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“NXT Takeover: Rival” Preview

It’s almost here! The fifth NXT Takeover 2-hour live special captioned “Rival” will air tomorrow, February 11th, 2015, at 7pm CT on the WWE Network. Not unlike the previous four specials, this event’s card is absolutely stacked with matches that I will personally guarantee will not leave you unsatisfied. My personal favorite thing about this show is that there are no crazy, illogical predictions to make because any outcome from any match is legitimately possible to happen. I’ll give my prediction as I list the matches along with my thoughts of the progression of each story.


1) Blake & Murphy (c) vs the Lucha Dragons, for the NXT Tag Team Championship

The team formerly known as Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy were usually seen as an enhancement team, a lot like Tye Dillinger and Jason Jordan, until they got a random win over one of the more popular acts in NXT, The VaudeVillains. That match was 3 weeks ago, and two weeks ago, Blake and Murphy had a title opportunity against Kalisto and Sin Cara, and randomly won those very straps. The feeling over that decision is that Kalisto is ready to make the jump to the main roster, and Sin Cara is already working matches on the main roster anyway. This match is the old “exercising the rematch clause” that the former champs deserve, and I see the Dubstep Cowboys retaining the belts, and Kalisto should be on Raw either by or the night after WrestleMania.

2) Hideo Itami vs Tyler Breeze

These two had an opening round match a couple weeks ago, and a damn fine one at that, and Itami moved on to face Finn Bálor in the semi-final match of the #1 Contenders Tournament set up by GM William Regal. Up until last Wednesday, Itami and Breeze were locked in a funny Twitter war, but after Itami failed to advance to the final, Prince Pretty seemed rather upset. These two have amazing chemistry in the ring and have a really fun feud going, so this is one of three non-main event matches that could steal the show. I gotta believe Itami goes over as Breeze gets ready for the jump to Raw, but I’d love to see The Gorgeous One in the rumored NXT Ladder match at WrestleMania just before he graces Monday nights with his presence.

3) Baron Corbin vs Bull Dempsey, No Disqualifications match

These two dudes have been going at each other since at least November, trading squash matches one after the other, until sometime in after the R Evolution event where Corbin confronted Dempsey. Since then, they’ve faced off officially twice, both times ending with Dempsey eating the End of Days. Dempsey’s been hellbent on getting even with Corbin ever since, and ultimately cost him both his undefeated streak and a shot at the NXT Title. His actions of that match led to what I want believe is the final blow off for this feud, and it’s one that’s really been a long time coming. Corbin is a brawler, and so is Dempsey, so this match should be getting nasty as they go through it. It’s important to keep in mind that Corbin is still relatively raw, like a less experienced Roman Reigns, so I wouldn’t expect this to be all that memorable. It should still be a fun time, and I see Corbin getting the 3 match sweep, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dempsey heel his way to a win.

4) Adrian Neville vs Finn Bálor, NXT Championship #1 Contenders Tournament Final

I said Itami and Breeze was one of three non-main event matches that could steal the show. This match is option number two. If you hadn’t seen these two work together before, you can check out a match from 2012 right here. I’ll wait for you to finish that match before continuing. Done? Alright, how awesome was that? That match is more or less what I’m expecting to see. I truly believe Bálor wins, because Neville has nothing more to prove in Developmental. The Man That Gravity Forgot is ready for Monday nights. To be perfectly honest, Bálor’s ready too, but that’s another story for another time.

If you didn’t bother watching the match I linked for you, basically it’s like this: magic is gonna happen, so be prepared for that.

5) Charlotte (c) vs Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch vs Bayley, Fatal Four Way for the NXT Women’s Championship

This is a story that’s just about ready to end, since it retroactively began last summer. Ric Flair’s daughter became champion and has been absolutely dominant. She’s already beaten Bayley, and took care of Sasha Banks not once but twice. Along the way, Becky Lynch turned on Bayley and aligned herself with Sasha Banks. All of this culminated to a third Charlotte vs Sasha Banks title match, but things got out of hand quick, and William Regal (being a man of the people) made this match. It could be called the semi-main event, but I call it the third potential show stealer of the night. Any one of these four ladies could win and be legitimate champion. The least likely outcome, I believe, is Charlotte retaining. She’s got nothing left to prove at this level. She’s essentially the female Adrian Neville: she ruled 2014 and it’s time for her to go to Raw in 2015. The most likely winner, to me, is Sasha Banks. She’s ready for the call up as well, but she deserves a title run because she really has come a long way in just one year. Bayley is my pick to win, but only because I’m a mark for her. Becky Lynch would benefit from going her own way after this match, and making a name for herself in the women’s division. All four women in this match should have an amazing 2015 regardless of how this match goes.

6) Sami Zayn (c) vs Kevin Owens, for the NXT Championship

They built this story up the way everyone always imagined but never really thought would happen. They are addressing the past these two men have shared. If you haven’t seen what these two can do, check this out. Or check this one out. Or even this one. Or if you really got time, here’s this. All of that is continuing in NXT, and one day it’ll keep going on to Monday Night Raw. This match is gonna be amazing. I really don’t know what else to say about it. Sami Zayn is ready for Monday nights, but I don’t want his title reign to last just two months after the whole “Road to Redemption” build up that paid off at R Evolution. At the same time, a heel Kevin Owens as your champ is just a brilliant idea. Either outcome is entirely possible and completely awesome. I guess Mr. Wrestling was telling the truth that night in 2012.


This show is gonna be downright nasty. So much pro wrestling is gonna happen in an age where Sports Entertainment is what’s preached. If you’re already an NXT fan like I am, this show is just another awesome card put out by Triple H. If you haven’t watched NXT before, and this is gonna be your first show, you’re mind is gonna explode. Either way, it’s gonna suck when this show ends and the next thing we have to look forward to is WWE Fast Lane.

Fantasy Booking WrestleMania 31

The most common trait of being a wrestling fan is complaining about what the show you’re watching is giving you, despite how good it actually is. I could find ways to complain about my favorite wrestling shows (Lucha Underground and NXT, for future reference) if I wanted to, but that would just be labeled nitpicking. But today, I’m gonna complain about WWE’s main show, Monday Night Raw.

I have a lot of problems with what is rumored to happen this Sunday at the Royal Rumble, and I have my own ideas of what I’d like to see. This is a list of what I want and why, not what I think will go down between Sunday night and March 29.

The two main event matches at the Royal Rumble are the Triple Threat match for the world title between Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, and John Cena, and the other is the actual Royal Rumble match. I want to see Lesnar retain and Bryan win the Rumble for two reason: 1) DB gets his Rumble win that he should’ve had last year and 2) that classic babyface underdog vs unstoppable heel story. Everything else at the Rumble, who really cares? Well, I’ll care later on, but not at the Rumble.

At Fast Lane (the Feb. PPV) I don’t really expect anything major to happen, but what I’d here’s what I’d like to see:

  • the conclusion of the Ryback/Rusev angle/beginning of Rusev vs Roman Reigns
  • Ryback joining John Cena in his fight against The Authority.
  • hopefully Rollins vs Orton is a feud going into this show

This card is listed in the order of which I would want to see it as if it were to actually be broadcast. This is everything that I want and why I want it like this. I’m never gonna get it unless I’m on 2K15 or something. My fantasy card is:


WrestleMania 31

1) Sami Zayn vs Finn Bálor
for the NXT Championship

2) Divas Championship Battle Royal

3) Roman Reigns vs Rusev
for the United States Championship

4) Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

5) The Usos vs Dust Bros vs Ascension vs Tyson Kidd and Cesaro
for the WWE Tag Team Championship

6) Seth Rollins vs Randy Orton

7) Dolph Ziggler vs Bad News Barrett
for the Intercontinental Championship

8) John Cena and Ryback vs Kane and Big Show

9) Sting vs Triple H

10) Bray Wyatt vs The Undertaker

11) Daniel Bryan vs Brock Lesnar
for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship


11 matches. That’s what I call a Supercard. And before you say “Holy shit, that’s a lot of matches! Can that fit on a PPV?” Yes it can. New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 9 had 11 matches too. Anyway, here’s why I want this card.

1) Sami Zayn vs Finn Bálor for the NXT Championship
On this past episode of NXT (01/21/15), General Manager William Regal announced a #1 contenders tournament for the NXT Championship and I assume that the final match of the tournament will take place at the next Takeover special (Live on February 11!) because Regal also booked Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn on that night. As of today, January 22, 2015, the only matches that have happened in that tournament are Finn Bálor winning over Curtis Axel and Hideo Itami over Tyler Breeze. The former tag team partners are set to face each other probably 2 weeks from now in the semifinal, and I fully expect Bálor to go over on Itami and whoever he’d face in the final (my guess is Bálor over Adrian Neville at Takeover), making him the #1 contender.

As for the NXT Champ Sami Zayn, he’s in a blood feud against Kevin Owens, not unlike the Kevin Steen vs El Generico feud from Ring of Honor (because El Generico retired and is taking care of orphans in Mexico), and they’re set to battle at Takeover as well. I expect they’ll make this a title match next week when they sign the contract on TV, and I expect Zayn to retain.

This leads to a Finn Bálor vs Sami Zayn match that has no planned live event to happen at. This match should not take place at a taping, it should happen at WrestleMania. Sami Zayn is THE most over guy in the business, and Finn Bálor is probably #2 on that list and will probably pass up Zayn in popularity before it’s all said and done. These two are the future of pro wrestling, period. It doesn’t matter who wins this match. If Zayn retains, we get another match. If Bálor wins, we get his title reign AND Zayn goes to the main roster. The real winner is wrestling fans.

2) Divas Championship Battle Royal
Not a whole of people (Creative included) care about the Divas division. But I do. They work hard with what they’re given, which isn’t a whole lot to begin with anyway. As bad as that Nikki and Brie Bella angle was back in the summer, they worked hard to make it as watchable as possible and I respect that. The Women of NXT are why I began to care about the Divas again, because down in NXT, they’re given the TV time that the main roster women don’t get. It’s mind boggling that a one hour show can devote meaningful airtime to their women but a three hour show can’t. So they deserve a pay day at this show for putting up with assholes who don’t believe hot women can be wrestlers like Kevin Dunn. Also, I got Paige winning this because I love her.

3) Roman Reigns vs Rusev for the United States Championship
To paraphrase CM Punk, “I don’t hate you, Roman. I don’t even dislike you. I do like you, Roman, I like you a hell of a lot more than most people. I hate this idea that you’re ready for the main event. Because you’re not.” Roman Reigns is not ready for what he’s gonna be given, plain and simple. He can’t talk, his matches need improvement, but he does have a presence and natural charisma. His future is bright, but his future is not now. That’s why he needs a big year on the undercard this year after a hernia took him out of a year of development in 2014.

He can start with a cool feud with Rusev. Firstly, Big Show sucks. Secondly, Rusev is a monster heel that has yet to be beaten, can work his ass off, and holds a title that desperately needs legitimacy. I want this to start at the Fast Lane PPV and end at Payback, with Rusev’s first pinfall loss happening at WrestleMania. Roman hasn’t won a singles title yet, and getting this win will be huge for his career, his character, and most importantly, his future at WrestleMania. John Cena’s first title win was the US Title at WrestleMania and look what happened to him. Also, they gotta stop scripting his promos. I prefer he doesn’t talk, but if he has to, he shouldn’t be reading lines from Looney Tunes cartoons.

4) Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
I hope this is really is a yearly thing because then everybody can get paid. But it’s gotta be a real launching pad for a guy because Cesaro was wasted after his win. I’d want Dean Ambrose winning this and then having a nice, Non-Cesaro like summer.

5) The Usos vs Dust Bros vs The Ascension vs Kidd and Cesaro for the WWE Tag Team Championship
I’m just a mark for Fatal Four Way Tag Team matches. After the triple threat tag team match way back at Survivor Series 2002, I just love these multiple team matches. I figure Miz and Mizdow will be split by this time and they’ll open WrestleMania as the dark match. I want The Masters of the Universe, Tyson Kidd and Cesaro to win the tag titles at this event, and I expect The Ascension to be the champs heading in to Mania. I want to believe that what happened at Raw this past Monday (01/19/15) with the nWo, APA, and New Age Outlaws was just a rub and not a full on burial.

6) Seth Rollins vs Randy Orton
I have an idea with Seth Rollins for later on, but first he’s gotta settle all the beef with Randy Orton. Rollins took Orton out way back when and is obviously gonna come for him when he gets back at the Rumble. If it happens the way I want it to, Orton would get a DQ win over Rollins, leaving this feud unresolved for a match at WrestleMania. I wouldn’t be shocked if this happened with a No DQ/Street Fight stipulation. I’d like Orton to win as the babyface, finishing his feud with Rollins here and leaving Mr. Money in the Bank open for the following night.

7) Dolph Ziggler vs Bad News Barrett for the Intercontinental Championship
If Dolph’s not allowed to be a main eventer yet, then he might as well be the face of the midcard. Barrett and Ziggler have great chemistry in the ring together and if Zayn and Bálor haven’t stole the show yet, Ziggler damn sure will. He’d win the title here only to drop it sometime before Money in the Bank, where I’d have him win the briefcase in June.

8) John Cena and Ryback vs Kane and Big Show
I almost wrote this whole thing without including a John Cena match. But I gotta include him because he’s the man. This is where the Authority angle ends with the babyface team going over, because LOL CENA WINS. But I also want a Ryback heel turn after the match so that John Cena doesn’t steal anyone’s spotlight.

9) Sting vs Triple H
The most predictable booking that-was-also-exciting match in the history of ever. There’s no way in hell that Sting jobs to Triple H. As far as the story for this match goes, Rollins took a loss, Kane and Big Show took a loss, and now Sting will kill The Authority for good. This will end a storyline that started in 2013. I hope the heel authority figure gimmick ends with this match too because the only good one was Austin vs McMahon and it can never be replicated. It wasn’t replicated with General Managers, it wasn’t replicated with CM Punk vs Johnny Ace, and it wasn’t replicated with Triple H and Steph over the past two years.

10) Bray Wyatt vs The Undertaker
I wanted to put this match before Sting/HHH, but I imagined that match going the way Hogan vs Rock did, and we need a match that will calm down the 75,000+ smarks in attendance before the main event. The rumor going around right now is Wyatt was booked to beat Ambrose and Bryan on Raw to look strong enough so he can work with The Deadman. There’s also a rumor that Taker may not even work this WrestleMania, but I think he does because Wyatt isn’t Lesnar. This match will go slow and methodical, and by the end of the night, Bray Wyatt will have the Deadman’s second Mania loss in his hands.

11) Daniel Bryan vs Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
When I first thought about the classic babyface underdog going over on Brock Lesnar, I imagined it being Dolph Ziggler. Ziggler can work, he can sell, and he’s over. But then Daniel Bryan said he was coming back. And then I thought about it more. I still wanted Ziggler, because he’s bigger than Bryan. Started thinking more and more about it, and then I rewatched Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero from No Way Out 2004. If Eddie could believably go over clean on Brock Lesnar for the title, then Daniel Bryan can too. The buildup would be everything I imagined it being with Dolph – super over, smaller build babyface going against a monster that’s being hyped up by the greatest hype man in the history of pro wrestling sports entertainment. Daniel Bryan would regain the title he never lost on this night after several Strong Style kicks and a Busaiku Knee.


My idea for Rollins is to cash in on Daniel Bryan, but I’m kind of torn between doing it on WrestleMania or the night after on Raw. On one hand, Seth Rollins would be the most hated heel in wrestling today if he does it at Levi’s Stadium. But he would also get that nuclear heat if he did on Raw, where more people would be watching. Let’s face it, the WWE Network doesn’t have the subscribers WWE wants, and more and more providers are dropping WWE PPVs from their regular PPV rotation because of the Network. That leaves Raw open for the cash in, where more eyes would be glued to this happening. Either situation frees Brock Lesnar from WWE programming to go on to MMA, and it will set up what will become (if properly booked) Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s 2015 Feud of the Year.

Rant: How much football is too much football?

Houston is football country, there is no denying that. That’s not what I’m here to state. But in June of 2014, why are we still trying to decipher Andre Johnson’s absence from voluntary workouts and his potential truancy from mandatory OTA’s? Why are the Texans’ non-contact workouts the talk of the town in this specific month? I say this month, June 2014, specifically because this summer isn’t like any other.

Astros Baseball is finally relevant again in Houston. After declining the option on F Chandler Parsons, the Rockets are poised to embark on what looks like a wild free agency period, only one year after winning the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Speaking of basketball,  while the NBA Finals are indeed a rematch of last year, this particular series has a feel of a dramatic grudge match. Houston’s not much of a hockey town, but eyes will be glued to the Stanley Cup Finals, arguably the most dramatic and action packed championship series of the Big Four North American sports. Even Game 7 of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals this past Sunday drew ratings that only Game of Thrones was able to top. And lastly, live from Brazil, the most watched sporting event in the world,  the 2014 FIFA World Cup is set to begin on June 12th, where Brad Davis of your hometown Houston Dynamo is a member of the United States Men’s National Team. Not to mention that the USMNT is grouped with Germany, Ghana, and Portugal, all very strong teams, in what will be this tournament’s Group of Death. 

Are people so oblivious to anything that’s not the NFL that they wait on pins and needles for reports about grown men working out? It gets tiresome having to hear record predictions about a team with an incomplete roster, Andre Johnson’s behavior, and the possible resurgence of injured player’s like Arian Foster and Brian Cushing. “Kareem Jackson loves Romero Crennel’s defense.” Well, let’s throw a parade! I swear Brian Cushing said the same thing about Wade Phillips’s defensive scheme when Son of Bum took over in 2011.

June is packed with a ton of sporting events that will intensify through July. And then in July, real NFL training camps will get underway. I’m certain I’m not the only one who doesn’t care how much money Andre loses from fines of skipping mandatory OTA’s, just as long as he suits up in late July and August, when preseason workouts matter a whole lot more. There’s a whole lot of sports about to go down, and instead we’re talking about a whole lot of nothing happening in the National Football League.

Stop it, Bud.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Bud Norris has been in a very grumpy mood lately. The former Astros right hander has taken any opportunity to bash his former employer over whatever he feels are legitimate grievances. Earlier in May, he shared his opinions on the direction of the Houston Astros organization in a really well written and compelling article by Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. In it, Norris says,

They are definitely the outcasts of Major League Baseball right now, and it’s kind of frustrating for everyone else to have to watch it.”

It is frustrating to have to watch a team to lose 100 plus for 3 straight years, but how is that the fault of anyone in the current front office? It’s not as if Jim Crane bought the 1998 Astros and turned it into the 2011-2013 team we all know in one off-season. Jim Crane isn’t running the late 90’s Florida Marlins. He bought chickens**t from Drayton McLane and is about to turn it into Chik-Fil-A. Pure deliciousness.

And outcasts? They do their baseball operations differently from everyone else, yes, but they are hardly outcasts. The Chicago Cubs are in the same boat as the Astros. The Minnesota Twins know what the Astros are going through. You know, that whole “Major league team has barely any major league talent but the farm system is stacked and the future is very bright” thing. The Astros may have lost a lot of games but they can’t be labeled outcasts because they lost a lifetime’s worth of baseball games.

But David Stefan Norris wasn’t finished there. His reaction to another Astros related piece of news had to be heard. He took to Twitter to let out his opinion on Jon Singleton’s new contract.

image

Seriously, Bud. Are you upset that you won’t have any kind of significant role in this revolutionary rebuilding process anymore? Are you pissed off that you were just a pawn and not a knight or rook or whatever chess metaphor you want to use? The Astros aren’t the only team doing this kind of thing. The Pirates tried it with Gregory Polanco and the Diamondbacks tried it with Archie Bradley. Baseball front offices are doing this all over because its how the game is played now. That union you wanted Singleton to listen to set this up back in 2011 when this current CBA was ratified. That’s who you should really be upset with, not a kid who just got financial security is about to play the game at the highest level it can be played. This is another case of educated businessmen, aka the owners, taking the player’s union to school with a document that features a lot fancy diction and dialogue. The NFL player’s union knows how you feel. Personally, I wouldn’t listen to a union who gets outplayed by old men in suits either.

Yes, Jon Singleton could earn more money in arbitration and eventual free agency if he’s the next Jeff Bagwell. But at the same time, he could also be the next Brett Wallace. If he’s great, then he might have lost an opportunity at even more cash, but he could still earn up to $35 million, which is still more money than you could shake a stick at. But if he busts, then he still gets his $10 million, instead of the minimum $500,000 a minor league call-up usually gets. This is the new way major league front offices will handle top prospects. Dangling financial security and a major league roster spot on a fishing line hoping for a bite. Sounds like a sweet deal, and it really isn’t the worst thing in the world if someone takes it.

So to Bud Norris, quit worrying about the state of the Houston Astros. You were a nice pitcher here during a really rough stretch in Houston baseball. But please, Bud, worry about your ballclub winning your division because that 3-5 record and 4.04 ERA is helping about as little as your opinions of your old team.

Welcome To The Show, Jon Singleton

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SiNGNATiON

On June 2nd, the Houston Astros finally, at long last, made the call to the Oklahoma City RedHawks and brought up slugging first base prospects Jon Singleton, to not only provide some stability at first base, but also move on in the organization’s rebuilding effort they began back in 2010.

Some wonder why Singleton even stayed in Triple A this long. Probably due to the atrocity that currently resides at first base on the 25 man roster. Between Chris Carter’s on and off again contact, Jesus Guzman’s limited playing time, and Marc Krauss’ incompetence at the plate, fans have been clamoring for Singleton’s call up for a long time. Fact is, the three major league first base options are hitting a combined .191 with 14 home runs between them. For some perspective, George Springer, the Astros’ other power hitting rookie sensation, launched 10 home runs in a 2 week span by himself, including his historic 7 HR in 7 games stretch.

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#SpringerDinger

Singleton hit 14 home runs with 43 RBI at Triple A Oklahoma City, to go with a line of .267/.397/.544 in 195 at bats. He drew 42 walks, and hit an impressive .309 average against left handed pitchers, which probably means there won’t be a platoon role for Singleton in the big leagues. Astros manager Bo Porter is a man who loves his matchup, sometimes to a fault, but all indications point to Singleton receiving first base all to himself.

To top it all off, the Astros signed Singleton to a landmark 5 year, $10 million contract with 3 team options, where it can be a total of $35 million if all 3 options are picked up. Singleton is the first minor league prospect to sign such a contact without ever stepping foot on a major league diamond. This type of contact offer is not uncommon, however; the Astros offered similar deals this past off-season to the aforementioned Springer,  3B Matt Dominguez, and OF Robbie Grossman.

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"Playing with my money is like playing with my emotions!"

Around MLB, teams are offering these contracts to their prized prospects, most notably Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco rejecting a 7 year,  $25 million contract earlier this year in spring training. The Astros effectively buy out Singleton’s arbitration years, as opposed to Springer, Dominguez, and Grossman who will have their salaries increase with adequate performance after their 3rd full season of major league service. Instead of having a gradual performance based pay raise, Singleton gets his salary guaranteed.

With or without the contract,  Singleton is only just the next piece in the effort to bring Houston Astros baseball back to prominence.

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