WWE Monday Night Raw Review: Notes From MSG (9/9/19)

Venue: Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)

-Not a great idea to have an opening segment contract signing hosted by Stone Cold Steve Austin, the most over legend in WWE history, who personality and charisma wise completely dwarfs Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman, two performers who can run hot or lukewarm depending on the crowd. 

-Huge pop for Austin. Not so much for Strowman. Usual pop for Rollins. Say what you will about Rollins’ face character, fans love that “Burn It Down” part in his entrance 

-“Seth Rollins is a marked man. But the man aiming for him generally isn’t his tag-team championship partner.” – Corey Graves, forgetting all about that Ambrose heel turn.

-Not sure what exactly the contract signing accomplished. Did either of them even sign it? Austin outshined both Strowman and Rollins on the mic, and Styles looked a little goofy not knowing Austin’s standing right behind him waiting. It certainly didn’t get me more excited to see the match on Sunday. But at least everybody got to say their catchphrases and the crowd got excited for Austin’s entrance and the stunner on Styles. I’d wager a small bet that might be the loudest we hear them tonight unless there’s an unexpected Austin appearance later in the show. If it ends with Austin stunning either Vince or Shane it will be louder.

-Good work by Styles and Cedric Alexander in a match that felt much too quick. I like the continuity of Cedric’s left arm injury. Alexander could have done a better job of selling, though. He shouldn’t be throwing elbows with his hurt arm. Hopefully a DQ finish leads to those two facing off for the US Title at Clash of Champions in a match that’s twice as long as this one was.  

-Seem like the Viking Raiders just turned face with that Cedric-saving run-in beat down on The OC. I’m not even sure if they were ever actually heels, though. All they’ve really done is beat up jobbers on the main roster so far, so it’s been hard to tell. 

-Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Charlotte and Becky Lynch coming up next. That ring canvas is about to be covered with self tanner stains. 

-“Charlotte with a chair in hand, looking to settle things down.” – Michael Cole

-Tag match was good but a bit of an oddly-paced clunky affair. Charlotte looked a little sloppy, especially on the big boot on Banks and  the moonsault onto Bayley. Not sure why they needed to have Sasha tap on the outside to the Disarm-Her. Charlotte pinning Bayley leads me to believe Bayley will retain at Clash of Champions. I could see Sasha/Becky going either way on Sunday. One will probably have an interference finish. Doing both as interference finishes would be overkill, though. 

-A lot of close up views from ringside cameras tonight. Not sure what MSG’s television setup is but there do seem to be less center hard cam shots tonight.

-Credit goes to Rey Mysterio and Gran Metalik for winning over the crowd with an impressive showing of the lucha style. The energy really picked up after the super kick on the outside, and there were plenty of exciting wow moments after that. Metalik needs to get away from the Lucha House Party and get a proper singles run on Raw. 

-It wouldn’t be an episode of Raw without a video package for the Smackdown Live feud of Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan and Rowan.

-A “Baron Corbin/Corbin Sucks” chant from a split crowd. Don’t hear that one often.

-King of the Ring Semis triple-threat of Ricochet vs. Baron Corbin vs. Samoa Joe was about as good as expected. A bit surprised that Corbin got the win instead of Ricochet. Seeing how it played out, it makes sense to put Joe in there to eat the pin. Sadly, it’s basically all he’s used for at this point in his WWE tenure. I wonder what the storyline trajectory will be for Ricochet. Multiple losses to AJ Styles in their US Title feud and a come-up-short effort in the King of the Ring Tournament adorn his recent resume.

-Looks like a Corbin vs. Chad Gable, big bully vs. smaller underdog matchup for the King of the Ring Final. That one could be decent if they give it time. If we’re still judging the not oft-used Gable by his prime NXT days, he’s definitely a guy who is capable of carrying Corbin to a fun back-and-forth big strong heel vs. smaller quicker babyface match.

-They’re really ending Raw in Madison Square Garden with some type of 10-man tag house show BS? Imagine paying MSG prices for a show with this as the main event.

-A few minutes in, crowd is openly mocking this match with the wave. Not usually a big fan of crowds hijacking shows, but I can understand the frustration. Just ending the show with the Stone Cold contract signing would have been a better idea. Ending it with a longer, better Styles-Alexander match with a clean finish would have been optimal.

-Doesn’t seem to make much sense to have the go-home show for Clash of Champions started and ended by Stone Cold Steve Austin, a retired legend who I doubt is going to be in attendance on Sunday. Besides the Corbin win, this Raw was a glorified house show that did little to further the storylines heading into Sunday. 

-Whatever momentum there might have been for the Rollins/Strowman Universal Title match seems to have been squandered. The who’s a face and who’s a heel dynamic in the Bayley vs. Charlotte Smackdown Women’s Title match only became more confusing. Is there even a US Title bout? And why no appearance by the Women’s Tag Champs Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross?

For all the hype and promotion about this show being special because it’s at MSG, this one just did not have a special or important feel to it at all. It’s similar to having Raw 25 as the Raw right before the 2018 Royal Rumble. Mixing special shows featuring legend appearances with key go-home shows just doesn’t work well. 

There still promoting tickets for tomorrow night’s Smackdown Live in MSG on local television, so it will be interesting to see how they spin the crowd size for that one. I can’t wait for Undertaker’s 15-minute opening promo about how he knocked out Steve Austin at Summerslam right in the middle of MSG. Add in the video recap of the video recap of the Reigns/Rowan stuff and a Kofi-Orton match that’s sure to end in shenanigans and it’s not shaping up to be a blockbuster. But at least a big Chad Gable win could help matters.

WWE Monday Night Raw Review: Notes From Baltimore, MD (9/2/19)

Venue: Royal Farms Arena

-Crowd cheers and is clearly the hottest for AJ Styles. His interruption promo gets over big with the fans, so it figures they would do a match where he’s the only one of the five not in action. Even a 6 vs. 6 with any midcarder currently not doing anything where Styles actually got to wrestle would have been better. 

-Braun Strowman is worth two things in a big tag-team match, a big hot tag moment and some type of shoulder into the post spot.

– The heel fivesome of The OC and Dolph Ziggler and Bobby Roode is actually a pretty  good heel stable. Just a bunch of old veterans who are good at acting mean. Ditch Ziggler’s “It Should Have Been Me” promos and just let him kick already beaten up people in the face NWO-style for the next six months.

-Why did Ziggler and Roode need entrance music coming out of commercial if they were already in the ring?

-Another week, another Ziggler/Roode tag match gets the crickets treatment from the crowd. 

-I would say no one cares about Natalya or Lacey Evans but that twenty-or-so-person chant of “Nattie!” early on says otherwise.

-Lacey’s Moonsault and the Women’s Right were the only two moves that got even a slight crowd reaction in the awfully quiet Lacey/Natalya match. WWE needs to learn that Natalya in peril is not something crowds are going to give the desired reaction for. 

-Becky’s back to calling people weirdos again, ugh. I guess she’s saving plank for next week.

-More passion and energy in Sasha Banks’ promo this week as compared to last. Firm voice. Last week she just went through the motions without any real passion.

-Becky vs. Sasha is official for Clash of Champions. If it’s No DQ, it’ll be a Match of the Year contender.

-Baron Corbin and Cedric Alexander was like any other Corbin vs. a talented worker match, a lot of Corbin beating down early to bore the crowd and then some face fire late to wake them back up. Alexander winning over the crowd late in the match was encouraging to see. I’d say this is one of the better showings from Corbin in a while, but really it just seems like his matches depend on the quality of his opponent.

-Cedric completely whiffing on that kick from the top rope. ”Didn’t get all of it” i.e. didn’t get any of it.

-Ricochet is still my favorite to win the King of the Ring Tournament.

-Another Week, Another Roman Reigns Attack Recap Video. Why are Smackdown Live highlights on Raw?

-Steve Austin making an appearance at Raw in MSG? I guess ticket sales really have been that slow. 

-The Viking Raiders are the Dark Order of WWE. So few care about this gimmick or team right now.

-Hopefully, there will come a time when Ricochet can display more than one facial expression and more than one verbal level in one of his backstage promos.

-Ricochet/Samoa Joe went one commercial break too long but it was decent. Finish was hated by the crowd, which should have been expected. Another weak finish from Ricochet who already lost a bit of momentum due to a not ideal ending against Elias on Raw a few weeks ago.

-Cesaro left the UK to face Miz? They couldn’t find any heel on the roster for Miz to beat to heat him up for Nakamura? Cesaro should work out a stipulation where he can stay in the UK and just carry that brand with Walter. Flying in for NXT live TV shows on Wednesday would also add a lot to those shows as a special attraction.

-A heel turn or at the very least a tweener turn by Bayley was necessary given her  dwindling crowd reactions ever since her cash in championship victory at Money in the Bank. Her and Sasha as an Us vs. The Rest duo could be outstanding television if they build it right. With Heyman calling the shots, it’s at least a maybe, we’ll see.

It was a moment that saved tonight’s episode of Raw from being just another ho-hum run-of-the-mill affair like last week’s episode. Her chair shots to Becky as the go to black moment of the show drew closer looked like something she’s been waiting a while to do.

WWE Monday Night Raw (8/26/19): Notes

Venue: Smoothie King Center (New Orleans, LA)

-Opening Sasha Banks promo lacked energy and attitude – same monotone delivery as before. Fans wanted a Becky appearance and confrontation with Banks and they were noticeably disappointed it was Natalya who filled that role instead. 

-I’m not usually a big fan of apron bumps but Drew McIntyre’s slam from the top of the steps onto the apron was pretty innovative. 

-Crowds naturally want to get behind Ricochet for his comebacks. There’s consistent excitement for all his matches. How many other midcard faces on the Raw roster can you say that about right now?

-McIntyre has the combination of size, strength and physicality, but there’s just something missing in terms of having that top level guy feel. I see him in a similar mold as someone like Sheamus — lots to like, just not the complete package.

-Solid work by Ricochet and McIntyre. The match dragged a bit, as McIntyre spent most of the contest treating Ricochet like a rag doll but that was to be expected. Crowd was invested in the ending. Business really started to pick up following the Glasgow Kiss on the outside.

-Baron Corbin vs. The Miz wasn’t bad but putting it in the spot immediately after Ricochet and McIntyre didn’t do those two any favors. There was a noticeable drop off in skill level and fluidity.

-I certainly did not miss the pointless back-and-forth bickering between Renee Young and Corey Graves on commentary. Bring back Vic Joseph, please.

-Zero heat for the Bayley vs. Nikki Cross match. That’s a concern for Bayley considering she got basically the same treatment from a much hotter crowd in her Summerslam match against Ember Moon. 

-Well at least we’ll get to see The Viking Raiders wrestle a team that isn’t a couple of jobb…oops, nope it’s the B Team starting off the Tag Team Turmoil match.

-Karl Anderson and Eric both no-selling that Ivar suicide dive. 

-I understand not wanting to beat the Viking Raiders at this point in their build, but WWE still hasn’t learned that double DQs are absolute crowd-killers. Having two heel tag-teams follow that up definitely didn’t help matters much.

-Not really a shocker the crowd has no cares to give about the randomly thrown together heel duo of Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode, two guys who haven’t won any match of note in years. The Revival vs. Ziggler and Roode is in the debate with the Bayley/Cross match as the least cared about match of the night. 

-Add Ziggler and Roode vs. Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder to that debate. 

-It’s a testament to how uniquely charismatic someone like Otis is that he’s been able to wake up and give life to such a dead crowd with his antics. 

-It figures that instead of giving an interesting young team like Otis and Tucker the spotlight, they go with the pairing of Roode and Ziggler, two guys that bored a crowd into silence for multiple matches. 

-Never need to see the Roman Reigns attacks recap video again. Every week, both shows, it’s enough. Had my fill.

-10 seconds into Sasha Banks’ in-ring return and she’s already taking crazy head and neck bumps.

-Love the post match beat down by Sasha Banks on Natalya. Sadistic Sasha worked so well in NXT. Hopefully she gets to show that full side of herself in the Becky feud.

-Thunderous uppercut by Cesaro on Cedric Alexander. I need a Cesaro and Walter trading uppercuts and slaps spot at some point in my wrestling viewing experience.

-Alexander and Cesaro deserved more from the crowd than they got for that impressive overall showing of athleticism. That standing Spanish Fly spot was one of the coolest things to happen on the show tonight.

-Like that “Eyes Wide Shut On” line by Angelo Dawkins. Montez Ford casts a wide shadow in the Street Profits backstage segments but Dawkins always seems to handle himself nicely. Both are naturals on camera. 

-It wouldn’t be a Braun Strowman match without him running into a post.

-An interesting “take down the tall guy at the knees” main event match by AJ Styles and Braun Strowman. A disappointing DQ ending hampered what was otherwise an interesting dynamic between Styles and Strowman. Braun no-selling his leg injury at the end and easily taking out all three members of the OC was also a bit much.

-Overall it was an average show without any glaring weak spots. The in-ring absences of Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch were noticeable. Braun does feel like a main event caliber guy again which is good. The Seth/Strowman dynamic, if handled correctly, has the potential to be fairly interesting. Next week, a bigger dose of Becky will be needed. Unfortunately, crowds simply aren’t responding with the kind of sympathy to Natalya that is needed to build Sasha up into the super heel she’s capable of becoming.

WWE Monday Night Raw Review (8/19/19)

Venue: Xcel Energy Center (St. Paul, MN.)

-Dolph Ziggler’s been cutting basically the same  “It should have been me” promo since he returned to feud with Kofi Kingston. But the crowd still seems to be responding to it with the desired heel heat, so I guess if it ain’t broke…

-I like Ziggler starting off with some dirty pre-match tactics with that sneaky superkick. Ziggler’s coming off losses to Goldberg and The Miz. We need a reason to believe he can actually go toe-to-toe and trade-for-trade with someone the caliber of Roman Reigns. 

-The Spear into the Fameasser reminded me of the Seth Rollins’ spear into a pedigree spot from Money In the Bank 2016. Really great timing by those two.

-Say what you will about Dolph and his role at this point in his career, but at least Ziggler can really still sell a spear well. 

-“That’s why you’ve got to put your money on Drew McIntyre.” – Renee Young 

Nothing about McIntyre right now makes me think I need to put my money on this guy. He doesn’t even really still have Shane as a much-needed support system.

-Vic Joseph stealing those play-by-play duties from Michael Cole right from the get go.

-Baron Corbin gets a gear change. Good for him. Having to wear a dress shirt for any situation always feels at least slightly stuffy and uncomfortable. I couldn’t imagine wrestling a match in one. 

-Ricochet’s standing moonsault is a thing of beauty. Corbin’s Deep Six is as well.

-Judging from the loud “Corbin Sucks!” chants, the crowd did not miss Corbin during his post-Extreme Rules sabbatical. 

Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins both wore t-shirts that are a part of WWE Shop’s Limited Time $15 sale.

-AJ Styles has a renewed energy and a noticeable pep in his step since he turned heel and joined the OC.

-I wish more matches started with a face slap, especially in big guy/little guy dynamics like Strowman/Styles.

-Obvious DQ is obvious.

-Face Rollins vs. Face Strowman for the Universal Title could be a fun feud to play out between now and Survivor Series. There are no heels on Raw that seem like a better solution. Braun’s “built some momentum” as Vic Joseph would like to say, since that really impressive showing against Bobby Lashley at Extreme Rules.

-I wish more matches started with a flying uppercut, especially in the two big, strong, physically scary guys dynamics like Cesaro/Samoa Joe.

-Cesaro/Joe lost the crowd for a bit there after Cesaro’s failed suplex attempt. Joe’s uranage woke them back up.

-Rey Mysterio says “My body just doesn’t seem to respond to what I’m envisioning.” That was certainly clear on that botched Canadian Destroyer attempt on Andrade from their last Raw match.

-Kofi’s jump into the ring blew my mind. Those are the type of maneuvers ninety-something percent of the general population couldn’t fathom even attempting. 

-Standing room only crowd for that Randy Orton and Revival beat down of the New Day. Orton has been coasting a lot for the last few years but he can still get a crowd riled up with the right RKO in the right situation.

-One half of the Smackdown Tag Champions Xavier Woods’ knee seems to be destroyed. Let’s dim the lights and hurriedly move onto the next segment…

-Becky Lynch outshined Sasha Banks in their backstage promos tonight. Lynch had her fire slightly relit by the Natalya feud, but Sasha obviously feels like a whole different level of challenger than Natalya and Lacey Evans. No need for calling people planks in this feud. This one needs to be violent and intense at all times.

-Well-worked quick women’s tag match between the champs Alexa Bliss/ Nikki Cross and Mandy Rose/Sonya Deville. Deville showed some nice striking ability in a quick flurry . The quality and consistency of the women’s tag title matches has improved dramatically since The IIconics lost the belts.

-Cedric Alexander always impresses athletically but his singles matches rarely seem to get into that next gear. There wasn’t really a lot to his King of the Ring match with Sami Zayn. Good but basic.

-Seeing what kind of spots Ricochet is put in compared to Alexander is telling when it comes to how the company views each of their respective values right now. Both are pretty similar in terms of talent level but it’s clear the brass favor Ricochet.

-Vic Joseph is a breath of fresh air on the commentary team. He does love emphasizing those “Tag!” calls, which takes a bit of getting used to.

-Strowman bursting onto the screen to demolish AJ Styles on the outside kicked the tag title match into overdrive. Braun in short, quick bursts of power and energy is the perfect use of his unique abilities.

-Finishing Raw with the sight of universal hands raised in exuberance by a celebrating crowd following a title change is a refreshing sight — something almost surreal that’s worth savoring. Fans are excited, happy and interested in a heavyweight title storyline involving two of the most popular performers on the roster. That’s good, simple pro wrestling television storytelling. Keep it up.

WWE Monday Night Raw Review (8/12/19)

-Heel AJ Styles outclasses face Seth Rollins in charisma and energy on the mic. The “We can go together!” line to the fans from Seth was a little cheesy. 

-No face turn for Samoa Joe tonight. That makes sense. If it’s going to happen it can come from Roman and him teaming up and Roman’s good guy attitude rubbing off on him. 

-Dolph Ziggler goes from over-dramatically overselling  to completely no-selling the effects of the Goldberg match. Miz with the win over Ziggler, but I am not even sure if beating Dolph at this point is worth much, or even if it’s worth anything at all.

-Award for tonight’s best out of context audio clip goes to…
“I got speared so many times yesterday.” – Dolph Ziggler
Runner Up: “Throw it up you motherlovers.” -AJ Styles

-Becky Lynch’s “Game On!” promo was intense. The problem is the women’s roster, especially on the Raw side is lacking worthy challengers not named Ronda Rousey. Someone from Lynch’s past like Sasha Banks who had a quality feud and solid matches in NXT with Becky makes sense, as does bringing back Sasha the night after Summerslam in front of a smarky crowd.

-Elias outclasses Ricochet as a promo and towers over him in the ring. Not sure this one-on-one encounter benefits either competitor.

-Ricochet botching hard, failing to wrap his feet around Elias’ neck. Elias not being prepared to catch a falling upside down Ricochet didn’t help matters.

-Not sure how much positive momentum Ricochet gains from a disputed pin fall victory, especially considering how little offense he had against Elias. The crowd never really got into the match to begin with, but whichever fans actually were invested all checked out after the botched spot.

-The Ricochet miss and back bump onto the outside and Mysterio’s hurricanrana on Andrade to the outside were two PPV-level caliber of bumps. Raw has had noticeably more physical, high-impact-sounding spots tonight. It’s a nice change of pace.

-The curly hair look works for Zelina Vega.

-Not sure whose fault the botch was on Mysterio’s Canadian Destroyer attempt on Andrade. Looks like Andrade’s head just didn’t get into proper position for whatever reason. It was almost too challenging of a spot for Rey to attempt deeper into the match, especially after the first outside spot may have left Andrade a little woozy. 

-Two straight pins and it’s a clean sweep for Andrade. So much for that thought of a potential Mask vs. Hair match.

-Steve Austin Skype audio volume coming in hot.

-If Cedric Alexander and Drew McIntyre will both be entrants in next week’s King of the Ring, why not just save tonight’s meeting for the tournament next week?

-Doing a Lumbar Check onto someone the size of McIntyre seems like it would do more harm than good, which is only intensified when you do it on the floor on the outside. 

-That knife edge chop seemed like it sucked for Cedric. That suplex onto the ramp probably sucked a little more.

-Great hard-hitting, athletic action in McIntyre vs. Alexander aided by some dramatic near falls at the end. Cedric made the Claymore Kick look like a million bucks.

-Roode vs. No Way Jose received the fast-forward treatment from my remote. The Viking Raiders squashing another local jobber team did as well. 

-Mild boring chants during Natalya’s message to her dead father. I can understand a crowd not being invested in a Natalya in-ring promo but the fans who chanted probably should have just given her silence instead of jeers during such a moment.

-The “Thank You Sasha!” chants during her beat down of Natalya were also a testament to how little fans in Toronto ever really cared about supporting a Calgary native.

-A brawl between face champion Becky Lynch and heel Sasha Banks was everything I ever wanted it to be. The use of repeated chair shots by Sasha definitely aided the effect of her return. That match should be tremendous. Do the first meeting at Clash of Champions and then have a rematch inside a cell at Hell In a Cell.

-No Fiend tonight. That’s disappointing. Hopefully, he makes his presence felt on Smackdown tomorrow night. A new feud against a prominent performer on the blue brand may be the way to go. Ali would make an interesting choice.

-The threat of a piledriver on the apron will always get a good crowd reaction.

-“Rollins with that independent, cavalier attitude.” – Michael Cole
It’s easy to picture Vince McMahon saying that line in Cole’s earpiece.

-It’s insane that the creative team heard the reaction Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton got after their double count out finish in the WWE Title match last night and could still think it’s a good idea to have a DQ finish to a Universal Title match on Raw the next night.

-Not sure Ricochet needed to come out only to get knocked out instead of just having Braun Strowman be the initial surprise to come out and clear house. It seems like we’re getting a six-way tag match with all involved parties as Raw’s main event next week.

-“This is going to be a blast!” Steve Austin says as he shoots a machine gun to kick off his new television show on the USA Network . It seems like some entertainment industry type pitched Austin a Comedian in Cars Getting Coffee type interview show, just with Austin’s kind of attitude instead of Jerry Seinfeld’s. Going with what looks to be a very firing-gun-heavy interview with Rob Riggle is an interesting way to go considering the heated debate about guns going on in the United States right now.

WWE Monday Night Raw Review (8/5/2019)

Venue:  PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA

-Preview Tagline: Seth Rollins Contemplates His Next Move Before Summerslam.

-Odd pairing of Becky Lynch and Charlotte in the opening tag team bout. I would have figured we would have gotten the face team of Lynch and Trish Stratus going against the heel team of Natalya and Charlotte. The fact that Stratus didn’t receive a televised entrance and didn’t even tag into the match is somewhat surprising.

-Charlotte’s extended beat down spot on Natalya revealed how little crowd heat Natalya has at this point. It was clear the crowd wanted to see one person and one person only, Becky.

-Rey Mysterio’s flinging of Andrade into the barricade was an intense spot. Really woke the crowd up after the fans fell asleep during that tag match. 

– A big step up in entertainment quality in this meeting of Mysterio and Andrade compared to the punch and kick-heavy gauntlet match they had on Raw last week. It was reminiscent of their epic battles they had on Smackdown earlier this year. 

-Andrade can always be counted on to deliver at least a few spots that make a crowd go “Oh!” He’s one of the most unique match workers in WWE right now. 

-Tonight was further proof that quick, comedic backstage segments are the way to go for the 24/7 Title stuff, not the actual matches like we saw with Drake Maverick and R-Truth last week. It also showed that we don’t always need to see the conga line of low-carders chasing the title winner around after a victory.

-Props to Mike Kanellis for making the most of his role. He’s gone from having zero television presence a few months ago to an interesting facet of the show.

-Serious, pissed off Becky Lynch promos are way more my speed than cutesy, jokey Lynch promos. No kind of Natalya promos are my speed.

-One video recap of Brock Lesnars’s beatdown of Seth Rollins would have sufficed. Didn’t need two in one hour.

-Seth Rollins is here in Pittsburgh tonight! *Light golf clap* 

-This certainly hasn’t been the “Summer of Seth” — starting off his title reign in a dead end feud against Baron Corbin, playing second fiddle to Becky Lynch and now redoing a build to a feud that no one was clamoring for – that might be the final nail in the coffin for his face run. Not only has he not been getting the desired sympathy from the crowd after these massacres by Brock, he’s been getting largely yawns and a smattering of boos. He’s gone from beating Lesnar at Wrestlemania to now what can be argued is the low point of his singles run in just a matter of months. His character needs some kind of reboot and spark following Summerslam.

-Montez Ford motioned to take off his glasses after he already had just removed them.

-Let’s hope we get an exciting, fast-paced match to wake up the crowd after that dreadful Rollins segment, oh, nope, a quick generic Viking Raiders squash match. That didn’t do it.

-A nothing Cedric Alexander vs. Drew McIntyre match with a non-ending is not going to do it either.

-The Fiend’s run-ins have gotten diminishing returns since the crowd ate up that first one.  It’ll be interesting to see how well that match against Finn Balor at Summerslam gets received. The last time they feuded it certainly didn’t light the world on fire.

-Yikes, Ricochet landing right on his head on the apron following that clothesline from Luke Gallows. That was unsettling.

-Not much to the six-man tag match. It would have been nice to see Ricochet at least get a nice offensive flurry. Instead, it was mostly just a heel-dominated affair. For whatever reason, that seems to be the trend tonight.

-Crowd has been lost since Brock’s entrance. Having Samoa Joe literally sit in the ring and do nothing for a few minutes isn’t helping matters. 

-Setting the Over/Under for number of video recaps of Roman’s car accident on Smackdown Live tomorrow night at 2.5

-Interested to find out who Roman’s attacker is. A non top-tier guy could really benefit from that rub. It’s interesting that Buddy Murphy was seen in the background of the backstage attack. That could be a fun feud. Really anybody but Shane McMahon or Drew McIntyre could work if it’s built right.

-A four-way tag match with three heel teams and the Kabuki Warriors, a team that’s barely been given any TV time since their formation. This is going to be an uphill battle for these ladies.

-Smart move going with the surprise elimination of the champions first. That gave the crowd a desperately needed jolt.

-Right choice having Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross win the tag titles. They’ve been a prominent part of Raw since partnering up. Those belts have been largely treated as an afterthought ever since Sasha Banks and Bayley lost them at Wrestlemania

-I’m not surprised that Goldberg wants a chance at redemption following his train wreck of a match with the Undertaker in Saudi Arabia. If it’s going to be a short big moves and done squash match, Dolph Ziggler is probably the right guy to take that loss. At this point, it’s pretty clear that Ziggler’s not in line for any meaningful type of push. 

-Final thoughts of tonight’s show is that except for the Rey Mysterio and Andrade match and the final stretch of the Women’s Tag Title match there was just not a lot of great wrestling. That led to a noticeably bored and dead crowd throughout most of the night. It was a lot of heel-dominated offense in otherwise forgettable contests and segments. Raw seems to have squandered the momentum it had going following last week’s show, especially when you consider there was zero follow up to that chaotic brawl that had people buzzing.

WWE Raw (7/29/19): Notes and Analysis

Venue: Verizon Arena, North Little Rock, Arkansas

-The 24/7 title opening segment probably would have worked better as a backstage promo between Drake Maverick and R-Truth instead of an actual match. Not sure why it needed to be a mixed tag match even though the women never tagged in, or why there were lumberjacks out there, even though it wasn’t a lumberjack match. Ultimately, it did serve the purpose of furthering the Mike and Maria Kanellis storyline. 

-Really enjoyed the chemistry between Rey Mysterio and Cesaro. The ability of Cesaro to land on his feet after flipping over the ropes with Rey on top of him was impressive. 

-“How the hell is Mysterio still walking?” Michael Cole asks as Mysterio crawls on the mat writhing in pain.

-A bit of a botch on the quick pin fall attempt between Rey Mysterio and Sami Zayn. It seems that Mysterio may have slipped.

-Disappointed by the Mysterio-Andrade match given how great their matches on Smackdown were. A little too slap and kick heavy instead of the unique moves and sequences we saw in previous encounters.

-Glad to see how consistently over Ricochet is with live crowds.If I had one complaint about him at this point it’s his lack of selling late in matches. He got elbowed in the head by Andrade and popped right back up and did a reverse hurricanrana and finished it off with a 630 for the pin. 

-If it were up to me, I would’ve given the Usos the night off following Jey’s DUI arrest. Zakk Ryder and Curt Hawkins would have been fine in the face tag team role in the triple-threat.

-A few months ago, I was clamoring for a Revival-Usos feud. I’ve gotten my fill and then some. Though their matches have consistently been entertaining, I’ve seen too many of them in too short of a time. Hopefully, with Anderson and Gallows winning the tag titles, it should freshen up the Raw tag division a bit. 

-Not sure what Scott Dawson and Karl Anderson were going for with that suplex over the top rope but it sure looked dangerous. 

-The “no wrestling during commercial breaks” rule seems to have been lifted. I’m fine with that, as it led to some rather awkward time-blocking issues and forced two out of three falls matches.

-Through no fault of her own, Becky Lynch has been hurt by the lack of credible challengers during her title reign. Say what you will about Lacey Evans’ in-ring ability, but she at least had some type of personality and character. Natalya, on the other hand, wow, that backstage promo. For someone who has been in the WWE as long as she has to cut such a stilted promo with that kind of choreographed cadence is really troubling. 

-Viking battle training lol

-There’s something to say for measuring star power by how many fans whip out their phones when a performer comes out. Judging by that metric tonight, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns felt like the biggest deals. Seth Rollins not so much.

-Taking an F5 into the post seems like it sucked for Seth. Taking three F5s onto the chair seemed liked it sucked a lot worse. Not a good sign for your babyface challenger when the crowd’s chanting “one more time!” to see him get continually punished. 

-I loved the chaotic energy of the ending to the show. It had a real attitude era feel of guys just running out and brawling all over and different feuds and stories overlapping. 

-Cedric Alexander, someone who could use a big push sooner than later, got a great rub from being alongside Roman and The Usos. It will be interesting to see if this leads to some type of multi-man tag match next week. 

AEW Double or Nothing Review

M

O

X

Those letters adorned the vest that shielded the back of a man who wore it to hide his freshly shed skin state. The wayward conqueror Jon Moxley is here, thirsty to prove his worth and fulfill a destiny.

 

A Judas inspired conquest sequence served as the ignition of a Lazarus-like raising of the man they once referred to as Ambrose. 

Dean Ambrose

It was a wink-wink surprise ending to a show that based purely on the content provided to the audience should be labeled as an unmitigated success.

All elite it was not for AEW’s first big show: Multiple missed camera angles, numerous commentary mistakes and a botched finish that took the air out of what was otherwise a wonderful six-woman showcase match were the most noticeable knocks and kinks.

Luckily, for a company that is set to debut on Turner Network later this year, the “Drama” was there, in many nuanced layers, especially in a finishing sequence which saw the last three marquee matches present three distinct and memorable stories, followed by the hook of something new to look forward to.

The testing of the brotherhood bond was the main selling point of the Cody vs. Dustin Rhodes and Lucha Bros. vs. The Young Bucks matches.

The bloodshed of Dusty’s first born was uncomfortable to witness in real time but it added a much-needed element to a match that saw a surprisingly in-shape yet obviously physically limited Dustin relying on tricks learned from his legendary father to provide a unique atmosphere to a familial strife.

Cody being able to seamlessly transition from face to heel and back again at a moment’s notice is a testament to how rapidly he has developed character-wise in his post-WWE career.

As expected, the Lucha Bros. vs. Young Bucks contest will warrant a second watch so it can be fully comprehended and appreciated. An overload of disorienting action mixed in with an underlying story of Matt and Nick trying to get on the same page proved to be the right formula for a spectacular affair that wowed the crowd from start to finish.

Some grizzled veteran main event performers would see two such matches unfold and understand that they may be walking out to a drained crowd.  But luckily for Alpha vs. Omega II, the passionate fans that made the trek to the desert to support this upstart operation were readily invested in what was presented to them in the final showcase.

In a similar fashion of their Wrestle Kingdom 12 brawl, Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho beat the hell out of each other, and the crowd ate it up. A 48-year-old Jericho, wearing his less refined dad bod proudly, didn’t miss a beat with the 35-year-old best bout machine.

Jericho winning and setting up a title match with Casino Battle Royal winner Adam Page makes sense. Ultimately, though, that pairing will likely end up being overshadowed by a potentially landscape-shifting Kenny Omega vs. Jon Moxley feud that should have the pro wrestling world buzzing all summer long.

 

Wrestlemania 35 Predictions

Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships
Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch

WM - 3

The build to this match didn’t need to be nearly as convoluted as it turned out to be. The story seemed simple enough: Have Charlotte win the Smackdown Championship at TLC, then have Becky win the Royal Rumble and have her say she wants to challenge both champions in a winner take all match. Ronda, who still had unfinished business with Charlotte stemming from a post-match beat down at Survivor Series, would have gladly accepted, as would Charlotte, who would have been motivated to show that she’s the true gold standard of the women’s division.

Instead, it was a story plagued by too much McMahon family involvement and petty social media banter. A great match can overcome and forgive a messy story, though. The final product is what matters; not the assembly process.

Announcing that this match will end the show weeks in advance was a wise move from a marketing standpoint. With such a prestigious spot comes a great responsibility to deliver. Luckily, all three of these performers appear well equipped to handle such a pressure-packed position.

With the No-DQ stipulation that comes along with triple-threat rules, it will be interesting to see just how violent this match gets. Ronda is likely to get some kendo stick-aided revenge on Charlotte, while Charlotte is likely going to spear either one or maybe both women through the barricade at some point. A Charlotte moonsault to the outside also seems like almost a given.

All three participants should be motivated to show a wider mainstream audience just how intense and exciting women’s wrestling can be, which is why this match has the makings to be even better than the Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks triple-threat match at Wrestlemania 32.

There are cases to be made for why either Rousey or Charlotte should win. All along, though, this has felt like this is the culmination point of Becky Lynch’s story with the other two simply along for the journey.

In any sport, you want to give the ball to the player with the hottest hand. Since Summerslam, no one in the WWE has been hotter than Lynch.

There are many scenarios for how this match could end, but there’s only one way it should end: Becky tapping out Ronda with the Disarm-Her to become the new Raw and Smackdown Women’s Champion.

Winner: Becky Lynch

Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins

WM - Brock

The build for this match has suffered from basically the exact opposite problem as the Women’s Championship match. That was a case of too much, while this was a case of just not enough.

Seth Rollins being slowed by a back injury following the Royal Rumble coupled with the fact that Brock Lesnar hasn’t seemed interested or invested in promoting this fight has led to a somewhat lackluster lead up to what should feel like a bigger showcase match.

Rollins has spent the last few months trying to recover from a disastrous feud with former SHIELD partner Dean Ambrose. Judging from the pops he’s received on Raw appearances lately, though, it seems as if he’s got the full support from a fan base that admittedly would like to see just about any one take the title off of Lesnar at this point.

AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan and Finn Balor all laid out the blue print for what type of matches smaller more agile wrestlers should have with The Beast: Take some punishment early, let Brock get cocky/bored/a little winded and then find a weakness and exploit it.

It’s up to Rollins to take that game plan and put his own special spin on it.

There are some interesting potential spots and sequences we could see. A call back to the curb stomp-F5 reversal from Wrestlemania 31 certainly seems within the realm of possibilities. Even better than that would be a re-creation of that incredible elbow drop table spot from the 2015 Royal Rumble.

A 28-year-old Rollins didn’t seem fully ready for the responsibilities of being a WWE champion and a true centerpiece of the show and storytelling. An older, matured, post-knee surgery Seth has a better chance of flourishing in the role.

With Lesnar likely to leave for the UFC to face Daniel Cormier some time within the near future, it makes sense to have Rollins win the title here. From a future booking standpoint, it allows for Rollins to stay on Raw as champion and it would free up Roman Reigns to go over to Smackdown and carry that brand.

Long is the list of great potential championship feuds Rollins could have with the likes of Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Drew McIntyre, Braun Strowman and maybe even eventually Roman Reigns.

Winner: Seth Rollins

WWE Championship
Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston

WM - Kofi

“Patience is a conquering virtue” – Geoffrey Chaucer 

Five years ago, Daniel Bryan walked into the Superdome with an electricity surrounding him the likes of which hadn’t been seen since ’97 era Austin.

Even though he’s one of the greatest wrestlers in the world, Bryan somehow managed to ease into an underdog role and garner a cult-like following based on perceived slights about his size and appearance and the WWE’s view of him as a “B+ player.”

At Wrestlemania 30, Bryan walked out victorious as WWE champion surrounded by resounding cheers and a storm of New Orleans themed confetti.

Five years later, it’s now Bryan walking into Wrestlemania 35 with the same belt he won that night against Kofi Kingston, someone who Vince McMahon has called a B+ player, just as he used to refer to Bryan.

Kingston’s performance in both a Smackdown gauntlet match and the subsequent Elimination Chamber final showdown with Bryan have vaulted him near the top of the list of most over superstars in the WWE right now.

Like Becky, Kofi having an easy-to-chant name has helped his cause. “Kofi!” has been one of the loudest chants on Smackdown during the home stretch to Mania, second only to Lynch’s reactions.

A spot that was likely reserved for either Mustafa Ali, a once hotshot upstart turned post-injury afterthought, or a returning Kevin Owens has now been filled by Kingston, an 11-year veteran who has never held a world title.

A long title reign may not be in the plans, but after over a decade of dedication to the company, this seems like the perfect time for Kofi’s Wrestlemania moment.

Winner: Kofi Kingston

HHH vs. Batista

WM-Batista

From a match quality standpoint, the last few big HHH outings against big name foes such as The Undertaker, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Sting have all been disappointments. Add into that the fact that HHH was unable to train and prepare properly for this match against Batista due to a torn pectoral muscle, and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that this one has the makings of a truly plodding affair.

The no holds barred rules and the potential HHH retirement stipulation do add some intriguing facets to what would otherwise be a battle of two old legends well past their respective primes.

Batista, or Dave as HHH likes to call him, has gone on to make a name for himself outside of the WWE as a Hollywood success story, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he can still go in the ring. Hopefully, we see a different level of performer this time around instead of the easily winded Batista we saw at the beginning of his return run in 2015.

This one doesn’t have to be as long or as complicated as it probably will end up being. Brawl a little outside the ring, tease a sledgehammer spot at some point and end this with HHH finally getting his win over The Animal. A post-match respect handshake is an option, especially if it’s truly Batista’s last match ever.

Winner: HHH

Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre

WM - Roman

If I was booking this, I’d have Drew squash Roman in about six minutes and establish himself as the new top heel on Raw. It’d allow Roman to show some even more vulnerability and it’d give fans even more of a reason to invest in his comeback campaign.

I don’t see that happening, though, especially since Drew has consistently gotten the better of Reigns in the physical confrontations they’ve had on Raw.

A 10-15 minute match that allows Drew to get the upper hand early and give Roman the chance to make a comeback with his usual Drive By-Superman Punch-Spear big move sequence would be fine.

It’s one of the more interesting matches from a “where are they going to put this on the card” standpoint. I’d stick it somewhere in the second hour to try to give it some proper space from the three big title matches.

Winner: Roman Reigns

AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton

WM-AJ Styles

Randy Orton was seemingly born to play the role of the aging WWE machine created star who makes fun of independent wrestlers for actually hustling and grinding and trying to make something of themselves. Orton has been served opportunity after opportunity regardless of conduct and past failures. He’s never had his foot fully pressed on the pedal, but never has it been as much at ease as it is now.

Since losing the WWE title to Jinder Mahal in May of 2017, the 39-year-old veteran has proceeded to tread water ever since. His US championship match at Wrestlemania 34 against Mahal, Rusev and Bobby Roode was one of the most forgettable mid-card title matches in Wrestlemania history.

To say that Orton needed someone like AJ Styles to have a series of back-and-forths with and relight a fire under him would be an understatement.

Luckily, Styles and The Viper have proven they have good chemistry as far as in-ring promos go. The question is: Will that chemistry translate to a good match?

That depends on mainly two factors: the motivation both men have to steal the show and the time they’re allowed to do it in. On a show as jam-packed as this, unfortunately these two won’t receive the amount of time to work that they would at a lesser pay-per-view.

Some great tension and intensity has been created with the long-tenured WWE veteran vs. the former indie star storyline. However, at this point in each of their careers, a win or a loss in this type of match isn’t going to make or break either guy.

Vince McMahon’s favoritism of his WWE created crew over the indie transplants could play the decisive role in who walks away the victor in this one. But more than likely, McMahon would side with the man he wants to see become an animal.

Winner: AJ Styles

United States Championship
Samoa Joe vs. Rey Mysterio


WM - Mysterio

The lack of an Andrade inclusion hurts this match somewhat, and there’s legitimate concern Mysterio might be hobbled by an ankle injury suffered on Raw.

It does have a special feel in the sense that it’s Samoa Joe’s first ever Wrestlemania match, and Rey’s first Wrestlemania match in five years.

Along with Andrade and R-Truth, these two were apart of two fantastic four-way matches for the US title at Fastlane and on the Smackdown preceding it.

Since returning to the WWE back in November, the 44-year-old Mysterio has eased any concerns that he may have lost a step.

Expect this to be a Joe-dominated affair early followed by Mysterio getting some good comeback fire before eventually being caught in the Coquina Clutch.

Winner: Samoa Joe

Intercontinental Championship
Bobby Lashley vs. Finn Balor

Balor

As far as total times go, it’ll be interesting to see which goes longer: Finn Balor’s Demon entrance or the actual match itself.

The match these two had at Elimination Chamber was nothing to write home about. Hopefully, they can recreate the five decent minutes from that meeting and turn this into a quick Finn Balor victory, likely aided by a Lio Rush screw up.

Winner: Finn Balor

Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin

Kurt

Speaking of matches that don’t need to go more than five minutes, Kurt Angle’s farewell tour on Raw and Smackdown has left most fans feeling more concerned than excited for his final match at Wrestlemania. Angle has looked his tread so to speak and he’s not someone who needs to take big bumps at this point in his life.

It would seem then that Baron Corbin would be the perfect candidate for Angle’s last match. Corbin is a younger, bigger heel who can carry the majority of what should already be a rather short match.

Many would likely love to see Angle squash Corbin and walk off into the sunset but the mantra “you go out on your back” is perfect for this particular story.

Corbin retiring Angle would give him the necessary heat to emerge as a top heel.

Winner: Baron Corbin

Shane McMahon vs. The Miz

Miz and Shane

This falls count anywhere stipulation might be enough to save this one from being a basic bathroom break match.

Somebody’s jumping off something in this one.

I’d end it with a brawl out into the crowd and Miz’s father punches out Shane somewhere in the floor seat section to help his son get the win.

Winner: The Miz

Smackdown Tag Team Championship

The Usos vs. The Bar vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev

ON

It can be debated whether or not a “dream match” of The Usos vs. The Hardy Boyz would have been the better option for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship match. Even if was, this one is a nice consolation price.

It includes a proper Mania main card title defense for The Usos and the Wrestlemania debuts of Ricochet and Aleister Black.

The Bar also get the chance to redeem themselves after last Wrestlemania’s Braun Strowman and Nicholas debacle.

It also gives Rusev and Shinsue Nakamura the chance to avoid being forgotten about Battle Royal participants.

A surprise upset by the debuting team of Black and Ricochet is a possibility. But ultimately, the big match experience of the Usos should prove to be the difference.

Winner: The Usos

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Beth Phoenix and Natalya vs. Nia Jax and Tamina vs. The IIconics

WM - Beth

Besides a cool-looking Beth Phoenix barricade spot, the four vs. four tag-team match involving all four of these teams from the Raw go home show did not include a lot of memorable moments. In fact, the match was mostly a mess.

Since that lackluster showing came on the heels of a rather off-kilter Banks and Bayley vs. The IIconics match on Smackdown, this four-way match is shaping up to be one of the lower quality bouts on the card.

None of the opposing teams are near the level of Sasha Banks and Bayley, who look poised to use a win at Wrestlemania as a springboard for their campaign to establish the new women’s tag titles as a relevant part of the WWE landscape.

Winners: Sasha Banks and Bayley

Raw Tag Team Championship
The Revival vs. Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins

Screen Shot 2019-04-07 at 6.32.48 AM

Those thinking that The Revival would reestablish the relevancy of the Raw tag titles have had their hopes dashed. In recent weeks, the duo have been beaten by two teams of NXT call ups: Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa, and Ricochet and Aleister Black.

The last nail in the The Revival’s  coffin could be a title loss to the team of perennial jobbers Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins.

A Ryder and Hawkins title win is worth a cheap pop from a smarky Mania crowd, but it would certainly do no favors to saving the credibility of the Raw tag belts.

Winners: Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

WM - Royal

This contest could be used as a vehicle to establish a running storyline that sees Braun Strowman hunting for Colin Jost in a series of backstage vignettes throughout the show. Jost has played the role of smug outsider well so far and Michael Che’s been fine in his role as failing peacekeeper.

Hopefully the shenanigans can conclude earlier in the match with Jost surprisingly eliminating Strowman or just doing a dash to the backstage with Braun giving chase.

Though there’s a definite leftovers feel concerning the list of participants, there are some involved who have the potential to benefit from the quick spotlight shine winning this match provides.

Andrade is the clear star of this group. The fact that he’s in a match of this caliber instead of a prominent singles spot goes to show that he could definitely use the little push of momentum. It’d also give Zelina Vega a nice big trophy to brag about.

Winner: Andrade

Cruiserweight Championship
Buddy Murphy vs. Tony Nese

wm Buddy Murphy

There were probably better options for Buddy Murphy’s Wrestlemania opponent than Tony Nese. Rey Mysterio, Xavier Woods, Mustafa Ali and Lio Rush are all more well known to WWE’s non-205 Live watching audience.

Nese is a fine enough competitor, but given the run that Murphy’s been on since winning the title in his native Australia, there’s no reason he should lose here.

Winner: Buddy Murphy

Women’s Battle Royal

Lacey

There are enough new faces in this one to make this match feel a bit different than the Evolution Battle Royal. The clear standout and sentimental favorite is Asuka.

Having her win this match to help soften the blow of a recent title loss to Charlotte would make sense.

It could also make sense for someone to start a feud with Asuka by eliminating her last. Lacey Evans is the type of candidate they could be looking for such a role.

There are other storylines worth fleshing out among the other participants as well, especially the drama dynamic between Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville.

Winner: Lacey Evans

Who Will Interrupt the Elias Performance

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-07 at 7.03.11 AMMy top contenders would be Bray Wyatt, John Cena, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dean Ambrose and Lars Sullivan.

Hopefully, it’s not Hulk Hogan.

 

 

WWE Fastlane Review

A few crowd-popping spots, especially a fantastic match-saving manuever to end an impromptu three-way for the WWE Championship, were the type of short but memorable moments that helped Fastlane overcome its wild seemingly on-the-fly booking.

Mustafa Ali being inserted into the WWE title match, unannounced with no build, was the toughest position anyone was put in all night. But Ali did try his hardest to win over a crowd that wanted to see one man in that role, and that man was not Mustafa.

Kofi Kingston was the hero of the people. But instead he was inserted into yet another unannounced match, a handicap contest against Cesaro and Sheamus. It was a forgettable match which Kingston lost in a little over five minutes. It had an effect on the crowd in a way that certainly wasn’t positive.

Speaking of flat finishes, a predictable Ronda Rousey interference to get Charlotte disqualified led to the kind of middling reaction that reveals how far this feud has fallen since the Royal Rumble.

Shane McMahon’s heel turn post-loss beat down of the Miz in front of his father in the first row and his hometown Cleveland brethren did get the desired heat, and then some.

The Shield match built up fan interest as it went along, and it was nice to see all three members have a genuine celebratory moment together. It was also nice to see the fans finally behind Roman Reigns when he does his big Superman Punch and Spear spots.

A fatal four way bout between Samoa Joe, Andrade, Rey Mysterio and R-Truth for the US Title was a quality rematch of what was a great match from the most recent episode of Smackdown.

There was enough solid wrestling on the card to call Fastlane an above average show. But the booking was certainly not designed to give the fans in attendance—especially those clad in New Day t-shirts and holding Kofimania signs—the show they were hoping for.

The mismanagement of the WWE Championship and Raw Women’s Championship feuds is concerning. Luckily, there are still a few weeks left before Wrestlemania, so there’s enough time left to salvage both of them with the right booking tweaks.

WWE Fastlane Preview

Xavier Woods & Big E vs. Rusev & Nakamura

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 10.00.33 PM

That tweet about sums it up.


Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 9.51.46 PM

This is the best feud in wrestling right now, so it makes sense WWE would stick this blow off match on the pre-show of a filler PPV.

The cohesion and chemistry between these two has been absolute magic every time they’ve stepped inside the ring.

With a refreshing “how we can we make this match unique and different from the last one” attitude that is sorely lacking from many WWE feuds,  these two are whipping out Canadian Destroyers, top rope power bombs and an array of moves that are consistently wowing and shocking crowds. Their timing is so smooth and their level of difficulty on certain sequences is so on point, the minds of spectators can’t even process it properly.

Wonderfully, baffling awe, that’s what’s inspired by the type of offense and counters we see from these two.

Mysterio is a legend.

Andrade is already starting to flirt with the label one year into his main roster run.


Raw Tag Team Championship
The Revival vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet vs. Chad Gable & Bobby Roode

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 9.45.27 PM

If this match got 22 minutes and was on an NXT Takeover, this might be a dark horse match of the year candidate.

It won’t get that and it won’t be on that, and plus it’ll be in front of a Cleveland crowd, so there are three external factors working against this intriguing triple-threat tag bout. What’s working in its favor is the level of in-ring resumes of each of the six competitors.

Regardless of constant creative missteps, start and stop pushes and recent burials, The Revival have persevered and are currently vying for 1 and 1A spots with The Usos as the best pure tag team in the WWE right now. Having them face off at Mania and unite the belts isn’t a bad idea.

Gable and Roode have taken a “We’ve got nothing else for you guys , let’s try this” situation and made the best they could out of it (Drake Maverick catering jokes aside), putting together performances that range from oh that’s good to oh that was kind of great.

Ricochet and Aleister Black is the tag team we never knew we needed until now. The Halftime Heat spectacle showed how these two guys can build off of each other, spot and energy-wise. Sans Dream, they’re now proving it against main roster foes and more than holding their own.

The Revival should retain here, especially since the Ricochet-Black slot seemed like it was reserved for DIY before the extent of Tommaso Ciampa’s injury was realized.


Smackdown Women’s Title
Asuka vs. Mandy Rose

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 9.43.23 PM

Readers of tea leaves may foresee that the Smackdown Women’s Title match at Wrestlemania is shaping up to be Asuka vs. Lacey Evans vs. Mandy Rose.

Bright and vibrant is the hue of green of those two potential challengers.

If the WWE has high hopes for the two beautiful blondes, sticking them with a great worker and match-carrier like Asuka on the biggest stage wouldn’t be the worst idea.

That likely means another Lacey Evans showoff strut to the ring in a match that will likely be just a shade more in-depth than the Smackdown affair we just witnessed.

Asuka should retain, even with potential Evans hijinks. Rose is clearly not ready for a belt yet, but her improvement is noticeable and her potential is easy to see.

The most interesting part could be Sonya Deville’s involvement and whether or not we get a screw up interference that leads to tension between her and Mandy.


Women’s Tag Team Championship
Sasha Banks & Bayley vs. Nia Jax & Tamina

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 9.38.33 PM

This one doesn’t need to be much more than a paint by numbers Raw match.

Sasha or Bayley comes firing out of the gates but gets taken down due to the size discrepancy. Tamina and Nia will work over and dominate one of them for the next five or so minutes. Sasha plays the rag doll well and Bayley thrives in the awaiting a hot tag for the quick fire spot role, so that could be the route to go.

It’s possible we get an outside spot where Nia gets thrown into the post. A Bayley to the rescue saving an almost pinned Sasha spot could be a nice addition.

There doesn’t have to be anything too complicated here. The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection should hold these titles for a while. They’re the right choice to establish the meaningfulness of the belts at Wrestlemania (against Lita and Trish, hmm?).

Tamina should eat the pin. Maybe we get some frustration between her and Nia after the match and have that boil over into Raw the next night. This one doesn’t have the makings of a rewatchable classic. If this goes more than 10 minutes, it’ll have gone too long.


Smackdown Tag Team Championship
The Usos vs. The Miz & Shane McMahon

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 9.33.52 PM

Was the first encounter between these two teams at Elimination Chamber a good match?

No.

Did the last five minutes of that meeting have fans invested?

Yes.

Was a rematch necessary?

Well, for whatever strange nostalgia reasons, fans still seem to be invested in Shane doing big spots and that’s fine, so it is what it is. Plus, the tease of dissension between McMahon and The Miz following their loss to the Usos at that show will likely boil over here and tempers may finally flare up, which could potentially set up the greatest bathroom break match in Wrestlemania history.


The SHIELD vs. Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley & Drew McIntyre

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 9.28.43 PM

Ask any die hard fan of a great band that broke up in its prime and they’ll tell you the first reunion tour is always fun. But that second one always feels like a bit of cash grab.

Now, to be fair, the first SHIELD reunion story line was probably supposed to run its course until this Wrestlemania. Dean’s triceps injury and Roman’s leukemia diagnosis threw a few monkey wrenches into those plans.

It’s weird, as a fan of all three of these guys, I’m just burnt out on all of them at this point.

Five years ago, if you wanted to tell me all three were the future of the business, I’d have signed on for such a statement, knowing full well they were bound to break up at some point.

Back then, they were doing this type of stuff.

For whatever reason (well, there are probably many reasons) it just didn’t happen.

Excuses that creative hampered each of their characters post-break up and failed to strike while the iron was hot on each (A Roman heel turn at any point, giving Rollins a run as a face champion when we was red hot after returning from injury, giving Dean a chance at a title match with HHH at Wrestlemania 32 instead of the Brock match that likely killed his career) are most definitely legitimate.

Or maybe, the tough to swallow pill is that the whole was just greater than the sum of the parts. Because now, here they all are, lukewarm and as bland as ever, ready to take on three generic goon heels that no one cares about seeing being overcome, again.

This world is littered with old tattered leaflets that promised the many next big things that never materialized. Unfortunately, time may remember the Hounds of Justice as just another one.


WWE Championship
Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 9.21.04 PM

Deep down inside, Vince McMahon has likely been waiting and craving for a Stone Cold-esque adversary to come along and look him in the eye and match his brutal intensity.

He may have found such a foe in Kevin Owens.

Owens, who McMahon likely sees as a natural connector to the everyman dynamic of his audience, returned from injury a few weeks ago to put a damper on Kofi Kingston’s post-Elimination Chamber momentum.

It’s been a tough spot to enter for a once dastardly heel trying to transition into a face who uses the corporate approved term WWE Universe multiple times in a promo.

Owens is so damn good on the mic, though, he can pull it off.

Having a bubble vest-clad heat magnet like environmentalist Daniel Bryan to work off of has proved to be a godsend.

Owens’ feud with AJ Styles never got into full gear and failed to meet expectations. His feud with Bryan, however, feels like a fresh start for such a promising talent.

If anyone can make fans forget about those Kofi chants, it’s KO.


Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 9.25.04 PM

Coming out of the Royal Rumble, it seemed like the WWE was doing things right and wouldn’t be able to mess up a seemingly bulletproof storyline for the Raw Women’s Championship main event at Wrestlemania.

Becky won the Rumble and she picked Ronda as her opponent.

Form there, theoretically, you could have gotten a complaining Charlotte who said Lynch wasn’t even supposed to be in the Rumble therefore she was the official last woman standing in the match, and she deserved a title shot. Add in the beat down of Rousey at Survivor Series at the hands of Flair and it’s easy to see why Ronda would accept to get her revenge and acquiesce to a three-way.

Lynch gets to look fearless by saying she’s beat Charlotte already so she doesn’t fear her. There it is, we’ve got ourselves a huge main event worthy match.

Instead, we got a convoluted McMahon Family-heavily-involved mess that has left everyone involved feeling at least a bit diminished, and in the case of Rousey, looking foolish.

A recent Ronda promo where she imitates a fourth-grader learning what the F-word is for the first time was something to behold for all the wrong reasons.

This feud, following suit of the WWE’s overall creative direction, has begun to head off the rails. It’s up to Charlotte and Becky to reel things back in.

Admittedly, this match up doesn’t exactly have a fresh feel, considering we’ve seen these two go at it in the final sequence of the Rumble and in either one-on-one matches or triple-threats at basically every pay-per-view since Summerslam. Still, the bond these two have and the ease with which they work together and feed off each other is always something special to behold.

It’ll be interesting to see if this match closes the show. Becky would benefit from a clean well fought win here. However, a Ronda spotlight-stealing ending is certainly in play.


Notable Absences

  • AJ Styles
  • Braun Strowman
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Finn Balor
  • Kofi Kingston
  • Randy Orton
  • Ronda Rousey
  • Samoa Joe

This Weekend’s Best Wrestling Shows

PWG Two Hundred

Friday March 1st, Globe Theatre (Los Angeles, California)PWG-Logo

At PWG’s last show Hand of Doom, the Los Angeles-based federation waved goodbye to federation regular Trevor Lee, who left for the bright lights of NXT following a loss to world champion Jeff Cobb.

After a successful title defense against Lee, Cobb will now turn his attention to rising star luchador Bandido, the man he beat to win the 2018 Battle of Los Angeles. That 24-minute bout, a triple-threat elimination match which also included current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champion Shingo Takagi for the first nine minutes, was proof of just how well the powerful 263-pound Cobb and the highly athletic Bandido work together.

The PWG World Tag Team Championship will also be up for grabs when title-holders The Rascalz (Zachary Wentz and Desmond Xavier) defend against The Lucha Bros and LAX. If the Lucha Bros vs. Rascalz and Lucha Bros vs. LAX matches from recent IMPACT television tapings are any indication, this one should be an exciting action-packed affair.

Rounding out the card will be a three-way match: Jake Atlas vs. Jungle Boy vs. Trey Miguel, a tag-team match: Aussie Open vs. Best Friends and three singles matches: Laredo Kid vs. Puma King, Darby Allin vs. Brody King and Jonathan Gresham vs. David Starr.

PWG One Hundred, which took place in April of 2009, featured some of the current best wrestlers in the world: WWE champion Daniel Bryan, former WWE champion Seth Rollins, former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega, former IWGP Tag Champions The Young Bucks and former NXT Champion Sami Zayn.

A decade from now, we may look back at this show in a similar light and marvel at what this collection of performers went on to achieve.


GCW: To Live and Die In LA

Saturday March 2nd, Burning World Studios (Los Angeles, California)GCW To Live and Die In LA

Last November, New Jersey-based promotion Game Changer Wrestling made the trip out west to the Golden State for Joey Janela’s LA Confidential.

That card, which featured former WWE superstars Bob Holly and D-Lo Brown, was headlined by a GCW Championship bout between hardcore legend Nick Gage and actor/former WCW champion David Arquette.

Arquette won’t be returning for this show. Gage’s challenger this time will be Alex Colon, who possesses a bit more experience with hardcore style death matches than the Ready to Rumble leading man.

Colon has had some tough luck in GCW as of late, losing to the likes of Jun Kasai, Daisuke Masaoka and Homicide at recent events. Win or lose, however, the 34-year-old CZW regular, always tries his hardest to put on a bloody and brutal showing. With Gage in the mix, he won’t have trouble meeting an expected high violence quotient.

In a match that has the makings of a much lighter and comedic experience than the Gage-Colon brawl, Joey Ryan will face off against Orange Cassidy for the first time ever.

Former WWE Cruiserweight Champion and current Impact X Division Champion Rich Swann is a standout name on the under card. Swann will do battle with All Elite signee Jungle Boy in a match which should feature plenty of aerial acrobatics.

Rounding out the card will be many of the GCW regulars who were at the LA Confidential show: Eli Everfly, Jimmy Lloyd, Tony Deppen and KTB. Plus, there will be a GCW Hall of Fame introduction ceremony for the late great Invisible Man.


MLW: Intimidation Games

Saturday March 2nd, Cicero Stadium (Chicago, Illinois)

MLW Intimidation Games

MLW returns to Chicago for a three and a half hour taping of its FUSION show on beIN Sports.

The headline match of the card will be a World Title rematch pitting newly crowned champion “Filthy” Tom Lawlor against Lo Ki, the man he beat for the belt last month in Philadelphia. That was a surprisingly quick bout which Lawlor won after Lo Ki passed out from a rear naked choke.

The rematch will take place inside a steel cage.

The tag team titles will also be defended when champions The Hart Foundation, Teddy Hart and Davey Boy Smith Jr., take on MJF and Richard Holliday. Hart beat MJF for the MLW Middleweight Championship in Philadelphia. The two of them have been cultivating an interesting older veteran and young cocky up and comer dynamic.

The former tag team champions The Lucha Bros will also be in action. They will take on Team AAA: Taurus and Laredo Kid.

Various different types of styles will be on display throughout the rest of the card. LA park and Mance Werner will face off in a death match. Puma King and Hijo de LA park should give fans of the lucha libre style a treat. DJZ and Ace Austin will also compete in a Battle Riot qualifying match.


Rev Pro: Live at the Cockpit 39

Sunday March 3rd, Cockpit Theatre (Marleybone, London)

REvPro

Last April, Zack Sabre Jr. and A-Kid had a highly acclaimed, crowd-into-every-move match at White Wolf Wrestling’s Total Rumble 8 in Madrid, Spain.

A-Kid was able to get the best of Sabre in his home country. Now, the roles are reversed. It will be Sabre with the home ring advantage for this non-title fight.

A-Kid’s partner from Team White Wolf, Carlos Romo, will also be in action, when he takes on Rev Pro Cruiserweight Champion David Starr.

Three other singles matches have been announced for the show: Chris Brookes vs. Darius Lockhart, James Mason vs. Kurtis Chapman and Bobbi Tyler vs. Jamie Hayter.

Revolution Pro Wrestling is cementing its status as one of the most quality wrestling products in not just Europe , but the world. If A-Kid and Sabre can replicate the magic they created in Madrid, that reputation should keep on growing.