This has been the week of returns for WWE. We saw several big names return to the red and blue brands as they begin to build towards Evolution and the Crown Jewel. We finally learnt more about the WWE World Cup and NXT once again put on a top tier match. There’s a lot to get into so without further delay, let’s breakdown Smackdown, RAW and NXT.
D-Generation X: Alive and Kicking
Well this makes the Crown Jewel tag match official. We saw the reformation of DX in the opening segment of this week’s RAW. To some, this is a nostalgic blast from the past. For others, you’re going to hear their groans loud and clear. Nostalgia has been a big factor this week as we’ll soon find out and here was where it started. Shawn and HHH delivered a fairly nice promo, riled up the crowd and revealed their DX colours. Michaels has officially come out of retirement for a chance to fight the Brothers of Destruction. DX were a staple of previous generations and it seems they’re going to get their last ride in Saudi Arabia. Just don’t trust them if they say it’s the last time ever, that’s always a lie. I imagine WWE Creative have two words for you if you don’t like this return, suck it.
Bobby Lashley defeats Kevin Owens via Dominator
Finally. This made my night. For months I have watched Bobby Lashley struggle with the face character he has been tasked with. He was a fighter with an attitude in Impact and it was sad to see him lose his edge when he came back to WWE. That changed this week when he all but crippled Kevin Owens. After defeating KO in an amazing rematch from their previous RAW match, he left the ring after winning before being tempted by Lio Rush to get back in there and hurt KO some more. Lashley did just that, targeting KO’s knees and smashing both of them into the ring post multiple times, lapping up the boos he was receiving.
This may have been the first successful double turn we’ve seen in a while as KO certainly continued to earn the sympathy of the crowd. After months of bullying by Braun Strowman, quitting and still being unsuccessful coming back, it’s hard not to feel sympathetic for KO. Either way Bobby Lashley appears to have turned heel and swaggered up to Finn Balor later in the show. Please let that feud happen.
Betrayed By the Bellas
Ronda Rousey and the Bellas defeat The Riott Squad via Arm Bar
It seems Saved by the Bellas is over now as Ronda Rousey’s “friends” turned on her. After a fun match and another win over the Riott Squad, the Bellas and Rousey were celebrating in the ring. Two seconds later, Rousey is knocked down and being pummelled by both Bella twins. Officially it appears Nikki Bella will be the one challenging for the belt but here we saw both Bella Twins taking pot shots. After this beat down they went on to throw Rousey around the ring into as many solid objects as they could. Ronda was rag dolled into barricades and the steps until the Bellas’ arms got tired. Most people saw this coming from a mile away but at least we now know who Ronda will face at Evolution. Nikki Bella will not be everyone’s dream opponent for Ronda but it shall be interesting to see how she squares up to Rousey and how her veteran instincts stand against raw striking. Nikki is a natural heel and should complement Rousey’s smiling babyface quite well.
World Cup Woes
Kurt Angle wins Baron Corbin’s Battle Royale
Baron Corbin once again tried to abuse his power as a way to get into the WWE World Cup. For those out of the know, the WWE World Cup is a tournament that will be held in Saudi Arabia to establish the best in the world. Earlier in the night John Cena had been announced as a competitor and this was the first match to determine another. It was Baron Corbin vs several jobbers with stereotypical international elements. All of these jobbers, bar one tried to attack Corbin, only to be easily dispatched by the GM. There was a lone golden Luchador who basically sat outside the ring until Corbin was certain he’d won. At that point the masked stranger hit a familiar trio of German Suplexes, an even more familiar Olympic Slam and then got rid of Corbin. After being crowned victorious, the Luchador took off his mask to reveal it’s Kurt Angle. He’s here to take part in the world cup and be another thorn in Baron Corbin’s side.
This marked part two in the week of nostalgia as we now have another Attitude and beyond era taking part in Crown Jewel. It would appear WWE is using it’s old favourites and part timer nostalgia to boost the appeal of it’s Crown Jewel PPV. Is it a bad thing? No not really as this has given Angle a way back in to mess with Steph and Corbin whilst also giving us a guaranteed Angle match in the near future.
Ember Moon defeats Nia Jax via Count Out
There was real problem with this match. Sure the finish was a cop out meant to protect these two superstars whilst also giving both of them a match. The problem is that this match was pure filler. These two have a genuine chemistry brewing from tagging and this was tested through a friendly match. This is a sign of one of the main problems in WWE. There is plenty of talent in the roster but a large portion of them don’t get much to do. Nia hasn’t done much of note since returning and Ember is being wasted despite being a former NXT champ and a hot commodity in the yellow brand. These ladies need more to do and both deserve it. There is every chance we will see these two teaming up as part of the women’s tag division in the near future.
A Stratusfying Return
Trish and Lita are now tagging against Alex and Mickie at Evolution. That was the entire crux of the segment. It was well executed and it’s nice to see Trish mixing it up on the mic and Lita coming back to action. They threatened to brawl until Mickie and Alexa turned tail and ran. This is probably a better option for Evolution as it frees up room on the card for other wrestlers and we get the former rivals in Trish and Lita teaming up to beat up a former rival and a cocky new generation wrestler. This was another fun dose of nostalgia and part three in the overall running story despite being for a different PPV.
AOP the Heroes
Bobby Roode & Chad Gable defeat The Ascension via Bridging German Suplex
Konnor is really getting to show off during this feud. He has a win over both men and is even getting promos so hey at least someone is benefitting from this mess. Anyway we had another run of the mill match that saw Roode beat up Viktor and get screwed out of the victory by an over-eager Gable tagging himself in. Roode genuinely seemed pissed after this happened and we almost saw Bobby confront Gable. I say almost as about two seconds later all four men were laid out by the Authors of Pain. Once again AOP were shown as an unstoppable force ripping through WWE’s tag division. It’s a bit of a shame to see Bobby Roode laid out in this mess but hey again at least someone gets to benefit from his work. Something big must be in the pipeline for AOP as they are certainly starting to gain attention again after their exploits in recent weeks. Drake Maverick is also starting to look the part as their new scheming manager.
Walking Out on the Shield
Dogs of War defeat The Shield via Claymore
Move over Super Show Down, this was a much better match between these two teams. Once again we got a lot of chaos but there was also a lot of story being fed throughout. Dolph was under pressure to perform as he is being singled out by Braun for his shortcomings in matches and there were still questions about Dean and the Shield despite their sign of solidarity. Dean once again ate a pin after eating a Claymore. He was hit by the surprise strike after seemingly being distracted by Roman dispatching Dolph with a Cactus Clothesline. Ambrose wasn’t going to stick with his brothers this week as after the match, he left the ring and walked up the ramp alone. WWE later released a video on YouTube of the aftermath where Dean was clearly feeling dejected and claimed he might not fit anywhere anymore. We could see Dean break off and go solo here, focusing on himself and his career. This may not be a heel turn but it could be him realising that the Shield is no longer a fitting place for him and that he needs to help himself.
Straight Fire Starter
Becky Lynch vs Charlotte ends in Double Count Out
Talk about starting strong. Instead of a promo segment to open Smackdown we got the title rematch between Charlotte and Becky, the shows hottest feud right now. Becky couldn’t get disqualified either as she would lose her title. Once again we got another excellent match between the two that saw Becky get more and more desperate as time went on. As she would try to bend the rules, Charlotte would get more and more exasperated. In the end the match ended in a double count out but the action wouldn’t stop there. After that result the duo brawled up the ramp and the segment would end with Becky being speared through the entrance LED board. It was a visceral spot that illustrated the brutality fuelling this feud.
Later in the night it was announced that the duo will be taking part in the first Last Woman Standing match at WWE Evolution. If any pairing is going to be capable of putting on an amazing last woman standing match, it’s Becky and Charlotte. This gives Becky all the tools to be as heelish as she wants as she cannot be disqualified. She will be at her most dangerous in this type of match and who knows what escalation we’ll see in the build up to Evolution.
Joe’s Injury Agony
Jeff Hardy defeats Samoa Joe via Ref Stoppage
Is it unfair to class Jeff Hardy as part of the nostalgia week? He feels like he has earned his place there as he is another wrestler confirmed for the Crown Jewel from the Attitude Era. Jeff Hardy made a triumphant return to the ring after his wipeout at Hell in a Cell. He was looking to kick ass and reclaim some victories. He went into limb targeting once he realised how injured Joe’s knee was. After multiple attacks to the knee and leg area, Joe couldn’t continue. After trying and failing to stand, the ref called off the match much to Jeff’s disappointment and Joe’s anger. This felt like an excellent way to give Jeff the spot in the World Cup while keeping Joe ready and waiting for his next outing. All in all, a decent choice for a tournament filled with famous names and a nice angle to keep Joe protected.
Miz has the best facial expressions in WWE. He can sell anger and annoyance like no one else. This week he was trying to turn Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles against each other ahead of their title match at Crown Jewel. Bryan nor Styles originally took the bait and Bryan took glee in mocking Miz for losing so quickly. It was a fun segment that showcased all three men’s promo talents, with Miz spitting some serious venom and ended up leading to a stare down between Styles and Bryan as Bryan told the crowd of his dream and motivation to hold the title again. The Miz and Bryan barbs continued into the next match as both men would be on commentary. Daniel Bryan was trying to be respectful and applauded AJ for winning. Miz looked and sounded like he was on the verge of throwing up listening to all this respectful back and forth.
Shelton Benjamin: Champion Material?
AJ Styles defeats Shelton Benjamin via Phenomenal Forearm
We need more Shelton Benjamin on Smackdown TV. He is a reliable opponent for almost anyone and has had two strong showings against two of the best. He is a veteran, professional and boasts some incredibly fun moves to watch. It is sad to see him languishing in a packed roster. He could be in the US Title scene giving Nakamura something to do as well. He had to beg on Twitter to get a match with Bryan. After battling the champion and giving him hell, he deserves to do something on a weekly basis.
Rey Mysterio’s Impending Return
Rey Mysterio will be back next week on Smackdown. He was one of the faces that put the blue brand on the map and will be returning to help it celebrate and potentially cross paths with Shinsuke Nakamura. No one would be surprised if he took part in some in ring action or even got himself a place in the WWE World Cup. There’s not a lot to say other than Mysterio is coming back and I couldn’t be happier. Booyaka Booyaka 619 is coming back.
Calling Aiden’s Bluff
One Night in Milwaukee won’t be the hit that Aiden English wanted it to be but it may end up with him getting punched in the face. After teasing the rest of the video and dropping an ultimatum on Rusev to ditch Lana and reform Rusev Day, the Drama King was foiled. He promised to destroy the video if Rusev came back. Instead Rusev and Lana played the full video after apparently hacking Aiden. The video revealed what we all knew, the footage was doctored and Lana was merely praising Aiden for how much he’d helped Rusev. Aiden took this the wrong way and made a fool of himself. He still makes a pass at Lana but only draws Rusev’s ire. Aiden’s plan was ruined and Rusev chased him off intending to break him. Thank god they didn’t drag this out any longer as this would have grown tedious very quickly. It was funny to see Aiden foiled and hopefully we either get a fight between the two or something new for both.
A Big Return
Randy Orton defeats Big Show via RKO
This seemed like a big waste of the Big Show. He was brought back as Randy Orton’s qualifier opponent and he ended up losing to the Viper. It was highly unlikely he would win but still, it’s the Big Show. He is another famous face that I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t turn up at Crown Jewel in some capacity. This wasn’t the most entertaining match but it should be noted that Big Show was in amazing shape and pulled off everything he was capable of. He still does a lot of work for WWE even if he isn’t in the ring that often. Hopefully he still gets to do something at Crown Jewel even if he doesn’t get to take part in the WWE World Cup.
Ciampa is Dreaming
NXT started by teasing the feud that nobody knew they wanted but now need Tomasso Ciampa vs the Velveteen Dream. Ciampa opened the show by taking to the ring, complimenting his own entrance music (which has to be my new favourite) and then called out the Velveteen Dream. The two traded barbs and we got a lot of fire between the two. This would be the perfect feud to build Dream up even higher. Ciampa is the baddest man in NXT whilst Dream is an ambiguous, enigmatic competitor fuelled by a love for the spotlight. He has now been offered the brightest spotlight in NXT, the title scene. There would no doubt have been more traded between the two if not for a certain interruption…
Nikki’s got A Secret
And that interruptions name is Nikki Cross. She came out at a seemingly random time and creeped out both men in the ring. She was moving erratically and taking swipes at both men’s mics. She would talk to Ciampa’s title and made both men aware that, “I know you did.” Velveteen eventually had enough and left the ring. Ciampa and Nikki had another stare down before the segment ended. Nikki is great for comedy and character at the moment. Her character will be off putting to some and her stereotypical insane mannerisms will annoy some people but she is currently killing it. She could have come out, challenged for the title and the crowd would have loved it. It’s also good that Cross stayed in NXT as she is the only Sanity member seen on WWE TV at regular intervals.
It should be also noted that she taunted Kassius Ohno who in turn had taunted William Regal and audiences with more teases of a programme with Matt Riddle.
The Finest Basks in his Glory
Keith Lee defeats Kona Reeves via Supernova
Keith Lee is one of the most exciting wrestlers in NXT for both what they do and where they can go. He is literally limitless. He had his first proper NXT opponent in Kona Reeves this week. Kona may be small fry but he is another stepping stone on the way to getting into higher ranks. Audiences love Lee and will happily support his journey to a title or a full-time feud.
However, I feel it would be unfair not to mention how good Kona Reeves is at playing his character. He is perfectly reflecting a delusional, arrogant heel and it works for him. His offense style is brash and frantic so it reflects someone desperately trying to prove his is the finest. Keith Lee doesn’t need me singing his praises as we all know that he is amazing. Sometimes you have to remember that the little guys also try their best with the characters they’re given and Reeves is doing just that.
The One and Only Champion
Ricochet defeats Pete Dunne and Adam Cole via Springboard 450
Will there ever be an NXT where the main event isn’t a show stealer? You put three of the best NXT has in a ring and this is what you get. A long, captivating slugfest where you could legitimately believe anyone could win. Dunne was brutal and calculated, Adam Cole was looking for any advantage he could get whilst also proving he was as good, if not better than his competitors and Ricochet was Ricochet. He was high-flying and hard-hitting. All three men put on a masterclass of mixing wrestling styles, double teaming and story that culminated in a desperation finish from the champion, hurling himself off the ropes to break up a pinfall and secure his own. This is another must watch match from NXT. All three of these men have earned their accolades and this was just another match to show off their skills.
Well this has been another good week for WWE. We have new stories to look out for, new feuds brewing and new questions we need answering. There is more to look forward to next week as NXT is delivering a double main event in Cross vs Belair and the Undisputed Era vs War Raiders. Everyone will want to know what Dean Ambrose will do next and who is going to take the other spots in the WWE World Cup. Sure there may be a current over-reliance on nostalgia and big names but that should just motivate the current era stars to up their game and steal the spotlight back. This has been a quality week for WWE and hopefully that quality will bleed into next week.
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