This Week in WWE: When a TV match turns into an all-time classic

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Chris Novak: We kick things off, two weeks away from the Royal Rumble, with Braun Strowman. JK, first out of the gate is Vince McMahon!

Robert O’Neill: Vince is at Raw, complete with a limo arrival. Ominus? Maybe! Now here’s Strowman. He goes on about how he’s going to beat Lesnar and Lesnar is scared of him. But here comes Baron Corbin.

Chris Novak: Corbin agitates Braun, which leads to a chase. A Singh brother died on the way back to his home planet. Strowman remains in heavy pursuit.

And now, here’s Elias.

Robert O’Neill: He told Strowman where Corbin was, but he did it in song. And Corbin was hiding in the limo Vince arrived in!

Chris Novak: He yanks the driver out of the limo and then proceeds to bash the windows in!!! He then PULLS the door off. Corbin goes on the move once again and… oh, well, Braun RUNS INTO VINCE!! Vince is NOT thrilled either, by the looks of it.

Sure enough he’s not. He fines him $100K. Braun gets mad, and NOW… he’s OUT of the Universal Championship Match!

Ronda-Sasha/Nia-Tamina is next.

Robert O’Neill: Let’s see how this goes.

Chris Novak: That match… certainly went. It was fine. Right team won (Sasha and Ronda) right person got the fall (Sasha) and right person tapped out (Tamina). That’s fine. That was… fine.

Robert O’Neill: After the match they both got interviewed by Charly Caruso and Sasha took some exception to some things Ronda said about how she’s going to make her tap. That was a really good segment.

Chris Novak: Sasha and Ronda are STILL GOING after the commercial break. Bayley and Natalya try to play peacemaker and eventually send them to their quarters. That leads to an argument between Bayley and Nattie about who was in the right and wrong. Riott Squad come knocking on the door then and rabblerouse, as they are to do. Liv insulted Bayley by calling her a sad emoji. Much as I’m a Bayley fan, I’m a Liv fan, and that’s a great insult. They challenge them to a match and Nattie accepts on their behalf, but Bayley doesn’t seem thrilled by that. Big fan of this. Big fan of all of this.

Robert O’Neill: Lucha House Party are facing The Revival, however I am boycotting all tag team wrestling on the Raw brand until The Revival are rightfully awarded the tag team championship. Thank you for your time.

Chris Novak: Well, luckily for you tonight, Rob, The Revival picked up the win over The Lucha House Party.

Robert O’Neill: Vince is making his way to the ring to announce the new plan for the Royal Rumble title match. This should be interesting. Before he can start talking, JOHN CENA COMES OUT! He starts talking about how Stone Cold left and The Rock left and Brock Lesnar left but Cena never left! He missed birthdays and weddings and funerals but he’s still here and he wants a shot at his 17th world championship. Drew McIntyre is out here though and he doesn’t care what Cena has to say, he wants the shot. So does Baron Corbin. So does Finn Balor. Vince isn’t so high on the last one though, cause he’s little. Then chaos ensues, and McIntyre stands tall. Then Vince says they’re having a fatal four-way match in the main event to see who will face Brock. Whew.

Chris Novak: That was a hell of a segment. Cena cut a fiery promo. Finn brought some heat too. All of that ended extremely well too with Drew Mac coming out on top before the F4W announcement.

Jinder then shows up backstage and persuades Vince to let him in contention. So, apparently he’s facing Finn tonight. I’ve NO idea if this is entry to the F4W match… or if they just wiped that out tonight for this. I’ll have no idea for a few more segments until this is all resolved.

Six woman tag’s next. The partner that Bayley and Nattie picked is… NIKKI CROSS!!! So far, they’re acting as a cohesive unit. We’ll see if that disseminates into something later.

It might not surprise you, but the six-woman tag was a super fun match. Bayley got the pin after an elbow drop.

Robert O’Neill: That was awesome. I really liked adding Nikki Cross into the fold.

Chris Novak: I also really like how, no matter how many times these matches happen, they just win up finding new ways to make them better.

Finn vs. Jinder is next. We got clarity. The winner is in the F4W later tonight. These two turned out a very fun match. They’re clearly setting Finn up for something, after having him get beat up big time before the match started. He pulled off the win in the end with the Coup de Grace and stays in the F4W, which should own. Back-to-back great matches. Raw is starting to heat up right now.

IC Championship Triple Threat Match is next. This proved to be a really dope match. And to maybe some surprise… LASHLEY WINS THE IC TITLE!!! They kept Seth protected by having Dean get pinned. Another legit great match here.

I have no idea why they just did that segment with Alexa. Poor taste and then some.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah you can watch the video of this, it was really stupid.

Chris Novak: They then turned around and had her come out for A Moment of Bliss. And we get a SCOOP! THE WOMEN’S TAG TITLES ARE COMING AT ELIMINATION CHAMBER!! Bliss revealed them and GOOD LORD are they beautiful.

Paul Heyman, Bliss’ guest, then comes on out. Bliss and Heyman banter about Brock Lesnar and the four competitors in the F4W match. We then get the arrival… of… Otis Dozovic, who shows up being the weirdo that he is. Tucker Knight comes out to pull him back away.

Robert O’Neill: I feel like a lot of the NXT call-ups have been shoehorned in tonight, but I get it. If you want to have them be in the Royal Rumble, call them up this week, have them in matches next week, then you’re ready to rock and roll.

Fatal 4-Way is next.

Chris Novak: That match was awesome. Finn won after hitting the Coup de Grace on Cena. It wasn’t lost on me that Finn ate EVERYONE’s finisher but still stood tall. They are shooting that dude to the MOON, baby. Finn gets Brock at the Rumble. Cena had some really nice words for him afterwards, putting a bow on a huge night for him.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: This was a really good Raw. I didn’t like the Bliss backstage segment at all and thought it was completely unwarranted and unneeded. That being said, everything else really clicked. Once the second hour kicked in, this show was on a freaking high (despite the one aforementioned valley hit prior to The Moment of Bliss segment). Match quality wise, this was an awesome show. Raw’s getting back in gear, baby. B+.

Robert O’Neill: The Bliss backstage segment was bad, but aside from that, this Raw had two hours and fifty-nine minutes of things I liked. The matches were very good and Balor being the new top guy is really good news for us all. I can’t wait for his match with Brock Lesnar. A-

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Chris Novak: SmackDown kicks off with The Man. Becky responds to a question of if she’s ready for Asuka by saying she’ll answer it in the ring. On the way there she runs into Heavy Machinery and New Day. Otis made some sort of crazy concoction and Becky drank it and said it was “too weak.” Bex then came out to cut a promo and said it’s not easy to do what she’s done. She talked up Asuka and her hype, bringing up that she lost. She said she lost and fell off the radar. This brings out Asuka for a faceoff. Asuka says Becky’s all buzz but no sting “like a little bee.”

The IIconics come out and do their spiel, talking down Becky and Asuka and saying they need more dignity. Becky then says that she’ll take one of them on, and our first match of the night is about to commence.

Robert O’Neill: That was a really fun way to open the show. I like the NXT people appearing on both shows, as well. Becky got the victory over Peyton in a short match. Asuka got in the ring and was yelling at Becky and challenged Billie Kay and made her tap in much shorter time. I like it.

Chris Novak: I dug it too, to be honest.

Robert O’Neill: AJ Styles is on the concourse telling the fans that Daniel Bryan is wrong and they can eat hot dogs if they want to. But then Bryan comes through in a hoodie and attacks Styles! AJ gets the upper hand though and spinebusters Bryan through a table.

Chris Novak: Hey, that was pretty effective to keep this going. Have a feeling that match at the Rumble is gonna own.

Jimmy Uso got a rose from… well, you guessed it, Mandy Rose. Mandy wants Jimmy to come to his hotel tonight. Huh. Can’t imagine where this might go.

Joe vs. Ali is next. On Joe’s way to Gorilla, we have an Old Friend Alert as he sees EC3 admiring himself in a mirror. See the joke is they both were in TNA.

Robert O’Neill: HIlarious! Joe goes to the ring for his match and as Mustafa Ali is doing his entrance Joe throws him off the turnbuckle and beats him down around the ring. Vintage intensity from Joe.

Chris Novak: That was some good heeling by Joe. Ali got destroyed, selling his ass off in the process.

Mandy Rose was backstage with Sonya Deville. Sonya asked Mandy if it was really what she wanted to do, and she basically, outright said she wanted to break up their marriage. LOL, oh brother.

Joe is backstage and talks about how he’s going to win the Royal Rumble.

Robert O’Neill: Rey Mysterio vs. the newly-named Andrade up next.

Chris Novak: Well, these two messed around and had, in my book, the greatest SmackDown match ever. Just an unreal, 20-minute display of athleticism, high-flying moves and everything else that you can imagine. Good God. I can’t have more superlatives for this match. Almas won and pinned Mysterio.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah that was so good. Holy crap. Let these two fight forever.

Chris Novak: Mandy got Jimmy Uso in her hotel room… and it turned out that she just wanted to stage something to ruin Naomi’s life. Turns out… Jimmy had Naomi waiting. The two brawled in the hotel room but Mandy came out on top and then bolted.

Robert O’Neill: This was kinda weird but unlike the Alexa stuff the other night at least it continues a story and isn’t just shoehorned in. So that’s good.

Chris Novak: They did the segment with Shane and Miz for Shane’s birthday. They put together a well-produced Shane highlight reel and Miz gave Shane some Jordans. Shane put Miz over and said he was happy to be his tag partner. The Bar came out to interrupt, which led to an impromptu match between Miz and Sheamus.

Miz defeated Sheamus and then Shane went coast-to-coast (coast-to-cake, actually) and Miz and Shane were jovial in the ring at the conclusion of the show.

Robert O’Neill: This was a really fun main event segment/match. Shane doing the coast to coast into the cake was a neat spot, and I think the tag match at the Royal Rumble is going to be really solid.  

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: A very balanced, well put together show. Andrade/Rey was an all-timer as far as TV matches go and for Rey Mysterio’s career, as well. I’ve almost no issue with this show other than Carmella/Sonya being axed. As far as what was on the show? Another great one. A-

Robert O’Neill: Of the five hours of WWE TV I watched this week, four hours and 59 minutes were very good. I like those odds. I liked, again, what they did with the NXT people, having them in the background repeatedly. Mysterio/Almas will be regarded as a top Smackdown match of all time, and Styles/Bryan is already becoming one of my favorite feuds both guys have been part of. A