WWE weekly recap
Women’s Rumble having 30 entrants
Robert O’Neill: People would have been really mad if WWE, while preaching the WOMEN’S REVOLUTION, made the rules of the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble different than the men’s edition. Kurt Angle opened Raw by confirming that that wouldn’t be the case, and there will be 30 women in the Rumble match. It’s pretty cool because there are only 19 women on the Raw and Smackdown rosters, which means we’ll get a nice mix of legends, NXT, and Mae Young Classic participants to fill out the 30.
Chris Novak: No problems here. Would’ve really been embarrassing otherwise.
Rob: Alright, this was *total* fan service and may have even been spawned from Wrestle Kingdom being this week, but Finn Balor teaming with Gallows and Anderson against the Miztourage and Elias was awesome.
Chris: Have to agree with Rob. To be honest, I can see this being a sticking point here. Finn’s been teased long enough to feud with Miz. He’ll need some bodies with him to take on The Miztourage, too. Why NOT The Good Brothers?
Rob: I don’t know how we ended up in this place where Drew Gulak is the funniest guy in WWE, but he’s absolutely amazing on the microphone. Playing the straight man to Enzo far better than Big Cass ever could imagine is no easy task, yet Gulak took the ball and ran with it. I also love the random inclusion of Goldust as Cedric Alexander’s partner against Gulak and Davari. I hope for more main roster/205 Live crossover in 2018.
Samoa Fucking Joe
Chris: Joe remains an incredible promo to this day. He is and always will be. He cut deep in an interview with Renee Young, taking responsibility for putting The Shield out of commission. The line he dropped about Dean Ambrose in particular was vicious. “Dean Ambrose is now a stay at home husband living off his wife’s paycheck.” STRAIGHT TO RENEE’S FACE. Joe is one of the best characters on TV right now. It’s unbelievable that we’re saying that in 2018. But, here we are. He’s just so damn good.
Rob: Renee and Dean’s relationship becoming canonical was one of the best things to happen in WWE last year, because of all the new banter it led to. As for Joe’s match against Roman Reigns for the Intercontinental Title, it was as good as you would expect. Reigns continues to be the best TV match worker in the company, and it’s beyond indisputable at this point.
Rob: The Women’s Royal Rumble is cool and revolutionary and certainly something to look forward to. The booking of the division, however, has been horrendous. Alexa Bliss has been Raw Women’s Champion since August 28 when she defeated Sasha Banks on an episode of Raw. She had two singles matches on Raw the entire rest of 2017. That in an of itself is a huge problem, she lost to Asuka in a non-title match on the first Raw of 2018. Asuka has also been pretty horribly booked on the main roster, but such is life when you’re tied to an undefeated streak. The match itself was pretty good!. It was a nice touch before the match when Bliss ran into Nia Jax backstage and Nia was leaving the arena to take Enzo Amore (still not sure where that whole thing is going) some soup because he’s sick in the hospital, leaving Bliss all on her own to face Asuka. Obviously Asuka won, but Alexa gave her her longest match on the main roster.
Chris: If you want to hype up an historic match, you’re going to at least have to try and put some effort into it. I give Raw more credit than SDL. At least they had a marquee matchup this week with Asuka and Alexa Bliss. The one-by-one segments of the ladies announcing their entry was a decent touch, although it would’ve been obvious from the start that they were in it.
As Rob said… the problem lies with Alexa. The champion. I shudder to think what the visceral reaction would be if someone like Bayley or Sasha were as invisible as Bliss has been. I’m not even sure Alexa makes it to WrestleMania as champion, which would be a stunning fall from grace. I can’t even understand why she’s had such a fall from grace in the first place over the past few months.
Folks love saying “WWE’s given up on Bayley” or “WWE’s made Sasha into a joke.” Maybe those things are true, maybe they aren’t. However, Alexa’s slide should be the focus. She’s the champ, but she’s such a freaking afterthought. And after putting her over EVERYBODY over the past few months, RAW’s women’s division has self-destructed. Absolution’s going nowhere, Asuka is who she is, and basically can’t lose. The other babyfaces… yeah. This division stinks. At least there’s legitimate superstars in it, as opposed to what SDL has cracked up.
Big Red Mach… oh, I don’t know actually.
Chris: The program between Brock Lesnar, Kane and Braun Strowman will likely heat up as the weeks go by. But right now, this really doesn’t have much ammo to it. It’s hard to get people behind Kane as a credible, legitimate contender for the Universal Title in 2018. Obviously, Kane’s been a consummate professional for over 20 years. And even a title run as sort of a “lifetime achievement award” would be fine, I suppose. But this title program is just...
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Rob: As part of the weekly recaps, I’m going to keep special tabs on what The Revival have been up to, since they should be WWE’s top tag team by the end of 2018. This week, they weren’t on the program. I, for one, am outraged.
Rob: Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan are a good enough team, built mainly out of necessity due to Dean Ambrose’s injury. It’s pretty clear that eventually Jordan is going to have to turn on someone, and that person is clearly going to be Rollins. It should be good enough to fill time between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania. I still think there’s a lot to like about Jordan in-ring, but the Kurt Angle’s son story continues to miss the mark for me. Jordan’s match with Cesaro was very solid, as mostly every Cesaro match is.
Chris: Counterpointing Rob -- I think Jordan turning into an egomaniac prick, who constantly gets himself into trouble, has been compelling in a way. I am looking forward to the first moment that it all breaks down for him and he has no one to save him. He’ll look like a fool, and probably get mad at somebody. I’d guess it’ll be his father.
Bray Wyatt and Apollo Crews had a match. I hope Wyatt gets some sort of direction in 2018, but he’s right back where he’s been every other time in his career sans the first three months of 2017, which seems to be where they’re trending with this Matt Hardy stuff, even though it’s just two weird characters doing comedy. Crews is fun, though. Big fan of Titus Worldwide.
Robert O’Neill: BRRRRRAAAAAUUUUUUNNNNNNN kicked off 2018 against Rhyno. It… didn’t go well for Rhyno. Heath Slater accompanied Rhyno to the ring. It didn’t go well for him, either. Good for Slater, though. My last memory of him before this match was getting F5’d by Brock Lesnar over the summer, so it’s nice that he was able to bounce back from that, even if it was just to get powerslammed by Strowman.
Robert O’Neill: Why is Kurt Angle always on the phone when they cut to him backstage? Try having him be doing LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE sometime!
Jason Jordan d. Cesaro
Bray Wyatt d. Apollo Crews
Asuka d. Alexa Bliss
Braun Strowman d. Rhyno
Roman Reigns d. Samoa Joe (IC Title Match)
Goldust/Cedric Alexander d. Drew Gulak/Ariya Davari
Elias/Miztourage d. Balor Club
Tag Titles Match
Chris: SmackDown Live may not have been as “compelling” in 2017 as it was in the back half of 2016. However, one constant was the tag team division. It ruled much of the headlines last year, and on the first episode of 2018, that was no different. The Usos faced Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable with the titles on the line. What went down was yet another high-quality matchup. They swerved us good with thinking Gable and Benjamin won the belts. But, they pulled a fast one, and The Usos retained. Some might not have loved the contrived nature of it all. But, the match quality was top notch yet again. Hopefully that continues on.
Rob: While I still wish it was Rusev Day in this spot instead of Benjamin/Gable, this was a fun match with a finish that swerved me. It sets up nicely for a rematch down the line, and you have to figure that American Beta, as it were, gets the upper hand eventually.
Chris: While SDL’s women’s division is dead in the water for me, I was pleased that Becky Lynch returned Tuesday. I was even more pleased at how it went down. The fact that Becky came back for revenge and redemption on The Riott Squad was a good way to get the fans behind her. AND what do you know? The Orlando crowd was enthused to see her and reacted strongly. It’s almost like knowing motivations will drive interest in storylines and characters themselves. Who knew?
Rob: Becky Lynch is one of three redeemable people in the SD women’s division (Charlotte, Naomi), so I’m quite glad she’s back.
Shane McMahon, the Ultimate F--- Up
Chris: Watching Shane McMahon screw up weekly is cathartic and amusing at this point. No matter what Shane does, he CONSTANTLY has his plans foiled by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. And, this week, Daniel Bryan. This is obviously leading to Bryan vs. Shane at Mania, which will definitely be an… interesting showdown. How will Shane mess up next week? Tune in to find out!
Rob: Chris nailed it. Shane finding new ways to fail on a weekly basis is absolutely fantastic. Aside: AJ Styles vs. Sami Zayn was as good as you would expect
Rob: Natalya, Tamina, and Carmella faced the Riott Squad and… it was pretty bad. Remember a few weeks back when Natalya cut that promo about how sad she was and how underappreciated she felt? It resulted in absolutely nothing. WWE is incredibly lazy in booking both of their main roster women’s divisions and it’s a huge problem, especially leading up to the Royal Rumble.
Chris: I could go on about how The Welcoming Committee is really bad. But Rob said all that need to be said here.
Mojo vs. Ryder
Rob: The United States Championship tournament is an excellent idea to help establish Smackdown’s midcard a bit better than it has been in the past, so why the hell was Mojo Rawley vs. Zack Ryder’s first round match a dark match that took place before Smackdown? Not only is that counterproductive in helping the midcard get over, but it’s a former tag team with a ton of heat between them.
Chris: Yeah, it was a little disappointing. That being said, I don’t THINK they confirmed that the match happened yet. So maybe we were hoodwinked? Who knows.
Rob: Karl Malone was in the audience. Karl Malone is a shithead. It’s rare that NBA Twitter agrees on anything, but tweet something about Karl Malone being an asshole and I guarantee you you’ll get a ton of retweets.
Chris Novak: Karl Malone sucks. The end.
Rob: Xavier Woods vs. Aiden English: Woods being the New Day member in the US Championship tournament was an interesting decision, but he improved significantly in 2017 and it continued to show in his victory over English. This also helps to continue the New Day/Rusev Day feud, so we’re all winners.
Breezango vs. Bludgeon Brothers: One of my personal what-ifs about WWE in the past couple years has to do with Luke Harper. On the Indy scene, the dude had a can’t miss mix of strength, speed, and agility. It really hasn’t translated to WWE, where he’s been stuck in the monster role. It doesn’t help that he got injured last year as he was getting pushed, but putting him back with Erick Rowan really doesn’t do anything for me. It looks like a feud with The Ascension is up next for the Bludgeon Brothers, which probably won’t make it past the Royal Rumble preshow.
The Usos d. Benjamin/Gable (Tag Title match)
Xavier Woods d. Aiden English
Riott Squad d. Natalya/Tamina/Carmella
Sami Zayn d. AJ Styles