What a week. WWE seemed to have finally realised they need to work on their product if they want ratings to improve. RAW was better than usual as we had an unexpected moments and unexpected matches. Smackdown was Smackdown with one of the most unexpected moments of the very early year and NXT gave us what looked like two send-off matches. Let’s stop stalling and delve into the depths of WWE TV.
All Night Long
John Cena, Seth Rollins & Finn Balor defeat Dean Ambrose, Bobby Lashley & Drew McIntyre via Stomp
Dean Ambrose defeats Seth Rollins via Lashley Spear
RAW started and ended in a fairly similar way this week. It started with Seth Rollins and Bobby Lashley brawling as the show began. This ended with both men being dragged away and the show officially starting. John Cena came out, dropped a promo and announced he was entering the Rumble. Drew came out in response and verbally tried to cut Cena down. They are about to throw down when Lashley and Rush come out to stop the action until something is done about Seth. To no one’s surprise Seth pops up again and once again starts a fight. They brawl and Dean Ambrose comes out to get a piece of Seth. The heels have the advantage until Balor comes out and settles the score. We now have an impromptu six man tag match to start RAW.
That six man tag match is full of exciting spots and all six men mesh well. Everyone shows off and Cena gets the chance to be a hot tag. This allows him to hit the moves of doom on Ambrose but during the Attitude Adjustment set up Dean tags in Drew leading to a surprise Glasgow Kiss. Fighting continues and Finn hits a Coup de Grace on Ambrose only to eat a Claymore from Drew before him can make a pin. The match eventually ends when Seth dispatches Drew and reverses a Dirty Deeds attempt into the Stomp for the win. The faces stand tall after a chaotic opening bout.
We now fast forward to the main event of the show where Seth and Dean have a falls count anywhere IC Title match. Despite Dean being everyone’s punching bag during the six man tag he has plenty of fight left in him and the two brawl all over the arena, they fight in the tech area, in the crowd and spend an extended amount of time backstage. There isn’t much in the way of technical wrestling but it isn’t needed. This felt like a personal brawl and that’s what we got. The two eventually make it back to the ring and Rollins hit the Stomp for what looks like a title win. Instead Lashley pulls Seth out of the ring and destroys him. After a full on beat down Lashley nearly cuts Rollins in half with a Spear and Ambrose drags himself into a pin. Lashley has helped Ambrose retain and we have a new feud to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that Hulk Hogan’s tribute to Mean Gene Okerlund was heartfelt. Hogan tried to remain in character as Mean Gene would have wanted him to but it was obvious he was hurting. His entrance followed a ten bell salute in honour of Mean Gene. He didn’t try to push an agenda, he didn’t make it about himself, he purely delivered a touching tribute to a long-time friend and colleague. For all the wrong he has done in recent years, this was the right thing to do. No one could have done it better and probably no one worked alongside Mean Gene more than Hogan. There was also an excellent tribute video that played during RAW that showcased his best moments and possibly introduced the icon to younger audience members who maybe never saw him during the WWF.
Ruining the Revival
Roode & Gable defeat The Revival via Roll Up
Why do we need a conspiracy? Who looked at the team of technical mastery that is the Revival and thought, losing conspiracy? This is even more insulting considering Roode & Gable are both qualified technical wrestlers too; we could have some absolute classics between the two. Instead we’ve had two excellent matches marred by screwy finishes. The first saw the non-legal team member pinned and this week’s saw the ref conveniently ignore an obvious foot on the ropes after Roode pushes Gable out of a Roll Up. If you want a team to lose just have them lose. If you want them to lose and still have more options, use the Lumberjack stipulation your match had!
The conspiracy storyline makes no sense given the Revival are meant to be a heel team. It’s annoying that a feud that could seriously “Revive” a dying tag division is being treated as a sub tier storyline where the Tag Team champions can’t win against their opponents without fate giving them the win. The saddest part is that both of these matches have been really good, it’s just awful finishes leaving awful after tastes.
Not Quite the End of Days
Baron Corbin defeats Elias via End of Days
It’s a weird time for Baron Corbin right now. He lost his GM job due to his own workforce turning on him and now he seems to spend his TV time clawing for attention and being blamed for RAW’s tanking ratings. He has been bullied by the McMahons and now he has become the mocking point for Elias. This was the case again as he interrupted another Elias song. Both men made their announcement of entry into the Royal Rumble and then they had a match. This was the standard fare for Elias and Corbin but it was enjoyable enough. Corbin won with after he threw Elias at the ref, hits a straight punch, throws Elias into the ring post and finishing with the End of Days. Definitely a surprising finish to the match as no one was expecting a Baron win given his current unfortunate situation.
The Boring Face to Face
Braun seems to have the power to bring a reluctant Brock to ring side. That has to be more powerful than the money that WWE are offering him but it still didn’t do anything. Brock takes a slow lap around the ring and wanders off. It was a waste of time and a sad waste of both Braun’s and the audience’s time. This whole section was wonky as it seems no one directed Braun as he was looking at the camera instead of at the titan Tron and it feels like no one knew what to do. Brock didn’t care about showing up to get in Braun’s face and Braun seemed to stumble over his words.
What an odd and unfortunate situation for both men to be in as they could both probably add more to this feud if they wanted to. Braun could have had much better lines and Brock just didn’t seem to care the whole time. I’m not just ragging on Brock for the sake of it here either; I just want more from the two monsters of RAW.
Apollo Gets a Win
Apollo Crews & Ember Moon defeat Jinder Mahal & Alicia Fox via Eclipse
This is on here purely because it was surprising as hell to see Apollo Crews get another win on RAW, even if he didn’t actually make the pin. He was in a mixed tag match alongside Ember Moon fighting the Mixed Match Challenge tandem of Mahalicia. The match was short and sweet as both faces destroyed Jinder and Alicia for the win. The match followed an entertaining promo from Jinder and Alicia as they tried to relax and then run down the audience. It was a nice little segment from three people who are rarely on TV and Ember Moon. It meant very little but it probably greatly benefitted Apollo Crews.
Rousey’s Next Challenger
Sasha Banks defeats Nia Jax via Bank Statement
Is it safe to say A Moment of Bliss will become a recurring thing? It wasn’t the most amazing section but it served as an excellent vehicle to set up a match and it gave us some fun back and forth between Nia and Banks. It started with Alexa interviewing Ronda Rousey about who she wanted to face next. Rousey talked about wanting to face Sasha Banks and spent a lot of time talking her up. Nia interrupts and basically tries to stake her claim at a rematch against Ronda. Banks disagrees and instead the two potential number one contenders have a match.
This was a long match with a lot of decent spots. Jax is still not the smoothest worker out there but bar one glaring spot the match went well enough. That spot in question was a failed Hurricanrana off the apron where Sasha goes flying and Nia just flops. No one is certain what happened and commentary just brushes it off. Nia thinks she’s got the match won after a Samoan Drop but Sasha gets a foot on the rope. Sasha eventually wins by tapping Jax out with the Bank Statement. We now have Sasha vs Ronda for the Rumble which should be a lot of fun. There is plenty of room for story and no one would be surprised if this was Ronda’s best defence yet.
Daniel Bryan Fights the Audience and R Truth
Daniel Bryan defeats R Truth via Running Knee
Daniel Bryan may be my new favourite champion. The eco warrior heel character is one that suits him exceptionally well. It’s intense, unfriendly and so over the top that it just works. This week he was backstage in the concession area attacking fans for their hotdogs, their sodas and even insulting a poor merch guy for doing his job. He reminded fans that he killed the Yes! movement and decided to once again remind people just how fickle they were. That was enough to rile the crowd up and as he made his way to the ring, R Truth attacked before there match. This was payback for the attack Daniel Bryan administered to him on the Christmas edition of Smackdown. Their match was fun and it’s still unbelievable how over R Truth is at the moment. The crowd loved him as he fought the former fan favourite. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t stop Bryan and was knocked out by a Running Knee.
After the match, Bryan was attacked by AJ Styles and sent running as Styles wanted to introduce him to a chair. It seems the new McMahon approved AJ Styles is taking things to Daniel early since they have a rematch at the Rumble.
Starting at the Top / The Bar’s New Contenders
The Bar defeat the Usos via Gotch Neutraliser
Shane McMahon and the Miz may just be the weirdest team on Smackdown. They are awkward, uneasy and it seems to be a one sided labour of love from the Miz. He is trying his best to prove they are the best in the world and wanted to jump in straight at the deep end. He was trying to talk Shane into making a Smackdown Tag Title match for them instead of making them earn it. Shane disagrees and wants to take things slow, to do recon work and to make sure they are on the same place. Miz caves and tries to talk about ring attire but Shane gets a fake call and walks off.
Jump to later on in the show and we have The Bar taking on the Usos in a Tag Titles match. The match is another fun bout between the two but the most notable part of the match is when Mandy Rose takes to the ramp in just a towel to distract Jimmy Uso claiming she lost her little gold clothing in his hotel room. This does the job as Jimmy is kicked off the apron and Cesaro finishes off Jey with a Neutraliser. It was a solid end that carries on Naomi’s feud with Mandy Rose and gives the Usos a reason to lose. Miz, being ever the opportunist, comes to the ring after the match and challenges the Bar to a match against the team they’ve never beaten. Cesaro runs down their team and Sheamus gives Miz a Brogue Kick to the face before they accept the challenge. It looks like Miz has his wish now.
Almas got a win!
Andrade Cien Almas & Samoa Joe defeat Rey Mysterio & Mustafa Ali via Hammerlock DDT
What a match. I’d recommend that you track this match down and watch it as it is way better than words can describe. It was fast, fun and performed by four of the best Smackdown has. The face team were using their speed to their advantage whilst Joe and Almas just wanted to maul their opponents. Almas and Rey have amazing chemistry and they hit a spot that no one has seen in WWE, a Canadian Destroyer. Twitter was abuzz at the fact we saw a move so infamously reviled in WWE used without warning by Rey Mysterio on Almas. Joe got a moment by catch Mustafa Ali out of a Plancha attempt and launched him across the announcer’s table. Ali got revenge by hitting a tope over the top rope and landing arse first on Joe’s head. The finish saw Almas catch a 619, transition into a Gutbuster and finished it with the Hammerlock DDT. Almas got a win and the audience got one of the best tag matches in recent Smackdown history.
We’re Going on a Nakamura Hunt
Rusev was all business going into tonight’s Smackdown. Nakamura had hurt his wife (with a single back bump…) and he wanted revenge. He came to the ring, called out Nakamura and got annoyed as Nakamura failed to make an appearance. Instead we got a video feed from the production truck. Nakamura is sat in the production truck and rebuffs Rusev’s claims. He replays the tape from last week and blames Rusev for hurting his own wife. This just infuriates the US Champion further and so a hunt begins. Rusev travels backstage looking for the truck only to get blindsided by Nakamura. Shinsuke rams him with a travel case multiple times before being dragged away. Just when it looks like it’s over, Kinshasa out of nowhere. Now Shinsuke leaves feeling proud of himself.
When Three Women go to War
Becky Lynch defeats Charlotte and Carmella via Disarm-her
What a match take two. You put three talented women in a ring with a chance to be number one contender and this is what you get. Everyone shines here. Carmella was the underdog, people thinking she can’t hang with Becky and Charlotte. Charlotte wanted to prove she was better than Becky and Becky obviously wanted her title back so she just beat them both up. Once again it would be better to watch this match than read my words fail to do it justice. Everyone went after everyone and in the end it was a surprise Disarm-her from Becky that saw the match end with her hand raised. Charlotte was seething on the outside after Carmella had super kicked her out of a Spear. This was a worthy main event and it delivered more than most could have hoped for.
The Gauntlet… Well Super Kick is Thrown Down
Johnny Gargano started this week’s NXT. He came to the ring, tried to brush off the cage match moment with Tomasso Ciampa and get his career back on track. Whilst he still has Ciampa and the NXT Title on his hit list, his attention was more drawn to the North American Title and Ricochet. That brought the man himself out and the two start smack talking each other. This brings out Gargano’s bogeyman Ciampa and he tries to spur Gargano on. Johnny wants nothing of it and tells him to shut up. Since Ciampa is out we get a blast of Aleister Black’s music. He appears on the video screen and warns Ciampa not to lose sight of him. Black teleports behind him and they start to brawl. They fight across the stage and the announce table and disappear into the back. As the two title match contestants leave the area, Gargano hits Ricochet with a Super Kick. This will no doubt be our North American match for Takeover Phoenix.
The Send Off: Part One
Bianca Belair defeats Nikki Cross via K.O.D
Since the commentary team were hyping up Nikki Cross heading to the main roster and this being the last plot thread Cross needed to wrap up, it’s wise to assume this was her send-off match from NXT. Her and Belair had another war that saw call backs to their previous match and spins on both star usual spots. Nikki started strong, surviving a shoving session and trapping Bianca in the ring apron for some clubbing Forearms. Belair comes back into the match by catching Cross in a Military Press Slam off the turnbuckle. She kept control for a while until the Cross could reverse a splash attempt and instantly hit the Purge. Cross couldn’t make a pin attempt as Belair rolled out of the ring. The two fought outside and Cross once again got hit by a backdrop onto the entrance ramp. The two beat a ten count and once again scrap in the ring. Cross tries to hit a Top Rope Cross Body but hits the canvas, is picked up into a K.O.D and Belair gets the win. Belair remains undefeated and Nikki Cross leaves it all in the ring on the way out of NXT.
Marcel Barthel and Fabien Aichner defeat Kunsman &Watts via Powerbomb/German Suplex
This was way more competitive than anyone probably thought. The “European Union” formed on NXT UK and was now ready to make its mark on the regular NXT tag division. Their match was against two other talents who look about half their size. Barthel started with some submission wrestling but got too cocky and Kunsman was able to make a tag to Watts. Watts hit some high flying offence but was cut down by the bigger team. After some more back and forth, the European team hit an assisted Baseball Slide and finish their opponents off with a brutal Powerbomb/German Suplex combo. Both of these men are amazing singles competitors but given the stacked divisions of NXT, this may be the best way to keep them relevant.
The Send Off: Part Two
Adam Cole defeats EC3 via Last Shot
Much in the same way as Cross, all signs pointed to this being EC3’s last match. He had unfinished business with the Undisputed Era and was once again fighting the leader of the heel faction, Adam Cole. EC3 started strong winning the ego game and the power game. He had kept the upper hand until Cole through him shoulder first into the ring steps. After this it was all about targeting that shoulder. Cole would keep control until an outside Suplex saw him thrown back into the ring. EC3 hit the Name Drop and got a two count. He was not allowed to keep control as Cole’s faction members would all try to get involved and ate punches from EC3. The distraction was enough though as after already eating the Kneecap Brainbuster, EC3 ate a Super Kick and an instant Last Shot for the three count. The Undisputed Era initiates a beat down with Fish, Strong and O’Reilly all laying the boots into a beaten EC3. The War Raiders return to make the save and lay waste to every member of the Undisputed Era. They will be fighting the Era at Takeover and they have just made a bold return ahead of it.
Not to try and make assumptions but it seems something has provoked the company into upping the ante. All three shows were fun. All three shows had very high highs and few drizzling lows. Whilst still not perfect it’s good to see lesser used people in matches, wrestlers being enthusiastic and obviously new moves for WWE. This was a week where we saw a Canadian Destroyer on WWE TV and Andrade Almas got a win. Never forget as next week will probably not be remembered for anything.
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