WWE Mixed Match Challenge preview
One of the coolest WWE things of the past few years has been the rise of unexpected tournaments. In 2017, we saw the United Kingdom Championship Tournament and Mae Young Classic. Both came after the success of 2016’s Cruiserweight Classic.
2018’s tournament is perhaps the most ambitious installment to date: The Mixed Match Challenge. Twelve teams containing one male and one female superstar will battle it out over the next three months for the prize of $100,000 to a charity of their choice. One match a week will air on Facebook Live following Smackdown every week.
Finn Balor and Sasha Banks
Off the bat, we have one of my favorite teams in the entire MMC. Banks and Balor have similar styles and should develop chemistry fairly easy, not to mention watching Balor square off with Shinsuke Nakamura will be a blast in the first round. Bonus points for this team if Banks does demon paint or Balor wears stunner shades as part of the entrance. While this team is fine, I probably would have put Banks with Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns and save Balor for someone I’ll touch on below.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Natalya
This team misses the mark for me, if only because I don’t really care for Natalya. I wish there was a way she could have teamed with Cesaro, despite the show difference, as a callback to Cesaro’s tag team with Natayla’s husband, Tyson Kidd. As noted above, watching Nakamura and Balor go at it will be fun, and Banks is good enough that Natalya won’t bore me as much as usual.
The Miz and Asuka
As you can see from the bracket, most real-life couples in WWE are teaming up for this. However, with Maryse being pregnant, Miz was left without a partner. He ended up with a good one. Miz is one of the most underrated workers in the company and everyone knows how great Asuka is. This is a team that could go far.
Big E and Carmella
Carmella has been misused ever since James Ellsworth got released so I didn’t care much about this pairing, but then New Day released a Rocky-style training montage complete with pancakes and music and I’m 100% on board now.
Big E can handle Miz but, uh, Carmella is probably a bit overmatched against Asuka.
Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman
My personal favorite team in this entire tournament. Just the visual of the two of them standing next to each other will be amazing, but I also really enjoy watching both of them work, and will especially like watching them each rehash old rivalries in the first-round tilt against Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn. It’s tough to bet against any team with BRRRRRAAAAAUUUUUNNNNN in a tournament like this, so they may very well end up being my pick to take the whole thing.
Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn
I really wish they didn’t face Braun and Alexa in the first round, because this is probably my second-favorite team in the tournament. Becky and Sami work well together because they’re both weird and it’s embraced and fantastic. I’m pretty sure the losing team between these two will be back in with the fans’ choice vote later in the tournament.
Goldust and Alicia Fox
Speaking of weird, how about these two? Goldust remains the same weird character he was 20 years ago (except PG, but it still works) and Fox is coming off one of her most fun runs in a while after Survivor Series. She’s cooled off a little since then, but I think the comedy between these two will be top notch.
Jimmy Uso and Naomi
We’ve finally gotten to one of the real-life couples! This will be a ton of fun. Jimmy Uso is one of the best tag team wrestlers in WWE history and Naomi has been one of the highlights of the women’s division since reinventing herself to the Feel The Glow persona. Like with Banks and Balor, I’m interested in seeing how they handle the entrance.
Elias and Bayley
Elias is a fun act that everyone really enjoys. Bayley is a fun act that everyone really enjoys. And yet… WWE dropped the ball here. Putting Balor and Bayley together was an absolute layup, and WWE blew it.
Again, Elias and Bayley will be fine and probably lead to some fun pre-match concert stuff, but the entire time I’ll be thinking about the big time missed opportunity, and that’s unfortunate.
Rusev and Lana
Real life couple, again. It’s fine. Lana’s not very good but Rusev is excellent in and out of the ring and if there’s any good in the world, Aiden English will still be the one to announce their entrance
Apollo Crews and Nia Jax
Nia wanted to team with Enzo Amore but he got sick and was ruled out of the MMC, so she ended up with Apollo Crews. That’ll be fun. They have similar styles and their first round match against Bobby Roode and Charlotte should click well.
Bobby Roode and Charlotte
Another dark horse team brought together by their love of nice robes. Roode and Charlotte are two of the most decorated NXT stars of all time and the success has translated to the main roster. It definitely wouldn’t be a surprise to see them in the finals.
It’s really tough to predict something like this because it’s never happened before and we don’t know how the teams are going to gel. If I had to pick right now, though, I would take Braun and Alexa over Roode and Charlotte in the finals.
All photos courtesy of WWE