It’s been a sombre and sobering week for WWE. In what was meant to be the go home week for Evolution we saw one of the saddest moments in WWE history and probably the best/worst timed heel turn ever. That was just on RAW. We also have filler content and more pushing of Crown Jewel to get to as well. Let’s dig into one of the most unfortunate weeks in WWE TV.
Thank You Roman
This could be a write up all to itself. RAW opened with a reminder that all WWE stars are human and humans fall ill. Roman Reigns came to the ring, not in character but as Joe Anoa’i. He was in casual clothes and there was clearly something wrong. He has had to vacate the title due to a battle with Leukaemia. He delved into the previous fight he had had with the illness eleven years ago and the fact it has come out of remission. This is obviously horrible news and it could not have struck at a worse time. He has just hit his stride and was now the guy WWE wanted him to be. Not to mention the stories of him being a backstage leader and genuinely a nice guy makes it all the worse. This was a brave move and it moved the whole audience. The crowd thanked him, there were emotions on show and he got the respect he deserved. He made it clear this was not a retirement speech and that he plans to come back after beating his illness again. He has beaten it at 22; I believe he can beat it again now. Thank you Roman, you have taken every fans reaction and made a career out of it.
We’ll be seeing you in a ring again, I believe that.
It should also be worth mentioning that the entire wrestling world has come out in support of Reigns. Wrestlers and personalities from every reach of the world came out to show solidarity towards this man’s battle. Again, this shows that the characters we see are human. Roman was booked as a superhero and was probably seen as such by many children, sick or healthy. Now Joe Anoa’I is an even bigger superhero to any kid suffering Leukaemia as it can provide hope.
Not Really What we Wanted
Finn Balor defeats Bobby Lashley via Roll Up
Following that awful announcement was the start of a promising feud. The match was probably not what a lot of people wanted to see. Bobby Lashley mostly had his way with Balor tossing him around like a ragdoll. It wasn’t pretty and Balor was doing his best to make Lashley’s offense look like he was a monster. Lio Rush was once again being the annoying hype man, interfering in the match every now and then to make sure Balor couldn’t get back into things. He failed however as Balor wins with a sneaky roll up. it wasn’t the strongest win for Balor and it made Lashley look a bit of an idiot but it’s done to start a full on feud. Lashley will want revenge and Balor is going to have to fight an uphill battle if he wants to topple this giant.
A Stiff Angle
So I’m going to break format here as this could fit both RAW and Smackdown. What was with the stiff promotion of the WWE World Cup? On RAW we had Kurt Angle stiffly reading out the competitor’s names and trying to put them over. If it hadn’t been so rigidly scripted this could have been fun as Angle usually has plenty of charisma and can always deliver a promo. This felt forced and unnatural. It was also an example of pure PPV promotion filler that would clog up both flagship shows. The other example was Shane McMahon plugging the same thing on Smackdown except adding that he wants a Smackdown superstar to win it. Again this would be fine if it didn’t feel so shaky. Given the political climate, it’s a surprise that WWE are pushing Crown Jewel so hard. The promos almost felt like the people giving them were uncomfortable with the stuff they were saying. On Smackdown we saw Crown Jewel getting more attention and word of mouth than Evolution despite Evolution coming first and historically meaning way more.
You Crews You Lose
Elias defeats Apollo Crews via Drift Away
Never have faith in Apollo Crews. After stepping out and trying to make a name for himself at Elias’ expense, Crews went back to square one by losing to the drifter. Crews put up a good fight but was still dispatched strongly by Elias. It did nothing to boost Crews in the slightest. Once again we’ve seen a talent push teased without the follow through. This is probably the one time we see Apollo Crews for another few months before he’s carted out to lose again.
In better Elias news, let’s talk about that face pop he got. After winning his match, Elias decided to come out again to give the audience a performance. He was tuning up his guitar when he is interrupted by Baron Corbin who claims they don’t have enough time to accommodate his performance. They argue for a while and Elias mockingly sings about Corbin before leaving the stage area at Corbin’s behest. Well, he leaves then comes back out to smash his guitar across the back of a smug Corbin. The crowd cheered this and he got a full on face pop. This may be an isolated incident but it shows that Elias is capable of getting cheers and boos.
Braun is Face Again?
Roman’s departure means that RAW no longer has a top guy. The guy has been forced to vacate the show and his title. Now we will most likely see Braun take that spot and the seeds of that may have been sown on RAW. He interrupted Paul Heyman’s promo on Brock taking the belt and followed the same track Roman had been on previously. The fact that the belt should be on a fighting champion and that when Roman comes back, Braun will make him the first in line. Both men here acknowledged their respect for Roman Reigns whilst also keeping focus on the belt and the battle between two monsters now taking place at Crown Jewel. This new face role was cemented even further by Braun eating a surprise Claymore from Drew McIntyre. Braun has enemies on all sides now making him more sympathetic and giving him an even bigger crowd response.
Rousey’s Self Control
So this wasn’t exactly the most involved section but it was notable for two things. One) it was a contract signing where the desk wasn’t destroyed and the competitors weren’t throwing each other around like ragdolls. That second part being incredibly rare in a Ronda Rousey segment. Two) it also proved that Ronda, who is known for being explosive and foul tempered, took a slap from Nikki Bella and did nothing. She just calmly went about her contract signing, took the abuse she was given and promised to dish it out in kind at Evolution on Sunday. This proved that contract signings don’t have to be chaos and can still do their job.
Tag Team Turmoil
The Shield defeat Drew & Dolph via Curb Stomp
Drew’s monster hunting quest cost his team their titles. Drew was distracted the whole show by wanting a piece of Braun. After attacking him during the Heyman promo, Drew would be a part of the tag team title match later in the show. This attack would come back to bite him in the ass as Braun chased him off leaving Dolph alone against Dean and Seth. Dolph eats a Curb Stomp and we have new tag team champions. The belts are back on the Shield and there is obviously a lot of emotion in the ring. However not all of that is positive…
The Turn of the Century
Bloody hell WWE. This was a night of pure emotion after the saddening Roman Reigns news and creative pulled off the turn of the century. After their emotional title win, Dean mutters something to Seth and then gives him the Dirty Deeds. What follows is a long and brutal beatdown as Seth is repeatedly pummelled and beaten up by his tag team partner and former friend. Much like the start of the show, the audience is shocked. No one was expecting this. The assault finally ends with Dean pulling up the ring mats and delivering a Dirty Deeds onto the exposed concrete underneath. Seth Rollins may have had a shocking betrayal but I feel Dean’s is one of the most memorable there will ever be. What may have made this even more emotional and visceral was the clear uncertainty going through Ambrose’s head. There was some clear conflict going on in the mind of Ambrose as he beat down his former best friend.
Big Show is the Bar
Big Show vs Kofi Kingston ends in no contest
The New Day were feeling a bit sore about losing their tag titles. They were even more annoyed that they lost their titles because of the Big Show. For once they weren’t in the ring to make jokes they were there to fight. Kofi wants to get some revenge on the Bar and he doesn’t care which member he fights. This brings the Bar out and they tease who Kofi will be fighting before letting the Big Show come in to fight. We see multiple chokeslams before the match is thrown out. The New Day try to make the save on Kofi but are also attacked by the Bar. Xavier eats a KO punch and a post celebration Chokeslam from Big Show. Show was definitely in full on monster heel mode. He was unstoppable here and it is the first time Big Show has properly looked strong in a long time. He makes a nice addition to the Bar, even if we are just waiting for him to turn again.
The Usos defeat Styles/Bryan via Uso Splash
Who doesn’t love a bit of repetition? This was the second tag match for the two title match competitors that has had a loss caused by miscommunication between champion and contender. This time though it was Styles hitting Bryan. Style’s accidental attack led to the Usos once again taking advantage of the confusion and pulling off the win. There isn’t all that much to say on this other than Bryan is now getting suspicious of Styles and made a fun Pinocchio reference in an after match interview to which Styles took offense.
Rusev defeats Aiden English via Accolade
If this isn’t the definitive conclusion of the Rusev/English feud then I don’t know what the next step would be. This match saw Aiden English borderline squashed by Rusev and stopped in his tracks by Lana hitting him with a shoe. He was beaten by the combined effort of Rusev and Lana and forced to tap out to the Accolade. It was a solid finish to the feud and gives both men the chance to do something new. Aiden English will hopefully be used more now as he is a talented wrestler and he should have proved he is capable of being a solid heel.
Technically this wasn’t a wrestling match but it further showed how Becky and Charlotte are the front runners of Evolution. Their feud is on fire and the stakes are definitely at their highest. Heel Becky is the strongest character on Smackdown and her continuous assaults on Charlotte have been enjoyable to watch. This segment saw Charlotte giving a speech to the women of NXT including Shayna Baszler who is trying not to crack up. Charlotte is giving the women a face speech about playing fair and trying hard and all the usual face jargon before being interrupted by Becky who refutes everything Charlotte says and then goes on the attack. They brawl again before the women of the performance centre pull them apart. This was how you do build up for a title match and was one of the few segments that built up hype for Evolution. Yes this was incredibly cheesy but I enjoyed it.
This on the other hand was terrible. There was meant to be a tag match between the former Absolution and Naomi and Asuka. All four of these women are meant to be in the battle royale at Evolution meaning we then got every other Smackdown battle royale competitor come out and try to make a claim. We then have a giant, pointless scrum with everyone taking everyone out before Asuka is the only woman left standing in the ring. It was a short, pointless tease for a battle royale no one gives a damn about. It was the total opposite of the Becky/Charlotte build up as no one is excited about this match. It just seems like a waste of the talent the WWE women’s division has.
Rey Mysterio defeats Miz via 619/Drop the Dime
The Miz jokes continue as this week saw him taunt Rey Mysterio on Miz TV leading to a match. Rey did a good job of taking the Miz’s insults and comments before trading a couple of barbs of his own then basically throwing down the gauntlet. Rey once again puts on a fun match and gets the win over one of his World Cup competitors. He once again hit that sliding splash and pulled off more of his old moves. This was a fun match lost in a mediocre show. It’s great to have Rey back and see he can still go.
Same Old Song and Dance
Randy Orton defeats Jeff Hardy via RKO
Why did we need this match again? This was a really dull continuation of a feud that should have died. As part of the Crown Jewel push we saw the other two Smackdown World Cup competitors in a match together. Unlike Rey and Miz, this wasn’t new or enjoyable. It was an auto-pilot match where both men put on some fun spots but the match meant very little. Jeff still likes to take nasty bumps and he basically made some of the match fun. This was a boring way to end the show and kind of echoed the main theme of the show, dull repetition.
NX3 Bay Bay
EC3 defeats Adam Cole via Roll Up
You know you’re in for something special when NXT starts with the Undisputed Era. They came out as a unit to brag about running the show and to celebrate the return of Bobby Fish. They started with a promo that led into Adam Cole demanding a North American title rematch. He is cut off by NXT’s top 1% EC3 who comes out and makes a promo of his own before the two start a match. EC3 dominates early on, knocking Cole about and dominating the power game. He is soon taken out and the match becomes more equal. Both men put on a barn burner of a match and this could easily have gone on much longer and delivered even more. The Undisputed Era tried to intervene at times but were either ignored or knocked down by EC3. EC3 pulls off the sneaky roll up and gets one over Cole. He cannot celebrate though as the rest of the era attacks and they beat EC3 up the ramp and Cole hits the Last Shot on the stage. We then see Bobby Fish go crazy, hitting EC3 in the knee with a chair, surprising his teammates in the process. They swagger off and EC3 is left laid out.
Blaisan Baddie is Here
Mia Yim defeats Aliyah via Sole Food
Welcome to NXT Mia Yim. After wowing crowds in both Mae Young Classic tournaments, Yim has finally made it to NXT. She debuted in a match against Aliyah that was probably way too competitive. It did a great job at making Aliyah look strong but it didn’t do all that much for Yim except show she can take a beating and bounce back. This made Yim look more like an underdog than the experienced veteran badass that she is. I get this was an introductory match to NXT audiences and Yim still won with her finisher, I just think this could have been done better. On the bright side we now have another strong competitor in the NXT women’s division and after watching the Mae Young Classic we know what she is capable of.
Kassius Ohno defeats Justin Xavier via Rolling Elbow
If you are a local jobber and you see Kassius Ohno just run. If you’re in the ring with him, just lie down and take it as he will probably kill you. Justin Xavier got some stiff strikes in but much like every other recent Ohno opponent, he was destroyed. Ohno looked pissed off the entire match and is clearly annoyed at the quality of opponent he is getting. After demanding more of Regal and still getting nothing, he decided to take his aggression out on his opponent. This is such a realistic angle for Ohno to take as it reflects what some people think about Ohno. He is incredibly talented and deserves more opportunities.
Regal’s Big Announcement
The last few minutes of NXT were total chaos. The entire thread of the show was Aleister Black’s impending arrival and keeping him away from the person who attacked him. Regal was in the ring to make an announcement about the NXT Takeover WarGames title match. Instead he was interrupted by Ciampa who then made a mocking set of statements, and then Velveteen Dream came out and made some more mocking comments and wanted Regal to say his name. These comments brought out Lars Sullivan who then made his claim to the title and started choking out Velveteen Dream. As these men argued about who deserves the title shot, Nikki came out of nowhere to herald the arrival of Black. Next we get footage of the backstage section where Regal’s security is systematically destroyed by Aleister Black. There’s a particularly brutal shot where one of them is kicked into a door and full on thuds into it. He makes his way to the ring and gives Sullivan a Black mass taking him out of the equation. He demands to know where he is and then “he” is revealed as Black eats a Superkick from Johnny Gargano. It is revealed that Gargano was the one who attacked Black and is ready to do it again. So with all names here we have four challengers to the title as Black is due a championship rematch and there are three other people who could be involved. This chaotic build is going to lead to some interesting scenarios going forward.
Overall it’s been a saddening week. The Roman news is tragic and the lack of quality on the main roster shows was incredibly noticeable. Despite some great moments and the heel turn to end all heel turns, it doesn’t excuse the excessive filler and repetition. NXT is more promising as we have Matt Riddle debuting next week and the next step in Gargano/Black. To end this though I will once again wish all the best to Roman Reigns and hope that he fights his Leukaemia fast so he can come back and reclaim his title. The WWE Universe will be waiting for you.
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