The Brock Lesnar Saga

Brock Lesnar is due to become one of the hottest free agents in four weeks time, with a host of organisations battling it out for his signature. His current employers, WWE, appear to have their hands tied by the Beast and developments this week have added further fuel to the fire.

Lesnar as UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2009
Lesnar as UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2009

The former NCAA, UFC and reigning WWE heavyweight champion has a dream deal with WWE since 2012. He appears on a limited number of shows (around 25-30 a year) and is rumoured to be on a generous salary. He’s allowed use his own apparel sponsors (the only one in WWE with permission to do so) and he is pushed as an undefeatable monster. He’s consistently featured in the main event since his return in 2012 and has come out on top in feuds against the likes of Triple H, the Big Show, the Undertaker, CM Punk and John Cena.

Lesnar has carried WWE’s premier title since Summerslam 2014. He’s scheduled face Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 31 on March 30th.

It’s obvious where WWE are planning on going. Reigns is the next golden boy. The next superhero. The next John Cena. It’s all set-up for him to conquer the Conquerer and carry WWE into the next decade.

Crowd reaction to Reigns’ push has been luke warm at best. Reports have suggested that WWE are making one last push to re-sign Brock Lesnar, which could see him stay with the company on his current deal and have a 2/3 match program with Reigns.

Rumours from this weeks RAW suggest that negotiations haven’t gone well. Lesnar was advertised to appear on the show via numerous outlets, but the Beast was nowhere to be seen. Apparently, the Minnesota native and WWE chief Vince McMahon couldn’t come to terms, and Lesnar stormed off in a huff.

The world’s top MMA promotions (UFC & Bellator) must be licking their lips. Lesnar (5-3) is the UFC’s biggest draw of all time, selling 1.6 million Pay Per Views at UFC 100 and headlining against the likes of Frank Mir, Randy Couture, Shane Carwin, Cain Valasquez and Alastair Overeem. Dana White is a huge admirer of Lesnar’s (editor’s note: $$$) and is likely the favourite to land Lesnar’s signature. Potential match-ups include A third fight against Frank Mir or someone else in the top 6-10 fighters in the heavyweight division.

The question mark still remains regarding Brock’s talent in the Octagon. He suffered from a rehabilitating disease known as diverticulitis in 2010 & 2011. I believe Brock still has a lot to offer inside the cage.

Lesnar has remained quiet on all fronts – and why wouldn’t he? The longer this drags on, the more money he’ll end up with in his back pocket. Former WWE announcer Jim Ross suggested recently that life in the Octagon may not appeal to Lesnar given the long-term effects of taking “real” punches and the hazards and long-term effect of concussions.

It sure will be an interesting few weeks. Imagine a year ago saying Brock Lesnar and CM Punk would both be main-eventing UFC PPVs in 2015?

Almost as ridiculous as five years ago saying that an Irishman would be José Aldo’s biggest threat.

NXT – February 25th – Watch Here

We’ve got highlights of last night’s episode of NXT.

This week’s episode features:

The Lucha Dragons vs Tye Dillinger & Jason Jordan
Hideo Itami vs Bull Dempsey
Finn Balór vs The Brian Kendrick
Bayley vs Becky Lynch

You can watch the full show on the WWE Network.

Smackdown! Spoilers – February 26th

As most well know, Smackdown! is taped on a Tuesday night and aired on Thursdays in the USA, Fridays in the UK & Ireland.

We’ve got spoilers for this week’s show, so if you don’t want the show to be ruined, look away now!

Results

  • Daniel Bryan kicked off the show. He talked about Wrestlemania, then out came Wade Barrett to deliver some Bad News. Dean Ambrose followed and the good guys sent him running.
  • Dean Ambrose pinned The Miz. BNB came through the crowd to get his Intercontinental Championship back and he was successful.
  • Natalya beat Naomi.
  • Lana and Rusev cut a promo on John Cena.
  • Rusev defeated Swagger (again).
  • Daniel Bryan beat Bad News Barrett with the running knee. The IC title was not on the line. R-Truth was at ringside, but this time HE ended up stealing BNB’s belt.
  • R-Truth met Ambrose backstage and handed him the IC title.
  • Fandango picked up a win over Curtis Axel.
  • Bray Wyatt cut another promo on Undertaker.
  • Goldust defeated Adam Rose. Stardust was dressed as a rose-bud and attacked Goldy after the match.
  • Ryback, Erick Rowan and Ziggler defeated  The Authority (Rollins, Kane and Big Show). Ryback scored the pin fall over Seth Rollins.

WATCH – Deck.ie Classic Match – Rock v Austin, Wrestlemania X-Seven

 

And in this contest, there will be NOOOOOOO disqualifications!

“WHAT??!!! NO DISQUALIFICATIONS? WHEN WAS THAT ADDED??!!”

Glass smashes, crowd goes bezerk

For this writer anyway, Wrestlemania 17 was THE event. And the main event of THE event was just.. well, it was incredible.

The build up to the match had reached fever pitch by the time Mania rolled into the Astrodome in Texas, and as if you needed reminding, the promo video the WWF ran just before hand summed it up perfectly

 

If that doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, then I don’t know what will.

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The atmosphere was electric and the match was a classic – watch it below. This version has commentary from Stone Cold, which is fascinating. The picture quality isn’t superb, but it’ll do. You can watch the match on the WWE Network by clicking here.

Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In

Our new signing Ruairi “The Hitman” O’Hagan talks about watching WWE after many years away, thanks in particular to one thing….

It wasn’t meant to happen.

I wasn’t meant to fall back into the WWE trap.

But it seems I have.

It all started so innocently. Oh, a free two week trial of the WWE Network? I’ll give it a go I guess. It’ll be fun to watch Wrestlemania 17 again.

Oh, the Royal Rumble is free? I might watch that.

Ah shur, I might as well watch some old Royal Rumbles while I’m at it.

Oh, there’s an Irish guy in NXT. I’ll give that a go.

What’s that Vince? The Network is free for February? I’ll hold off on cancelling it so.

Oh, there’s a series of documentaries on the Monday Night Wars? That’s when I used to watch wrestling. I’ll have a sconse.

Fastlane, you say? Ah shur, might as well. (I feckin wish I hadn’t though. By Christ that was awful. Roman Reigns? Pah)

I’ve been played like a fool by the WWE.

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It’s a similar tactic to that used by drug dealers. Your first taste is free, to get you hooked. And then, a second, larger taste. Also free. Cheers for that Vinny Mac. So now it looks like I’m going to be paying 13 quid a month for the feckin thing, looking for my next fix. Mrs Haganator isn’t too amused to come home to find her husband watching wrestling every day I have to admit.

I’d not watched WWE programming in quite a long time. Every so often I’d re watch an old match on Youtube – Austin v The Rock at 17, Foley v Taker in the Cell, that kind of thing. But nothing major. I watched last year’s Wrestlemania and kinda enjoyed it, but watched nothing since.

I had heard good things about the Network. So when the free trial came around, I said I’d give it a go. Why not? It was free. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer amount of hours I’ve sunk into the thing since.

Like Netflix, the Network makes compulsive viewing easy. That “just one more episode” feeling one gets when watching a TV series on Netflix? It’s now been replaced by “just one more match”. And it’s been fun. Re-watching old events has been a blast (one of my favourites so far was watching Ric Flair win the Royal Rumble in 1992, WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO). Listening to Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan brings me back to a simpler time of watching wrestling with my cousin Paul as small kids, when Paul would tape the events and we’d watch them on weekends. For sheer rose tinted nostalgia alone, the Network comes up trumps.

But it’s NXT that has gotten me hooked most of all. “Like Ring of Honour on crack” is how it was described to me. And I love it. I love the whole look to the show, even simple things like the LED screens on the ring apron and above the ring give the show a really glossy feel. They’ve also spent a lot of time on the entrances of wrestlers – and it shows.

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But most of all, it’s the wrestling. Watching the likes of Ireland’s own Finn Balor, the high flying Adrian Neville and the brawling Kevin Owens has been a blast. I’d seen Balor and Neville wrestle in front of handfuls of people at IWW shows back in the day (Balor as Prince Devitt, Neville as Pac) so to see them on a big stage like this is great. NXT is almost worth the cost of the Network alone.

Almost, being the key word. Is it worth 13 quid a month? For someone like me? I’m not sure. Yeah, NXT is fun and watching old events is entertaining. But it’s already gotten to the stage where I’ve watched a lot of the old matches that I want to watch. The search function on the Network is abysmal and is preventing me from watching the Network even more -when I search for “Bret Hart Steve Austin” I expect their Wrestlemania 13 match to be the first result that pops up, not some poxy Raw rewind.

I might hang on to the subscription for March, and to see if I use it enough to justify 13 quid for it.

Feck it, it’s nearly worth it just for Finn Balor’s entrance. Awesome.

Ruairi will be writing his thoughts on WWE and UFC for Deck.ie. He once gave Balls Mahoney a can of Fosters in Neptune Stadium. True story. 

 

NXT – 5 Years On

WWE NXT celebrated it’s 5th birthday this week, we take a look at episode 1, the original eight Superstar wannabes and their career progression to date.

The show originated as a “reality” TV show, replacing WWE’s ECW reincarnation and aired on Tuesday nights in the US. Eight wrestlers from WWE’s developmental territory FCW were each assigned a WWE “Pro” or mentor. It would be the first time Daniel Bryan, Ryback and Wade Barrett would appear on a global scale. The show itself featured a memorable bout between then World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan. Check it out below.

Wade Barrett ending up winning Season 1. All eight were called up to the main roster and given a decent spot in the main event, feuding with John Cena as the rebellious group “Nexus”.

Where are they now?

Daniel Bryan
Originally debuting as the technician with zero personality, the “Yes!” man has since become one of the most over superstars on the roster. DB has picked up numerous titles including the US, Tag and WWE / World Heavyweight Championship. Currently hangs around the main event and is a fan favourite with all demographics.

Wade Barrett / Bad News Barrett
Barrett , now known as Bad News, ended up winning the show. He enjoyed an early push as the leader of the Nexus but since then has dropped to lower-upper mid-card status. He has enjoyed a couple of Intercontinental title reigns and currently holds the second-tier strap.

Skip Sheffield / Ryback
He debuted as the “Cornfed Colossus” Skip Sheffield but was taken off TV following his debut with the Nexus due to injury. He has since transformed to his current persona Ryback and had a main event run with CM Punk back in 2013.

Heath Slater
All round jobber, was once a One Man Band, then a Three Man Band, then a One Man Band again. Then part of Slater Gator then back to the One Man Band again. His most memorable appearance on RAW recently was dressed up as Sting to frighten Triple H. His release could come after Wrestlemania this year.

David Otunga
Probably the worst in-ring worker of the original eight, but has managed to make a decent career for himself. He hasn’t appeared in a WWE ring since Wrestlemania 30, but he’s still employed by the company and mostly attends B.A. Star rallies and other corporate functions.

Justin Gabriel
Decent high flyer who for some reason just couldn’t connect with the audience. His 450-splash was vicious, but wasn’t enough to keep him relevant. He spent the last number of months jobbing and appearing on NXT and was released in early 2015.

Darren Young
Didn’t stand out much in the Nexus. He had his best run as part of the Prime Time Players with Titus O’Neal but they broke up in 2013. He suffered an injury and took the best part of the last 6 months off. He returned last week on RAW and reunited with Titus O’Neal. I remain optimistic.

Michael Tarver
The first of the bunch to bite the bullet. Tarver was released shortly after the Nexus broke up in 2011. He had a menacing look but just didn’t have the “it” factor I guess.

NXT in 2015

NXT is now its own brand. It has replaced FCW as WWE’s developmental zone. It has the benefit of a full-time training facility for up-and-comers and a weekly show on the WWE Network. It’s the hottest brand in the WWE right now, showcasing some of the biggest stars from the independent scenes. It has top class wrestling, great storylines, character development and the best part: no McMahon at the healm.

Provisional Wrestlemania Card

Following last night’s Monday Night Raw, Wrestlemania 31 is starting to take shape.

The below looks to be what will make up the bulk of the card.

Brock Lesnar (c) -V- Roman Reigns – WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Rusev (c) V Cena – US Championship

Triple H V Sting

Bray Wyatt V Undertaker

Randy Orton V Seth Rollins

2nd Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
(Confirmed participants: Ryback, Curtis Axel, The Miz)

There also looks to be some kind of multi-man match for the Intercontinental title, including the champion Bad News Barrett, Dean Ambrose, Dolph Ziggler and R-Truth.

Fastlane Review – Reigns Rolls On

WWE Fastlane emanated from Memphis Tennessee last night and was shown “free” on the WWE Network and Sky 1 in the UK / Ireland. Did WWE do enough to convince the casual viewer to subscribe to their online streaming service? I’ll go over the main talking points from the show.

If you want to watch a repeat of the show:
Click here to watch on the WWE Network.
Sky Sports 4 (Sky channel 404) at 10pm GMT tonight (Monday) or 11pm GMT Tuesday night.

Roman Reigns on his way to Wrestlemania (again)

The match itself was well played out. The story was an obvious one – the technician versus the powerhouse with a brawl in between. In the end, Reigns had an answer for everything Daniel Bryan had to throw at him. He kicked out of the the running knee. He broke the Yes-Lock. He basically over-powered any offence DB had. I honestly do fear for Roman when he enters the arena to face Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania. Even the handshake between Bryan and Reigns was boo’ed. That’s twice they’ve tried now to put him over, with The Rock and Bryan both failing. Fair play to Reigns though, he sure is trying his hardest. It was definitely his best WWE singles match to date.

Rusev Retains

Don’t ya know – Cena never gives up. Yet they still called this one a submission victory. We almost definitely will see the rematch at Wrestlemania given Rusev’s low-blow being the deciding factor. The really was a nice treat to see the US title contested in a match of this magnitude.

Sting & HHH booked

The “dream” match is now signed, sealed and soon to be delivered. Sting didn’t open his mouth for this one oddly enough. I liked the baseball bat vs sledgehammer routine. I really don’t get the angle they’re playing with this one. Obviously Sting isn’t there to tear down the WWE, if he was then we shouldn’t be cheering for him. The beef between these two needs more meat.

Taker -V- Wyatt

So this is pretty much confirmed for Wrestlemania. Bray is more than capable of carrying this feud on the mic until Wrestlemania. Can Taker do the business on the biggest stage? He’ll be 50 when the Show of Shows comes around but I trust the Deadman if he believes he can still go. He comes across as the type of guy that will call it a day when he knows the time is right.

The best & worst of the rest

  • Randy Orton returned as predicted to setup his Wrestlemana match with Seth Rollins. The Authority picked up the win over the “rebellious” team of Ziggler, Rowan and Ryback. The bigger story here is Ziggler taking the fall, which might confirm some of the rumours that he had backstage heat recently.
  • Tyson Kidd and Cesaro picked up the Tag Team titles in an exiting match against the Usos. The only criticism I have is the finish seemed a bit clunky and disorganised. I’m absolutely shocked that WWE pulled the trigger on these two. Here’s hoping for a lengthy reign with the self-proclaimed “Masters of the WWE Universe” showcasing their obvious talent to a wider audience.
  • Nikki Bella retained in a lacklustre affair. Absolutely terrible finish. Why can’t these divas pull off a basic roll-up? Nikki held the tights so I suspect this one might not be over.
  • Goldust fluked a win over his Star equivalent and took a beating afterwards. I suspect this will lead to a final hurrah for Goldy at Wrestlemania with Stardust being the one to finish him off once and for all.
  • How terrible was Ambrose -V- Barrett. Diabolical booking. Is Ambrose such a “lunatic” now that he’ll be DQ’d for stomping on someone in the corner? Somewhere Stone Cold is spitting up his Steveweiser. Nice to see him steal the IC title though. ‘Mania rematch – lazy booking.

Overall rating: 6/10

WWE Fastlane Preview / Kick-Off Show

The road to Wrestlemania rolls on tonight as WWE presents its newest Pay-Per-View event Fastlane from Memphis, Tennessee.

Except in this case it’s not exactly a PPV in the typical sense – WWE are giving it away for free to all new subscribers of the WWE Network. That decision didn’t please WWE’s UK partners Sky, who had originally planned to sell the PPV for £14.95. Sky will be showing the event for “free” on Sky 1 HD, the first time ever a WWE PPV airs live on the channel. Yes folks, you don’t even need Sky Sports.

Another first – this WWE PPV will go head-to-head with the UFC who’ll be showing Fight Night – Mir Vs Silva at the same time.

So let’s break down the card for tonight’s proceedings:

Roman Reigns -V- Daniel Bryan – Winner faces Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 31
WWE brass pulled out the old reliable Daniel Bryan card for the second year in a row following a fan backlash to the main event plans at Wrestlemania. I’m unsure how this one will go. Reigns has been playing a slight heel role in this one given Bryan’s popularity, but I fear WWE are using Daniel Bryan to put on a great match with Reigns in attempt to put Roman over in the weeks leading to Wrestlemania. If that’s the case, the crowd for Lesnar – Reigns at ‘Mania should be an interesting one. Are they saying “Boo” or “Boo-urns”?

Rusev -V- John Cena – United States Championship
You read it correctly – Cena is battling it out for WWE’s least coveted prize. The master of the “5-Knuckle Shuffle” is unlikely to walk away with the gold here. Expect a DQ finish to setup a rematch at Wrestlemania, likely one where Cena’s career is on the line and he conquers the undefeated Bulgarian.

Sting and Triple H meet face to face
Triple H called out the Stinger – and he accepted. Expect some minor physical altercation. We all know what’s coming here, they’ll end up booking their “14 Years in the Making” match at Wrestlemania. I don’t know about you, but when we all heard of Sting’s eventual signing with WWE, the last person I wanted to see him face off against was Triple H. Nevertheless, it is what it is. Will Undertaker -V- Sting be a viable option in 13 months time?

Nikki Bella -V- Paige – Divas Championship
The background to this one has been the Bella twins teasing Paige about her appearance – even going as far as spray tanning her in the middle of the ring. Compare this rubbish to the excellent booking we see for the ladies in NXT – depressing stuff. Nikki has improved enormously in the ring over the last two years and Paige is always good-to-go. I’m predicting Nikki retains with the help of Brie.

Bad News Barrett -V- Dean Ambrose – Intercontinental Championship
Not much meat to this one. Ambrose wants his face on WWE’s wall of champions and Barrett felt he was undeserving of a title shot due to being a lunatic. So Ambrose tied BNB’s hands together with cable-ties and forced him to sign the contract for the match. I just realised how ridiculous this all sounds after typing it. Sigh. Ambrose’s decline in the last 6 months has been painful to watch. Let’s hope tonight begins his road back to the top.

The Usos -V- Cesaro & Tyson Kidd – Tag Team Championship
Great to see Tyson on the main card of a PPV. He deserves it after the hard work he’s put into his own character development in NXT. I’m not a fan of what they’re doing with Natalya in all this. They should push Kidd, Cesaro and Nattie as a dominant stable and let their in-ring work do the talking. Hopeful for a title change but the WWE sure do love them some Usos.

Goldust -V- Stardust
The Dust brothers finally separated after weeks of teasing. I’m surprised they didn’t save this for Wrestlemania given the brothers have been rumoured to been lobbying for a match at the Show of Shows for years.

Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback vs. The Authority (Seth Rollins, Kane and Big Show) (with Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury)
We’ve more or less seen iterations of this a dozen times over the last few weeks and months. I’m expecting to see the return of Randy Orton here to even up the odds and setup a match at Wrestlemania with Seth Rollins with the Money in the Bank briefcase on the line.

Pre-Show: MizTV featuring Paul Heyman
These two are possibly the two best talkers in the company so it should be an entertaining 10 minutes.

Other possibilities
We could potentially see the return of Randy Orton. Could Undertaker pay a visit to “find” Bray Wyatt?

How to Watch

Main show start time: 1am (Ireland & UK), 8pm (eastern US time).

In over 170 countries: Live on the WWE Network. Repeated immediately afterwards and available on demand. WWE Network is available on smartphones, tablets, laptops, Playstation, X-Box, Apple TV, Roku and certain Smart TVs.
UK & Ireland: Live on Sky 1 HD (Channel 106)

Pre-show – Live on WWE Network and YouTube 30mins before the show stars. Or you can watch below.