I grew up in the 1980s and I was a huge wrestling fan. I have pictures of me from before I can walk (or even remember) of me being taken to local WWF House Shows with “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff main eventing. My first word was double, in an attempt to say WWF. I was a gigantic Hulkamaniac and hated the likes of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Andre The Giant, and King Kong Bundy. I collected all of the action figures (and still have them), played all the crappy video games and consumed as much WWF programming as I could. The atmosphere, the pageantry, the action, the psychology; I was locked in. And that really did not change as I grew up. Even as the WWF and then WWE product changed, I was still hooked. But as I grew up, my tastes changed as well. As I became mature, I could look back and was completely enamored with talent that I hated when I grew up. I went from proudly being a Hulkamaniac to flipping the double bird and giving people crotch chops. But I was still heavily invested in the wrestling product.
And then something changed. I don’t know exactly when, but the WWE product began to lose my interest. I do not know if that was because of the resurgence of Independent wrestling, or the fact that the WWE, in my opinion, became very lazy with their creative after securing a monopoly on the mainstream wrestling business. Whatever the case may be, I do not consider myself a hardcore WWE fan. I do not even think I can consider myself a casual WWE fan. Which is a shame because, in ring, the talent pool that they currently have from top to bottom may be the best that they have ever had. I have not watched the product, other than WrestleMania, in nearly a year. I still check in on occasion, checking out clips on YouTube and other media sites when something interesting may come across my feed. I still play the video games which have gotten exponentially better since the 80s and I do carry a Network subscription to get easy access to the tape library as well as the WWE’s best-produced product, NXT.
So what I thought would be fun is this. I will give my predictions, and as a testament to how committed I am to this website, the fans, and this project overall, I will sit through each monthly WWE installment and review the shows from the lapsed fan perspective. Who knows, maybe the WWE can reel me back into my hardcore investment that I had for nearly 30 years. Tonight is the first (of hopefully many) edition of the Lapsed Fan’s Predictions: WWE No Mercy Edition.
WWE Kickoff Show Match
Apollo Crews vs. Elias
I have some familiarity with both of these gentlemen. I was a big fan of Uhaa Nation (Apollo Crews) on the Indy circuit. I thought he had a lot of the tools that would make him a great hand for the WWE. And I still believe that. However, his fast track out of NXT and this bland characterization right now is going to get him on a fast track out of the company. From my understanding, his addition to Titus Enterprises Worldwide has helped a bit with that, but not enough to get him out of the opening match. I am also familiar with Elias from his time in the local Pittsburgh Indy market. Another guy with great potential; that being said, I HATED him in NXT. And this is not the good type of hate that you want from a heel. This is a I want to pluck my eyeballs out this is so bad. From what I have read, that seems to have mellowed a bit on the main roster. Anyway, I will be curious to see how much time these two get. I do believe Elias goes over in typical heel fashion despite Titus O’Neil’s best efforts to prevent that.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz (c) vs. Jason Jordan
Winner and STILL Intercontinental Champion: The Miz
I will have to admit that I am a Miz fan. I never thought I would be, but he has really grown into his own as a character over the past two years. I thought he was screwed when he moved over to Smackdown and would no longer have access to the now defunct “Talking Smack” show (RIP), but he has just gotten that much better. He’s now the third longest reigning Intercontinental Champion, and I am rooting for him to break that record. As far as his opponent, I thought he was great in American Alpha. Apparently they have crapped the bed on the main roster, which is incredibly sad to me, but has been moved into this long, lost son angle with Kurt Angle. I’m in full support of the long running internet theory that Jason Jordan should be turned heel, and that he is not really Kurt’s kid. I think that is the far more interesting story. However, that’s not the case right now. While Jordan and Miz should put on a decent match, I don’t think Jordan is ready to take the reigns on the top title on Raw (sorry Universal Title). The Miz wins from the help of his goons.
Raw Tag Team Championship
The Shield vs. The Bar
Winner and STILL Tag Team Champions: The Shield
Huge fans of the former Jon Moxley and Tyler Black. Supreme talents that unfortunately have fallen victim to bad creative. I hope that putting them back together as a team has given them back some of their creative mojo. And if WWE were smart, they’d throw Reigns back in that picture as well and bring back the faction that they should have never split up in the first place. From what I have seen, Cesaro and Sheamus have really melded together into quite the formidable pairing. I love their name; this act may be the best thing that either have done inside the WWE. I have come to terms with the fact that I believe that Cesaro is a tag team specialist. There is nothing wrong with that but I think that is where his ceiling is. Unfortunately his partner is not Chris Hero but that’s an argument for another date and time. The Shield just won the titles a month ago, so this is the obligatory rematch. I think Rollins and Ambrose retain in what should be a fun match.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Neville (c) vs. Enzo Amore
Winner and STILL Cruiserweight Champion: Neville
The WWE Cruiserweight Division. If you want a microcosm of what WWE does wrong consistently, just tune into the WWE Cruiserweight division. Neville is another one of those guys on the current roster that I always check in to see what he is up to. He has been fantastic since his heel turn. HE should really hold this title forever and I’m not exaggerating. He is THAT good. Enzo is here on punishment detail and that is not fair to Neville. Enzo’s ceiling is that of a manager or on color commentary. He’s not a worker. Hate me all you want for that, but he just does not have it in the ring. And the only reason why he has not turned heel yet (which would be a higher ceiling for him), is that he moves merch. That said, I am an Enzo fan and believe he could be the next Captain Lou Albano if given the proper opportunity. He reminds me so much of Captain Lou. Anyway, it will be interesting to see if Neville can elevate Enzo here. Neville retains.
Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt
Winner: Finn Balor
What I am sure will be a topic for a future article will be the complete and utter mismanagement of the Bray Wyatt character. This is a character that should have been an easy slam dunk for the WWE. The momentum he built in 2014 going toward that match with Cena should have been the catalyst that elevated him to that next level. But the Cena train was going strong and steamrolled the “Eater of Worlds” at that year’s Mania, and Bray has never been the same again. It’s incredibly disappointing and honestly, unless he goes away for a while and comes back with some major character tweaks, I do not believe he will ever be fixed. Balor is another one that I am concerned about. He had a great NXT run, and it looked like they were going to blast him to the moon right of the gates on the main roster, but bad luck cost him that shot. He’s been slowly working his way back up, but it seems that his act has grown a bit stale as well. Honestly, with Balor winning last month, I could see Bray winning here to do that fun WWE 50/50 booking, but I only have one babyface winning so far on this card, so I think Balor goes over to help even that out.
Raw Women’s Championship – Fatal Five Way
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax vs. Emma
Winner and STILL Women’s Champion: Alexa Bliss
I think a lot of people are picking Bayley who was a late entry into this match. However, I have a different theory as to why she was added: I believe she is there to facilitate the Sasha Banks heel turn. This has been rumored for months, and had it not been for Bayley’s bit of bad luck, I think we would have already seen it happen. I believe there will be a spot in this match where Bayley inadvertently costs Sasha Banks the title and I believe that Sasha will be the one that takes the fall. Bliss will run off in the chickenshit heel manner that only she can do, leaving these two in the ring. Bayley will plead with Sasha that it was an accident, and Sasha will appear to have accepted the apology, but then turn on Bayley and leave her rag dolled in the ring. I think this will help position Bayley into the type of face they want her to be as well as give her a source to be a bit more edgy. And Sasha is a natural heel and should only work as a heel. Or they could just say screw it and finally give Emma a real chance.
John Cena vs. Roman Reigns
Winner: John Cena
I am a John Cena fan…most of the time. I don’t think John Cena gets enough credit for his in ring work, and his ability to work the mob. When we get serious John Cena, then I am a huge fan. When we get LOLCENA, I hate his freaking guts. There’s nothing worse than dad humor Cena. It’s the most brutal thing on WWE TV. And when we get SuperCena (See: Bray Wyatt, Rusev), I hate him even more. I do not believe Cena was brought over to put over Reigns. If that’s the case it is going to get shit on like every other ham-fisted attempt to make Reigns “the guy” and is only going to hinder his progress. You know what got Roman Reigns over? The Shield. Put him back in the damn Shield. It would help not one, not two, but three of your top tier talents immediately. Have Reigns lose here, have him show some vulnerability, make him unsure of himself moving forward, and then he finds himself when he reunites with the Shield. It will get over, he will get over, and you can rematch these two at Mania and have him go over Cena there. And it will work.
WWE Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Braun Strowman
Winner and NEW Universal Champion: Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman may be the first person that the WWE has booked 100% right in over a decade. He is the #1 guy I always make sure to check out as far as the main roster is concerned. Logic would dictate that he loses tonight because he has been made to look so strong against Brock Lesnar leading up to this match. However, I think it is time to pull the trigger on this guy. While the WWE seemed to have Roman Reigns pegged as the future of the company, I believe that the future is Braun Strowman. He is a literal beast. He is terrifying. And he is SUPER over. Why not give him a shot right now and see what he can do week in and week out as the champion? Hell, I may even tune in to see that. I love Brock, I think he is a supreme talent, but I feel like his time in the WWE is winding down. Time to put over “the next big thing.” Let’s see what Braun Strowman can really do.
So what do you think will happen tonight? Sound off here or go to our message board at Facebook.com/groups/ringsidechat!
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Check out WWE No Mercy tonight at 7pm EST only on the WWE Network!