orton will come out on top, my heart leans towards Rollins to ensure he carries on building momentum. That also means when he cashes in ‘Money In The Bank’ it doesn’t have a huge asterix hanging over the top of it.

Predicted Winner: Seth Rollins ((Confidence Of Success rating: 2/5)

Andre The Giant Battle Royale: A lot of glorified jobbers people*

Let’s tell it like it is: Whereas last year’s Battle Royale felt somewhat special, 31’s feels like it’s just a way to get everyone on the card that WWE wants to have a spot. That’s not the sensation you want to try and create.

On top of this there are a few potential problems that could result from the fallout, the first being the NXT entrant (update: that man is Hideo Itami).

It’s not the best plan to introduce a new face to the main roster and then have them lose instantly, even if their shoulders aren’t pinned to the mat for a count of three. It makes them look weak.

I highly doubt WWE would put someone new in such a privileged position, though, so I’ll put my faith in what would be the most satisfying conclusion and elect Damian Mizdow as the chosen one. The crowd would pop huge for the long-awaited turn, and the win could keep Mizdow relevant once he eventually starts a new programme post-The Miz.

Now Sheamus will return and ruin it for everyone…

Predicted Winner: Damian Mizdow (Confidence Of Success rating: 3/5)

* I’ve literally just found out that this has been moved to the pre-show. I guess as Trips needs at least 55 minutes for his match. Because he’s… oooovvvveeeerrrr.

Bray Wyatt vs The Undertaker

It’s the match where no one can possibly win… or so you may think. If you had asked me a week or so ago my opinions on this bout, I would have said it doesn’t serve anybody in a positive way.

Bray Wyatt needs to win this. He lost to Cena at last year’s Mania, and aside from Dean Ambrose, the man seems incapable of winning. It’s all well and good cutting great promos – even if some don’t actually say anything – but it’s hard to stay relevant or feel like a contender if you have no success on ‘the grandest stage of them all’.

On the other side of the coin, The Undertaker, surely, can’t lose at back-to-back Manias. The defeat to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30 – which, for the record, I was a fan of – shocked everyone, and another defeat would do nothing but take the fabled ‘Streak’ and bury it entirely… or so I originally thought.

2016’s WrestleMania ‘Star Sign’ comes to you live from the AT&T Stadium in Texas. When that rolls around, WWE would like to fill it with over 85,000 people. That’s a tall order, but one major selling point would be an Undertaker retirement match. Born and bred in the state, a weekend that sees him inducted into the Hall of Fame and bow out of professional-wrestling would garner a lot of interest.

So, with that in mind, putting The Undertaker on a very different kind of streak – in this case one where he loses – creates an incredibly dramatic and compelling story that can culminate at 32: The Phenom eradicates his own demons and shakes off his successive losses by having his hand raised one last time. Not only is it a perfect send-off, but it also gives the man known as Mark Calloway a reason to come back one more time. He needs that win.

Will that happen, though? Probably not, and WWE will have a difficult time trying to get Bray Wyatt’s heat back.

Predicted Winner: The Undertaker (Confidence Of Success rating: 4/5)

Intercontinental Title Ladder Match: Daniel Bryan vs Dolph Ziggler vs Stardust vs Luke Harper vs Dean Ambrose vs R-Truth vs Bad News Barrett (c)

Daniel Bryan is in the ladder match for the Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania 31. It’s difficult to swallow given his triumphant, and heart-warming, victory a year prior, and one that has been debated online over, and over, and over, and over… and rightfully so. Why bring Bryan back before ‘The Showcase Of The Immortals’ if you’re not going to do anything with him?

Pushing all that aside, you can guarantee the match itself will be excellent. Every wrestler involved will ‘go to work’ – especially Dolph Ziggler, who will bump as if his life depends on it – and it’ll be a contest that will do its all to steal the show. You’ll also freak out every time Bryan takes a big fall. His neck…

Whatever happens, the fallout has to see the IC Championship sparked back to life. For years the title has been null and void, which becomes even more of a problem in an era where your World Champion doesn’t appear on every show (which I have no issue with). Make the ‘lesser’ straps matter, and all of a sudden you have a product with a serious amount of depth.

The thought of Bryan losing again is too much for me to bear, and for that reason alone I’ll put my prediction behind him.

Predicted Winner: Daniel Bryan (Confidence Of Success rating: 3/5)

United States Championship: John Cena vs Rusev (c)

Rusev can not lose this match. Unfortunately, Rusev will probably lose this match.

Brock Lesnar aside, I can’t remember the last time a ‘monster heel’ was booked as well as the fake Russian. Rusev’s undefeated streak actually means something. This was only heightened when he emerged the victor over John Cena at Fast Lane, and all that would hit a brick wall if on WWE’s biggest stage Superman comes up trumps. That’s all anyone would remember.

Forget the fact it doesn’t do anything for Cena: potential new face of the company Roman Reigns may need a fuelled up bad guy to feud with and Rusev fits that bill perfectly.

Going one step further, taking Cena off TV for a while is not the worst idea in the world. No fan can miss him if he never goes away, and given how stale a lot of people think he is, it could work out best for everyone involved.

The problem with all of this is that it relies on Dr. Thuganomics losing. And when the stakes are high, he never loses.

Dammit.

Predicted Winner: John Cena (Confidence Of Success rating: 5/5)

Sting vs HHH

Many matches have not been booked how people would’ve liked. I would argue this has.

Sting’s debut in the WWE has been met with nothing but admiration and respect, ensuring the gravitas of the situation has remained exactly where it needs to be. The sensation that a genuine legend is competing in the organisation for the first time is overpowering; there’s a very real sense this is the last bastion of WCW making the jump across, even if Sting himself would consider that “ridiculous”.

Standing across from him is HHH, a man who is more than inclined to say he’s ‘WWE through-and-through’… because he is. ‘The Game’ has risen from daft gimmick to future head of the company, and created a ‘brand’ we all care about: NXT. The two facing off with the undercurrent of WWE vs WCW makes perfect sense.

That’s enough nostalgia to allow anyone to buy into what’s being presented, and Sting having his first match at WrestleMania… that’s just the clichéd icing on the cake.

It seems destined to be ‘The Vigilante’ that goes over, simply because any other result makes little sense. Sting has few matches left in him, and losing on his debut takes away all of his mystique. HHH, on the other hand, will remain in the exact same position.

Admittedly there’s the argument such an ending could be seen as ‘WWE losing to WCW’, but that’s categorically not true. And stupid.

Predicted Winner: Sting (Confidence Of Success rating: 4/5)

WWE World Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs Roman Reigns

So here it is. Arguably one of the most controversial main events for some time, it seems obvious this is prepped to be the start of Roman Reigns’ first ever title run, but no one can say for sure.

The situation has changed exponentially now that Brock Lesnar has signed a new deal, mostly because if he hadn’t, there’s a greater argument for saying he was going to lose. That’s not a debate anymore, which increases the chances of ‘The Beast’ retaining.

The biggest concern is if the belt does indeed get put around the waist of Mr Reigns. The image of Roman standing tall over Lesnar after the Superman punch or a spear is just not that believable… at all.

It’s also not an image I’m particularly exciting about seeing. The Conquered defeated. A man I don’t really care about (although I’m confident I will in the future) standing on the ropes, soaking in a tepid reception, if not a chorus of boos.

A Seth Rollins cash-in would be a far more interesting way to finish proceedings, but if WWE is planning to pull the trigger on that anytime soon, it’s more than likely going to be on RAW the next night.

With all that said, being the asshole I am, there’s no way I’m writing that fools name in the sentence below.

Predicted Winner: Brock Lesnar (Confidence Of Success rating: 3/5)

 

Royal Rumble 2015 Review: Why The Royal Rumble Almost Made Me Quit WWE

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I’m not going to stop watching WWE TV. But after the Royal Rumble, I’ve never been so close as to, at the very least, taking a break.

Over the years we’ve all sat through a lot of gumpf on RAW, SmackDown and numerous main events. We’ve seen Triple H pretend to have a sex with a dead person; Mae Young give birth to a hand; The Big Bossman steal The Big Show’s dad’s dead body… In all these scenarios, though, WWE had one thing at the core of its ideals: it was trying to entertain.

Admittedly they failed miserably, but, as you would expect, once the failure was apparent the direction of events steered to pastures new. After all, when no one showed even the slightest interest in the fact Kane was a murderer, the narrative sharply deviated. They tried. The failed. They moved on.

Last night’s Royal Rumble did not treat us with the same respect.

The decision to, once again, ignore the love for one Daniel Bryan and continue to stick a rocket up Roman Reigns’ ass was a slap in the face to everyone who decided to tune in for the event. Not because WWE’s chosen boy won. But because it was so painfully obvious that Vince McMahon and friends were aware of the public perception of Reigns but decided to plough ahead with its choices regardless.

This was no more evident than how the leader of the ‘Yes Movement’ was eliminated. Hurled out of the match far earlier than anyone would’ve thought, WWE tried to take any heat off Reigns (if Bryan and the former Shield member had battled to the end, there was only one person the crowd was going to get behind), and ensure Bray Wyatt took the brunt of the elimination and continued his renewed push to being one of the organisation’s top heels.

Neither worked.

The Philadelphia faithful were well aware of what was about to transpire and proceeded to voice their disapproval to those situated behind the curtain. Much like in 2014, the WWE Universe had no interest in jumping on the ride the company’s brass had mapped out. They’d chosen their hero – Daniel Bryan – and weren’t ready to accept anyone else being shoved down their throat – Roman Reigns.

It’s a huge shame as up until this point the Royal Rumble was everything you could’ve hoped for from the card. The lower and mid-card bouts were booked for the venue and crowd in attendance, and the triple threat match for the World Heavyweight Championship is an early contender for one of the best we’ll see this year.

Excellently executed, thrilling and suspenseful, it was one of those encounters that has you guessing till the very end. The fact that Brock Lesnar proved once again he’s, arguably, the best ‘big man’ of all-time and that Seth Rollins booked himself as main event player for years to come was just more icing on the clichéd cake.

The first half of the Rumble carried on this momentum, too. The Miz and R-Truth starting proceedings may’ve been a little underwhelming, but the following run of entrants justified it somewhat, Bubba Ray and DDP proving to be hits all around.

But then Bray Wyatt sent Daniel Bryan hurtling to the floor with numerous faces still to walk the aisle, leaving us all with a sinking feeling that the rest of the match was nothing more than a courtesy. The result was obvious.

While it’s a fair point that the crowd last night was ‘smart’ (it’s unlikely Reigns will receive such a bad reaction elsewhere), you have to be doing something incredibly wrong to cause The Rock – a genuine WWE legend and A-List movie star – to also get jeered out of the arena. The run-in itself made absolutely no sense – our new ‘hero’ can’t fight for himself? – and could’ve done far more damage with The People’s Champ than we currently know.

If nothing else, it’s already done serious damage to the WWE Network…

There’s certainly nothing wrong with WWE trying to elevate a new star, and some respect is deserved given their unwavering belief in Reigns. The problem is, this unrelenting crowning of its ‘new face’ is soon turning into stubbornness. If no one is accepting it on the level that was planned, there’s nothing wrong with actually listening to the fans and following the trend.

Alas, it seems like the future is all but written. And it’s a future no one wants.

Now let’s all cheer ourselves up by looking at pro-wrestlers… as drawn in Microsoft Paint:

3 Most Likely Royal Rumble 2015 Winners

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Despite it being one of the most loved WWE events year in, year out, the Royal Rumble has often delivered obvious winners. The last five years have seen Batista, John Cena, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and Edge walk away with their hand held high, all Superstars who had received quite the rub long before these subsequent victories. It’s a non-occurence that the likes of Fandango survive being thrown over the top rope.

With this year’s Royal Rumble just days away, then, who has a genuine chance of securing a World Title shot at this year’s WrestleMania? Here are the three names most likely…

3 – Sting

Sting

Sting hasn’t been seen since the Survivor Series last November… is what I was planning to write until the man himself turned up on RAW. Damn you Sting. Damn you…

But, given what happened at the PPV’s conclusion and how he interfered just this past week, you’d be well within your rights to assume his debut match in the organisation will be against HHH. In fact, it undoubtedly will be. How they get to that match, however, is still very much up in the air.

Sting has already been slotted into the build-up for WrestleMania thanks to his most recent actions, and each of his arrivals have sparked more animosity between the WCW legend and ‘The Game’. The flame has been reignited as  the ‘Vigilante’ put another spanner in The Authority’s plans.

Given their current playbook, it stands to reason that Stephanie McMahon and her blushing husband will try and influence the outcome of The Royal Rumble. If Seth Rollins can’t outdo John Cena and Brock Lesnar, there’s nothing to say he won’t try and make amends by injecting himself into the Royal Rumble.

Scrapping to the end of the match – with some help along the way – WWE gives us a ‘where were you?’ moment for the ages as Rollins, once again, is thwarted by Sting, in at number 30, who ejects Mr Money In The Bank and The Authority at large.

It would be a new accomplishment for Sting who has little else to achieve in wrestling, inserts the man into an angle that ends with him sacrificing his title shot for a match with HHH, and ensures a huge reaction as the live crowd experiences not only a genuine shock entrant, but a bonafide icon to boot.

2 – Roman Reigns

ReignsWWE’s wannabe poster boy has had a hard time as of late. While Roman Reigns certainly has all the tools to become a main event player, you’d be hard pushed to find anyone – that isn’t in the McMahon circle – who thinks he’s ready to have the trigger pulled. Inconsistent promos; an over-emphasis on ‘signature’ moves; so obviously being forced down people’s throats.

More often than not fans know who they want to get behind. They’re also well aware when the ‘WWE Machine’ is trying to steer them in a certain direction. The born Leati Anoa’i has managed to weather the storm so far, and his reaction when he returned to TV recently was proof there’s an appetite for his character and persona. He still possesses all the potential in the world.

It’s with this in mind that he’s a hot favourite to win this year’s Royal Rumble. Many people behind the scenes believe all Reigns needs is a little extra something to get him to that next level, and standing tall after a strong showing at the Rumble could be exactly the push that gets him over. His dominant performance in 2014 lit a fire under both the live crowd and those watching at home. Executed correctly, a win could do more still.

Most know that WWE has high hopes for Reigns and that it’s only a matter of time before he’s given an opportunity at the big time. Those who think it’s too soon would, at the very least, have to give him a chance should he best the Rumble and go on to lift the the title at Mania.

After all, it’s worked before. WWE will be hoping that it can work again.

1 – Daniel Bryan

Daniel-Bryan-3Batista may have won the Royal Rumble last year, but there was only one question in most people’s minds come the end of the event: Where the hell was Daniel Bryan?

Easily the most over wrestler in the company, the ‘WWE Universe’ had chosen Bryan as its leader, convinced that his turnaround in fortunes would spark at the Royal Rumble. This is where he would start to turn the tide against The Authority. This is where his charge to reclaim the WWE World Heavyweight Title would begin.

And then he wasn’t even in it…

Rey Mysterio had to bear the brunt of the crowd’s shock that the captain of the ‘Yes Movement’ wouldn’t even have a chance of having his hand raised, booing and jeering until the cameras faded to black. After such a damning reaction, would WWE dare make the same mistake again?

Admittedly Bryan’s injuries and lack of television time have seen his momentum scuppered somewhat, but there’s no denying that he’s still loved and accepted by people everywhere as a top guy. Furthermore, a Royal Rumble victory would round-off an incredible comeback for a man who at one point last year was rumoured to be retiring. Continuing on to WrestleMania for yet another title win would just be the clichéd icing on the cake and give Bryan the proper run he deserves.

There’s always the worry that his injuries and previous doubters work against him and the crown gets passed to the aforementioned Roman Reigns, but it’s a near-guarantee that Daniel Bryan will be in the Rumble until its closing stages. There’s a great chance he walks away victorious, too.

 

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5 Games You Secretly Love (Because In Reality They Suck)

You’d have to be a right asshole to only enjoy what are perceived to be ‘good’ games. Furthermore, you’re missing out on an entire sub-genre of gaming that can be as satisfying as the crème de la crème.

Taking the money argument out of the equation (and don’t get me wrong. No one should ever be tricked into paying £50/$60 for an insulting mess), there is the odd occasion where a game is so bad, even broken, that it becomes the height of entertainment. Terrible dialogue; glitching in and out of environments; moments that you make you audibly question what the hell is happening because even the thought of this joke actually being made by another human being doesn’t make any sense.

Such atrocities are almost like guilty pleasures, games that you sneak out when no one is around before laughing your way through the entire experience. You’d never put more than a 3/10 of it should you be forced to review it (which is stupid. Because review scores are stupid), but it provides you with the entertainment you need.

But what games fit into this category? Hit play on the video above to find out! And then click here to subscribe.

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WWE Immortals Review – Everyone’s Got A Price

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Conclusion: WWE Immortals looks great, and you can feel the amount of money that’s been poured into the presentation. Furthermore, as a small dose of entertainment, it’s pretty decent. Whether or not you’ll still be interested in a few weeks from now is a completely different matter…

WWE Immortals biggest issue is the same issue that most mobile games of its ilk have: if you sit down and consume too much of it, you tire of it exceptionally quickly.

Of course, being a portable experience, the idea is not to deal with it in such a fashion. You pick it up, have a couple of fights and then put it down till the next time you find yourself on a bus/train/airplane/elephant…

Essentially the Injustice Smartphone experience – or a very straight-forward beat-’em-up where you construct a team of three wrestlers which can then tag in/tag out as and when you see fit – the twist here is that The Authority (f**king idiots) have opened a portal to multiple universes and different versions of WWE Superstars have come spewing out of it… except for Daniel Bryan, who is just Daniel Bryan. Aside from his ‘evil’ version. Where he has some horns. Okay…

Who opened up portals to different dimensions? The Authority. Because they stole Bray Wyatt's lantern. Yep...

The Authority opened up portals to different dimensions. Because they stole Bray Wyatt’s lantern. Yep…

As you may have figured out, you spend the majority of your time tapping and swiping away to punch people in the face. Most contests quickly break down into making your fingers move faster than if you were playing Track & Field, and your adrenaline bar is on-hand to ensure after you’ve smacked someone’s skull enough times, you can perform a wrestler’s signature move.

There’s certainly a rhythm to proceedings, and chaining together enough attacks will reveal the opportunity to finish your combo with a well-timed swipe. Successfully pull it off, and you’ll feel rather proud of yourself, even though in reality you barely did anything.

Despite this simple template, developer NetherRealm’s latest is at its best when the challenge put in front of you is actually a difficult one. Every fight sees your cast of characters level up in some fashion and the game skews the experience as such, but it’s only when events get tough where you have to demonstrate a level of intelligence: making timely tags, taking advantage of your signature moves, nailing your combos. You can’t just mash your way to victory.

It’s slightly frustrating that ‘boss’ brawls take this a step too far and spike worse than a piledriver, but it does ask that you bring your a-game… or does it?

Falling into the pitfalls that are yet to be ironed out, WWE Immortals is completely shaped around in-app purchases. Want a new character? Pay for it. What to recharge your stamina? Pay for it. Want a Booster Pack of cards? Pay for it. Want to make those nights a little less lonely? Pay for it…

Like real-life, The Big Show looks stupid...

Like real-life, The Big Show looks stupid…

There are ways to unlock some of this content through sheer dedication and play your way to such a dream, but it’s designed to eventually steal away some of your cash.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with such a model should you have the disposable income to support it, but it does mean those who don’t may shelve Immortals sooner than others. There’s only so long you can bring the pain with Roman ‘Holy Shit. I’m So Overpowered Because Vince Wants Me To Get Over, Even In Video Game Form’ Reigns, Nikki Bella and Sheamus. A fighting game’s roster is often its biggest draw. Here it feels a little cornered off.

Also, and unsurprisingly, no one is more expensive than Triple H…

WWE Immortals looks great, and you can feel the amount of money that’s been poured into the presentation. Furthermore, as a small dose of entertainment, it’s pretty decent. Whether or not you’ll still be interested in a few weeks from now is a completely different matter…

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5 Things I Hate About… Half-Life

I don’t hate Half-Life. I realise the title of this very post seems to be indicate the exact opposite of that, but I understand its impact on the video game industry and how important it was/is/always will be.

But I don’t like it.

No matter how many times I’ve tired to sit down with Half-Life 2 or its follow-up episodes, I find myself getting very tired of the formula far quicker than I ever assumed I would have. Each entry feels like a slog, and while I’m happy to admit that maybe there’s a problem lurking deep down inside that needs to be fixed, until that happens I’m sticking to my guns.

Half-Life is not the game for me.

Ultimately it may not be the game for you anymore either unless Valve decides to pull its finger out and actually announce the official third entry. I completely appreciate that it’s under no obligation to do so, but when you drop that word ‘episode’ into the conversation the least you can do is keep your millions of fans updated. Instead of essentially trolling them for years on end.

And yet Half-Life retains its impenetrable shell with gamers the world over jumping on any bandwagon that seems to suggest that Half-Life 3 may be imminent.

It’s not.

Click the video above for all the reasons why I hate Half-Life. And before you tell me using your words, yes, I already know. I am an asshole. And damned proud of it!

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The Best Wrestling Game You Forgot About

I like professional-wrestling. I’m unsure what I think of professional-wrestling games on the whole.

Like most sports titles, there have been so many excellent entries over the years it makes the poor ones hurt all the more so. For every SmackDown: Here Comes The Pain, there’s a SmackDown vs RAW 2008… and Crush Hour. Man…

Obviously at the top of this illustrious tree are No Mercy, WrestleMania 2000 and WCw vs nWo: Revenge, a trifecta of wrestling games that almost perfected the art. Such beacons of glory are generations old, though. Forgotten gems that today’s younger gaming community probably don’t even know exist.

It’s with all this in mind that WWE: All Stars appealed both on its release and still does so today. A game that tried to capture this old-school appeal while not having a frame rate that operated through sludge, the focus was on over-the-top moves that had the same impact as a human being getting hit by a truck. You felt that powerbomb. You recoiled in pain at that piledriver. It broke your spirit when your chosen wrestler had a gargantuan leg dropped over his neck!

Yes, it was silly, and the overall experience was unarguably unfinished (The in-game menu mentioned modes that didn’t exist. Right…), but from a core gameplay perspective? Few have come close to capturing what makes WWE so appealing and fun but in a digital setting.

Well… what used to make it fun. Now we have people being ‘pretend’ fired.

Grow up, Vince…

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4 Games That Screwed You Over

In reality, a video game can’t screw you over. For all the noise and tears that accompanied, for example, Mass Effect 3’s release – which was just ludicrous – a creative endeavour should always be taken on such merits. As there’s no right or wrong, there needs to be limit as to how much sadness is hurled in its direction.

As we all know, though, that’s not how most react to the gaming landscape at large. Far from it. Instead, anger, rage and misery are hurled at any product that doesn’t do exactly what [insert consumer here] wants it to do. Said consumer has been wronged and, dammit, they’re going to let their feelings be heard. On Twitter! TWITTER!

Throughout the years I have felt a little hard-done by, mind, a choice selection of titles leaving me just a tad miffed that they did appear to pull what we all know is a ‘screw job’. So now seems like the time to out such assholes… and out we will!

4 games that screwed me, you, and who knows who else over…

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