So it’s been a very mixed week for WWE. Extreme Rules was pretty bad and the RAW after was also an unfortunate slog. The other two shows didn’t fare as bad though as Smackdown was brilliant and NXT seems to be consistently excellent, even when it’s mostly talking. Extreme Rules has already been picked apart so let’s dig into this week of WWE TV.
Still No Brock
Finally some mention of the Universal Title on RAW. After Kurt Angle’s ultimatum it was finally time for the belt to be defended or find a new home. Brock didn’t show but Heyman appeared to save Brock’s title and set up a title defence. Cue six of the top superstars on RAW coming out to stake their claim at being number one contender for Brock. We had Elias, Drew McIntyre, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Bobby Lashley and of course Roman Reigns all taking to the ring to plead their case. Well five did, Roman just wanted to fight. This led to the formation of two triple threat matches wherein the winners would battle it out for the top spot.
So the triple threat matches were enjoyable. They were both fun to watch and allowed all those involved to show off. Finn and McIntyre and Elias got to showcase a lot of their talents against high level opponents. The problem with all this was the winners, Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns. These two winning basically cancels out the match they had on PPV as Bobby will now have to fight Reigns again. Considering the lacklustre reception that last match got, it really doesn’t seem like a good idea to put it on again, especially as a set-up for a number one contender. It feels like we could have had a different variation on this match. If WWE want Lashley to take the belt they could have put him against any of the other men in the match not named Roman Reigns. Nothing against Roman, it’s just no one wants to see Lashley vs Roman again this soon.
So are WWE doing something with Mojo Rawley? This was another week of consistent TV appearances and another win for him. This time it was against one half of the Fashion Police, Tyler Breeze. This wasn’t much of a competitive match. Breeze would try to use speed and wits to outmatch Rawley and get his offense in. it didn’t work however as Mojo dispatched of Breeze with a pounce, running punch and what must be his new finisher, the Alabama Slam. These wins all point to some form of higher feud and since he name dropped Bobby Roode, perhaps we’ll see him pick up a win against some bigger fish. The thing to think about though is what will they actually do with Mojo? It feels too early for another IC title shot so maybe they’ll just keep picking up wins.
This is Love?
So the Sasha and Bayley feud is taking an unexpected turn. Since the counselling has clearly failed, Kurt tried another tactic to get the two former friends back onto the same page. This took the form of a tag match that if they lost one of them would be traded to Smackdown. Within a couple of minutes the match had been lost as Sasha attacked both of their opponents without being the legal person in the ring. Her reasoning for this was that only she can attack Bayley and saw red when Alicia Fox and Dana Brooke started beating up the hugger.
After this, there was a backstage section where Bayley tried to confront Sasha over her actions and Sasha basically broke down. She confessed her love for everything about Bayley and her inability to talk about her feelings. She talks about loving Bayley’s character, friendliness etc and ends by walking off leaving Bayley stunned. There is a lot of potential to take this story to different levels and some emotional levels. The problem is WWE could easily bungle this and we could be in another comedy angle next week. There is too many factors at play right now to properly guess.
Tag Team Pointlessness
The B Team are your tag team champs and as such had a match tonight against the Ascension. It was mainly a vehicle to set up the Deleter of Worlds rematch next week. The B Team stumbled into another win and the whole thing was done relatively quickly. The big thing to note was the Revival were watching backstage sizing up their potential opponents. That is what would be amazing to see and an excellent way to build up the Revival to their NXT grandeur again. Plus they are the no nonsense team so they’d be the perfect foil for B Team.
The other tag match was just there for the sake of being there. It was a rematch between the AOP and Titus Worldwide. It added nothing worthwhile and mainly just took up TV time. It’s great that AOP are back on TV but at least give them something meaty to do instead of being in pointless rematches.
Ronda Strikes Again
Ronda Rousey got rewarded for breaking her suspension. She ended up attacking Alexa Bliss again as she made another promo. Ronda emerged from the crowd, intercepted Alexa and Mickie as they tried to run and then proceeded to demolish both of them. This brought out Kurt Angle who begged Ronda to stop as her suspension is almost up. Corbin also appears and demands Ronda be punished. In response, Kurt gives her another week suspension but promises her a title shot at Summerslam. This enrages Corbin who threatens to call Steph and change that but can’t find his phone. To no one’s surprise Kurt has it. The segment ends with Ronda genuinely happy and the next part of Ronda’s championship hunt.
Andrade Fights the Best
Andrade Cien Almas finally got to take on a high level opponent on the main roster this week. It was shown that Vega had gotten him a match with AJ Styles for this week’s Smackdown. It was an excellent and competitive match that saw Almas lose, but lose well. This was the type of match he needed to properly establish himself as a big player in the Smackdown title division. He didn’t suffer from the loss as the rub he got for fighting the champ for exceeds that. Hopefully this’ll be the first step in a big feud for the two.
So we may be witnessing the breakdown of Rusev day. After his interference in Rusev’s title match backfired, Aiden English was trying to gain forgiveness. He tried to talk to Lana as a way to apologise to Rusev and show his remorse for his actions. Lana told English that she couldn’t do anything so he should take it up with Rusev when he comes back. She also drops hints that he may not be the best for Rusev anymore. Aiden disagrees with her comments and says he deserves a second chance because he has always had Rusev’s interests at heart. The segment ends with Lana semi agreeing to try on his behalf.
Lynch is coming for Carmella
Becky Lynch looks set to enter the women’s title scene again after picking up another win against Mandy Rose. After the win, she took to the mic to talk about how she wanted to take on Carmella and get the title back. The crowd went wild for this so it would make sense to have her challenge Carmella at Summerslam. Since Asuka has failed to dethrone Carmella, mainly due to Ellsworth, it makes sense to have Becky fight her and the chinless one. Plus Becky Lynch has history with Ellsworth and can kick his ass once again.
Paige was watching backstage and set a match up for Becky and Carmella next week wherein if Carmella loses, she will have to fight Becky at Summerslam. Since there was no Asuka this week could she really be out of the title scene?
The Funeral of Hell No
The Miz is one of the best mic men in WWE. He is an excellent heel and this week showed once again why the Miz deserves all the praise he gets. This funeral segment could have bombed easily if a weaker person was behind it. Miz made it awesome and through so much fuel on his slow burn feud with Daniel Bryan. He lambasted Team Hell No, Bryan’s post return career and aggressive claimed his future was dead.
This brought out a very angry Daniel Bryan who attacks Miz from behind. He caused the Miz to flee and lay waste the funeral’s pallbearers. He threw them over the ropes, hit them with German suplexes and took one unfortunate one out with a running knee. Bryan stood tall at the end of the segment but Miz has the last laugh as Bryan once again fails to punch him in the face.
Randy Orton is Definitely a Heel
So we finally got the Nakamura vs Hardy match for the title and to no one’s surprise it was excellent. There was a load of back and forth with both men tearing the other to shreds. It looked as if Hardy would get the victory as he hit the Twist of Fate and Swanton for the pin. But on two he got caught pulled out of the ring by Randy Orton and got the DQ victory instead. Orton the proceeded to destroy Hardy for several minutes. He even tortured Hardy with his former stretcher holes, ripping at his ears. The set-piece was Orton hitting a draping DDT off the announce table. It would appear our next US feud will be Orton and Nakamura in a heel vs heel feud. This will be amazing I hope as heel Orton is nearly always fun to watch. Not to mention this felt like a call back to the legend killer angle Orton had years ago. This also felt like a great way to write Hardy off to recover from injuries whilst leaving him a way back in when he comes back.
The Lady Stands Tall
NXT opened with a match between Dakota Kai and Lacey Evans. This felt like it was going to be another Kai underdog match as she took excessive amounts of abuse but seemed to keep getting back up and fighting back. However this match seemed more focused on building up Evans as the devastating heel. It showcased her offense and power as she kept destroying Kai and answering her offense. It still built Kai’s underdog personality up but the real star of this match was Lacey Evans and the power of the Women’s Right finisher.
Setting up the Battles
A lot of this episode felt like set-up for future matches. We saw EC3 get into it with Kona Reeves after Reeves tried to wind up EC3 over not being the finest. There was an interview that saw Ricochet offer a challenge to Adam Cole, furthering his hatred for the Undisputed Era. There was a backstage segment with the Street Profits who talked about their loss to the Mighty and re-ignited the feud they had with The Mighty. They reminded audiences of the cheating The Mighty had to rely on to beat them and their distaste for it. All three of these matches will be excellent to watch and the set-ups to them were relatively clever or entertaining. Though I really can’t see Kona Reeves getting a win over EC3. He isn’t in the top 1%.
Ohno and the Jobber
This was an odd thing to see. Kassius Ohno has always appeared to be the gate-keeper of NXT. If someone is going to be big in NXT they normally have to go through Ohno. So to see him fighting a jobber in a ten second match just felt incredibly weird. What was even more noteworthy was Ohno’s face. He looked fed up and put out by his situation and his competition. This was more than likely intentional and designed to subtly foreshadow a future storyline he may be a part of. If not it may appear he is not enjoying his time in NXT anymore.
NXT Number One Contender Is…
The main event saw a triple threat between Candice LeRae, Nikki Cross and Kairi Sane for the number one contender spot against Shayna Baszler. It was originally billed as a fatal four way but Bianca Belair was not medically cleared to wrestle. The match was as excellent as expected given the talent in it. It was constantly shifting between the three women and the finish saw Candice LeRae go for the pin after hitting a second rope moonsault on Nikki, only to eat a surprise Insane Elbow from Sane. This means for Takeover Brooklyn we will have the rubber match between Baszler and Sane for the belt. Throughout the match, Shayna was on commentary mocking her opponents and showing a general disinterest for any potential contender. She ended the show by staring down Sane.
It is always difficult to rate WWE programming as it will never be perfect. There was plenty to see and talk about but it’s never all good. RAW is three hours long and often has a lot of deadweight. The wrestling was solid but again booking is the shortcoming. The creative decisions often disappoint and render amazing matches pointless. Smackdown and NXT always feel fresher and though that may be down to time, it’s also down to how they book their shows. I hope that RAW gets better again as the talent is there, it just needs using right. We’ll see how things stand next week.