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-Sasha Banks winning the Women's Championship for the third time just seems like such an awkward way to book things by WWE. Traditionally you would want to build-up a wrestler by having them chase the championship for a while before their journey culminating in a thrilling victory. Banks has a much different story, while she wins the championship frequently, she can never hold on to it, losing cleanly multiple times after winning the title. The issue, and this is somewhat similar to what WWE does with Roman Reigns, is that you can't crown someone as a big star multiple times. Each time Banks wins the title only to lose it soon after it brings her a step down. The only way it may make sense is if Banks turns heel, and considering she certainly acts like a heel whenever she interacts with Bayley, that might be for the best.
-One of the more peculiar philosophies of WWE is that they feel the need to always beat stars whenever they are in their hometown. Maybe they think it is too predictable to have wrestlers always win in front of their home audience; but it kills the audience. Case in point on Monday night when Cedric Alexander was getting a good reaction from the crowd in Charlotte. The cruiserweight division is dying for reactions like that; so of course Alexander lost which just decimates the audience. Charlotte would of course lose later that night again in front of her hometown audience. I felt the same way when they beat Sasha Banks at Hell in a Cell (which looks even worse now that Sasha has the title again) when she was getting a special reaction from the Boston audience. The beat her clean and the crowd walks out of the arena with no idea what just happened.
-Brandon Howard of Fightful.com who does great work diving into business numbers posted an interesting article that detailed what WWE PPV buys would look like if the Network didn't exist. Howard used Google search metrics to determine the interest of each PPV and correlated that with a prospective number of buys. It isn't a perfect measurement but has proven in the past to be accurate in predicting the PPV purchase numbers for UFC events. The numbers are very interesting, with the main assumption becoming that WWE is losing a lot of money with the WWE Network. Even though a much larger audience is watching the events now, PPV still looks like a much more lucrative outlet right now. Dave Meltzer did some more number crunching and came up with an estimation that, combined with the cannibalization of the home video market, the Network has cost WWE about $20 to $25 million in potential profits. They will never scrap the Network because they can't go back in time, but for the big events, particularly WrestleMania, the business model is deeply flawed. It also doesn't help that WWE told stock holders they expected to have 3 to 4 million subscribers to the Network by now and they don't even have half that.
-Insane Championship Wrestling, an indie company out of Scotland held their annual Fear and Loathing event back on 11/20 and it drew 6,130 fans in Glasgow. The number is the highest attendance total for a U.K. wrestling company since a Big Daddy Crabtree vs Giant Haystacks match all the way back in 1981. The U.K. has experienced a big indie wrestling boom with promotions like ICW, PROGRESS Wrestling and Revolution Pro gaining notoriety and stars like Zack Sabre Jr., PAC/Neville, Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll and others becoming well-known outside of the U.K. What is even more impressive is that ICW drew that crowd using only a few outside draws (Kurt Angle, Ricochet and The Dudley Boys) but mainly relying on domestic wrestlers. The crowd was hot all night and out of everyone on the show, I think Joe Hendry came across as the biggest star. Hendry has a gimmick where he covers popular songs and he had an entrance where he covered Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. It was incredible and the guy just feels like such a superstar before he even got in the ring.
AJ Styles vs Dean Ambrose: The TLC matches are generally very good and this should be no exception, especially considering the talent in the match. Styles has had an interesting run in WWE; here is a guy that was a career babyface in the United States and yet when he comes to WWE he becomes one of the best heels in wrestling. Credit him for improving a lot on the microphone and working his way into becoming an engaging speaker in front of 10,000 people. I think Styles has to win the match, because that sets up the follow-up match at the Royal Rumble between Styles and The Undertaker. An issue with SmackDown is that they are really thin in the main event—this is probably going to be the last time you can do Styles and Ambrose and with Cena taking more time off and Wyatt and Orton in the tag division; who else is going to be in the title picture? They need someone like The Undertaker to work a match in order to have the time to build up some other guys.
Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton vs Rhyno and Heath Slater: Slater and Rhyno were never supposed to make it this far; but they managed to get over and WWE did the smart thing and milked it for all it was worth by giving them a run with the tag titles. I think they have reached the end of the line though, and all signs indicate Orton and Wyatt are going to beat them on Sunday. Aligning with Wyatt has given Orton some new energy and creative direction which is important for a guy that has sometimes struggled to be interesting despite all his talent. I will criticize the overuse of Luke Harper run-ins though; it happens almost every match and at some point the babyfaces cannot be that surprised when the lights go out and Harper is there.
Becky Lynch vs Alexa Bliss: Becky Lynch has emerged as the best female wrestler in the company. Okay being on SmackDown ensures that she is never going to get the exposure that Sasha Banks or Charlotte gets, but it also means that she hasn't been the victim of RAW's inconsistent booking. She has gotten the SmackDown Women's Championship and held it the entire time and her character and personality remain the same. I'd like to see Lynch and Bliss work a solid, 10-minute PPV match before jumping to a stipulation match, but alas they are going right into a Tables match. Normally I'd bet the farm on Lynch, but a Tables match allows for a fluke victory—and they want to build more stars for the division and giving Bliss the title is the best way to do that. I don't think Bliss is ever going to be a great wrestler, but they have done well showcasing her character in the build-up and if she hits her spots in the ring she can be a star for them. I still think Lynch is the favorite but I wouldn't be surprised if Bliss pulls off the upset.
The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler: SmackDown is however not immune to the same inconsistent booking that plagues RAW; with the Ziggler being a perfect example. Ziggler's run on SmackDown has been a roller coaster—he became number one contender for the WWE Championship but then lost a nothing match to Ambrose. He then became a contender for the Intercontinental Championship and won a dramatic match when he put his career on the line. Just when it seemed like his star was rising once more, he lost the title to The Miz again and now seems to have fallen back down the ladder (pun intended). This could end up being a really good match because Ziggler is a hell of a performer and The Miz gets the right kind of old-school heat that almost nobody gets in 2016; but I have no idea who is going to win because the booking has been so scatterbrained.
Carmella vs Nikki Bella: This is a No Disqualification match and it could go either way. Sometimes it feels like WWE is just running through a list of matches that Women in the company haven't been in now that they are taking the women much more seriously. Ten years ago this definitely would have been like a pillow fight or a bra and panties match. Carmella is a lot like Bliss where I think her character is okay (well except for the fact that someone is billed as The Princess of Staten Island and is really from Worcester, something that should offend all parties) but her ring work isn't quite there yet, and Bliss is more advanced in the ring than Carmella. Naturally if you want to build up the division you would have Carmella go over but since this is kind of a revenge match for Nikki I think she is likely to win.
Baron Corbin vs Kalisto: Kalisto is a guy that works really hard in the ring to get over but the company never seems to be behind him. Corbin is the opposite in that he hasn't done much since coming up from NXT but the company loves him and will push him at the expense of others. I wouldn't be surprised if this match, which is a "Chairs" match ends when Corbin just beats Kalisto so badly that they have to stop the match.