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NXT Report 12-20-17

By the Numbers

Matches: 3
Backstage Promos: 2
Video Packages: 2

Main Storylines

  • Sanity vs. The Undisputed Era
  • Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate III

Match of the Night

Tyler Bate vs. Pete Dunne

UK Championship Match

  • The subtlety these two work with is phenomenal. Also, the brutality. Some seriously hard hits in this one.
  • Everything is thought through: the story, the pacing, the in-ring psychology, everything. These two are magic together. 
  • Bate hit an Exploder Suplex off of the middle rope and brought Dunne from the apron over the top rope and into the middle of the ring. So impressive. 
  • This is not only match of the night, it's up there for match of the year. I wish I could describe this match in detail but you're better off just watching it, so sign up for the WWE Network and thank me later.
  • I want a 60 minute Iron Man match with these two. 

 

Smackdown Report 12-19-17

Smackdown Live came to us from Newark, NJ this week, Here is the breakdown of the show. 

Main Storylines

  • Shane McMahon vs. Daniel Bryant with the careers of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens in flux. 
    • This storyline is starting to play with ideas from the past, 'best for business', The Authority, the Occupy WWE movement...this is working. I really, really like it...as long as Saxton stops playing company lapdog and forgets all reason.
    • Also, this took 15 minutes of a 2 hour show...that's not a good sign.
  • Women's Royal Rumble
    • Charlotte wants some. So does Naomi. But if Charlotte is already Smackdown Women's champion, what is she fighting for? If she wins does she face Alexa and unify the belts? Surely not. We actually don't know what the winner of the Women's Rumble gets, other than a spot in history of course.
  • Rusev Claus.
    • Yes, Yes, a million times yes.
  • Dolph Ziggler as US Champion
    • He celebrated by leaving the title in the ring...that's odd.


Match of the Night

The New Day vs. Rusev and Aiden English

This match should not have been match of the night. It was the holiday gimmick match meant purely to be silly and fill up time. It was silly and it did fill up time but the rest of the matches on the card were just average and/or predictable. Not the best Smackdown of the year by any stretch but this match was at least entertaining and brought the best out of the crowd and at points the announce team. 
 

Surprises

  • Dolph Ziggler leaving the US Title in the ring and walking out. Weird for sure but at least I'm curious about where they are going with him, which is a change from how I've felt about his booking recently.

Wrestling News #0 - NXT Signees

Wrestling News

Time for some wrestling news. pwinsider.com (don't go to the website, it's truly awful) reports that there may be some big signings coming the way of NXT in the near future. 

The first name, and the one that I am so amped for, is Ricochet. He's a physical specimen and a true athlete. If you haven't had the opportunity to watch him and you have Netflix, look up Lucha Underground and turn your attention to Prince Puma, that's Ricochet under a mask. He's fantastic. Him vs. AJ Styles in WWE is on my bucket list. Honestly, I'd prefer he go straight to the main roster but if he can benefit from a strong run in NXT, I won't mind. 

The second rumored singing is War Machine, the tag team of Hanson and Raymond Rowe. These are big, capable fellas, with some pedigree and a résumé to boot. It will be interesting to see them integrate into the Tag Team division in NXT...I hope they obliterate Heavy Machinery. 

That's the latest for now. Are there any wrestlers that you would love to see in WWE in the near future? Comment below and tell us why!

Raw Report 12-18-17

Monday Night Raw came to us from Providence, RI this week, Here is my breakdown of the show. 

By The numbers

Matches: 7
Interviews: 0
In-ring Promos: 4
Backstage Promos: 5
Times Booker T made me want to punch a wall: 3


Main Storylines

  • Who will face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title at Royal Rumble? Kane or Braun Strowman?
    • My only question thus far about this entire storyline is why in the world Kane is involved?
    • To the main point, it will be a Triple Threat match at Royal Rumble between Kane, Braun Strowman, and Brock Lesnar. Which I suppose answers my question about Kane's involvement. If he eats the pin and Strowman wins, then you can get the belt off of Brock without him losing and maintain his 'Beast' status. Though, I'm not sure if he drops the Universal Title at Rumble. I'd like him to but I'm not convinced just yet.
  • Samoa Joe vs. The Shield. This is really good. The Shield is totally over and making Joe their foil is a great way to ensure he maintains his status as a legit top heel.
  • Drew Gulak is a genius.
  • Enzo Amore and Nia Jax...who cares.
  • Woken Matt Hardy.
    • If you haven't seen the Broken Matt Hardy storyline from TNA, then you are in for a very weird and WONDERFUL treat. His commitment to this character is perfect.
  • Elias continues to slay. He's the definition of a heat magnet. 


Match of the Night

Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak

(Winner faces Enzo Amore for the Cruiserweight title)

This match had a great spot where Gulak suplexed Alexander over the top rope, which lead to Alexander suplexing Gulak, and then a final Suplex from Gulak as they hit the mat on the outside of the ring. Pretty nuts to watch. They also hit the Standing Spanish Fly which is, by far, the best move in Pro Wrestling. This match was a ton of fun and featured two guys who are highly talented and fun to watch.
 

Surprises

  • Hideo Itami is here!! He came out to save Finn Balor from a Miztourage beatdown. Here's hoping his main roster run is exponentially better than his time in NXT. 
  • The Revival are back! Top Guys rule and get the win over Slater and Rhyno.
  • We get the first EVER Women's Royal Rumble Match in Janurary!! So cool.

The Future of Bray Wyatt

There has been a rumor going around that 2017 is going to be a big year for Bray Wyatt. I must admit, this excites me. I've been fond of him since I came back to WWE in late 2015, though I never knew why he lost so much if his character was supposed to be a god.

Bray has incredible charisma, great skills as an actor, and he's very convincing in the ring. He deserves a run in the main event scene if his character is ever going to fully develop. Hopefully this rumor is true and we'll get to see that development soon.

Here is a quick run down of what I think could happen for Bray this year:

  • Win the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber
  • Beat Randy Orton at Wresltemania
  • Wyatt family officially ends and Bray stands alone at the top
  • Face Cena at Summer Slam
  • Cena will want number 17 to break the record and he'll still be mad that he lost the belt at Elimination Chamber. (Cena probably wins here, which is fine. Get him number 17, he deserves it, but let's just get it done so others can move up.)
  • Feud with Baron Corbin leading up to Survivor Series. They are the two big nasty fellas on Smackdown and by this point Bray could be a Face, which I think makes a ton of sense. We could use a baby face with some charisma and personality, plus everyone already loves him.

I don't know how much of this will actually pan out, just shooting from the hip here, but I'd love to see Orton vs. Wyatt as the main event at Wrestlemania because who in the world saw that coming? Sure we knew that they'd fight eventually because Orton as a Wyatt never made a whole lot of sense but for the Title at Wrestlemania...this could be a slow burn for the ages if it actually happens.

NXT TakeOver: San Antonio Predictions

Roderick Strong vs. Andrade 'Cien' Almas

This is the match I care the least about on this card. It isn't because I dislike Roddy or Cien but only because it has the least at stake, for both championships and storylines. Both Roddy and Cien are solid wrestlers and solid performers but this match just doesn't have much build to it. 

My hope is that this match is a starting point for these two moving forward. They could really use a solid program together to boost their individual stocks as future top guys, which I believe they are. 

I expect this match to make me care about these two going forward, which is to say I expect this match to be very good. And if I had to pick a winner, which I do because I'm writing this article, I guess I'd pick Roderick Strong. 

Cien is generating heat, which he needs. Roddy is the 'do-good-I'll-try-real-hard guy', so they both would benefit from Strong winning. The issue then becomes if Roddy wins, why does the feud continue? The simple answer is that Cien loses it after the loss and beats down Strong. I don't like this though. Cien already did this with Cedric Alexander. 

What I hope to see is Cien win the match clean, this is important. Then Roddy goes to Regal pleading for a rematch, really building up the 'I'm a good guy' character, and he beats Cien the next time around. That would give this storyline what I'm looking for moving forward. 

I think both of these guys will end up at the top of the card by the end of the year but they need this storyline to help propel both of them there. That is why I think Cien wins this match, which kicks off a solid program between these two. 

Cien wins. 

Tye Dillinger vs. Eric Young

Let me start this section off with a declaration: I am a Tye Dillinger mark. I think he's a ton of fun to watch and I root for him every time he's in the ring...and by God he has to be the 10th entrant in the Royal Rumble. But I digress.

The outcome of this match should be dependent upon the storyline going forward...duh. The question is, what is that storyline? Is Dillinger getting called up? Is this feud with Young and Sanity here to stay? I don't know, which is what makes picking this match so difficult. Let me explain my thinking. 

If this is Dillinger's last match, he may lose to Young. Another close-but-no-cigar match for Tye and we all cry on the inside until he debuts the following night at the Royal Rumble and we all cry on the outside. If, however, this feud is for real, then I think that Dillinger finally wins a match at a TakeOver and defeats Young. I can't believe I just wrote that...I must be a Dillinger mark.

Dillinger has been so beaten down lately and yet is still incredibly over with the crowd. He has resilience, believability, and charisma on his side and I think NXT has abused these traits. He can lose and still be a fan favorite. It's a blessing and a cruse, right?

In spite of all of that, here is what I hope: Dillinger wins, closes his program with Young and Sanity, and then enters the Royal Rumble at 10. Young, hot off the heels of defeat, goes after Roode who left Dillinger high-and-dry in the Dusty Rhodes Classic against Sanity. This storyline accomplishes a few things: it gets Dillinger up to the main roster, gives Young and Roode something to do before Roode takes the NXT title off of Nakamura, and allows Nakamura to make his main roster debut on the Raw after Wrestlemania.

Dillinger Wins. Please. 

NXT Tag Team Championship Match: DIY (c) vs. Authors of Pain

This is an interesting match for a number of reasons. Authors of Pain are monsters. DIY are fan favorites. Authors of Pain are twice the size of DIY and genuinely don't seem to care if they hurt people and I'm not limiting that to Kayfabe, they genuinely don't seem to care. 

On paper this is a no-brainer, Authors of Pain by a mile. This is Wrestling though, what makes sense on paper isn't always relevant. The previous few matches have shown that Authors of Pain are indeed human and if it weren't for Paul Ellering would have been beaten. The hope this stirs in all of us is that DIY will be the first team to actually beat Authors of Pain but I'm skeptical.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love for DIY to win, that would be incredible and would put them in Match of the Year candidacy in January, not bad. The problem, as stated above, is that they are facing monsters. It is hard to see Authors of Pain losing. 

The only way a guaranteed rematch happens is if DIY lose the match and cash in their rematch clause, as former champions. And with TM61 out because of Thorne's busted knee, The Revival surely getting called up soon, and Sawyer Fulton's injury and subsequent replacement by Killian Dane (read Big Damo) it makes the most sense for the Tag Team Titles to focus on DIY and Authors of Pain for the near future. 

It is because of that thinking and with great sadness that I predict: Authors of Pain win. For the record though, I hope I'm wrong. 

NXT Women's Championship Fatal 4 Way Match: Asuka (c) vs. Peyton Royce vs. Billie Jay vs. Nikki Cross  

Let's come out the front door and say it: this is the perfect time for Asuka to drop the title. You want reasons? Here you go:

  • She doesn't have to be pinned to lose
  • Peyton Royce could lay down for Billie Kay to give her the belt, or vice versa but I doubt that's how it would go.
  • Asuka needs to get called up. She deserves top notch competition and pitting her against a developing division in NXT is actually harming the newer women. Let her move on to Charlotte (yes please) and let the NXT women build each other up.
  • She hasn't lost yet, why not make her first "loss" a debatable one? Everyone loves a little controversy. 
  • Also, Nikki Cross is insane.

For all of these reasons I think that Asuka loses and gets called up to the main roster, for a match at Wrestlemaina against Charlotte. 

If I'm going to run with this line of thinking the question then becomes, who wins the title? Nikki Cross does.

Here's why: Billie Kay winning it is too obvious and frankly her and Royce chasing the title is too good to end right now. Their egos are best served as the heel's chasing rather than the champs retaining. Sanity could use a boost from their least-likely member. I say this because look at the other members, they are either huge or savvy vets, Cross is the x-factor of that group and I think NXT has kept her out of real matches for a reason...they want to surprise us.

Nikki Cross wins. 

NXT Championship Match: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Bobby Roode

I reside in the minority of people who think Bobby Roode is lame, maybe even a poor man's Ric Flair, if I'm being generous. To me there is a snowball's chance in hell that Roode wins this match. Nakamura should handle him without even breaking a sweat but I must remind myself that wrestling isn't about who would win in a real fight. Rather, it is about telling stories and entertaining the audience. 

So, with that in mind, I think Nakamura still wins, because how can he lose to Bobby Roode?? Roode's finisher when he arrived in NXT was a pump-handle slam? Really?? Is it 1998? Roode seems fake. I know he is a vet and has been around for a long time but my goodness I get zero satisfaction from watching him wrestle. Compare him to Nakamura and the differences are glaring. 

Nakamura is charisma personified coupled with great in-ring ability. The only way Nakamura loses, in my estimation, is because he is going to win the Royal Rumble. If he drops the belt and enters the Royal Rumble but loses I will be so incredibly upset. Plus, with Samoa Joe definitely in the Royal Rumble and Dillinger as a potential entrant, why would Nakamura enter the Rumble? Save him for Wrestlemania or the Raw after it and let him reign supreme for a few months more.

Shinsuke Nakamura wins.  

22 of 30 Royal Rumble Entrants Named

22 spots have been booked for this year's Royal Rumble. Per Cageside Seats, here is the full list:

  • The Undertaker
  • Goldberg
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Big Show
  • Dean Ambrose
  • The Miz
  • Sami Zayn
  • Dolph Ziggler
  • Big E
  • Xavier Woods
  • Kofi Kingston
  • Bray Wyatt
  • Randy Orton
  • Luke Harper
  • Mojo Rawley
  • Braun Strowman
  • Chris Jericho
  • Baron Corbin
  • Cesaro
  • Sheamus
  • Big Cass
  • Rusev

With 8 spots left up in the air, it's a fantasy booker's dream to think of who they could put in those spots. Some potential options, listed from most likely to least, are:

  • Samoa Joe
  • Tyler Bate
  • Tye Dillinger
  • Finn Balor
  • Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Shelton Benjamin
  • Kurt Angle
  • Kenny Omega

We'll definitely not get all 8 of these guys. But I'm confident in Samoa Joe and hopeful for Bate and Dillinger (at 10 of course). All in all, this Royal Rumble has the potential to be a ton of fun. It's a stacked card and there is legitimate mystery around who will win the Rumble itself. 

The Things That Have Changed In WWE Since Royal Rumble 2016

In preparation for this year's Royal Rumble I watched the 2016 edition and noticed very early on that a lot has changed in the past year in WWE. I decided to track all the differences I noticed and list them below.

A quick note: The differences listed below are only based on what I saw in the 2016 Royal Rumble. What occurred before or after the Royal Rumble is not taken into account. 


The Brand split happened

Ring posts now have LED cases

Vince McMahon is no longer on TV

The Authority isn't a thing anymore

The League of Nations was a thing, so were The Social Outcasts

Braun Strowman was a Wyatt

The Uso's were good guys

The Tag Team belts were black and bronze

Ring Announcers Brandi Rhodes (Eden Stiles) and Lillian Garcia are both gone

No Mauro Ranallo, Tom Phillips, David Otunga, or Corey Graves

The Women's championship was the Diva's championship

Roman Reigns no longer enters the ring through the crowd

The only champions holding the same belt now as they did at Royal Rumble 2016: 
- Dean Ambrose, Intercontinental
- Charlotte Flair, Women's/Diva's

Sheamus had those silly beaded braids in his beard 

The Miz didn't have Maryse 

Wrestlers who have left:
- Alberto del Rio
- Ryback
- Stardust
- Wade Barrett
- Adam Rose

Wrestlers who are still signed but have disappeared from TV:
- Curtis Axel
- Mark Henry
- Jack Swagger

Why and How WWE Should Turn Roman Reigns Heel

Why Turn Roman Heel?

Roman Reigns is in a rut. He's been essentially the same character, with little to no variation, since he debuted with The Shield in 2012. He's gotten better on the mic, to be sure, but charisma is not his strong suit. 

The lack of development for his character is even more glaring when you compare it to that of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Both of those gentlemen have enjoyed successful character development and have come to stand on their own as top guys in WWE. Roman is certainly a top guy based on his booking but the most vocal fans have never accepted him as such. 

I believe turning Roman Reigns heel will provide an excellent opportunity to supercharge his character development and will give the WWE Universe someone on Raw to truly hate. Because let's be honest, there are no heels on Raw that people actually hate. No one actually hates Owens or Jericho. We all love them because they are hilarious, charismatic, and great performers. Raw needs a true heel, one that everyone actually hates. Roman can be that guy. For a corollary: Look at Smackdown. The Miz is the one truly hated character on that show and Smackdown is better off because of him.

How to pull it off

We know we want Roman Reigns to turn heel. The heat he'd get would be volcanic. Here is how I would pull it off:

Continue to have Roman and Seth buddy up, giving us the warm fuzzies any sort of Shield reunion tease stirs in our hearts. Ramp it up all the way until Wrestlemania when Seth Rollins finally faces HHH, one on one in a "No Disqualifications" match. 

During that match Kevin Owens comes out to attack Seth and give HHH an advantage, aiming to secure both his spot as a top guy and a HHH win. This in turn brings Reigns out to even the playing field. 

Fast forward to the key moment of the match. Seth is on the verge of breaking, HHH is on the prowl and Owens is stirring outside the ring (after a massive Superman Punch, of course). Only Reigns can save him at this point.

Roman starts to enter the ring, makes eye contact with Rollins, grins as HHH stands behind Rollins, and then walks up the ramp leaving Seth defenseless to the beating HHH and Owens are all too eager to deliver. 

In one fell swoop: HHH goes out on top, in what is potentially his last Wrestlemania match, Rollins completes his face turn, Owens refreshes his heel status in what I'm assuming will be a post-Jericho world, and Reigns finally turns heel and does so in a huge way. 

The next night on Raw the show opens to an empty ring and brand new entrance music hits. After about 15 seconds of awkwardness Roman Reigns, the Universal Champion, walks to the ring in a brand new outfit. Gone are The Shield music and The Shield clothes. What we see is the NEW, and more importantly, real Roman Reigns.

On the mic Roman explains to the finally satisfied WWE Universe that he's been playing them the whole time...and Seth Rollins too. Ever since Seth betrayed both he and Ambrose, he's been patiently plotting his revenge. 

He'd say something like:

"I patiently rebuilt our friendship, baiting him into the belief that I actually forgave him. I regained his trust and then I waited for the perfect time to destroy his world. Wrestlemania, HHH, Seth's one chance to move on and prove that he's "The Man"...and I took it from him. 

Heel turn finally complete.

Problems with this proposal

This proposal is not without a few flaws:

  • Roman has to be convincingly well spoken to make the turn work
    • If his turn is based on conniving, planning, vengeance, and malice he has to be able to back it up on the mic. He can't be "The Guy" anymore. He has to be calculated and ruthless. 
  • Roman Reigns is a HUGE marketing win for WWE
    • The dude sells so much merchandise and WWE is a for-profit company after all. Turning one of your top earners heel is a decision taken very seriously, and I'm sure not a decision left solely up to Creative.

Conclusion

So there you have it, my proposal for turning Roman Reigns into the best bad guy WWE has seen on Raw in a while. I'm sure there are other holes in my proposal, so please point them out. I'd also love to hear your thoughts: should WWE turn Roman Reigns heel? Why or why not??

NXT TakeOver: Toronto Predictions

Tye Dillinger vs. Bobby Roode

I have high hopes for this match because I am a huge Tye Dillinger fan and I think this program with Bobby Roode has the potential to be really good for a while. I expect Dillinger to come out of the gate hot in this match, taking it straight to Roode. Roode will most likely get caught cheating at some point, going for the quick win, Dillinger will capitalize and nab the win. Cue angry Bobby Roode and a rematch in the near future.

It makes the most sense to have Dillinger win this way, or in a similar fashion, because there is no way Bobby Roode will want to give Dillinger a rematch if he wins. The only way I think Dillinger loses and gets a rematch is if Bobby wins by blatantly cheating and Regal steps in to grant Dillinger a second chance. I don’t like this as much though because Regal is already in the middle of Nakamura vs. Samoa Joe, turned  The Revival vs. DIY match into a 2 out of 3 falls match, and decided to suspend Paul Ellering in a Shark Cage above the ring for The Author’s of Pain’s match. Putting him in the middle of another rivalry, that doesn’t include any championship, makes less sense to me than giving Dillinger the win and making Bobby Roode even more of the angry, entitled Heel than he already is. 

Tye Dillinger wins

TM61 vs. The Authors of Pain

Dusty Rhodes Classic Championship Match

My mind says that The Author’s of Pain are going to win this match. My heart wants TM61 to win and be the first team to defeat The Author’s of Pain. WWE has even been hinting at this the past few matches as The Author’s of Pain have needed Paul Ellering’s timely interference to win their matches. Combine this seeming weakness with the overly dramatic decision to place Paul Ellering in a Shark Cage suspended above the ring and you might be convinced that The Author’s of Pain will lose. I’m not. 

I’m fairly confident that they will win. Not because they deserve it or because TM61 are bad, in fact TM61 is quite good, but they are not the team to hand The Author’s of Pain their first loss. That mantle belongs to DIY who will do so when they defend their newly won Tag Team Championships against the winners of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic: The Author’s of Pain.

The Author’s of Pain win.

DIY vs. The Revival

NXT Tag Team Championship 2 out of 3 Falls Match


This match is going to be incredible. It has the potential to be the best match of the entire weekend, including Survivor Series. I expect it to go all 3 falls with a number of very close falls. Those are really the only predictions I want to make for this match because I just want to enjoy the magic. 

The Revival have been on an incredible run for the past year and are due a call up to the Main Roster. DIY have been incredibly over with the crowd and know how to work a match to perfection. This should be the perfect match to both send The Revival off and to give DIY a push to the top. 

DIY wins

Mickie James vs. Asuka

NXT Women’s Championship

I don’t know what to expect from this match. The fact that WWE is bringing Mickie James back means that there really is no one ready for Asuka in the Women’s division yet. I’m not sure why they haven’t brought Asuka up to the main roster as the NXT Women’s Champion, like they did with Kevin Owens, to get her some match time with stronger competition while the rest of the women’s division tries to catch up. 

I expect Mickie James to perform well and maybe even take it to Asuka for a little bit but Asuka will win this match.  

Asuka wins

Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

NXT Championship

The build up to this match has been INCREDIBLE, almost too good. This combined with the odd announcement during NXT that Shinsuke Nakamura will defend his NXT Championship against Samoa Joe in Osaka in a few weeks has me thinking that something funny is going to happen during this match. This is the only reason I can think of that would merit Samoa Joe getting a rematch so quickly.

A few options are that Nakamura gets DQ’d, Nakamura gets counted out, there is a double count out, there is outside interference, or Joe gets “injured” and can’t continue. 

Of these options I think that a double count out or Nakamura getting DQ’d are the most likely. Either way, Nakamura retains the Championship and NXT’s odd announcement can come to fruition. 

The 5 Best WWE Superstars Right Now

As the calendar speeds along towards Survivor Series I thought it would be fun to go through the roster and pick out the 5 Superstars who are currently at the top of their game. In order to make the top 5 a Superstar must be on TV regularly, be involved in a compelling storyline, have great mic skills, be proficient in the ring, and have personality to boot. In essence, they must embody what a WWE Superstar is supposed to be.

5. Charlotte

Charlotte is the current Raw Women’s Champion, after defeating Sasha Banks inside Hell In A Cell last month. She is the premiere athlete in the Women’s division and has a commanding presence in the ring and during promos. Her mic skills have gotten better over the past year, though she does have some room to improve. 

She is the quintessential heel for a number of reasons: she is the best, she knows it, and she wants you to know it as well. She has mastered the art of condescension during promos and in the ring. She makes you hate her and respect her at the same time, which is truly frustrating. Her character is incredibly natural and believable, not every heel can pull this off. Carmella and Natalya to give two examples.

I’m very glad that she is young because it means we have years to watch her grow as a performer and cement her status as truly one of the all-time greats.

4. AJ Styles

Ok, forget what I said about being in a compelling storyline, because right now that does not apply to AJ Styles. His current situation has him wrapped up with Dean Ambrose and James Ellsworth, which is very funny, but not the least bit compelling. 

I am willing to overlook that though because AJ’s in-ring work since joining WWE in January has been absolutely impeccable. He’s had incredible matches with Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, John Cena, and Dean Ambrose in his short time in WWE. He has transitioned from Face to Heel very well and has even handled a transition away from The Club thanks to the draft.

Every time AJ wrestles I come away impressed. His work rate is second to none, his ability is elite, and he sells with the best of them. His offense is explosive and creative, often evoking a shout of “holy crap!” from yours truly. I never watched TNA when AJ was pushing the boundaries there but I am very happy that he has finally come to WWE where I can watch him work his magic each week on Smackdown. 

3. Shinsuke Nakamura

Shinsuke Nakamura is the current NXT Champion and he is also currently setting NXT on fire. Besides having the best entrance in all of WWE, he also has more charisma in his pinkie than Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, The Shining Stars, The Ascension, The Vaudvillains, and Curt Hawkins have combined. He’s cooky, he doesn’t look like a prototypical wrestler, and his English isn’t great but none of that matters with him because he is pure magic. 

His current storyline with Samoa Joe has been fantastic to watch. He’s grown from the lovable, goofy yet skilled new Champion into a fierce, fearless, and angry Champion…all while never losing the crowd. If anything his growth has endeared the crowd to him even more, which I didn’t think was possible. 

I love watching Nakamura. He has that ever ephemeral “it” that so many Superstars try to find. He doesn’t even have to speak to have the crowd eating out of his palm. The Rock’s charisma came from his ability to talk circles around anyone, Stone Cold’s charisma came from his ability to be the best Anti-hero we’ve ever seen, Nakamura’s charisma seems to come from his true uniqueness. I’ve never seen a Superstar like him before but I’m beyond happy that I get to watch him perform now.

2. The Miz

Placing The Miz this high might seem odd to the casual wrestling fan but anyone that has been watching The Miz since Wresltemania will know that he has been darn near perfect. He has solidified his character, he has continually proven that he can cut a promo better than just about anybody, Maryse has added the perfect amount of heat for him, and he’s been in some great storylines since she returned the night he beat Zack Ryder for the Intercontinental Title.

It’s fair to say that The Miz has mastered the cheating, slimy Heel character. He uses his wife to distract opponents, he hides behind her in escalated situations, and he has no problem referring to himself as a Hollywood A-lister. He also has a talkshow and wears sunglasses in the dark, need I say more?

His run as Intercontinental Champion, leading up to the Title vs. Career match with Dolph Ziggler was impeccable, and I suspect their match this coming Tuesday on Smackdown will not disappoint, though Ziggler will win. 

I truly hope that this recent run of top form from The Miz results in a storyline with AJ Styles for the World Championship, he deserves it, and Styles vs. Ambrose is dead…wait, what? Ambrose vs. Styles at TLC? Again!!?? 

Ok, so after TLC, The Miz should definitely get a run at the World Championship and AJ Styles. He deserves it and that feud could turn AJ back to a Face in time for, drum roll please, John Cena turning heel and coming for the record tying 16th World Championship. Please, WWE, make this happen.

1. Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens came into WWE with a splash taking on John Cena and then picking up the Intercontinental Championship from Ryback at Night of Champions in 2015. His trajectory was steeply up and to the right from this victory through his feud with Sami Zayn after Wrestlemania 32. After this though it seemed that WWE didn’t know what to do with him. I remember thinking on a few occasions that WWE were wasting his talent, at the prime of his career no less. 

Luckily for him Finn Balor dislocated his shoulder in the inaugural match for the Universal Championship against Seth Rollins, leaving the title vacant. WWE did the right thing and gave Owens a push to the top in epic fashion as Triple H stabbed Rollins in the back and handed Owens the Championship.

This might be the single best decision WWE made in 2016.

I’ve gushed over everyone on this list so far, and rightfully so, they are all fantastic. Kevin Owens, though, is untouchable right now. 

I have never seen someone so at home in the ring. His mannerisms and trash talk are the best. Seriously, keep your eyes and ears on him at all times during his matches, you’ll pick up on his genius quickly. I routinely laugh out loud during his matches because of how great his trash talk and corresponding mannerisms are. 

On top of his personality and charisma, his skill and execution in the ring are remarkable. He sells so well that I genuinely thought Sami Zayn killed him twice with a ladder. He is also incredibly agile and quick for a bigger guy, with a move set to rival anybody in the business. 

Simply put, Kevin Owens is the best WWE has right now. 

WWE Hell In A Cell 2016 Predictions

By Cam Brennan

It's been a few weeks since I've written here but life happens and I got  a whole week behind on WWE programming. I'm all caught up now, just in time for Hell In A Cell, so let's get to the predictions.

Enzo and Big Cass vs. Gallows and Anderson

For the record, my heart wants Enzo and Cass to win this match but I don't think it will happen. Gallows and Anderson need a win, Enzo and Cass can lose and still be incredibly over with the fans. Therefore, it makes sense to have Gallows and Anderson win. This is both good and bad for my prediction. It's good because logic should win the day. It's bad, however, because logic is something WWE uses sparingly. 

Here's hoping logic prevails. Gallows and Anderson win.

 

Bayley vs. Dana Brooke

Dana gets a lot of hate from 'serious' wrestling fans because she telegraphs everything, and because her character is incredibly obnoxious. I understand these feelings but she has gotten better in the ring. She's no Charlotte, and she may never be, but cut her some slack...she is improving.

I can't imagine Dana wins this match, unless WWE is going to rebuild Bayley from the ground up, which would be an interesting choice at this point. 

Bayley wins.

 

Brian Kendrick vs. TJ Perkins
Cruiserweight Championship Match

I really hope Kendrick wins this match because the Cruiserweight division could use some drama and some purpose and Kendrick is the guy to deliver both of those things. Perkins is a good wrestler but he can't act and Kendrick has the charisma to carry the division though its infancy. The question then becomes, will WWE pull the trigger on the title switch?

Brian Kendrick wins.

 

Sheamus and Cesaro vs. The New Day
Raw Tag Team Championship Match

This one seems pretty straightforward. The New Day is very close to breaking the record for longest reign as Tag Team Champions. Sheamus and Cesaro can't do anything without arguing, which is getting really old, very quickly. 

The New Day wins.

 

Rusev vs. Roman Reigns
US Championship Match inside The Cell

Rusev has been great during this feud, even if the storyline hasn't been. I still don't know why they put Lana into the cake, totally pointless. Regardless, this match will be fun. These two dudes are brawlers, and we've seen what they can do together. I fully expect this match to take full advantage of The Cell and the rules, or lack thereof. 

Roman Reigns wins.

 

Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks
Raw Women's Championship inside The Cell

This match has the potential to be incredible. We know that Charlotte is athletically unmatched in the Women's division. We also know that Sasha will do whatever it takes, at her own peril, to deliver the best match possible. Add those two things to the first ever Female Hell In A Cell Match and you have the ingredients for a potential Match of the Year. 

I want Sasha to win because Charlotte is great as a heel chasing the belt and it's always fun when the bad guy loses. I am concerned though because Hell In a Cell is in Sasha's hometown and WWE tends to have hometown Superstars lose, or get beat down after they win.

I'm really unsure about this pick.

Sasha Banks wins

 

Rollins vs. Owens
Universal Championship Match inside The Cell

I want this match to be amazing and I have every reason to believe it will be but I can't help but think that it will underwhelm. Not because either of these guys are bad, on the contrary, they are both top guys but because the outcome seems obvious. Owens will win, furthering the Rollins vs. Triple H storyline that is leading towards Wrestlemania, and furthering the impending Owens vs. Jericho storyline. 

Sometimes I wish these big matches were more unpredictable because they deserve to be. And frankly, I deserve to be surprised by them. Lately, I haven't been. 

Owens wins.

 

 

WWE No Mercy 2016 Results

For No Mercy results jump down to the next section but if you want to see my predictions you can find them here. Also, I’ll keep a running tally of my score after the results of each match in this format: 
(correct predictions/total number of matches).

Triple Threat for WWE World Championship
John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles

Interesting move to have this match open the show and for all intents and purposes it was a good match, it even had a false finish. I can’t help that I really didn’t care for this match though. I’m over Styles versus these two guys. I’m ready for his next program.

AJ Styles wins. (1/1)


Nikki Bella vs. Carmella

This match had some very nice points but they were all overshadowed by Carmella screaming at the top of her lungs, making my ears bleed. I’m having trouble sharing the highlights of the match because I just want to forget that noise. 

Nikki Bella wins. (2/2)


Tag Team Championship
The Usos vs. Beauty and The Man Beast (Slater and Rhyno)

I enjoyed this match quite a bit. There was a lot of back and forth between the each team, a few hot tags, and everyone got in there spots. Perhaps a bit formulaic in execution but the first match of the night that I didn’t have problems with. 

Both of these teams have been a revelation for Smackdown and I’m glad to see this feud continue as American Alpha continues to warm to the Smackdown crowds. Things are looking up for the top part of the Tag Team Division on Smackdown. 


Slater and Rhyno win. (3/3)


Jack Swagger vs. Baron Corbin

So I was wrong that this was not the pre-show match. That match was announced after I made my predictions, so I’ll give myself some slack there. What I am concerned with is Jack Swagger’s character. He needs a serious reworking. 

This ‘We the People’ business needs to go away. I like him when I see him back stage in the backwards hat with the black t-shirt and jeans, he looks like a guy I could root for. Then when he comes out to the ring with the patriotic music and is announced as a ‘Real American’ I want to skip the match because it seems incredibly disingenuous. 

If Jack wants to get out of the bottom and mid-card he needs something new, I just don’t know if WWE will give it to him.   

Baron Corbin wins. (3/4)
He did cheat though, which fits his character. Would have liked to see him lose and continue to get more angry. Oh well. 

Intercontinental Championship
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler

Stipulation: If Ziggler loses he will retire

This match started as expected, with a lot of give and take between Ziggler and The Miz. It even seemed to stall for a little bit before there was a few quick pinning attempts and then the match slowed down again as The Miz applied the Figure Four Leglock. 

Maryse maced Ziggler, again, and this time Ziggler had the wherewithal to put his foot on the rope to extend the match. Then the Spirit Squad came out and distracted Dolph, who then kicked out of the Skull Crushing Finale, all while only wearing one of his boots. The Ref then booted Maryse and the Spirit Squad from the ring just in time for Ziggler to hit the Super Kick and pin The Miz for the WIN.

I really enjoyed this match. Great story told by everyone involved. I’m happy that Ziggler isn’t done just yet. 

Ziggler wins. (4/5)


Smackdown Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss

This match didn’t happen because Becky has a non-wrestling related medical condition and couldn’t wrestle. 

Instead Alexa wrestled…Naomi. 

I said in my predictions post that Naomi wouldn’t get the push to the Championship, and while this isn’t the Championship, it might be telling that she was chosen for this spot over Natalya. That choice might have been as simple as WWE wanting a Face for Bliss to beat but I’ll go ahead and give Naomi the benefit of the doubt here. 

And am I glad that Naomi got into this match because she beat Alexa. This is what I’m talking about, giving opportunity for success to people who haven’t been given it before. 

Naomi wins. (No score, because the match was changed last minute.)

 

Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt

I was completely wrong in my prediction. I thought that Harper was going to show up on Raw on Monday and challenge Braun Strowman but instead he showed up in this match and Bray Wyatt won a PPV view match against a bonafide star. I’m mad that I was wrong but I’m also happy for Bray because he finally won a big match, though it wasn’t clean. But I’ll take it. 

Bray Wyatt wins. (4/6)


Show Grade 

B. 

Pretty decent matches but Smackdown needs to figure out what the future of the WWE World Championship is. We can’t keep putting Cena, Ambrose, and Styles out there, some new blood at the top is needed.  

WWE No Mercy 2016 Predictions

Jack Swagger vs. Baron Corbin

This should be the match during the No Mercy pre-show. I can see this match going either way but due to how their match on Smackdown ended, I expect Swagger to win again. This is, in my mind, a positive result because an angry Corbin is much more interesting than an apathetic one.

Jack Swagger wins.


Nikki Bella vs. Carmella

This match should be good. Both of these women are talented in the ring and the storyline between these two has been building for quite awhile now. I’m not exactly sure where the story with these two goes from here. Nikki Bella could win to continue the feud, Carmella could win to end the feud, with Carmella moving on to someone else. My gut tells me that Nikki Bella wins and the feud between these two escalates. 

Nikki Bella wins. 


Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt is in another feud, with another longtime WWE big name Superstar, and Bray Wyatt will lose, again. I really do feel bad for the guy. His talent is obvious yet he still is the subject of questionable to terrible booking. One thing I’m absolutely certain of: this match will be better than Orton vs. Lesnar. 

Randy Orton wins. 


Tag Team Championship
The Usos vs. Beauty and The Man Beast (Slater and Rhyno)

I absolutely love The Usos heel turn, it has been a breath of fresh air for them. I enjoyed them before but there was always this air of gimmicky un-authenticity I felt. Now when I see them I feel like they are real people, not characters, which is the best you can hope for as a Pro Wrestler. They look comfortable and I enjoy watching them grow into this new role.

That being said, WWE has something unexpectedly great in Heath Slater and Rhyno. Slater’s storyline since the draft has been incredibly entertaining and I can’t see WWE pulling the belts from them so quickly. It would be a shame. Especially considering the ongoing feud between American Alpha and The Usos, which continues to be entertaining. 

Eventually I expect The Usos and American Alpha to fight over the Tag Team Championship but I don’t expect that to happen as a result of this match. 

Slater and Rhyno win. 


Intercontinental Championship
The Miz vs. Dolph Ziggler

Stipulation: If Ziggler loses he will retire

This match…oh boy. I’ve only been back into WWE for about one year, so I’ve missed all of Ziggler’s career, which means I may be one of the few people who hasn’t become sick of this character but even I want him to turn heel. I’m not ready for him to be done because, regardless of how you feel about his character, Ziggler is a great performer…though his legs always seem to stop working at key points in Tag Team or Ladder matches. Curious, that. 

I tell you this because I want you to know how conflicted I am about this match. I’ve heard a lot of talk about a dirty ending to the match giving Dolph a way out of actually retiring but wouldn’t that just perpetuate the blah nature of his character?? It would be like he isn’t even capable of putting himself out of his own misery. Frankly, an ending like that would be disappointing to me. 

I’d rather see him lose clean, giving The Miz some serious fuel to keep the World Tour going, or to win by any means necessary, cementing the heel turn for Ziggler. I feel like WWE has been teasing us with this ever since the draft but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. The trouble is, I don’t think they will because The Miz has been on FIRE lately as the best heel on Smackdown. Could they really put a heel against a heel going forward? It might work. Maybe. I’d at least like to see them try because Ziggler is too good of a performer to let fade into memory at this point in his career. 

Ziggler wins. 


Smackdown Women’s Championship
Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss

I’m really excited for this match. I’ll be honest, I love Becky Lynch. I think she’s the best.

Alexa Bliss on the other hand…my feelings are mixed. I think as a performer she is very, very good. I was surprised that she got drafted but after watching her on Smackdown I see why; it seems she was never given the full ability to shine in NXT. My issue with her is her character. I don’t buy it. I get the feeling that she’s trying hard to be a heel. Not nearly as bad as Carmella, who’s accent keeps getting more ridiculous (she might be Batman soon), or Natalya, but still I’m not convinced that she’s bad. Maybe it’s me that’s the problem, I don’t know. I digress.

I expect this match to be great. These women will not leave us disappointed. 

I want Becky to win. I do, but looking at the Smackdown Women’s division, I don’t see anyone else for her to feud with. Nikki is currently tied up with Carmella. Naomi won’t get the push to the title, even though she is more than capable of performing at that level. I don’t know what they are doing with Natalya. Eva Marie is filming a movie. 

Which leaves us with these 2 ladies vying for the Championship at No Mercy and for the foreseeable future. 

Again, I’m conflicted here. I want Becky to win but I feel like an Alexa win here pushes the rivalry further. 

Alexa Bliss wins. 


Triple Threat for WWE World Championship
John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose vs. AJ Styles

To be honest, I don’t care a lick about this match. AJ Styles will win.

The only way I wind up caring about his match is if Cena FINALLY turns heel. Other than that, I don’t care. Not great for the main event of a PPV.

AJ Styles wins.

We've Got A New Champion!

Main Thought

3 hours is too long for Raw right now. The really good parts of Raw get lost in the length of the show. So 1 of 2 things need to happen:

1) Cut the show to 2 hours.
2) Write better stories for the early and mid card.

Obviously the 1st option won’t happen because WWE won’t leave that money on the table. So we’re left with option 2: write more compelling storylines for the early and mid card. 

I’d like to see less squash matches and more character development. Braun Strowman is finally getting a real match next week, which is good, but what is WWE doing with Big Show, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, Darren Young, The Shining Stars, The Golden Truth, Jinder Mahal, Sami Zayn, and Sin Cara?

These are the people that need compelling character development to make Raw a 3 hour show full of must watch booking. I know that developing all of these characters on top of the already established Superstars is asking more of the creative team but shouldn't we be asking them to continually get better?

 

Things of Note

  • Reigns vs. Rusev at Hell in a Cell, that should be good. 
  • Perkins lost to Brian Kendrick in a non-title match, so it was pretty obvious that Kendrick would win. This did push the storyline forward though, which is good. WWE want the next title match between these two to matter. 
  • Jericho and KO challenge the New Day. This segment was absolutely perfect in every way. Also, Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson were ringside for the New Day vs. Jeri-KO match, which the New Day won after a distraction from Seth Rollins. 
  • The Main Event was Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte, with no Dana Brooke at ringside. These 2 women are incredible. Such great wrestling and storytelling. 
  • Charlotte threw one of the best moves I’ve seen. Usually she’ll do a moonsault off the top rope down to the floor, tonight she decided to throw a 360 into it as well. Incredible. 
  • Sasha is one of the best sellers in the WWE, right up there with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. There were multiple times during her match that I thought she was legitimately hurt.
  • New Raw Women's Champion: Sasha Banks

What is WWE doing with Dolph Ziggler?

Main Thought

Dolph Ziggler. What is WWE doing with him? 

(Before we go any further, let it be known that I like Dolph Ziggler and I want to see him succeed in this portion of his career.)

Many people have wanted a heel turn to help refresh his character and career and we’ve gotten so close in the last few months. Yet Ziggler is hanging on by a thread to this good guy character to the point that he’s putting his career on the line against The Miz in two weeks.

I don’t get it. 

He’s going to beat The Miz, or The Miz will cheat and Dolph will use that as a reason not to retire, but either way no one wins. Dolph needs to turn heel in order to get the fans back on board with him. 

This has nothing to do with Dolph as a wrestler. He’s fantastic in the ring. It’s his character that is the problem. He’s grown stale and everyone knows it. WWE seems intent on riding this character into the ground. Now maybe they do that and at the very last moment turn Dolph heel, which could have a huge payoff, but I think right now, we all just want to see this character changed. 

Also, stop imitating Shawn Michaels and Triple H. That will help a lot. 


Thoughts From The Show

  • What is WWE doing with The Ascension? I get the strong feeling that they are just hanging around with no clear trajectory.  
  • The Usos 2.0 are magic. They’re immediately more relatable, the new look is great, their in ring approach has changed for the better…I just love it. This is how you reinvent yourselves and breathe some serious life back into your characters. 
  • David Otunga is not good as a commentator.  
  • Can Bray and Randy fight already? 
  • The Miz is the quintessential hatable heel. So good. 
  • Dolph will beat The Miz in 2 weeks and the heel turn we all wanted for Ziggler won’t happen. Bummer. 
  • Cena is better on commentary than JBL and Otunga, the latter barely spoke during the Main Event. 

Show Grade

C.

Nothing important happened.

Cedric Alexander Is Phenomenal

Main Thought

Cedric Alexander. How good is this guy? Before the CWC I had no clue who this guy was, which is a shame, because I could watch him wrestle all day long. He is fast, precise, crazy athletic, charismatic, intelligent, and possesses that all too elusive it factor. The NXT crowd absolutely loves him. 

My favorite part of the entire CWC was after Cedric lost an incredibly close match to Kota Ibushi and the crowd gave Cedric the best chant ever, “Please sign Cedric! Please sign Cedric!” Which is all well and good until Triple H walked out and blew all of our minds. This is when Cedric Alexander became cemented as a fan favorite. When both fans and management all agreed, seemingly at the same time, that this guy was phenomenal. Honestly, it makes me emotional to think about because we got to participate in a small way as a man’s dream came true.

Oh and his match against Andrade Almas to main even this episode of NXT was also wonderful. 


Things of Note

  • Was anyone really surprised that Joe went crazy last week and destroyed Nakamura? It was only a matter of time right? I’ve been hard on Joe for a while, I just think his character is boring, but the man is talented I will not deny that. 
  • Aries is still wearing a cape to the ring. Just saying. 
  • Dan Matha looks like an absolute freak of nature. Let’s hope he has some personality to go along with his 6’7” action-figure physique. 
  • Good to see Aaliyah on TV again. We got to see her on Breaking Ground and how hard it was for her to break into the TV rotation, happy for her.
  • We’ve been seeing these ‘Sanity’ promos for what seems like months now, when do we get the payoff?

The Kevin Owens Show Rolls On

Main Thought

Honestly, how good is Kevin Owens? 

  • He’s incredible on the mic
  • He’s the best trash talker in the ring
  • His comedic timing is brilliant
  • His in ring work is top notch
  • He sells better than most, to the point that I thought he died, twice. (Both times Sami Zayn and a ladder were involved.) 
  • Tonight, he made Roman Reigns laugh, while he had Reigns in a chin lock. 

I am so happy to see him get the push that he’s deserved ever since he arrived on the Main Roster. I look forward to watching him each week. 

Things of Note

  • Sasha’s jacket was super fun. She’s still not great on the mic. That’s the only knock against her though, she’s a blast to watch. 
  • Dana smacked Charlotte in the middle of the ring during the build up to the triple threat match and it was sort of amazing. 
  • Sasha won the Triple Threat match vs. Bayley and Dana Brooke but her shoulders were definitely on the mat as she rolled Bayley up. It was really obvious too. Yikes. 
  • Bo Dallas is angry now. How long until he joins his brother Bray Wyatt? I actually don’t think this will happen but I couldn’t resist the thought.  
  • Sami killed it on The Highlight Reel. Just so good. Then Jericho smashed him on the head with a cell phone. He must be upgrading to an iPhone 7.
  • Why are The New Day fighting Gallows and Anderson 2 weeks before their match at Clash of Champions? 
  • The Cruiserweights will be on Raw next week. I cannot wait!
  • Ugggggh, Jack Swagger. Not a fan, at all. What is a real American anyway?  
  • The Main Event between Owens and Reigns was incredible…right up until Rusev came out and ruined the whole thing. So, so, so dumb. I mean I get why they did it, but I don’t like it. 

Show Grade

B. Raw started and ended really well. Everything in the middle was just ok. 

Smackdown Lost to Raw This Week

Where is Smackdown headed? 

Raw had an incredible episode this week. I was floored. Smackdown followed that up with an average episode but in light of how great Raw was, Smackdown felt worse than it should have. I’m afraid this will continue. 

Raw has an inspiring storyline surrounding it’s Universal Championship. Smackdown doesn’t have anything near as compelling surrounding it’s World Championship. Raw has 3 incredible female Superstars in the picture for the WWE Women’s Championship, Smackdown can’t seem to book it’s women well.

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The Best Ending To Raw That I’ve Ever Seen

Triple H is the king. He vanishes after Wrestlemania, just poof, gone. No one knows if or when he’s coming back to the main roster. Shane returned, ending the Authority storyline, Stephanie turned face, and the focus became all about who would run Monday Night Raw. Throw in a brand split, a draft, and a few months and frankly I just assumed that Triple was done in the ring and was focusing his energy on NXT and WWE Creative. 

I think a lot about where the storylines are headed, who may return or debut, and what surprises WWE might try and pull but in all of that guessing I never thought this would be how he returned. It was marvelous. I was shell-shocked, just absolutely floored. In a span of about 5 minutes Triple H turned WWE upside down. 

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