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WWEekly: The Top Talking Points of RAW, Smackdown and NXT (2.18 – 2.20)

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It’s been a very NXT heavy week for WWE. From Monday’s RAW to Wednesday’s NXT, there have been appearances of NXT superstars everywhere. These weren’t little names either but some of the very best. They dominated most of the TV scene as they were everywhere but they did leave some space for other superstars. Let’s see what went down.

WWE’s Worst Kept Secret

HHH basically ruined everything at the start of RAW. He praised Becky Lynch for her actions at Chamber and announced DX as the first entrants into the Hall of Fame. After that he would the ruin what could have been an amazing surprise by revealing four NXT stars who would be debuting that night. Those men were Ricochet, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa. These are four of NXT’s best but were unable to muster much of a reaction from the crowd. Lafayette seemed completely dead for the whole of RAW so the NXT stars had no chance of garnering a fair reaction.

Ricochet would be the first to make his appearance known as he saved Finn Balor from a Lashley and Rush beat down then helped the newly crowned IC Title best the two in a tag team match. Ricochet was probably the one to gain the most reaction as his offense is by far the flashiest. He finished Rush off with the 630 Senton. He had another match on Smackdown where he fought the long thought dead Eric Young. Young had Sanity ringside so again we don’t need to call Unsolved Mysteries as they are in fact still alive despite not being seen in months. This time it was a singles bout to once again show off his flashy, high-flying offense. He had two fun matches and got to work alongside a champion so I’d say it was a good showing.

Aleister Black started on RAW fighting Elias. He started by interrupting an Elias performance and then the two had a match. The two went roughly 50/50 with Elias giving Black a proper match and showing off both men’s striking abilities. Black’s better match came on Smackdown where he fought Andrade. This was a hell of a lot of fun as the two men had history together. Black beat Andrade to become the NXT champion so this was a rematch of that. The two put on a short but hard-hitting match. This was one of the best types as you could have easily believed either man would win. The biggest point of Black’s showings was to highlight the severity and unpredictability of the Black Mass kick.

Lastly. was Gargano & Ciampa, despite the hesitant relationship they have on NXT, they were working as a team. They had RAW’s match of the night by beating the current RAW Tag Champions, The Revival. They put on a very strong tag match that captured the essence of an NXT tag match and they ended up winning with their old tag finisher, the Meet in the Middle. It was an exceptionally fun tag match even if the crowd couldn’t care. Their other match was against The Bar. The Bar had mocked the NXT TITLE HOLDERS for being a joke. This lead to a match and Ciampa winning with a roll up. This was another really fun tag bout. Ignoring the potential story collapse, Gargano and Ciampa still have amazing chemistry as either allies or rivals. Ciampa did however pull of one of the most painful looking Sunset Flip Bombs ever, landing awfully on his own knee. That aside, they both had strong showings and gave audiences enjoyable matches.

When in Doubt Make Another Match

Braun Strowman defeats Baron Corbin via Powerslam through table

Whilst it may be easy to see Baron Corbin vs Braun Strowman again and moan, let’s not forget this was a tables match. This was less a match and more an excuse to hit Corbin with a bunch of objects and put him through a table. It wasn’t exactly enthralling but it was a nice extension of the feud. Braun got a definitive win over Corbin here and there was no interference to get in the way. Corbin and Braun had a fight with a mix of weapons and some hard-hitting spots. It was an exciting enough way to open the show so I can’t complain.

Still a Loser

Lucha House Party defeat Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder via Roll Up

This is a small point to remind everyone that Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder still exist and still keep losing. It’s kind of sad though as Curt Hawkins is actually a really good wrestler. He had some control over the match and only lost to carry on the streak. He was rolled up with a Hurricanrana and added another loss to his list.

Styling and Profiling

I have no idea what this was meant to be but it was equal parts cringe inducing and equal parts funny. Heavy Machinery were being interviewed on the stage and are talking about their usual hobbies of steaks and weights when they are interrupted by Lacey Evans. She pulls another strut down the ramp and then stares down Heavy Machinery. They decide they can do better and pull a strut of their own before pulling a Bushwhacker walk on the way back. Lacey Evans seems to approve and that was that. It was silly and kind of weird but hey I got a kick out of it so I couldn’t hate it.

Dean Ambrose Done In

Drew McIntyre defeats Dean Ambrose via 2 Claymore Kicks

It seems we’ve now reached the lowest point of a career as Ambrose is now getting squashed. The former Shield member got locked into a match with McIntyre after slapping him backstage. The match barely went three minutes with Dean getting flattened. He tried to mount some offense but this was all Drew. A few moves and a couple of Claymore Kicks were enough to end Ambrose and further bury him before he leaves. This match felt as dead as the crowd.

Better Than Chamber

Ronda Rousey defeats Ruby Riott via Arm Bar

A common problem with WWE is that it will sacrifice match and superstar quality for the sake of story. This is what happened to Ruby Riott at Elimination Chamber as she had a much better match on RAW. The Riott Squad leader was allowed a much better showing as she actually took it to the women’s champ. Ronda was still going to win though as she kicked out of two Riott Kicks and managed to hit a step up Arm Bar. Rousey put Riott away and then ended up dishing out some punishment for the rest of the squad too after the match. It was a decent main event that actually allowed Ruby Riott to prove she can still wrestle and carry a match.

Rematch Penitentiary

The biggest shock of Elimination Chamber came when Miz and McMahon lost their tag titles. Miz was furious at his loss and had been forcibly sent home by Shane. On Smackdown he wanted to apologise to Shane for losing and for his conduct. This heartfelt moment was ruined by the Usos who came to gloat and run down the Miz. All they accomplished from their actions was an angry Shane who made a rematch between the two for Fastlane. Miz was over the moon and the best team in the world continue to add the word “Us” to their vocabulary.

Thorny Competition

Mandy Rose defeats Asuka via Roll Up

Hey look Asuka is finally back. The Smackdown Women’s champ had been allegedly kept off-screen so she couldn’t draw attention away from Becky and Charlotte. She was out for competition and another chance to prove herself. Her promo was interrupted by Mandy Rose who bigged herself up and laid out the challenge for Asuka. The two had a match and Mandy for the most part got completely battered. She pretended to have an eye injury to sucker in her opponent and hit her in the throat. Mandy wins with a roll up and will most likely be Asuka’s next PPV opponent. It should also be noted that Lacey Evans pulled another model walk during this match but it had little to no effect on the outcome.

Kofi Gets His Shot

AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy & Kofi Kingston defeat Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton & Samoa Joe via Trouble in Paradise on Bryan

The main event for Smackdown was a six man tag match featuring all of the Elimination Chamber fighters. The heels were taking on the faces in another chaotic showdown. The match itself was fun but it was mainly a vehicle to get Kofi another win over the champ. Because of this he has been granted a title opportunity by Shane McMahon. This is excellent as no one is more deserving or over than Kofi for the present time. Plus who doesn’t love seeing the Trust Fall?

Undisputed Darkness

Aleister Black defeats Roderick Strong via Black Mass

After tearing up RAW and Smackdown, Black returned his attention to his home turf, NXT. His rivalry with the Undisputed Era continued as he had a singles match with Roderick Strong. This was a strong opener as it went from technical to strikes whilst also featuring some very unique Back Breaker spots from Strong. He hit Black with a Back Breaker across the ring steps and a Neck Breaker/Back Breaker across the turnbuckle. The two traded a lot of moves but it was once again the surprise variable of the Black Mass spinning Heel Kick that put Strong down for the three count. Both men put on a belter that hopefully won’t be the only singles match they have. After the match the rest of the Era tried to ambush Black but were pushed back by an assist from Ricochet.

Strike City

Mia Yim defeats Xia Li via Protect Your Neck

What started out as a mutual show of sportsmanship and competition turned into a vicious strike fest between two women with a history of martial arts. Li seemed to have the physical edge over Yim but would often be caught off guard by the experience of Yim. The two would trade holds, kicks and strikes until Yim was eventually able to win with her new finisher, the Protect Your Neck. Throughout the match, commentary made reference to the fact that Yim had stood up to current champion and resident bully Shayna Baszler. After the match she was attacked by Baszler and her Horsewomen. Some NXT recruits try to save Yim but end up getting beaten down too. A match has been made between the two for next week’s show.

Velveteen Dreaming

Velveteen Dream defeats Johnny Gargano via Purple Rainmaker

Our main event was the North American Title match between Johnny Gargano and the Velveteen Dream. This was a grudge match as Gargano had bested Dream before. Dream was trying to capitalise on the momentum of winning the World’s Collide tournament. The two started the match with some technical wrestling where Gargano excellent and Dream was only able to get back in it with a slap. This breaks down into a strike focused bout where they continue to trade momentum but once again Johnny mainly keeps control, taunting Dream as he does. They eventually start moving onto the bigger moves with Dream hitting an Avalanche Dream Valley Driver. Johnny kicks out and it takes two Dream Valley Drivers and the Purple Rainmaker to finally put him away. This match is much better watched than written about. It was a Takeover quality match that resulted in Dream finally getting his first title. As the match went on, there were cuts to Ciampa who was watching the match from somewhere. He grinned when Gargano lost, since he’d been turned down when he offered his assistance.

In Conclusion

So overall it’s been a very NXT heavy week. Whether or not these will be permanent call ups or not is uncertain but hey it’s nice to see them invade the main roster even if it’s only for a week. It would have been awesome if they’d have had a better response on RAW but unfortunately you can’t win them all. Lafayette should be avoided if that’s the reaction they’re going to give. We have some new setup in the works for all brands as new challengers and champs have come forth. It’s been an excellent week for WWE, let’s hope it continues on that way.

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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