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WWEekly: The Top Talking Points of RAW, Smackdown and NXT (12/31/18 – 1/2/19)

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Welcome to the first WWEekly of 2019. We have hit a new year which should mean some new things to talk about. Since it is the time for resolutions and change, does that mean WWE will change their line ups and plans to give us new feuds and new mix-ups. The McMahons promised a shake up and now would be the time to start delivering on it. So let’s get into it and see if we got a New Year, new WWE or if we just got more of the same.

Despite All My Rage…

Drew McIntyre defeats Dolph Ziggler via Claymore

The first segment gives me my first pop culture reference of the New Year. Drew McIntyre unleashed every last bit of rage he had saved up for Ziggler after all the defeats he had suffered at the hands of Finn Balor and the Show Off in recent weeks. The cage did little more than serve as an extra prison for Ziggler as Drew mercilessly beat him down and kept kicking out of his finishers.

This match should serve as the final match of the feud as Drew destroyed Dolph with multiple Claymores, chair shots and further Claymores. There was no mercy and no remorse as the Scottish Psychopath made Dolph pay for ever turning on him. The logical next step would be for him to get some level of payback against Finn but I’m not sure if that is the course WWE will follow. Regardless of Drew’s future feud plans this was an excellent way to start off RAW.

King Slayer turned Chair Slayer

Bobby Lashley defeats Seth Rollins via DQ

HHH and Seth Rollins have had a rocky relationship on the main roster. They’ve gone from enemies to allies in authority to enemies again and now it would appear that HHH wants to see the best of Seth again. He refused to give Seth an automatic IC title rematch and tried his best to fire up Seth during a rather intense promo segment. H’s words must have done the trick though as Seth held nothing back during his match against Bobby Lashley. As Lio Rush ended up getting involved in the match, Seth’s temper flared. In the end, it was less about winning and more about proving a point as Seth took out a chair and beat down the Almighty and his mouthpiece until the chair was a mangled heap. Even then he still continued to wail on the two until his anger was satiated. It would appear that Seth may end up with a new fire as the weeks push on and he finds more reasons to tap into his anger. Also a hell of a lot of credit to Lio Rush for that sell on the Stomp, he made the move look lethal.

Crews Launches then Bombs

Dean Ambrose defeats Apollo Crews via Dirty Deeds

The words Fresh Start Battle Royal don’t exactly inspire hope in your roster. Half of the RAW roster could have been entered into this match and it looked like a great deal of them were. It was a mash-up of underused tag teams and under used wrestlers all looking for a chance to fight Dean Ambrose for his IC title. A large portion of the participants were fodder for Apollo Crews as he eliminated people left, right and centre. He ended up winning after besting Baron Corbin in the last stretch and taking him out with an Enziguiri.

Later in the night Crews would take on Ambrose and lose his title match. He would get a lot of licks in, knocking Ambrose down on multiple occasions. He went from zero fan reception to a slow appreciation as he started to show off more of the power and high-flying moveset he is capable of. The problem is for the most part the only audience sound for Crews was piped in cheers and fake applause. If you watched the hard cam there was very little interaction from the crowd at all. He hit a standing Moon Sault that the crowd appreciated but crashed and burned after attempting a Frog Splash that saw him eat a Dirty Deeds from Dean for the loss.

Singing a Different Tune

After thoroughly thrashing Bobby Lashley in a Christmas themed street fight last week, Elias was out to sing a different song. The target of that song just so happened to be Baron Corbin. Corbin was in ring cutting a self-gratifying promo crying about how hard it was to be GM of RAW. He was quickly cut off by Elias who had a new song to sing and requested that if Corbin wouldn’t leave, he would shut his mouth. The song railed on Corbin’s failed tenure as GM elect, stoking the ire of Corbin and provoking an attack. Corbin would start off strong but some Sunny D to the eyes saw him trying to leave only to get blindsided by Elias and trapped behind a roadie case. Elias would pummel Corbin for a few more seconds and ended the segment standing tall. Despite some shaky weeks, Elias has truly endeared himself to the crowd as a face and seeing him tackle the more irritating heels on the roster is fun to watch.

Talk Show Bliss

Alexa Bliss will be debuting a new talk show next week on RAW. This should be fun to watch as most of the time Bliss is excellent at her promo work and A Moment of Bliss could enjoy the same level of success as Miz TV as a means to get a heel into feuds and stir things up. Bliss is best when she is getting under the skin of her opponents and a talk show would be the perfect place to do this. There isn’t much to say on this for now, it’s just a case of waiting and seeing if it crashes and burns or not.

Some Things Never Change

Sasha Banks, Ember Moon & Bayley defeat the Riott Squad via Elbow Drop

It seems a week can’t go by without some six women tag match between Sasha, Bayley and some other member of the women’s roster and the Riott Squad. I understand that these will probably be the two defining teams of the women’s tag division but still, would it hurt to do something a little different? The best thing about these types of build ups is that you can build teams up individually. Where are the matches that see the Riott Squad squash some local jobbers? Why aren’t Nia and Tamina trying to get into this division? It’s nice to keep people on TV and keep them relevant but how many times do we need to see this match? The Riott Squad could be an excellent unit if they weren’t always booked in the same matches.

Welcome Back Rhyno?

Jinder Mahal & the Singh Brothers defeat Heath Slater & Rhyno via Khallas

Nothing says welcome back quite like a loss in your home town. After being unfairly fired by the former GM, the company welcomed Rhyno back by having him lose to the Modern Day Maharaja and his two lackeys. To be fair Rhyno obliterated the Singhs but was bested by some distractions and a sudden Khallas. It might not be the greatest welcome back but it keeps the status quo of the team achieving nothing (despite being former Smackdown Tag Champs) and the tradition of the home town loss which is more annoying than anything else. Since there is some renewed interest in the team maybe WWE can look to actually do something with them.

Don’t Anger Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey & Natalya defeat Nia Jax & Tamina via Arm Bar

Natalya just can’t catch a break can she? If it’s not the Riott Squad attacking her it’s now Nia Jax and Tamina. She was being interviewed backstage about her intention to enter the Royal Rumble when the two Samoan Powerhouses interrupted and destroyed her. A main event was made where Ronda and her best friend/training partner would take on the pair. It was the type of match you’d expect from the pair of teams, fun to watch. Ronda wasn’t messing around and ended up winning by reversing a Superfly Splash into an Arm Bar. The champion once again stood tall after beating Nia Jax in some fashion.

New Day for the New Year

Big E came to the ring, in a nappy (diaper), ate pancakes he’d pulled from that nappy (diaper) and did Steiner math. Need I really say more about this segment? This was a light comedy segment that saw the New Day warm up the crowd with some new year’s resolutions and some light comedy. It did exactly what it needed to and didn’t drag on long enough for us to start to question Big E’s fashion choices.

Demons Win

Samoa Joe defeats Jeff Hardy via Coquina Clutch

How do you follow a New Day comedy section, by having another match between Samoa Joe and Jeff Hardy of course? Despite the fact we’ve seen this match before it was still enjoyable as Joe brought the intensity and the match was to determine who got the last spot in the five way main event to determine the new number one contender for the WWE Title. Both men are ring professionals so there was no fear the match would suck. Joe is a master of mind games and misery and relished putting Hardy to sleep both inside and outside the ring.

New Champ, Old Enemies

Rusev Day! Rusev Day! Rusev Day! Right now that the obligatory Rusev Day appreciation chants are out of the way let’s talk about Rusev’s US Champion coronation. He beat Nakamura last week in a really fun match, he was in ring to celebrate having the title and the plans he had for it. Unfortunately his celebration was cut short as Nakamura attacked him. As Rusev was driven into the corner, Lana tried to help her husband by jumping on Nakamura’s back in a loose Sleeper Hold. As Nakamura tries to shake her off, Rusev hits a Machka Kick but Nakamura falls on Lana. She is hurt despite being a full on wrestler and Rusev goes to attend to her. As he’s being a good husband, Nakamura attacks Rusev again and lays the new champ out. He pulls a pose with the belt and leaves the ring. Simple segment that makes Nakamura look like a villain and gives Rusev another reason to fight.

Mandy Rose’s Suggestive Photography

Sonya Deville defeats Naomi via Vertical Suplex Side Slam (Shouten Kai)

This was less about the wrestling and more about Mandy Rose getting under the skin of Naomi. It was originally meant to be a match between Rose and Naomi but before Rose can get in the ring, she peels of her shirt to reveal a Uso’s Day one Ish crop top. She backs out of the ring and Sonya Deville is in ring to fight. Naomi dominates the action until Rose grabs a mic and taunts Naomi some more. She talks about thinking of Naomi’s husband and brings up a photo of her in a towel onto the titan tron that she had sent to him. This distracts Naomi enough for Deville to hit a running knee and set up her new finisher a Vertical Suplex Side Slam or Hirooki Goto’s Shoten Kai for those familiar with NJPW. It was an interesting set up and it is nice to see Absolution working as a unit again. The storyline may be a tad regressive but it is giving Naomi someone to fight.

The Man takes it to Cena

Becky Lynch & John Cena defeat Andrade Cien Almas & Zelina Vega via Disarm-her

Well now, this is how you do trash talking. John Cena made his return to Smack Down for the first time in months and dropped a promo on what he expected WWE to do here, bring out a man who would tell him he’s too old and a part timer and Cena would have to beat him.

Cena didn’t just get a man, he got the man.

Becky Lynch came to the ring and hit Cena with a promo of her own. She verbally eviscerated him and seemed eager to fight him if he didn’t like what she was saying. Before they could even consider fighting, Zelina Vega takes to the stage to announce her client. Her and Cena spar back and forth for a bit before a mixed tag match is made by Cena for right there and then.

The match itself was a lot of fun. Becky started, refusing to leave the ring at first when Almas is tagged in. Cena and Almas had a great back and forth and the last stretch was well executed as Cena hazed the crowd by hitting all of the moves of doom, including that god awful Lighting Punch only to be shunted out of the ring by Lynch. She traps Vega in the Disarm-her and wins the match for the team. Cena tries to extend the hand after the match but Lynch declines, pulls the you can’t see me taunt and walks off leaving Cena in the dust. This seemed like a very clear torch passing here as Cena was almost completely outdone by Lynch which is usually a sign of respect from the former top guy of WWE.

Miz on Fashion

Wow, it really didn’t take long for this angle to get stale. Miz is pretty funny to watch as the Shane adoring obsessive trying to plan the whole aesthetic of his team. He was obsessing over ring attire this week as he tried to pitch his ideas to his new tag team partner. Shane didn’t seem too interested in what Miz was pitching at him and shot down the ideas presented. When the first outfit was rejected, he tried a second that had the Miz’s red coat, the head band and the glasses. Shane commented on the glasses and Miz revealed the next image that showed ring gear with a clearly photoshopped Shane. This was the point where Shane seemed to have had enough and he walked off away as Miz was lost in his speech. This odd team dynamic could be fun but it needs more physical comedy and less derived from the Miz being excessively obsessive.

The Real AJ Styles

AJ Styles defeats Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, Samoa Joe and Mustafa Ali via Springboard 450

Now this was a main event, five extremely talented wrestlers thrown into a ring and told to fight for a number one contendership. It was the exact chaos we could have wanted from the five competitors. Every man got some time to shine and every man was made out to look a threat. Rey and Ali were the flashy high flyers using speed to their advantage. Joe was being a monster, cutting people down and driving AJ through the announcer table. Orton was also interjecting himself into the match by cutting off the speedier performers. The finish saw Rey knock down Orton with the 619, set up for the splash only for Joe to try for a Powerbomb Rey and get hit by a Hurricanrana. AJ takes advantage of the chaos by hitting a Springboard 450 on the downed Orton for the three count. That confirms that we will be getting another match between AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan at the Rumble. It might not be the most original idea but it wraps up any unfinished business before AJ starts to take the reduced schedule.

Riddle Me This

Matt Riddle defeats Kassius Ohno via Bro-Mission

Unfortunately the only talking point from the two-hour long clip show of NXT was the killer main event match between Matt Riddle and Kassius Ohno. This was the hard-hitting affair you would expect between these two. Riddle started off by taking it to Ohno, striking him instantly and pummelling him for a bit. He hit Ohno with a running Senton and looked to get the pin. Ohno came back and dominated the latter half of the match. He hit a series of stiff strikes, a Cyclone Kick and hits to running Sentons before playing to the fans and attempting to hit a third. Riddle reverses the Senton into the Bro-mission and pummels a submission victory out of him.

Riddle has once again defeated Ohno and as a show of good faith tries to offer a fist bump which Ohno originally refuses. He looks to leave the stage broken and miserable but appears to have a change of heart, returns to the ring and tries to offer a fist bump of his own. Riddle obliges but is caught by Ohno and rammed into the ring post. Ohno then beats down Riddle for a couple of minutes using the ring steps and strikes. He traps Riddle and forces a fist bump before leaving the ring smugly. It would appear that things are not over between Ohno and “William Regal’s shiny new toy.”

In Conclusion

Well WWE did give us some new things this week. RAW and Smackdown debuted new moves or gave different wrestlers the push and that definitely befitted them more than giving us another tired show. While it is often to read criticisms of WWE’s writing, there are also a lot of times when they get it right and it isn’t always acknowledged. NXT has very little to talk about this week as it was a two-hour celebration of 2018 but my god had they delivered over the course of the year. It may not be quite clear how WWE will go in 2019, I have yet to see too much to get to pessimistic about just yet. Hopefully next week will be stronger and the audience will come alive so WWE don’t have to edit in cheers again, that was rather obvious and embarrassing.

I’d also like to take a moment to talk about the passing of Mean Gene Okerlund. The man was a legend and one of the things I’d look forward to seeing whenever I’d get new WWF Video tapes. He was an iconic voice and one of the most entertaining people in the company. My condolences to his friends and family. R.I.P Gene Okerlund, one of the greatest voices in wrestling history.

John is a UK based wrestling obsessive who still wants to believe the Bullet Club is fine. He is always tearing the business apart and first realised wrestling was for him when he saw Mankind fall from the top of the cell at King of the Ring 1998.

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