Well, it’s time to celebrate as RAW was actually enjoyable this week. The flagship show seems to have started to correct it’s course as the show hit some solid notes and delivered some fun matches and moments. One of the writers must have finally woken up and decided to script something that hadn’t been seen multiple weeks in a row, well at least for some of the show. Elsewhere, we got a Wrestlemania rematch on Smackdown and a surprise return on NXT. Let’s stop stalling and get into this week’s WWE programming.
Seth Rollins: Voice of the People?
Seth Rollins retains the IC Title
RAW decided to start off by having Seth Rollins lay into Baron Corbin for everything wrong with the past two weeks of programming. He addressed the nonsensical booking, the misuse of the Revival and even mentioned the tanking ratings of the previous weeks. Baron Corbin stood there and took it and answered in perfect fashion, “I don’t care.” Given Corbin’s character this was the perfect response to being called out for sabotaging his show. Seth decided to challenge Corbin to a match since Corbin was gloating over the forfeit win he is going to get at TLC. When Corbin tried to refuse Seth goaded him in a childish manner by calling him a coward. Corbin snaps and a TLC match is made for the main event.
The main event itself was amazing. This may have been one of Corbin’s best matches and that just further shows the power of Seth’s wrestling ability. Seeing Corbin going through tables was a lot of fun and the odd interference of referee Heath Slater didn’t detract from the fun. He seemed to be there to try and keep his job by appeasing GM Corbin. Unfortunately he meant nothing in the grand scheme of things as Seth retained after hitting a Stomp on Corbin. This was an amazing match to top of a decent episode of RAW. A must watch for anyone that skipped this week’s episode.
A Glorious (?) Win
Gable & Roode defeat AOP via Roll Up
AOP haven’t had a very good title reign have they? After winning the titles in a 2 on 1 handicap match then winning their first defence because their GM urinated on a robe. It doesn’t scream dominant monsters does it? Now they are the Authors of Nothing as their diminutive director cost them their belts by trying to hog the victories. After pinning Roode on last week’s episode of RAW, Drake Maverick had it in his head to repeat history and do it again. Instead, AOP destroy Roode and Gable, tag Maverick in then Marverick gets himself rolled up. His arrogance cost his team their titles and has made their reign a joke. Now, Roode and Gable with have to step up and make the titles mean something again as the tag division seems to feel like a joke.
Why didn’t AOP snap after this loss? Drake Maverick hasn’t done anything for them bar bring them jokes and make them a laughing stock so why did they not get any retribution? It made little sense. On the plus side the team of Roode and Gable is starting to come together as an actual team. There is some chemistry between them and hopefully these belts improve that even further. At least their reign won’t be punctuated by someone wetting themselves… I hope.
The New Top Guy of RAW
Drew McIntyre defeats Dolph Ziggler via Claymore
While many people make the case that Seth Rollins is the best wrestler on the RAW roster. If that’s the case, Drew is a very close second. His rematch with Dolph was great. His character is so intimidating and nuanced that he could easily run the show as top heel. If he had a belt then everyone would tune in to see who he destroyed next. Anyways once again Drew was dominant through the match and took great pleasure in tormenting Dolph, egging him on and trying to get him to attack. Drew took too much time gloating and ate a Zig Zag. However as Dolph set up for the Super Kick, a Claymore came out of nowhere. The fact a finishing move like that, from a man that size can come out of nowhere is insane. Drew attacks a bit more after the match and after the refs try to drag him away he hits another Claymore Kick that smashes Dolph’s head against the LED board. Drew had always brushed off his loss to Dolph and now he has completely destroyed him in the ring. All signs point to Drew heading up in the ranks and I for one welcome it.
Shot to the Hart
Natalya has a lot of legacy behind her name and character. As a member of the legendary Hart Foundation, she has the right to reference her legacy but come on Natalya you can’t say the Montreal Screwjob was a roadblock for you. Her promo was fine until she said that line. It makes sense that she would want to dedicate the match to her dad and the fact she seems open to showing vulnerability and emotion in her promos is something to be applauded. The annoying thing though is that WWE love dredging up the Montreal Screwjob when Natalya has big feuds. They did it with Charlotte and now they have done it in this feud with Ruby Riott. Anyway, Natalya’s words bring out Riott who has a gift for her. She says a few words and then unveils a table with Jim Neidhart’s image on it. Ruby promises to put Natalya through it so she can be closer to her dad than ever. Overall this was a great segment bar that one reference to an event WWE cannot seem to forget.
The Guitar is Mightier than the Sword
Lio Rush defeats Elias via Guitar
Elias was back to his true self this week as he remained a face whilst also getting to insult another city. He was appealing to the audience by insulting LA and delivered a song that ended in another insult to Bobby Lashley. The promo segment ends and Elias gets set to fight Lio Rush in a scheduled match. This is the first match that has Heath Slater as the referee and despite his best efforts to play fair he starts to allow Lashley to interfere. In the end Lio gets a bit of vengeance by smashing Elias’ guitar across his back and pins Elias whilst Lashley looks on gloating. Slater wants to do the right thing but caves and counts the pinfall giving Rush the win.
Face to Face = Fist to Fist
Ember Moon defeats Tamina via Eclipse
So apparently this segment was originally meant to be a face to face interview but instead turned into an elongated Nia Jax promo that again wasn’t all that good. As much as I want to give Jax some credit for her promo ability but she often doesn’t sound convincing or intimidating. She did scream at one point though which added some emphasis to the promo. She once again talks about how she is going to break Ronda’s face like she broke Becky’s and more variations on “I’m going to punch you in the face.” Ronda eventually comes out and rather than speak wants to fight. Nia and Tamina retreat and try to surround Ronda. This fails though as Ronda has Ember Moon for back up and the heels give up.
This gave way to a match between Ember Moon and Tamina. The match was fine and the finish saw Ronda attack Jax as she tried to interfere and drive her into the crowd. After that distraction Ember hits an Eclipse and gets the pin. There was no way Ember was losing to Tamina here. This was the perfect go home segment for the Rousey/Jax TLC match as Ember gets a win and Rousey looks like she has the upper hand over the brash and loud Nia Jax.
205 Smackdown Live
Daniel Bryan defeats Mustafa Ali via Heel Hook
Can every episode of Smackdown start with the new Daniel Bryan insulting the audience? He is so damn good right now. His character is dripping in condescension and seething anger at an audience he feels is destroying the environment. He sounds both insulting and eloquent as he spits barbs at a universe he used to love. His hatred brought out Mustafa Ali who was scheduled to have a match with Bryan anyway but wanted to try and understand just what had happened to his hero. Bryan spared no mercy for Ali and laid into him as well, even slapping him multiple times for driving an SUV. The match started and Bryan took control early on. He went after the knee of Ali and would try to keep Ali grounded. Ali used his speed and athleticism to take back control and fight back as the match went on. He tried to outlast Bryan but eventually got caught by a vicious Chop Block and eventually sank in the Heel Hook. Ali taps and Bryan is declared the victor. After the match Bryan attacks Ali further on the ramp. He hits him with some Bryan Danielson stomps and locks in the Heel Hook again until he is pried off.
Shadow Boxing with Shane McMahon
Shane McMahon and The Miz defeat the Vegas Boys via Triangle Hold
This “team” is the gift that keeps on giving for the Miz. He gets to play up her comedic side whilst also keeping the audience on his side. His quest to team with best wrestler in the world continued this week as Miz surprised Shane with a tag match. Shane wasn’t even dressed for a fight but managed to destroy the team of the Vegas Boys. Now how he destroyed them is more laughable than anything else. Shane has the oddest looking punches in the game and it looked like half of them weren’t even connecting. He botched a DDT and won with a loose looking Triangle Choke. It was fine for what it was but it is so difficult to take Shane seriously. After the match Paige is approached by the wrestlers who formed the Vegas Boys looking to be paid for their match but the Smackdown GM is furious as Miz has made this match without her signing off on it. Miz’s antic disrupted the whole show and cost Naomi and Mandy Rose their match. Shane isn’t too happy about the whole thing either but Miz manages to sweet talk him.
Rap Battle Hilarity
The first rap battle was a surprising hit between the Usos and the New Day. Both teams on that night had a bunch of fire to spit and The Usos were on another level ripping into Xavier Woods. This year’s rap battle was a bit tamer but still offered some hilarity. The Bar came out in matching red and white tracksuits and basically did a cover of Ice Ice Baby. It wasn’t great but that appeared to be the point. The Usos once again went for verbal domination and even interviewed Mr Turnbuckle about the time he knocked Cesaro’s teeth into his gums. It wasn’t quite as severe as last year’s rap battle but it did the job and the Usos clearly won. The Bar get fed up of talking and destroy the Usos and New Day to stand dominant in the ring. They have the momentum going into TLC so they’ll probably lose the belts.
Chair Shot City
Randy Orton once again came out with a point to prove. This time is questioning Rey Mysterio’s intelligence for agreeing to a chair’s match with him. He talked about most wrestlers fearing TLC whilst Rey needs to fear RKO. Rey comes out and attacks Orton with a chair and drives Orton from the ring. This segment wasn’t very long but didn’t really need to be as all it was meant to do was remind audiences that Rey and Orton have a chairs match at TLC.
Rusev Day for Nak-America
Rusev and Jeff Hardy defeat Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura via Machka Kick
This was a fun little tag match. Nothing too flashy, nothing too over the top, just an excellent little tag bout between two sets of allies and enemies. We had Samoa Joe fighting with Jeff and Rusev trying to take a bite out of Nakamura. Whilst Joe gets a lot of offense on Jeff the finish falls to Rusev and Nakamura who have an excellent back and forth before Nakamura eats a Machka kick and Rusev gets to celebrate having a win over the US champ. Once again there isn’t much to talk about. This was just a match to continue the ongoing feuds between the two teams.
Empress of Smackdown Live
Asuka defeats Charlotte via DQ
Damn, what a match. The Wrestlemania match was excellent so having a second match on TV over half a year later was an interesting idea. Once again this was excellent in terms of pure technical ability and in terms of brawling. It wasn’t pristine from bell to bell and there were spots that got really ugly. Asuka seemed to understand Charlotte’s moves and had counters prepared, the best one being a Spear reversal that turned the Spear into a Codebreaker.
After a lengthy bout Charlotte gets frustrated and takes a kendo stick to Asuka, ending the match in a DQ. Charlotte continues railing Asuka with the kendo stick until Becky gets up and tries to leave. Charlotte whacks her in the leg prompting Becky to take the kendo stick off her and beat her down with it instead. Becky has a round of kendo stick shots on Charlotte then Asuka takes the kendo stick and smashes both Becky and Charlotte and stands tall over Becky to a massive pop. No matter who wins this match the crowd should be into it. The only way I can see the crowd being cold towards this match is if Charlotte wins. Becky and Asuka are so over that either could win and the crowd would love it. This was probably one of the best visuals to end a show in a while as the true Asuka may have just made her return to the ring.
EC3 Defeats Bobby Fish via Roll Up
EC3 was out for blood at the start of NXT. After Bobby Fish tried to sideline him for beating Adam Cole, EC3 wanted to return the favour. The era started the show, dropped a promo and cockily awaited the arrival of EC3. The 1%er made his entrance and took no time in overpowering Fish and throwing him around the ring. He clearly had the power advantage and seemed to relish the throws he was delivering. Fish came back by using chop blocks, distractions and holds to try and work on the injured knee of EC3. Eventually EC3 won with a roll up and the Era were not going to let that stand.
All four members of the faction tried to stomp down EC3 after the match only to be interrupted by Heavy Machinery. The Steaks and Weights enthusiasts took to the ring to try and even the odds and delivered plenty of lariats to the Era until all but Kyle O’Reilly was in the ring. EC3 hits him with the 1%er and signals for Otis to hit him with the Caterpillar. Otis obliges and the segment ends with Heavy Machinery and EC3 standing tall. This all but guarantees they’re getting an NXT tag title shot. (Once again I can hear Robert McCauley cheer from here.)
A Mighty Beatdown
Lorcan and Burch defeat The Mighty via Impact DDT
This match had the moment of the night. Part way through this excellent back and forth tag bout he audibly shouts at one of the members of the Mighty to, “Do one, you mug” which as a British man was hilarious to here. It made an amazing match even better. Back to the in ring action, Lorcan and Burch started strong with Lorcan hitting a series of stiff strike and hitting a Powerbomb into a Boston Crab. The Mighty managed to cut him off with a Saito Suplex and momentum would continue to shift throughout the match. There was an excellent combo move where a Powerslam was transitioned into a step up Cannonball. This was another match that made both teams look strong and even when the Mighty finally fell to the Impact DDT, they had still gotten plenty of offense in. this feud has definitely been fun as Lorcan and Burch carry on their journey back to the top and the Mighty get to showcase how good they actually are.
Yim makes Contention
Mia Yim defeats Reina Gonzalez via Sole Food
Mia Yim was set to stamp her place into title contention as she fought MYC competitor Reina Gonzalez for entrance into the #1 contender’s fatal four way match. This was a much more straight forward match as Yim dominated for the most part. She spent some time trapped in the Gory Special and ate a few stiff strikes but mostly kept control using speed and strikes and multiple Gulliotine chokes to bring the bigger woman down, eventually winning with Sole Food. Another fun match that means Yim will join Bianca Belair and Lacey Evans in the fatal four way. One thing I’d like to ask though, Is there just a clause in MYC contracts that means you’ll job on NXT? This has happened with multiple competitors from the tournament now.
Prince Pretty Returns to his Castle
Ricochet defeats Tyler Breeze via Cross-legged Michinoku Driver
So the main event was Ricochet defending his North American Title against a mystery competitor. He had signed an open contract meaning anyone was free to challenge for the belt. This opponent was revealed to be NXT alumni and main roster member, Tyler Breeze. Prince Pretty returned to his old kingdom for a one time match against Ricochet and it did not disappoint. This was probably the biggest reception Breeze has received in a long time as the Full Sail crowd was ecstatic to see him return to his former home. It was also the perfect reminder that Tyler Breeze is actually an accomplished wrestler as it is often forgotten on the main roster. He managed to keep up with Ricochet and often had counters to the speed and striking ability the One and Only possessed.
There was one point where the match looked to be done as Breeze hit the Supermodel Kick and transitioned it into a Reverse Rana. Ricochet kicked out and the match continued. The eventual finish saw Ricochet finish Breeze with a variation of the Michinoku Driver instead of going for the 730 Senton. The crowd applauded both men and a show of respect was given by both. Whilst it is always nice to see former NXT superstars make return appearances it’s quite sad to see that Tyler Breeze got the biggest reception in a while coming back instead of on the main roster where he has been lost in the fold.
So yes, it would appear that WWE creative are starting to make some steps in the right direction with RAW. It wasn’t a perfect show but the difference in quality was incredibly notable given the lacklustre shows that preceded it. It’s excellent to see Drew killing it, a rare non PPV TLC match and the fact that WWE are finally letting Ruby Riott speak. Her heel work is amazing and the promos she cuts are always fun to watch. She sounds like she revels in causing Natalya so much pain. Smackdown was Smackdown so there was really no fear it would suck. It once again delivered two hours of nonstop fun with the starting match and main event becoming the week’s strongest matches. NXT finished the week in strong fashion too as it didn’t slow down once. There were four solid matches with no filler. It’s always excellent to see Lorcan and Burch on TV, Heavy Machinery shall be the next tag title contenders and it’s always nice to see a familiar face return to their old home. It’s been a good week for WWE, hopefully TLC delivers too.
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