It was returns week for WWE. Both RAW and Smackdown saw major returns to their rosters that will have some implications for Wrestlemania and the road to it. As well as that we saw more from the newest NXT call ups and Otis Dozervic knock out both members of the Ascension. We even saw the return of a belt that many probably thought had died. Let’s get into it.
Returning to the Yard
Drew McIntyre defeats Dean Ambrose via Claymore Kick
RAW opened with a massive feel good moment. A familiar entrance music hit and Roman Reigns made his way to the ring. He dropped a nice promo about being back and how his leukaemia return had affected him. He even referenced how scared he was before making the announcement back in October last year. He ended with a positive note though as he made the announcement that he was in remission. He didn’t announce any plans for what he plans to do next but let the crowd enjoy the announcement and was embraced by Seth Rollins as he left the ring.
He would pop up later on in the show too as both he and Seth saved former Shield member Dean Ambrose from a beat down at the hands of McIntyre, Corbin, Lashley and Elias. The latter had cost Dean his no DQ match with Drew by hitting Dean with a guitar as revenge for interrupting him earlier in the show. Roman and Seth made the save and Roman dished out Superman Punches to everyone. He ended it with a Spear and got a bigger pop than he normally would for such a move. It should also be noted that the no DQ match was chaotic as hell as it went everywhere and used so many weapons.
Revival Fades to Black
Ricochet & Aleister Black defeat The Revival via Black Mass
For the second week in a row the RAW Tag Team champions have eaten a loss to newly debuted NXT talent. This time it was the makeshift team of Ricochet and Aleister Black. This was a quick affair that saw the dangerous Black Mass Kick rack up another win for Black as he hit Scott Dawson square in the head with it. There were some fun spots but it’s hard not to feel that the champions are getting a raw deal here as they just won the belts and now have another two losses on their records.
he Man Who Couldn’t Keep Away
‘The Man’ Becky Lynch just couldn’t keep away from RAW this week. She got involved in the show by interrupting a match between Natalya & Rousey and The Riott Squad. She would appear at ringside but got stopped by security. She pushes through and draws the attention of Natalya who then eats a shot for her troubles. This irks Rousey and the match is thrown out. The two try to brawl, security pulls them apart and Lynch is arrested. After this Rousey demands Becky be reinstated as her opponent but Steph refuses to indulge her. Ronda responds by placing her belt on the ground and refuses to be champion if she can’t defend against the best.
Charlotte would then reference this on Smackdown the next night gleefully demanding that she should be crowned RAW women’s champion now since Rousey doesn’t want to hold the belt. As expected, the crowd did not appreciate this.
Rushing to Failure
Finn Balor defeats Lio Rush via Coup de Grace
A Moment of Bliss carried on its Elias-esque interruption streak as this week’s segment was Finn Balor was interrupted by a very put out Lio Rush. He interrupted the flirting spree between Alexa and Finn to try and get another title match for his man Bobby Lashley. Instead he ended getting himself a title match with no time to prepare. He reluctantly agrees to the match to avoid looking like a coward, he pulls a Vampiro and demands his music as he makes his way to the ring. The match itself was a lot of fun as Lio tried to work over Finn’s leg to stop him being able to pull off the Coup De Grace. This worked for a while but in the end Lio still fell to the finisher and lost his title opportunity.
Lashley Fares no Better
Lashley fared no better in his “match” against Braun Strowman. He chewed Rush out at Gorilla Position and the two head to the ring for Lashley’s match. This didn’t even get started as the two brawled for a while and Braun obliterated both of them before walking off. There was no official finish or an actual match. It was purely a vehicle to let Braun have some destructive fun. Lashley tried to attack before a bell but paid the price for it. Again simple fun but fun none the less. Eventually we’ll get some story progression but that was not tonight.
Bayley defeats Nia Jax via Elbow Drop
Nothing says build up to a tag title match like some singles matches between teams. This appears to be the build-up between the Boss and Hug Connection and the Samoan Slaughterhouse. Bayley and Nia had a fine match that saw minimal botching from Nia Jax. There was plenty of back of forth and some nice reversals of momentum. The finish saw Nia try to attack Sasha and pay the price for it so she was a victim of her own hubris. Another fun match that carried on the streak of RAW providing a good show.
Do I have Your Attention Now Hunter?
Now for the second big return of the week. RAW’s main event was the 70th birthday celebration for Ric Flair. There were legends galore in the ring as the likes of Sting, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat and Shawn Michaels were there to celebrate with Flair. Triple H revealed a custom made belt for the Nature Boy but when his music hit, he never appeared.
Then we cut to back stage where a hulking figure is dragging a cameraman. That figure is Batista who goes into Ric Flair’s dressing room, closes the door and re-emerges a few seconds later dragging the lifeless body of Flair. Batista stares straight into the camera and delivers one line, “Do I have your attention now Hunter?” Triple H panics and looks for Flair backstage. By the time he finds him, Batista is gone and H tries to get some medical attention for a very red Flair.
This was the perfect segment. It had a very real edge to it as Batista dragged the cameraman into position and could be believed to have beaten Ric Flair half to death. He even wore blue glasses and a blue nose ring to play up the Bluetista chant that pissed him off so many years before (at least I hope that was a reference.)
Kofi Kingston & Kevin Owens defeat Daniel Bryan & Rowan via Stunner
This should have been great. I mean to a degree it was but we’ve already seen the superstar gets screwed out of title match story done with Becky Lynch. What started as a contract signing for Kofi vs Bryan soon broke down as Vince McMahon reared his ugly head to meddle in another match. This time he doesn’t think Kofi is worthy of the box office despite praising his eleven year career. He instead presents Kevin Owens as a shock return to take the place of Kofi. Owens reluctantly makes his way to the ring and signs his name on the contract. He is obviously not happy about what he’s done but is obviously not going to turn down an opportunity.
He tries to make amends backstage by tagging with Kofi with the main event. The two put their differences aside and work together to defeat Bryan and his intellectual peer Rowan. The match went relatively long giving everyone some time to shine. Owens still has a lot of exciting moves in his arsenal and got a lot of offence in on his Fastlane opponent. Kofi also shined throughout and we ended the match with Owens putting Bryan away with a Stone Cold Stunner. A move he has used before but never beaten anyone with before (that I know of.) Could this be an alternative finisher since he couldn’t put Bryan away with the Pop Up Powerbomb?
A Return to Deletion
The Hardy Boyz defeat The Bar via Swanton Bomb
The last return of the week came in the form of a surprise reunion between Matt and Jeff Hardy. This was pretty surprising as many people thought Matt had retired from in ring completion. Instead here he was mixing it up with Sheamus and Cesaro like he hadn’t missed a step. He gets to hit all his greatest hits and the crowd ate it up. It was a standard tag match for both teams but the time away has made it feel fresh. Both teams were having fun and seeing the Twist of Fate, Swanton Bomb combo again was an amazing sight. I don’t know how long their return momentum will last but for now let’s just enjoy their return.
Fade to Nak
Ricochet & Aleister Black defeat Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura via Black Mass
Team NXT had their second match of the week against the newly formed heel team of Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura. This match went longer than their match with the Revival but saw the same outcome, the Black Mass kick of doom. This time Black struck as Nakamura had him lined up to eat a Kinshasa. Again it was an enjoyable match and Ricochet continues to wow crowds. Plus Rusev got to look like a powerhouse which is always a good time.
R-Truth’s Open Challenge
R-Truth defeats Rey Mysterio and Andrade via Roll Up
R-Truth decided to take the John Cena approach to defending his US Title. He declared an open challenge that wasn’t answered by one person but two people. Those two being Rey Mysterio and Andrade. The feuding duo ended up making the match a triple threat so R Truth probably got a bit more than he was bargaining for. He didn’t let the numbers stop him though as he took both competitors on. Andrade and Rey obviously tried to tear each other apart and because of this R Truth was able to get a roll up win on Rey and retain his title. There were also spots set up for both Zelina Vega and Carmella.
DIY For Dusty
Johnny Gargano opened up this week’s NXT with a promo addressing his title loss. He revelled in the brief time he was champion and how he lost it instantly. He was obviously sad about this but tried to keep his cool. His promo takes him to mentioning that the only time he was really successful was when he was with, cue music, Tomasso Ciampa. NXT’s big bad came out and the two reminisced about old times and ended up getting the band back together for the Dusty Classic. The alliance seemed uneasy but they were determined to be winners again. Candice LeRae was clearly not happy but seemed to wash her hands of the situation and left Johnny to it.
A New Women’s Team?
Aliyah & Vanessa Borne defeat Taynara Conti & Xia Li via Rolling Neckbreaker/Backbreaker combo
Next was a minor women’s tag match playing on the new-found alliance between Aliyah and Vanessa Borne. I feel this was to build towards the fact that the Women’s tag titles will be coming to NXT eventually. This was compounded by an appearance from the Women’s Tag Champions later in the show. Anyway back to the match, it was mainly a vehicle to let the heel team show off. Conti had a strong start and Li got to showcase her kicking prowess but other than that it was really the heel’s match. It feels like NXT is trying to build this team for longevity and this was a pretty good starting point.
The NXT Kaiju Battle Volume II
Keith Lee vs Dominik Dijakovic ends in double count out
It was time for another battle of the big men. This time it was a one on one bout between the limitless Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic. Both men traded power, athleticism and speed as neither man could ever keep the upper hand. There were some excellent exchanges of strikes and reversals as neither man wanted to be upstaged. Unfortunately there isn’t much else to write about as the match ended just as it was getting good. Dominik did a dive to the outside and both men ended up getting counted out. Obviously there is unfinished business between the two and it makes sense that neither man should have a loss but it’s such a shame the match didn’t get a bit longer before pulling this stunt.
Head Baszler In Charge
Shayna Baszler defeats Mia Yim via Kirifuda Clutch
The main event saw the Head Baddie in Charge Mia Yim take on the women’s champ in a non-title match after Baszler had attacked her. Yim started hot and tried to work over the injured hand of Baszler. Yim ended up injuring herself in the process though by damaging her leg kicking the ring steps. Baszler then worked this limb over to tremendous effect and Yim had to try and fight through the pain to get back into it. She would manage to hit a sit out Powerbomb and an Eat Defeat but neither could put Baszler away. Baszler responded with a Gutwrench Facebuster and a running Knee but had to use the Kirifuda Clutch to put Yim away. Even then she had to modify it so Yim couldn’t use the injured hand to get out of it. In the end Baszler has another win and Yim got to go out fighting. Meanwhile in the women’s title scene it looks like Bianca Belair and Io Shirai will be fighting to decide who the number one contender for the title is.
So overall, it’s been an excellent week for WWE TV. We had shock returns, shock angles and new intrigue going forward. RAW and Smackdown excelled at being fun and fast shows with the former not feeling like a drag for once. It felt like Smackdown was rushed and a lot of content was cut but what was there was perfectly enjoyable. It’s good to see Roman and Owens back, Matt Hardy is looking better than ever and Batista shocked the world with his return. There are plenty of things to look forward to in the near future and I couldn’t be happier.
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