Posts tagged Alexa Bliss
The 2019 WWE Women's Top 25: Midyear Edition

We’ve hit the halfway point in the year 2019. Lots has happened since January, especially so in the Federation. The women of WWE have been given quite the platform to perform this year. And while there is always room for change and improvements, it can’t be denied that there are still plenty who have shined brightly.

With six months having come and gone, it’s time to take a look at who the best of the best have been this year. So, I will be presenting a standalone edition of my Women’s Top 25. For those unfamiliar, here’s a crash course refresher on the process that’s used to compile this formula.

Anyhow, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions before we dive into who made the cut.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

30. Candice LeRae (12.75 Pts)
29. Rhea Ripley (15.5 Pts)
28. Ember Moon (15.75 Pts)
27. Liv Morgan (16.5 Pts)
26. Ruby Riott (16.75 Pts)

This assembly of talent came close to making the cut, but ultimately fell short. There has ultimately been two factors working against these ladies this year: Workload and injuries.

Ember Moon, Rhea Ripley and Ruby Riott have spent time on the shelf this year. That plagued them quite a bit, as they weren’t able to get work as much they’d have liked. Especially so for Rhea, as NXT UK’s formula of cyclical tapings works against her as is. Ruby has been out since after WrestleMania, and we aren’t sure when she’ll come back.

Ember has been back since Mania, but continues to be shelved. Although, she did work just this past Tuesday.

Liv worked plenty in the first few months, but hasn’t seen the field since the Superstar Shakeup. A talent of her caliber would’ve benefited big from being on TV. But such luck was and has not been in the cards for her. If that luck can change, expect her to make some moves. Candice, meanwhile, was used sparsely. From the looks of it, that may change, and she’ll have to do a lot of work to pick up ground. Especially considering that she is nearly three points behind the 29th-ranked Ripley

Now, let’s get down to business, shall we?

25. Mia Yim
Matches in 2019: 7 | Points: 18

Mia Yim is blossoming into quite the contender. Her series of matches with Bianca Belair got her into the rankings and she was able to stay alive in the Top 25 at the midway buzzer. Yim’s trajectory seems to have her poised for bigger and better things in the summer. So, expect her to start making some moves in these rankings if her workload picks up as I expect it to.

24. Toni Storm
Matches in 2019: 6 | Points: 18.5

The NXT UK Champion checks in at 24th. Toni Storm and her ‘shiny shiny’ have only seen the field six times this year. She’s been working a lot in STARDOM in Japan and other places, and the cyclical nature of NXT UK’s taping schedule has likely worked against her in that regard. With that being said, I hope to see her compete more. She now seems destined to face off with Kay Lee Ray for her championship. That match could very well position her to vault up on this list if it goes well.

23. Tamina
Matches in 2019: 9 | Points: 19.5

It’s been a pretty solid year for one Tamina. She competed in a variety of tag matches earlier this year with one Nia Jax, which aided her in getting in these rankings. She’s rarely been used since Nia left to take care of her injured knees. So, she slid as a result and wound up here. It probably says a lot that she hasn’t worked on TV since WrestleMania, but still finds herself in the Top 25. Either she will get more opportunities and climb the rungs, or someone else will soon enough.

22. Sarah Logan
Matches in 2019: 11 | Points: 20

Sarah Logan is the highest-ranked member of the group formerly known as The Riott Squad. Were you expecting that? Perhaps not, but Logan was a very steady hand when she was utilized. She did a very good job in the Elimination Chamber Match in February with her partner in Liv Morgan. She had the luxury of working a few more matches that hit compared to her peers, so that’s why she stands at 22. Logan has not been on TV (Main Event not withstanding) since an April 21 WWE Network special. If that soon changes, she might find a way to get going again.

21. Billie Kay
Matches in 2019: 16 | Points: 21.5

One-half of the longest reigning (HEY KAYLA!) and defending Women’s Tag Team Champions (HEY KAYLA!) finds herself at 21st. Billie Kay(LA!) has had herself a very fine year in the wrestling department. Her singles matches have lacked what her partner Peyton Royce has brought to the table, which will explain the differential between the two. When she works with Royce, she’s done a pretty fine job. I’d like to see more from her and Peyton in that regard, but it appears we might be set for that.

20. Sonya Deville
Matches in 2019: 13 | Points: 21.75

Sonya Deville is No. 20 in the midyear Women’s Top 25. Deville has long been noted as a talented prospect and she’s certainly shown promise when given the ball. Her TV matches, however, have been far too short for myself and others to truly see that. If her positioning on her is to change, then I think they need to take the proverbial kid gloves off her and let her work. I want to see what others say she has and what I believe she has in her as well. 20th is a very fine spot for her right now though to say the least.

19. Kairi Sane
Matches in 2019: 11 | Points: 23.25

It’s been a bit of an up and down year for Kairi Sane. None of it is particularly her fault, either. She had one TakeOver match, a Fatal 4-Way in Brooklyn. That and a one-on-one NXT Women’s Championship Match against Shayna Baszler have been her two biggest matches to date. The problem with that of course is that it’s just two matches. She has built up enough rapport so far to fall 19th here, but for her sake, her workload starts to increase so she can make a leap up. I believe she’s one of the most talented members of the women’s roster, and Top 10 status isn’t unattainable.

18. Lacey Evans
Matches in 2019: 10 | Points: 24

Common consensus on WWE Twitter leads you to believe that Lacey Evans stinks. While I think they’re exposing her quite a bit, and perhaps more than they should, I’d disagree that she stinks out loud. She’s been a perfectly fine and inoffensive wrestler. There are a lot of nitpickers that point out her botches and what have you, but the truth really lies in the middle. She hasn’t really wowed me in the ring, and I think her character work far outweighs her in-ring skills to this point. But that’s been a proven formula before, right?

17. Natalya
Matches in 2019: 13 | Points: 24

Natalya finds herself tied up with Lacey Evans in the points department at the halfway point. Nattie has worked 13 matches this year, three more than Lacey. So you might be wondering how she’s tied up with her. Well, I gave five of Nattie’s 13 matches somewhere between the **-**3/4 range, while Lacey has just one. Some of that isn’t really her fault, as the length of some of her matches really prevented me from giving higher scores. Alas, that’s how the cookie crumbles. At this point, you know by now that she’s a safe and trusted worker with a medium-high ceiling.

16. Naomi
Matches in 2019: 15 | Points: 25

Naomi finds herself 16th here in the WWE Women’s Top 25. She’s a very talented worker, and that’s apparent any time that they actually let her wrestle longer than a couple of minutes. See: Her performance in the Women’s MITB match. The problem, well, is just that. A lot of her matches, for whatever reason, have been incredibly short this year. That’s hurt the scores, and thus has hurt her positioning. Still, 16th is not a bad spot, and with a little more work, she may be able to catapult herself up higher.

15. Ronda Rousey
Matches in 2019: 13 | Points: 25.5

Ronda Rousey’s high ceiling and heavy workload at the start of the year got her to stay in the mix here. Rousey had an indisputably great match against Sasha Banks at the Royal Rumble. That, along with solid TV matches and the WrestleMania Women’s Main Event have given her quite a healthy cushion. I don’t foresee her being in the Top 25 by year’s end. She’s just 0.5 points ahead of Naomi, after all. But right now, she’s standing at 15th.

14. Carmella
Matches in 2019: 14 | Points: 25.5

Carmella sits 14th at the halfway point in the Women’s Top 25. It hasn’t felt like she’s worked a lot this year, but she’s put in a high number of matches for the women this year with, coincidentally, 14. In the two Triple Threat Matches she’s been in this year on SmackDown, I think she’s had tremendous performances. More of that the rest of the way, and a Top 10 finish is not out of the question. She’s no doubt one of the most improved on the roster.

13. Peyton Royce
Matches in 2019: 17 | Points: 25.5

Remember that disparity I was talking about? Well, here you go. Peyton Royce is 13th in the WWE Top 25, while her partner is down at 21st. The differences between the two? It all comes down to the fact that Peyton has worked three singles matches this year. In those singles matches, she was able to pick up the four point difference between her and her partner. The best of the bunch? A match with The Man, Becky Lynch, back in January, in which she got three points.

12. Alexa Bliss
Matches in 2019: 11 | Points: 27.75

Do we have a little bit of a surprise here? No pun intended. Alexa Bliss sits 12th in the Women’s Top 25 in June, with just 11 matches under her belt. Listen, I know that there have been plenty of criticisms of her in-ring work. Perhaps those critiques have some weight. But ask yourself if she’s really had any duds this year. She really hasn’t. Among the 11 matches she’s had this year, I’ve given three of them **3/4 or less. All of those aforementioned matches were either short on time or very one-sided. Two of them were this past week. She’s been in the *** sweet spot four times for a lot of her singles matches. Slowly but surely, I think she’s piecing something together, and she’s been given the ball a lot lately while others haven’t. That would explain her upward trajectory to me.

11. Asuka
Matches in 2019: 11 | Points: 27.75

Alexa and Asuka? Tied with the same points? And the same amount of matches? I’ll be honest: This probably wouldn’t be happening if The Empress wasn’t benched. She was putting out bangers left and right in the early part of this year. She was in my Women’s Match of the Year against Becky Lynch at the Royal Rumble, and the best main roster women’s TV match of the year against Charlotte Flair as well. If she gets the ball and runs again with it, she’s going to be in the Top 10 and perhaps the Top 5, as well.

10. Nia Jax
Matches in 2019: 11 | Points: 29.25

Nia Jax is 10th in the WWE Women’s Top 25. Despite not working since WrestleMania, Jax holds firm to a spot in the Top 10 primarily for a few reasons. The first reason is that a good amount of the multi-woman matches she was part of got high scores. The second reason is that she partook in BOTH the Women’s AND the Men’s Royal Rumble matches this year. Such an advantage holds quite a lot of weight. It is unknown as to if we’re going to see Nia in WWE again this year due to her ACL injuries. But, if she is, she may find herself susceptible to a jump. I think she’s been missed on Raw, but that’s just me.

9. Mandy Rose
Matches in 2019: 16 | Points: 30.5

Mandy Rose has the fourth-most matches among the women in WWE this year with 16. And yet, she’s only accumulated 30.5 points. That is more than The IIconics each have, to be fair. While a Top 10 finish at the midyear point is obviously a solid point, I think that there’s a bit of an issue here. I’ve given three of Mandy’s matches four stars. Those matches, however, were the Elimination Chamber Match for the Women’s Tag Team Championships, the Women’s Royal Rumble and the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. What do all of those matches have in common? They’re multi-woman matches. Looking further down the line, the second-highest grade for any of her matches this year was ***1/4, which I gave twice. Once in a tag team match with Sonya against Asuka and Kairi Sane, and once against Asuka in a singles match in February. So, again, another multi-woman match. Unfortunately for Mandy, I think she’s more of a compiler at this point, and that’s why she’s got such a high standing. That being said, there’s always room to improve, and hopefully she’s able to find herself here.

8. Shayna Baszler
Matches in 2019: 7 | Points: 31.75

With just seven matches under her belt, Shayna Baszler finds herself 8th in the Women’s Top 25. That should tell you just how damn good she is. Baszler wasn’t in the Top 10 heading into June’s final day of evaluations. However, her incredible Steel Cage Match against Io Shirai was enough to bounce her all the way up to this spot. Baszler’s booking has certainly been a knock, but that has nothing to do with her. The absolute lowest score that I’ve given a match of hers is ***1/4. Honestly, she might be the best in the entire Federation right now, and I won’t fight you if you argue with that. Her track record speaks for itself.

7. Io Shirai
Matches in 2019: 11 | Points: 32.75

Io Shirai may not have won the NXT Women’s Championship from Shayna Baszler. She, however, is ahead of her in the Women’s Top 25. Shirai ranks 7th at the halfway point after accumulating 32.75 points. She has four more matches than Shayna, but unfortunately a lot of the tag matches she worked with Kairi Sane were pretty short. Thus, I couldn’t really give high grades to them. She worked against the Horsewomen, as well, but those matches were a little rough around the edges. The 13.25 points she gained in June, including the 9 she got from the incredible cage match against Baszler this past Wednesday, really helped her finesse her way up to 7th on the countdown. She’s no doubt one of the best in the world, and I’m very excited to see how she works as a villainess now.

6. Charlotte Flair
Matches in 2019: 14 | Points: 33.75

Charlotte Flair is sixth after a pretty solid run through the first six months of the year. I think she’d be even higher on this list, but they really kept her workload to a minimum at the start of the year. In fact, from January 14-March 10, she only worked twice: a Triple Threat against Becky and Carmella, and the Royal Rumble Match. If she’d worked more TV matches, I think she’d no doubt be in the Top 5. But, she falls just shy of it at sixth in these rankings. Worth noting: There are just two points separating Charlotte, Io and Shayna. Could make for some fun down the way, eh?

5. Sasha Banks
Matches in 2019: 14 | Points: 34.5

The Boss? Top 5? Despite not working since WrestleMania? Your fave could absolutely never. Well… unless your fave is ahead of Sasha, but you get the point here. Banks had a really awesome run at the start of the year. Her match against Ronda Rousey is one of the best of the entire year, and is No. 2 among my women’s matches that have happened in 2019. A very close No. 2, at that. Her talent is obviously immeasurable and I definitely think the product’s missing her a bit, at least from an in-ring standpoint. Should she come back? Watch out. She’ll go on a torrid run again, I’m sure.

4. Bianca Belair
Matches in 2019: 11 | Points: 36

Bianca Belair has the opportunity to become one of NXT’s greatest homegrown success stories. Belair has put in serious work this year, despite working just 11 matches. She’s catapulted herself up to 4th in the Women’s Top 25 after the first half of the year. Belair’s peak was the match against Shayna in Phoenix. However she’s also been an awesome TV worker. Her series with Mia Yim these past few months was a treat to watch. The two never really missed, and so she was able to develop this cache she has right now. They made a mistake, I think, in not giving her the belt in Brooklyn, or at least in having her lose again. But, they need to turn her loose once more. Because she’s a phenomenal talent.

3. Nikki Cross
Matches in 2019: 17 | Points: 43.75

Speaking of success stories, let’s give a round of applause to Nikki Cross. Not only is Cross’ character work a delight to watch on the weekly, but she’s been working a lot of matches and shining brightly too. Her peak scores were in the Royal Rumble and Women’s MITB matches. But, she also had a delightful TV match with the aforementioned Bianca Belair back in June, plus a great Triple Threat Match with herself, Blair and Toni Storm at Worlds Collide in April. Cross has been so fun to watch, and being 3rd on this list says a lot about the talent that she possesses.

2. Becky Lynch
Matches in 2019: 18 | Points: 51.5

The Man has come around to No. 2 in the Women’s Top 25. No surprises here really, as Becky Lynch is the star of the show and has been given copious amounts of work. She’s second in matches this year among the women with 18. Her sweet spot has been in the ***-***3/4 range. I’ve given 10 of her 18 matches a score between 3-3.75 so far. Her peak scores have also been terrific, as she has three matches of ****+. That includes my Women’s Match of the Year, when she faced Asuka at the Royal Rumble, and got ****1/2, giving her nine points as a result. Lynch should be able to carry herself in this spot for a while, as she has a huge 8+ point lead on 3rd-ranked Nikki Cross, and a 15.5 point lead on 4th-ranked Bianca Belair.

1. Bayley
Matches in 2019: 26 | Points: 74

What can you really say about Bayley this year? Other than that she’s been the workhorse of the division and has been outstanding in the ring. She hasn’t had the peaks that Becky, Asuka, Shayna, Io, Sasha or Ronda have had, or even to the extent that Charlotte had against Asuka in March. But she’s been so consistently good week in and week out that she’s built up a huge lead on the competition. It certainly helps that she’s worked just about every single week of TV this year. But she’s made the most of her opportunities. I’m biased for sure, but she’s absolutely been a blast to watch and is certainly worthy of the No. 1 spot in these rankings at the halfway point.

WWE Hell in a Cell 2018: Recap, reactions and analysis

Hell in a Cell went down on Sunday night in San Antonio! Rob and Chris react to what was a great show… until a confounding ending turned up.

New Day vs. Rusev Day - SDL Tag Team Championships

Chris Novak: Okay, hot out of the gate, this PPV is. This match was on the Kickoff Show but they proved they could have easily main carded this. I really enjoyed the pace of this down the stretch. Aiden busted out some great offense that included his own version of The Accolade. It ALMOST looked like they were going to get it, when Rusev hit a Machka Kick on Big E, who was trying to break it up. BUT, nevertheless, New Day prevailed and New Day retained. Going to give this a hearty ***¾. Did the right team win? Who’s to say?

Robert O’Neill: I feel like the tag team match to open any WWE PPV never disappointed. It’s the perfect way to get things going and get the crowd into it, and there’s a reason they always make sure to have tag matches lead off.

Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton - Hell in a Cell

Chris Novak: Okay! So. That was nasty… violent… everything in between. Orton got real nasty when he used A DAMN SCREWDRIVER THROUGH HARDY’S EAR WHY DID THAT HAPPEN???? Both guys pulled off some ridiculous spots and Orton was left pretty cut up to say the least. I’m not even sure how to rate this match but it was easily the most violent HIAC match in years.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah we need to talk about that screwdriver spot. It was gross. But yeah Orton was cut up on his leg and back and then Jeff tried to do a crossbody thing from hanging on the top of the cell through a table and Orton rolled off the table. It was pretty brutal.

Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch - SmackDown Live Women’s Championship

Chris Novak: THEY DID THE DAMN THING! Becky became the new SmackDown Live Women’s Champion. She did so by countering a Spear and quickly slapped on the Dis-Arm-Her, and thus won clean as a sheet. This was a pretty terrific bout, if you’re really into limb work and psychology. And no surprise, I am just that kind of fan! I will give this **** and it’s both of these ladies’ best matches in quite a while.

Robert O’Neill: I’m kind of shocked they did this. I thought they would have Charlotte win by DQ and have Becky beat her down, but WWE deserves credit for knowing what they had (organically) and not screwing it up. It was pretty much Daniel Bryan in 2014 all over again.

Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre vs. Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins - Raw Tag Team Championships

Chris Novak: OKAY THIS MATCH WAS ALSO VERY GOOD!!! Not that it’s surprising when you consider who was in it, but wow. The finish was terrific. Seth did his Superplex off the top rope, and went to transition to a Falcon Arrow, but Drew snuck in and hit the Claymore on him. Dolph flopped down on Seth like a fish and got the 1-2-3. I’m going ****½ on here. Loved how they let this match build up and loved all of the fun tag-style psychology that they had in this match. They did some different things in this match and they all really worked.

Robert O’Neill: What a shock, Seth Rollins had another great match! Credit to all four of these guys, though. This was probably the best tag match on WWE television this year, as far as the main roster goes.

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe - WWE Championship

Chris Novak: This match whipped ass pretty much. It was a little bit slow-paced but was incredibly hard-hitting. It appears they’re doing some kind of controversial finish, where Joe made Styles tap out, but had that happen AWAY from the camera angle. SO, Joe doesn’t have the belt. They’re gonna likely run this again at Super Show-Down. I will give this ****¼ as well. These two absolutely, ABSOLUTELY crushed it. I don’t know if I was expecting that tonight, honestly, but they showed OUT.

Robert O’Neill: I would like if these blood feuds would start with brawling for once instead of chain wrestling and headlocks, but beggars can’t be choosers. Aside from that, the match was good. Joe teasing the muscle buster was a nice touch and the finish leaves for intrigue for Smackdown this week.

The Miz & Maryse vs. Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella - Mixed Tag Match

Chris Novak: That match was… funbad! Some sloppiness involved, but that was probably more expected than anything. Still, the crowd was engaged and everyone played their part. Maryse won with a (sloppy) roll-up. Like I said, maybe some parts were sloppy but I had a ball watching that match. ***¼ for me.

Robert O’Neill: Maryse is the smartest worker in the company. Her only offense was the pinfall. The match was bad and their match at Evolution will be bad but whatever. It keeps the feud going.

Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss - Raw Women’s Championship

Chris Novak: Alright, that was pretty okay. Rousey’s selling was tremendous and Alexa worked well enough for this match to get the job done. They did go longer than anticipated but when you have such a small card, these matches have to go long to fill time. Maybe next time they can add some more matches. Nevertheless, I’m not going to hold that against the performers here. They did their jobs and did it well. I will go with ***¼ for that one.

Robert O’Neill: That was good! It went a bit too long, but the card is short, it happens. I think Alexa being out of the title picture now will be pretty good for her, and I’m interested to see where Ronda goes next. I think they should probably start having her matches be quicker, but that can be a slippery slope.

Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman - Hell in a Cell for Universal Championship

Chris Novak: Alright, I don’t know if I have much positive to say about this. Brock Lesnar came back, wrecked shop, and the match ended in a no contest. A HIAC match… ended in a no contest. I’m guessing this is building toward the Saudi show, because both Braun and Roman are booked for Super Show-Down. Whatever. The match itself was fine but felt like it was lacking something. This really felt like it was planned in the last minute. I’ll give it a generous *** but to be honest with you I probably could’ve gone lower. An otherwise great show ends with a loud dud.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah, I mean, I’m one of the only Brock Lesnar fans left in 2018 and it was cool to see him show up and kick the door off the cell and then use the door as a ramp, but he really shouldn’t be the one we’re talking about after a Hell in a Cell match he wasn’t in. The Lesnar stuff and the Pack/Shield fighting and Rollins/Ziggler doing the same spot Rollins did with Ambrose a couple years ago where both went off the cell through a table seemed dangerous and unnecessary. Strictly speaking about Braun and Roman’s parts of the match, it was wholly unmemorable. Mick Foley being involved makes even less sense now, and he 100% accidentally did a three count early in the match when Braun was covering Roman. They have a lot of work to do tomorrow on Raw to fix this.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: The majority of this show was good! The first four matches were excellent. Is that enough to make the entire show good? Sure. They could have made the Ronda/Alexa match shorter and done a lot different with the Braun/Roman match, but all in all this was a good way to spend four hours. B

Chris Novak: Let’s run through the star ratings again.

New Day/Rusev Day - ***3/4
Hardy/Orton - ****
Charlotte/Becky - ****
Ziggler & Mac/Ambrose & Rollins - ****1/2
AJ/Joe - ****1/4
Miz & Maryse/Brie & Bryan - ***1/4
Rousey/Bliss - ***1/4
Roman/Braun - ***

From the outside this looks like a marvelous show. And to be honest, it was! That is until the ending. I can’t really get over how mismanaged Braun-Roman was. But at the same time, it wasn’t an all-time bad ending or anything. Just a stupid one. So I’ll give HIAC a solid B+.

WWE Summerslam 2018: Results, reactions and analysis
SummerSlam_(2015)_-_Logo.png

The Biggest Event of the Summer has come and gone! Rob and Chris are here to talk about what went down in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

Andrade Cien Almas & Zelina Vega vs. Rusev & Lana

Robert O’Neill: Our first match of the preshow was a fun one, as Almas and Vega picked up the victory when Zelina pinned Lana after a distraction from Almas. I’m kind of fine with letting both of their feuds continue for a while, but I could also see this as a feud ender.

Chris Novak: Match was just okay. Nothing inoffensive. But just okay. Finish was a little bit sloppy. Not really sure who that was on between Zelina and Lana. I don’t see this being a feud continuer. This seems like a feud ender. Rusev lost to Andrade, Aiden lost to Andrade, Lana lost to Zelina, and they just lost to Andrade and Zelina. There’s only so many times you can keep going to the well with them trying to get one over on them, especially when they just keep losing. I expect the division between Rusev, Lana and Aiden English to be the next phase here. That’s a gimme. Where Almas and Vega go from here is all that’s left to really wonder. Gonna give this .

Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak

Chris Novak: Now, this match was quite good. Very good in fact. Another sloppy finish with a roll-up though. Maybe someone’s trying to tell them something. Anyhow, the energy that these two brought was refreshing. Very glad they were able to show their stuff in a matchup that got plenty of time. Gulak looked great in this and, of course, Ceddy did too. I loved the finish, even through its sloppiness. Gonna give this ***½, but I’m a high grader and easy to please.

Robert O’Neill: That was excellent. Watch 205 Live more if you haven’t been. It’s excellent stuff. I agree that the end was sloppy, but the right guy won and I’m interested in seeing where they go next, and that’s really the important thing at a Big 4 PPV, which should serve as a reset button for the product.

Raw Tag Team Championships: The B-Team vs. The Revival

Chris Novak: So, this was fine from the jump as Revival did a lot of good limb work and double-teaming. As one should expect. Axel eventually got the hot tag and wound up picking up the victory after Bo barreled into a small package, which was reversed. I don’t particularly understand keeping things rolling with the B-Team as champs, but such is life in the Raw tag division. This was considerably better than the Kickoff opener but not better than Alexander-Gulak. **½ for me, but obviously, Raw’s tag division remains in the pits.

Robert O’Neill: That was stupid and had another stupid distraction finish and the B-Team won. What a dumb decision. I don’t see the point of continuing to hold down the tag division by having a comedy act as the tag champions, and I don’t see the point of making them look unbeatable. Aside from the result, it wasn’t horrendous, so hopefully it turns into a feud and The Revival eventually get the victory

Intercontinental Championship: Dolph Ziggler (w/ Drew McIntyre) vs. Seth Rollins (w/ Dean Ambrose)

Chris Novak: This match felt like it was missing something. They ran a match to start the show and did so in slow and plodding fashion. Only until later did they get into a second gear and by then, it was probably too late. There was a pretty ridiculous bump late in the match when Seth got DDT’d onto the apron. Then Seth did an inverted Superplex, which led to a spinout slam later, which was absolutely ridiculous. Action picked up at the end when Seth got near falled, and Ambrose came around to drop McIntyre off the apron and then with Dirty Deeds. Rollins hit Ziggler with a kick and then the stomp led to the 1-2-3. Seth is your NEW IC Champion. I will give this ***¾, but the finish was awesome. Just too slow in some parts for me.

Robert O’Neill: I think the last five minutes definitely made up for the first 15 or so. Everything after that back superplex spot onward was awesome, and I’m glad they told a good story with getting Drew and Dean involved, and the right guy definitely won. It was also smart to not have Ambrose turn on Rollins, like everyone seemed to have wanted to happen.

SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The New Day

Chris Novak: I didn’t think they’d give these guys a lot of time considering how the SDL Tag Team Titles have been utilized on big shows before. However, they went and sorta proved me wrong. They went a pretty damn decent length and Big E and Xavier Woods went OFFFFFFFFF. Woods had a CRAZY elbow drop off the top rope to the outside. They ended this in DQ fashion after Rowan decided to get the mallet involved. Unfortunate finish as the match itself was real good beforehand. I will put this also at ***½ but the lack of a clean finish hurts more than it helped. That being said, it didn’t completely crater the match.

Robert O’Neill: I think they have to find a way to make the Bludgeon Brothers more… something. I don’t think dominant is the right word, because they face jobbers every week, they’re clearly dominant. But they’re missing something. Especially compared to The New Day, The Usos, or even The Bar. The match was fine, and I think Big E and Xavier Woods have become my favorite New Day tandem, but using the hammers for a DQ finish was lame.

MITB On the Line: Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens

Chris Novak: Owens got absolutely blitzkrieged. Arguably the strongest Braun has ever looked, considering the opponent. He’s fresh for a cash-in attempt later. * for that. Not much to work with.

Robert O’Neill: Well that’s certainly not how I wanted that to go! But Owens should probably take some time off and rest up. And yeah, tonight is pretty interesting now.

SmackDown Women’s Championship: Carmella vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair

Robert O’Neill: A lot of people on Twitter didn’t care for the match. I thought it was pretty solid. Charlotte won after hitting Natural Selection on Becky Lynch, which is an inexcusable booking error, HOWEVER, Becky finally snapped and beat the hell out of Charlotte afterwards and the crowd ATE IT UP.

Chris Novak: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. What an indefensible situation made up for by the fact that Becky got an absolute MONSTER pop of a reaction. The match itself was pretty good and I liked it. Some of the spots were a little bit all over the place. I do like the ending now in hindsight, as Becky came close to winning, but Charlotte ruined her chance of winning by hitting Natural Selection for the 3 count. That being said, if this doesn’t end with Becky winning the title, then this was all for naught. Because, my goodness, putting the title on Charlotte was foolish otherwise. Going to give this a solid ***.

WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe

Chris Novak: This was a match that, like the first match of the night, picked up towards the end. And this one REALLY picked up by the end. The match came to a close after a DQ finish, after Joe told Styles’ wife that he would be her new daddy. Styles went on a rampage thereafter. I personally loved this match and how this all was all set up along the way. I will give this ****¼, and it’s the easy MOTN so far. Job well done to both dudes here, who really picked this bad boy up along the way.

Robert O’Neill: People thought this match would be bad, too! It wasn’t. It was very good after things picked up. And the finish was pretty perfect and sets up nicely for Hell In A Cell next month. Joe is such a great heel, and to watch him keep that up for another month will be so good. Definitely my match of the night so far.

8 Years in the Making: The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan

Chris Novak: This match delivered in every possible way imaginable. Both these dudes brought their A-games with them and it showed throughout. I loved and adored the storytelling that this match had. Miz used a ‘loaded fist’ to knock Bryan’s lights out when he tried to dive through the ropes, leading to the 1-2-3. Just a freaking excellent match. Easy MOTN, and screw it: I’m giving that the FIVE. SNOWFLAKE TREATMENT. *****.

Robert O’Neill: It’s rare that something actually lives up to the hype in wrestling but good lord that was good. It was old school through and through and this feud is gonna last for a while. I can’t wait for it, personally. I think it’s a strong contender for match of the year so far.

Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin

Chris Novak: THE DEMON RETURNED!!! I have no other thoughts about this other than THAT was great. * since it’s a squash, but it was cool as fuck.

Robert O’Neill: Whew, boy. Finn’s in the demon paint! Shit’s about to get real! And it did. He took about two minutes to pick up the win and looked super aggressive. That was great. That’s how they SHOULD use him when he has the Demon paint.

US Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy

Chris Novak: Jeff Hardy went totally bonkers. He went to hit the Swanton Bomb on Nakamura, who was lied out on the apron. BUT NAK MOVED! Hardy took an absolutely sick bump on the apron (which may’ve been very much unnecessary). Nak then finished him off with the Kinshasa. Honestly dug this match, although it was the weaker of the last few lengthy matches we’ve had. ***

Robert O’Neill: Yeah that was fine. Jeff’s probably gonna get some time off. Shinsuke’s probably gonna feud with… someone new. Orton? Who knows. Good match though!

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Ronda Rousey

Chris Novak: This turned out to be exactly what it needed to be. Alexa got in almost no offense, and anytime she did, Ronda no sold it. Rousey tapped Alexa out with the armbar and became the NEW Women’s Champion! So we get two women’s titles to change hands, though this one is a lot more palatable. * for me, because it was a squash, but it did its damn job.

Robert O’Neill: Ronda is so good. We go over it all the time, but it’s pretty amazing every time. Natalya came out with her, too, which was a nice touch. The match was fine, and probably the necessary result, though I’m obviously very sad as a big Alexa fan.

Universal Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar

Robert O’Neill: Well, they finally did it. Roman looked strong as hell as he pummelled Brock early on before getting caught with a guillotine, but he got out of it! Meanwhile, Braun Strowman was at ringside and mentioned before the match started that he would be cashing in on whoever wins. Well, that didn’t go well. Both Roman and Brock took turns beating Strowman up, and ultimately, beating Strowman up is what cost Lesnar the match, as he got into the ring and ran right into a spear. Strowman couldn’t cash in because he was wounded from an F5, so Roman won and the show ended. It was a great match.

Chris Novak: Jesus, what a ride that match was. A chaotic, frenetic match. I thought Roman was going to win off the bat with those Superman Punches and the Spear, but then THAT was turned into a Guillotine Choke. It didn’t stop there though. Braun got beaten up badly by Brock, and paying attention to his possible next victim while ignoring his current threat is such a way for Brock to lose. His arrogance did him in, and he FINALLY paid the price. Roman caught him napping, and Braun was too incapacitated to cash in after. Job well done here. ***¾ for me.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Robert O’Neill: What a show. It’s rare that a 13 match show has 75% of the matches deliver, but I don’t think there was anything I actively hated, Charlotte winning aside). Everything was at least passable, and I think it’s neck and neck with the Royal Rumble for PPV of the year. All I look for after a big four show is intrigue to watch Raw and Smackdown the next two nights and that’s present here. It seems like Brock Lesnar’s time with WWE is over, so seeing where Paul Heyman goes and what the WWE title being back on TV every week means is super intriguing, as is the continuation of all the Smackdown stuff. A-

Chris Novak: So, let’s go through my match ratings here.

Rusev/Lana vs. Andrade/Zelina: *½
Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak: ***½
The B-Team vs. The Revival: **½
Dolph Ziggler (w/ Drew Mac) vs. Seth Rollins (w/ Dean Ambrose): ***¾
Bludgeon Brothers vs. The New Day: ***½
Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens: *
Carmella vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte: ***
AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe: ****¼
The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan: *****
Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin: *
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy: ***
Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss: *
Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns: ***¾

The one star matches were just that way because they were squashes, but all of them were extremely well done and well put together. Especially the Women’s Championship Match. You have, in my opinion at least, four matches that nearly or are at four stars or higher. With one five-star match, in my opinion, with The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan. No other match, with the exception of the two on the pre-show, felt like a total stinker or just not up to snuff. That makes for a really damn good show.

The only problem I had was with how indefensible it was to put the title back on Charlotte. That being said, there’s a reason why I’ll be a LITTLE bit more reserved with that, mostly due to how the moment will be if/when Becky gets one over on her down the line. Plus the ambivalence about The Revival/B-Team. Everything else? The right man (or woman) won. It’s rare that you see that sort of thing happen in EVERY match but two, in this writer’s opinion.

A- for me as well. This SummerSlam was certainly a damn good show that I think went right up with TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 on Saturday night. Job well done.

The 17 NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn matches, ranked

The fourth installment of TakeOver: Brooklyn is just a few days away. Chris Novak decided to delve into the previous three editions and rank all 17 matches that have taken place inside Barclays Center. The results... okay, they probably won't shock you TOO much.

TakeOver: Brooklyn is NXT's WrestleMania. Back on August 22, 2015, this event became the first NXT show to be aired on the WWE Network outside of their home of Full Sail University. To say there was pressure for the superstars of the brand to deliver that night was putting it mildly. The crowd certainly showed out in full force, as a sellout crowd watched history unfold before their eyes. The show was an absolute home run, and set up a chain of events that have led to TakeOvers being part of Big 4 weekends (and Money in the Bank, as well) now in 2018.

A TakeOver event is the surest bet in wrestling today. Duds have been few and far between, and it's arguable that there simply just hasn't been one. The events that took place in 2014 haven't aged too well, but even those have several outstanding matches that still hold up to today's standards. But TakeOver: Brooklyn? Well, the first three have been amazing in their own right, and it looks like that trend is going to continue for the fourth installment this coming week.

But enough about the not-so-distant future. Let's talk about the past. 

There have been 17 matches to take place at the last three TakeOver: Brooklyn shows. Every NXT Championship has been defended at these events, of course, and we've seen a total of 41 superstars either in the matches or at ringside. From Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Bayley, to Blue Pants and Alexa Bliss, to Austin Aries and Adam Cole (BAY BAY!)... stars and notables you may've forgotten from the wrestling world have made their presence felt at Barclays Center. 

And now, presenting: The 17 NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn matches, ranked!

17. Ember Moon vs. Billie Kay, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: **

Before she got in position to beat the streak in 2017, Ember Moon made her debut in front of the Brooklyn crowd in 2016. Moon was slated to face Billie Kay, an Aussie rookie herself, in Ember’s first match ever. Moon won rather decisively in a match that went less than 7 minutes, as she hit the Eclipse on Kay for the victory.

A few fun facts here: firstly, this is still the last TakeOver event to have two women’s matches on the card. Secondly, this was Billie Kay’s one and only TakeOver match ever.

The Verdict: This gets put near the bottom only by default, really. It’s not that it wasn’t a good match; it’s just that it was a showcase match for Ember and went a very short amount of time. Ember looked good and gave fans a small glimpse of what was to come for her in the future.

Kay, meanwhile, had a decent performance herself, played her role and played it well. Two stars for this one.

16. Tye Dillinger vs. Apollo Crews, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: **

The debut of Apollo Crews. Crews got a couple video packages en route to Brooklyn, and the folks behind the scenes decided to pit him against Tye Dillinger. This was Dillinger’s first TakeOver match of five, but he was certainly less of a fan favorite than he would soon become. It was also one of the first televised uses of his “Perfect 10” gimmick. This was nothing more than a showcase match for Crews, who won with relative ease.

The Verdict: This, like the Ember Moon match the following year, served its purpose as a showcase for a debuting talent. Crews flashed potential but, as we know, he wasn’t for long in NXT (although perhaps he should’ve been).

This was fine but obviously tough to grade compared to the rest of the matches on this show. It falls near the bottom, but like the Ember-Billie match, it by no means was a total stinker.

15. No Way Jose vs. Austin Aries, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: **¾

This was Austin Aries’ third and final NXT TakeOver match and the only one that No Way Jose ever had. The two had been feuding on NXT TV leading up to this bout, after Aries attacked Jose following a dancing celebration. NWJ returned the favor, attacking Aries a month later, and all those roads led up to Brooklyn. Aries won what was a quick-ish match (by TakeOver standards, at least. It went 10 minutes and change) after slapping on the Last Chancery.

Oh, and Hideo Itami showed up for the first time in over a year and hit a GTS on Aries, who had attacked NWJ after the match. The crowd went completely nuts for that.

The Verdict: This wasn’t anything special but it still served its purpose. You could tell both of these guys, Jose especially, were making the most of the big stage. This wasn’t anything to write home about but like a lot of TakeOver matches, it flowed well and the crowd more than enhanced this match, too. I will give it the 2.75-star treatment, and I would say it’s in third place as far as TakeOver: Brooklyn openers go.

Itami’s return and subsequent GTS is a forgotten awesome moment and having been there for it, I vividly remember the crowd going absolutely bonkers.

14. Bobby Roode vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: ***

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

Bobby Roode’s first-ever TakeOver match was against Andrade “Cien” Almas. Almas had made his debut two months prior, having been pit against NXT fan favorite Tye Dillinger at Beginning of the End. Roode’s extravagant entrance and catchy theme song grabbed plenty of attention off the bat.

Then the match started afterwards, and Almas and Roode squabbled for a while. Roode picked up the W with the Glorious Bomb, as The Glorious One started off on a high note.

The Verdict: It’s absolutely hilarious to think about where these two ventured off after this match, because this was a slow start; especially so for Almas, who became a completely different wrestler a year later at TakeOver: Brooklyn III. Seeing Roode in the position he got to a year later wasn’t too surprising, though.

That being said, this match was just kind of there. I’ve no idea why they picked Almas to be the body for Roode, especially after they put him against a fan favorite in Dillinger the TakeOver prior. Talk about doing a guy no favors. Anyways, I’ll give this three stars. These guys were capable of much better, as we’d find out later.

13. BAMF vs. The Vaudevillains, NXT Tag Team Championships, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ***

Blake and Murphy had been NXT Tag Team Champions for a couple months heading into Brooklyn, but they were three months removed from someone joining their group.

That, of course, was Alexa Bliss, who helped them defeat Enzo and Cass at TakeOver: Unstoppable. Bliss served as an asset for them and added fuel to the fire in their feud with their new challengers, The Vaudevillains. The ‘gentlemen’ of NXT refused to fight back when Alexa slapped them multiple times on the road to Brooklyn.

So, to even the odds, they brought former fan favorite Blue Pants to Brooklyn with them. What followed was a decent tag match, with some drama towards the end. A fight between Blue Pants and Alexa Bliss on the outside helped center the focus on the action. And it was then that The Vaudevillains hit the Whirling Dervish to pick up the win and the Tag Team Titles.

The Verdict: My oh my, how things change over time. The NXT Tag Team division was arguably the worst part of the brand but just a few short months later, that ultimately changed with the first Dusty Classic.

And speaking of things changing, think about how things changed with the people in THIS match. Alexa wound up becoming the biggest star of the group, Aiden English is showing his skills with Rusev and Buddy Murphy is now one of the best in-ring talents in the world. Blake is still trotting around in NXT, Gotch was released and Blue Pants evidently annoyed too many people and hasn’t been seen at Full Sail in years.

This match was just fine by the tag team standards of that time and much better than I remember. But it has obviously fallen behind the pace that’s still being set now. Which is completely fine, obviously. Still, a fun moment for Blue Pants, and the first-ever title change in the event’s history. Three stars here for a match that, like I said, is much better than I remember.

12. Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ***

Samoa Joe’s first TakeOver match saw him face “The Lone Wolf” Baron Corbin. Corbin and Joe had been feuding on TV, with Corbin’s animosity towards Joe being the purveying reason the two squared off. Joe was able to give his first true showcase to the NXT fanbase while Corbin had what was, inarguably, his best effort as a member of the NXT roster at the time.

The end of the bout saw Corbin pass out to the Coquina Clutch, giving Joe his first big win on the big stage.

The Verdict: This was a pretty solid effort from both guys here. Corbin flashed some potential and proved to be a more than competent opponent for Joe to handle. Having Corbin pass out instead of tap out was a small but notable point, protecting Corbs in some aspects. And he certainly got in enough offense against the great Samoan Submission Machine.

Three stars for me here. This more than served its purpose and was very solid.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

11. Tyler Breeze vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ***¼

Tyler Breeze was anxious to get on the TakeOver: Brooklyn card, and General Manager William Regal was more than willing to oblige him. Breezus was informed in the lead-up to the biggest show in NXT history that he wouldn’t be facing someone from NXT; instead he’d be facing a wrestling legend and icon:  the great Jushin “Thunder” Liger!

Breeze and Liger partook in the very first TakeOver: Brooklyn match and they absolutely made the most of it. In a competitive bout, Liger won after hitting his signature Liger Bomb. But Tyler made a huge impression in one of his last big matches with the brand.

The Verdict: This is one of my favorite matches in TakeOver: Brooklyn lore, even if the ‘workrate’ wasn’t up to snuff with some of the rest of the matches above this. Just the fact that JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER was involved in this match makes it freaking cool. Say what you will about Tyler and him being a JTTS, but they clearly saw something in him to put him against someone of Liger’s caliber. This just misses the Top 10 for me, but it’s an extremely fun match that will no doubt hold up as one of the more surreal moments in the brand’s history.

10. SAnitY vs. AOP, NXT Tag Team Championships, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ***¾

Authors of Pain were a year deep into a run in which they defeated just about every great tag team that NXT has ever produced. They walked into Brooklyn with the tag belts in tow against SAnitY, a team that had caused plenty of destruction in their own right. The match produced the goods in a chaotic matchup featuring a bunch of big, beefy boys. SAnitY came out on top, dethroning AOP in the process.

The Verdict: I was blindsided by the fact that SAnitY received such huge face pops in this match while being there in Barclays. This was pretty good, although it is certainly #2 on the list of NXT Tag Titles matches to take place in Brooklyn. The spot where Nikki jumps onto one of AOP, and Killian Dain runs him through the table was legit great.

This gets just a notch below four stars for me though, as it was entertaining and frenetic enough to capture my attention throughout. The ending felt like it needed a little bit more though, and that’s part of why it stands where it is. Oh and, of course, reDragon made their first showing as a unit after this match and laid both teams out. They show up later in the show too. Wink wink.

9. Bobby Roode vs. Drew McIntyre, NXT Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****

One year after his in-ring debut in Brooklyn, Bobby Roode walked into the borough with the NXT Championship in tow. His task was to take down Drew McIntyre, who returned to the WWE umbrella a few short months before. Drew Mac and Bobby fought over the NXT crown, following a ridiculous effort by the women (sound familiar?).

McIntyre would capitalize in his first big opportunity back in the fold, winning the match against Roode and becoming the NXT Champion in the process.

The Verdict: NXT Champion Has Tough Act to Follow™ is a feature, not a bug, at TakeOver: Brooklyn events. This match was certainly a more spirited effort than the one from the year prior, though. It was a bit slow and plodding, but that’s just kind of what Roode does. There was still enough drama and enough sauce for me to give this four stars.

All in all, a very good effort from both guys. This was the fourth-best match of the night that night. But that’s saying something, since this card, all in all, was the absolute best Brooklyn card that’s been produced.

Oh, and... yanno... lest I forget... ADAM COLE, BAY BAY!!

8. Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****

After debuting four months prior at TakeOver: Orlando, the hype for Aleister Black was pungent. He landed right back onto a big event card, facing off with a star who also had plenty of hype at the time of his debut.

As you well know by now, Hideo Itami is one of the biggest what ifs in NXT history, if not the absolute biggest. Itami was likely in line for gold and probably would’ve headlined the first TakeOver: Brooklyn had it not been for a debilitating shoulder injury. After making a big return the year before, Itami turned more into a villain heading into this showdown with the new kid on the block.

The Verdict: A hard-hitting affair that, in my opinion, has gotten lost in the shuffle. High points for me in this match were Black getting legit busted open and Itami stealing Black’s taunts. The striking in this match was off the charts. The sudden hit of Black Mass to emphatically end the match was very well done.

This unfortunately was Itami’s only TakeOver: Brooklyn match and just his second big arena match in TakeOver history, which is a shame given all that he’s been through. That being said, it is firmly his best effort, and one of Black’s best, too. Four stars here.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

7. Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: ****¼

Shinsuke Nakamura debuted four months prior in Dallas and immediately shot up the rankings out of a cannon. Nakamura’s star power was evident from night #1 and he found himself in the NXT Championship picture as the summer months motored on.

This led to a clash with Samoa Joe in Brooklyn. Joe and Nak engaged in a pretty hard-hitting affair that proved both captivating and scintillating. Nakamura captured the NXT Title after a Kinshasa straight to the mouth.

The Verdict: While there were tough acts to follow, unlike the previous year, the energy and the life was not sucked out of the building this time around; and Joe and Nakamura made the most of it. This might’ve been Joe’s best effort in an NXT ring. Nak, meanwhile, energized the crowd with an electric entrance in which Lee England Jr. strummed his theme on the violin. It’s the single-greatest entrance I’ve seen in person and was a ton of fun to get immersed in.

This gets 4.25 stars from me. Enjoyed the effort from both these dudes that night. This is the second-best NXT Title Match in TakeOver: Brooklyn history.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

6. Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens, NXT Championship Ladder Match, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ****¼

Finn Balor captured the NXT Championship at Beast in the East in Japan the month before this bout. Balor and Owens kept their feud going while KO was playing double duty in a feud with John Cena on the main roster.

Ultimately, the two would collide in a ladder match in the main event for the first TakeOver: Brooklyn event. After a couple of wicked bumps, Balor would eventually grab the title belt and retain the title, thus ending Owens’ short but impactful run in NXT.

The Verdict: This match is best viewed in a vacuum. It’s not a slight against either man. It’s simply just that the energy in Barclays Center had been completely sucked out after Bayley-Sasha. Which begs the question, of course, as to why they opted for this match to main event instead of Bayley-Sasha. It was a pretty great match, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that it will always be forgotten because of what happened before it.

You also knew that Owens wasn't recapturing the gold and was headed for the main roster full time, which took away some of the suspension of "disbelief." Unfair as it is, that’s why it stands where it is. But with that said, this is the best NXT Title Match in TakeOver: Brooklyn history.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

5. Asuka vs. Bayley, NXT Women’s Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: ****¼

After Bayley’s lengthy title reign ended in April 2016, Bayley’s quest to become a two-time NXT Women’s Champion went through some bumpy roads. An injury kept her out of action for a bit, but she kept her head up and trudged on as Bayley has always done.

She stood against the mighty Asuka in Brooklyn, hoping to win back her title. Unfortunately for her, The Empress of Tomorrow as far too powerful. A couple of hard kicks to the head led Asuka to victory, and sent Bayley off in her swan song in NXT.

The Verdict: An antithesis from last year’s monumental victory. Bayley’s might, heart and sheer will were not enough for her to overcome the daunting Asuka. This match was brilliantly done and served as Bayley’s final match and appearance in NXT. It was obviously not the last we’d see of Asuka, and perhaps that took away from some of the ‘fun’ and ‘unpredictability’ of the match.

Still, this was an excellent match, and a bit better than their first clash in Dallas four months prior. 4.25 stars. And yes… if you care to know, I did get plenty of dust in my eyes that night in the stands.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

4. Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****½

In the wake of DIY’s dissolving, Johnny Gargano was probably going to face Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver: Brooklyn III. However, a legitimate knee injury kept Ciampa on the sidelines for quite sometime. Instead, Gargano faced Andrade “Cien” Almas.

Heading into this show, stock wasn’t super high on Almas, especially after a weird, funky year with the brand; but with Zelina Vega joining up with him, his focus got clearer. Gargano and Almas delivered a high-energy opener that concluded when Vega hurled a DIY t-shirt at Gargano. The distraction provided Almas with the opportunity to blast off on Gargano’s head and give him a much-needed W.

The Verdict: The storytelling of this match was downright spectacular. This was the start of an incredible singles run for Gargano that’s still going to this day. It flashed the brilliance that even his biggest fans probably didn’t think that he had.

More importantly, this was the start of something great for Andrade, who needed that jolt in the WORST of ways. Zelina proved to be an extremely valuable asset, and her role with Almas was validated on this night. This gets a high, high mark for me.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

3. Asuka vs. Ember Moon, NXT Women’s Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****½

Asuka’s undefeated streak was in serious jeopardy on the night of the third TakeOver: Brooklyn. She faced off with Ember Moon in a rematch of a collision between the two several months back in Orlando. An injury forced Ember onto the sidelines after, but she got back on the saddle and took aim at her in Barclays Center.

Ember gave Asuka her best shot, arguably the best shot that ANYONE gave her during the streak. But, in the end, Asuka proved victorious.

The Verdict: I was in a bit of a haze during this match in the crowd, but after a second watch, I can see why this got so much praise. This could’ve been near a full five for me and it could have POSSIBLY unseated #1 from its spot on the throne.

But the simple choice of keeping the belt on Asuka and not giving it to Ember keeps this at ****½ and 3rd on the list. This was still dramatic and thrilling and outstanding, however, despite that booking decision.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

2. The Revival vs. DIY, NXT Tag Team Championships, TakeOver: Brooklyn II:
Match Rating: ****¾

DIY got themselves a huge opportunity in August 2016. After forging separate paths on the indie scene, the team was kept around after solid showings in 2015. They then made headway in 2016 and pursued the NXT Tag Team Titles.

With American Alpha out of the way after The Revival became two-time NXT Tag Champs at The Beginning of the End, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder faced off with Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in Brooklyn. The two tag teams delivered a scintillating tag team bout in what was, no doubt, the biggest match of their respective careers to this point. Revival wound up retaining, but it was hardly without an effort, as Gargano and Ciampa showed off their heart and soul.

The Verdict: This is the best tag team match in TakeOver: Brooklyn history and the 2nd-best match in the event’s history, too. Although it’s not a super high bar to clear, it should be noted that it’s going to be a high bar to clear for anyone else (Of course, Undisputed Era and Moustache Mountain might wind up doing the damn thing later this month). The drama, the creative near falls and tandem offenses really make this match stand out.

The better of the series between these two teams happened three months later, but this match was still outstanding. 4 and 3-quarter stars for me.

1. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, NXT Women’s Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: *****

(Original Photo Credit: WWE.com)

(Original Photo Credit: WWE.com)

The spirited clash between two of the most beloved NXT superstars of all time takes the top spot. And are you really surprised? You probably shouldn’t be.

This match ended a two-year long journey for The Hugger to get championship gold. Sasha Banks got an extravagant entrance, and for the first time ever, the tubemen joined The Hugger in a bigtime venue. Bayley took Banks down after a Reverse Hurricanrana, or Poisoned Frankensteiner for other acquired tastes, and then slammed her down with the Bayley-to-Belly.

The Verdict: The greatest women’s wrestling match that WWE has ever seen is also the greatest TakeOver: Brooklyn match ever. You won’t find many disputing this as a simple fact. Bayley and Banks poured their hearts and souls into this match, and the Brooklyn crowd’s reaction to Bayley’s title victory was sensational. It got yours truly right in the gut.

This gets the full five stars from me. It is a perfect wrestling match in every single way, and one that you should go out of your way to show a non-wrestling fan who’s trying to get into the fandom.  

Five dream matches we want to see at WWE Evolution
Courtesy: WWE

Courtesy: WWE

Throughout the last week, speculation ran rampant as to what Stephanie McMahon's "historic" announcement would be to kick off Monday Night Raw. Stephanie, Vince and Triple H opened the show to confirm that the first-ever all women's PPV titled Evolution would be taking place on October 28th on Long Island. 

In addition to the finals of the 2nd annual Mae Young Classic, all women's championships from Raw, Smackdown, NXT and NXT UK will be on the line. Also announced were WWE Hall of Fame superstars Trish Stratus and Lita, which could give us a few clashes between past and present that we may not get a chance to see again. Here are five matches that I'd personally like to see on the big show.

 

Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte

Courtesy: WWE

Courtesy: WWE

While it would make sense to have the most high profile name in your company win her first WWE championship on this show, I'll go another route here. This match is rumored to be on the book for WrestleMania 35, but with Stephanie McMahon wanting to build up the Evolution event as the annual WrestleMania for women, a showdown between the two biggest superstars in the division is the perfect match to headline the show.

The IIconics vs. LayCool

I'm not the biggest fan of The IIconics, as they come off as a (not as good) 2018 version of LayCool to me. Because of that, the build to this one would be fairly easy to pull off, with Billie Kay and Peyton Royce playing up the ages of their adversaries. And of course, who wouldn't love to see Layla El back for one night? 😍

Nia Jax vs. Kharma

Having torn up the women's scene in Japan and TNA during the 2000s, Amazing Kong made her WWE debut as Kharma in 2011, although her run would be short-lived following a pregnancy and unfortunate miscarriage. The 2012 Royal Rumble notwithstanding, Kharma never competed in a WWE ring.

Nia Jax's run thus far has been what Kharma's should have been. This probably wouldn't be a good match, but two of the most powerful women in WWE history could be fun if kept short. There's also another opportunity for WWE/GLOW cross-promotion, which WWE hasn't been shy to take advantage of.

Beth Phoenix vs. Asuka vs. Jazz

While the previous match *probably* wouldn't be good to watch, a triple-threat between arguably the three most dominant women ever could steal the show. These superstars all are bruisers inside of the squared circle, and assuming that Beth Phoenix and Jazz can still go full throttle, this could be a show-stealer.

Sasha Banks vs. Bayley

Courtesy: WWE

Courtesy: WWE

We've seen this one before several times in NXT, but both Sasha and Bayley's time on the main roster has been kind of lackluster. With their feud starting to heat back up on the road to Summerslam, the ultimate finale in their series should take place at Evolution.

From the first-ever Women's Hell in a Cell match to the first-ever Women's Elimination Chamber, WWE's eye is always on making history during this Revolution period. The first-ever Last Woman Standing match on the main roster should be reserved for these two.

Honorable Mentions

Trish Stratus vs. Sasha Banks
Becky Lynch vs. Lita
Asuka vs. Ronda Rousey
Charlotte Flair vs. Beth Phoenix
Ronda Rousey vs. Shayna Baszler vs. Sonya Deville
Trish Stratus/Lita vs. Alexa Bliss/Mickie James
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte vs. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks

This Week in WWE: Bayley says Sasha ain't shit, Tell Hell No reunites
Raw.png

Robert O’Neill: Welp. It’s Monday, so that means it’s time for another exciting edition of Monday Night Raw!

Chris Novak: Last week’s show was quite good, so let’s see if they can make it two in a row. Optimism levels are… in the middle, somewhere. The show kicked off with them briefly touching on Vader’s passing.

Robert O’Neill: Kurt Angle is in the ring to lead off the show, along with Baron Corbin’s goofy looking ass, as a graphic announces a Dolph Ziggler/Seth Rollins Intercontinental Title match for later.

Chris Novak: I don’t know about you. But, I am enjoying this Constable Corbin deal. Thought it was funny that he demanded he be introduced as such.

Robert O’Neill: It’s fine! But he’s goofy looking.

Chris Novak: We start going on about contract disputes and Brock Lesnar, but Roman Reigns is here to interrupt things. The announce team went on about how he said Brock, the Universal Champ, isn’t “interested” in facing Reigns or the prospect of facing Reigns again. He tells Kurt he just wants to hear the explanation face-to-face.

Robert O’Neill: And now Bob Lashley is here. Yay. Anyways, there’s no longer gonna be a multi-man match at Extreme Rules because “plans changed” so both Bob and Roman want the title shot given to them OR they want to fight for it! Before that gets resolved, The Revival come out (TOP GUYS WATCH) and want a rematch against Bob and Roman from last week.

Well, holy crap. The Revival won. There was miscommunication between Lashley and Roman and that’s really the main point of this story/match but it’s still pretty neat to see them pick up a victory.

Chris Novak: This was some good stuff and some good layout to this match. Nicely done. Revival pick up a big win, Bob Lashley gets protected and Reigns loses nothing from eating that rollup (with a hook of the pants).

Robert O’Neill: And now we have The Deleter of Worlds heading to the ring as Matt Hardy will take on Curtis Axel.

Chris Novak: Hey, cool. Rey Mysterio is the pre-order bonus for 2K this year. That was a neat commercial.

Robert O’Neill: Really excited for WWE 2K this year. Anyways! Hardy vs. Axel was short, and Axel picked up a win which was a little surprising to me.

Chris Novak: It was very abrupt. After that… the AUTHORS OF PAIN finally showed up. Their Visa issues must’ve finally cleared up. They had an interaction backstage with Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil, who said they ought to respect the backstage crew (they tossed someone into a wall). I can get behind this as a secondary feud, if you ask me. Now, anyways, they highlight the Bayley and Sasha feud and we learn that, again, they’ll be teaming up, with Ember Moon against The Riott Squad. I don’t know why we have to keep doing this kind of match, but the ends justify the means I guess. Oh, before I forget. CAPTAIN ALICIA FOX IS BACK!

AOP then squashed some jobbers. They beat them down, and then Titus and Apollo made the save.

Robert O’Neill: They still probably need a manager, but it’s fine for now!

Chris Novak: Corbin asks Angle if he enjoys putting combustible elements together for tag matches. What happens next? Well, Finn came in and the two exchanged some barbs. Then, Braun came in and said he wanted to team with… Kevin Owens… to face… Finn and Constable Corbin. It’s a tag team, strange bedfellows kind of night tonight.

Here comes Alexa and Mickie. Lex cuts a promo, running down both Nia AND Ronda. She actually got some pretty legitimate heat from the San Diego crowd here, which is a difference from what we’re used to. Here comes Natalya, who touts her friendship with Ronda before informing Bliss that they’re facing off. BUT… Nattie isn’t coming alone!

Robert O’Neill: I would like to give San Diego credit for actually booing Alexa, which is what you’re supposed to do with heels. It’s a shame that Natalya and Nia came out and ruined everything, but that’s just what they do.

Chris Novak: TO BE ENTIRELY FAIR… Nia’s hometown is San Diego.

Robert O’Neill: Natalya won because Nia tripped Alexa. Cool face move. Real nice.

Chris Novak: Match was fine. Ambivalent on the result, but champs always take losses so it’s nothing that’s unprecedented. Whatever.

Robert O’Neill: Riott Squad are getting into hijinks backstage, so it’s time for their match against Bayley/Sasha/Ember Moon.

Chris Novak: Strong start to this match. Really impressed with Liv in the early moments with Ember.

Robert O’Neill: That entire match was very solid. It ended with a roll-up which normally people would complain about in a women’s match, BUT…

Chris Novak: THINGS TURNED UP RIGHT AWAY!! Bayley jumped in the right and absolutely SNAPPED on Sasha Banks. Lit her up with furious punches. Sasha barely got any offense in. This was a full-throttled beatdown, MONTHS if not YEARS in the making. Bayley made it a point, after she’d sent Sasha into the steel steps more than once, to bring up everything she’s done to her the past two years, including last week. And also dropped a, “YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME, SASHA?” Popped SO hard for this. ALL of it. The crowd ate EVERYTHING up too. This was TREMENDOUS!

Robert O’Neill: No Way Jose was out for a match with Mojo Rawley, but Mojo spent his time bashing a guy dressed like a cheeseburger on the conga line instead. It was more entertaining than it sounds.

Chris Novak: That sentence is very 2018 pro wrestling.

Robert O’Neill: Meanwhile backstage, Kurt Angle is none too pleased with Bayley and tells her she’ll be attending therapy next week!

Chris Novak: Lord knows what Kurt thought he was getting himself into here. As good as Paige is at this GM thing is just as bad as Kurt is.

Robert O’Neill: Time for another tag match. We have Braun Strowman and Kevin Owens vs. Baron Corbin and Finn Balor! Can these teams get along and co-exist? Probably not. No, no, it’s not looking like they can. Well, Owens and Strowman can! Owens even did the thing Braun does where he runs into someone at full speed with his shoulder. But Corbin and Balor can’t get along and brawl up the ramp to get counted out for the finish.

Chris Novak: This was perfectly fine and ended just about as you’d expect it to. I can get behind the Owens-Strowman stuff, especially when Strowman TIPPED OWENS’ CAR OVER IN THE PARKING LOT. Braun’s hijinx always manage to sell pretty well.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! As we have Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins getting… a really long time for their match. Say what you want about Ziggler’s character (which is bad), but I’m pretty excited to see him and Rollins have a 40 minute match right here.

Chris Novak: This was a legit great main event. It ended with a DQ finish, and a 2-on-1 brawl led to Roman making the save for his former Shield brethren. I have no idea what this means in the grand scheme of things as it pertains to Roman, since he’s obviously tied up with Lashley. But, we’ll see I guess.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: When we look back on this Raw, it’ll be remembered as the one where Bayley and Sasha finally blew up, for that alone I think it deserves a high grade. Looking past that, some of the tag matches were weird and felt like Teddy Long era Smackdown, but they were all well worked and the main event was fun. It loses points for the Alexa/Natalya result and that’s about it. B+

Chris Novak: B+ show for me, too. The tags were a different way of doing things but I’m fine with it, honestly. Changes things up and doesn’t completely give matches away. As you said Rob, the Bayley/Sasha stuff really puts this over the top for me. Huge fan of it all, and hopefully next week doesn’t completely ruin everything.

Smackdown.png

Chris Novak: On to SmackDown Live. We’re kicking the show off in style with… The Miz!

Robert O’Neill: And he’s joined here on Miz TV by the Bludgeon Brothers, who helped him defeat Daniel Bryan last week in the gauntlet match.

Chris Novak: Miz is seeking answers as to why they attacked Bryan last week. As expected… they’re pretty mum about it.

Robert O’Neill: Miz is also being his general dickish self when talking to them which seems like a bit of a mistake! But before the Bludgeon Brothers can do anything, Daniel Bryan makes his way out. Anyways! We’re getting Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper tonight which is cool and good.

Chris Novak: Anything involving either of those two is considered good. So, with them together, that works for me, as well.

Robert O’Neill: And now we’re leading off the action with a Rusev/Xavier Woods match which is also perfectly fine with me! It took WWE a long time to realize that Xavier Woods should be in more singles matches, but I’m thrilled that they finally did.

Chris Novak: Rusev won what was a really fun opener here. He then cut a promo on the WWE Champion, AJ Styles, whom he’ll be facing next month at Extreme Rules. He says he’s going to take the title, and will be a great Rusev Day. Hey, that’s all hard to argue. 

Robert O’Neill: Since Shinsuke Nakamura got bit by a police dog at a live event on Monday, he’s not facing Jeff Hardy tonight. So there’s an open challenge for the United States Championship. I wonder who will answer it. HOLY CRAP IT’S ERIC YOUNG!

I like this a lot. It’s a fresh matchup for Hardy, PLUS, it’s with someone he has familiarity with.

Chris Novak: So this turned out to be a match that, as expected, ended with chaos. SaniTY and The Usos all converged to attack each other. Ultimately, this led to a six-man tag team match being made.

Robert O’Neill: Honestly, I’m here for a Hardy/Usos vs. SaniTY feud. Cause this match was a ton of fun, and I think it would do wonders for SaniTY to work with three established guys like that. We move on to Becky Lynch vs. Sonya Deville, which should be a lot of fun as well.

Chris Novak: Becky wins (again!). Removing MITB and WrestleMania from the equation, Becky has won 7 of her last 9 TV matches and her last four on SmackDown Live. She’s gaining a ton of momentum, so I can’t wait to see how they squander it. Too much? Too excessive?

Robert O’Neill: Becky’s problem remains that she’s stuck in Charlotte’s vortex. And I don’t know how she can get out.

Chris Novak: WELL, Rob. Charlotte’s out. Soooooooo… maybe she can now!

Robert O’Neill: Oh hey, it’s Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega! They’re warning the rest of the roster, again. Sure would be nice to see him in an actual match at some point.

Chris Novak: It would, but I’m not mad about it. At least I shouldn’t be. It’s not like he’s completely been forgotten about. Something had to have happened to Sin Cara for them not to be continuing that feud. So, I’m just gonna be realistic and wait on it.

Robert O’Neill: MY GOD. JAMES ELLSWORTH IS FACING ASUKA NEXT WEEK.

Chris Novak: Ellsworth issssss gonna die.

Robert O’Neill: We’ve reached the main event! Daniel Bryan is facing Harper, in what should be one of the best matches in recent memory.

After a really fun match, Bryan gets the win via DQ and the numbers game catches up to him after the match but MY GOD, KANE IS BACK! THAT’S KANE!

Chris Novak: TEAM HELL NO!!!

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Smackdown was pretty good considering they didn’t have Shinsuke Nakamura and had to make a last minute switch to the US TItle match. Aside from that, it’s still refreshing to have Daniel Bryan back and seeing him in these fresh matchups, despite what Wrestling Twitter will tell you about how he’s being used. I’m also glad they finally realized they can use New Day members in singles matches. B+

Chris Novak: Once again, I’ll agree, Rob. B+ show here. Lot of fun stuff and Team Hell No reuniting was a legit fun moment for all involved. Popped me more than I thought it would, and popped the crowd more than I thought it would. Going forward, this should be intriguing to watch. SDLive continues to hit the right notes.

This Week in WWE: Ronda goes Stone Cold on 'em, Bayley and Sasha are DONE, and the GREATEST Rusev Day EVER

Robert O’Neill: After seven good hours of wrestling this weekend, we’re loaded up for five more! It’s time for Raw, and I’m really looking forward to it, honestly. I think Money in the Bank did a good job getting things set up for the road to Summerslam.

Chris Novak: Indeed, you’re right about that, Rob. Let’s hope the first night after continues that trend.

Robert O’Neill: Alright! We’re opening with Kurt Angle. He’s pleased with Raw’s performance at Money in the Bank. And now Alexa is here! She’s getting a YOU DESERVE IT chant, because she does deserve it.

Uh oh, Ronda Rousey is here and she’s none too pleased. But Alexa’s not backing down. She’s telling Ronda how it is. Surely this won’t end poorly for her. Ronda went after Alexa and then Kurt Angle tried to break it up and Ronda took him down! And then Ronda put Alexa through a table. That was one hell of a segment.

Kurt’s not pleased with Ronda backstage. He suspended her for 30 days for attacking him. Let’s see if that sticks!

Chris Novak: Overall, just an extremely well done opening segment. Everyone played their parts well. Alexa was her usual great self on the mic, and will be a great foil for Ronda. She took a huge table bump (so much for those folks who say she’s scared to) and Ronda looked like a total badass.

Robert O’Neill: *grabs large megaphone* BURN IT DOOOOOWWWWNNNNN!

Seth Rollins is here to discuss his match last night, which was quite good. Starting with back to back segments is interesting, but given the length and intensity of the matches last night it might be a light night for actual in-ring stuff.

Chris Novak: And now we get an IC Title Open Challenge. Answering the call is… ugh, Dolph Ziggler.

Robert O’Neill: The storytelling was really good where Rollins continued to sell the fact that his knee got messed up against Elias and he took all he could last night to win, but good lord did they really have to have Ziggler win the Intercontinental Title? Couldn’t it have been McIntyre? I hope this is the start of something bigger and better for Seth.

Chris Novak: Ugh. Like you said, did it REALLY have to be Dolph? Hopefully this really is the start of something bigger and better for Seth. Otherwise… gross.

Robert O’Neill: “You can cry online or write a blog about it, but this is our show now”

Good advice, Dolph. I WILL cry online about it.

Chris Novak: Dolph sucks.

Robert O’Neill: Curt Hawkins is in action against Bob Roode! Maybe this will be the night the losing streak ends! Nope. It was not the night. 203 in a row.

Chris Novak: I am liking that this is now a weekly fixture, honestly. It might actually be a legit good moment when he finally wins, to be honest. Here comes Braun, who’s the “Monster in the Bank” now. He says he’s going to be the next Universal Champion and The Beast is gonna get these hands. Welp, here comes Kevin Owens. Owens is selling like a MF, as usual. KO is here to be man enough to congratulate him. He says he deserves it as well, and he has an incredible opportunity, but he has to be smart and have a strategy. So, essentially, KO is offering his services up for Strowman. Braun… well, he responded as you would expect them to.

Robert O’Neill: I’m on the record as loving Owens/Strowman interactions so I’m here for a mini program between the two.

Chris Novak: Hmmmm. Interesting. So, next, they recap what happened last week with the Riott Squad and Bayley. Then we go to the back and Bayley’s now with… Sasha Banks. The two “friends” hash things out and seem to be on the up and up. But how long is this going to last?

Next come the Deleters of Worlds. They face Heath Slater and Rhyno and… oh, here’s the B-Team, and THEY’RE DRESSED UP LIKE THE DELETERS OF WORLDS! HAHAHAHA, BO IS DRESSED UP LIKE HIS BROTHER, BRAY! CURTIS IS DRESSED UP AS WOKEN MATT! This is actually hilarious. They parodied them and parodied them well, honest to God.

Robert O’Neill: That was absolutely hilarious.

Chris Novak: Slater and Rhyno go off on the sneak attack from behind afterwards. Eventually, Deleters of Worlds win. I’ll admit, this was a good segment for the tag division in a comedic way. Let’s get away from these squash matches though. Geez.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah it would be ideal to get something of substance going with the Raw tag team.

Chris Novak: You said it, not me.

Robert O’Neill: Jinder is facing Chad Gable, which is good. The more Chad Gable matches, the better.

Chris Novak: That was pretty fun. Jinder won the match. I think we should see more of Gable on Raw, tbh. And now… now, it’s time for Bayley-Sasha vs. Riott Squad.

Robert O’Neill: Hearing reports that It’s Boss Time.

Chris Novak: So, dissension is the name of the game here. Sasha insists that she’s “fine” after Bayley was concerned for her. Eventually, more miscues led to the Riott Squad winning. Bayley and Sasha had a confrontation in the ring, and that led to Sasha shoving Bayley to the ground and then walking away.

Robert O’Neill: After the commercial break things turned into a pull apart brawl! Neat.

Chris Novak: Bayley hit her with a freaking trashcan lid AND fired the first shot. Unfortunately, she got smoked afterwards. Honestly, people can say whatever they want about this. They devoted THREE segments to this feud. It’s clear that they give a shit about it. I’m expecting this to proceed going forward.

Robert O’Neill: Kurt Angle is back out for a big announcement! He knows who Brock Lesnar is facing at Summerslam. It’ll be the winner of a to be announced multi-man match at Extreme Rules. Roman Reigns would like to be in the match. So would Bob Lashley. In the midst of the bickering The Revival came out, and they have a match against Reigns and Lashley and pull off a stunning vic-

They lost. Of course they lost. They’re The Revival.

Chris Novak: Lashley was just… uh, well, Lashley in that final segment. No idea why they’re dragging out the participants but whew, hopefully someone who isn’t Roman (or Lashley, for that matter) wins that match at Extreme Rules. All I have to say. Anyways, you can be sad all you want Rob. That match was REAL good. Backstage we go. Finn says he’ll do what it takes to be in the multi-man #1 contender’s match. Constable Corbin puts him down, and KO comes in and agrees with him. Naturally… Strowman is RIGHT behind him. So, after a bit of interaction, we now have a tag team main event. Dead at Kurt saying “this is a runaway train” and abruptly leaving. My dude has to get control of this show, hahahahaha.

Robert O’Neill: Hey it’s Mojo Rawley! He took down No Way Jose and then cut a promo afterwards. Neat.

Chris Novak: Sasha is about to leave the arena. But, here’s Bayley again. Sasha reiterates that she’s done with her and done being her friend. Bayley tries to get her before she drives away. Alas… she is unsuccessful. Four segments devoted to this feud tonight. At least we finally got some action out of it.

Robert O’Neill: We got a full song by Elias, and it was an absolute banger.

Chris Novak: Why do we keep getting screwed over, Rob? We’ve been to two shows and Elias performed in neither!

Robert O’Neill: It’s just not right!

Time for the main event! Braun Strowman and Finn Balor are teaming up again to face Constable Corbin and Kevin Owens. It’s pretty cool that Balor and Strowman are kind of a full-time tag team these days. Bet they could fix the Raw tag division. Regardless, Corbin and Owens get the win, and, honestly, it was a bit surprising to me. But I like it.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: WWE’s really good week keeps rolling along. I particularly like the Alexa/Ronda and Bayley/Sasha stuff, and I’ll never complain about a title change on “free TV” even if it’s Dolph Ziggler winning the title. This show tied up all the loose ends from Money in the Bank and got us on the road to Summerslam, which is all you can hope for. A

Chris Novak: I felt like this was a very positive step in the right direction after MITB. Like Rob said, the women’s segments were all very good. Dolph winning wasn’t my cup of tea at all, but everything else was good to very good to great. A for me, as well.

Smackdown.png

Chris Novak: SmackDown Live begins with the announcement of a 5-man Gauntlet Match to determine the next #1 Contender for the WWE Title. The participants? Big E, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Rusev and Samoa Joe. Sounds like a certified banger. The show itself begins with the appearance of Women’s Champion, Carmella, who has emerged as the lone member of the old Enzo/Cass/Carmella act after Cass’ release. Pretty extraordinary, no?

Robert O’Neill: Honestly, people joke about it, but Carmella is excellent. She’s kind of like Alexa Bliss in that her excellence on the microphone covers up for her average ring work (which is getting better). And, yeah, I’m thrilled she outlasted those other two goons. Anyways, Carmella’s talking about how great she is, and now Asuka is coming out, but…. It’s not actually Asuka. It’s your boy Jimmy Dream! But then the real Asuka came out and she was none too pleased with JayMella.

Chris Novak: SMH, get your ships right Rob. It’s Carmellsworth. Anyways, wasn’t really a fan of how Alexa and Carmella cut what was essentially the same promo, but it was still effective. On to the next segment: Billie Kay vs. Becky Lynch. The IIconics take the mics when they come out and start mocking Toledo and then Becky.

Robert O’Neill: It seems like people don’t like The IIconics (Twitter people, at least), and I don’t really get why. They’re fine.

Chris Novak: I suppose I can see why (their comedy bits may be a bit forced at times). Can’t please anyone. Anyways, Becky and Billie fought in what was a solid, competitive match. Not too shabby. Becky picks up the win, as she tapped Billie out with the Dis-Arm-Her.

Jeff Hardy cut a promo on Nakamura, as it appears that’s where they’re headed next for these two. Hardy then showed off some 2009-style facepaint, which was white and black, that also had his eyes colored white. It was… terrifying. Oh, hey, cool: SAnitY is here, and they’re going to face The Usos.

Robert O’Neill: Jeff Hardy looks terrifying! So SAnitY vs. The Usos was more just a beatdown by the newcomers, which was actually pretty cool and smart.

Chris Novak:Honestly, much smarter than an actual match. Speaking of tag teams, we’re about to get a Tag Team Titles rematch between The Good Brothers and The Bludgeon Brothers. So, that’s fun.

Robert O’Neill: The Bludgeon Brothers retained, of course. It’s time for the gauntlet match!

Chris Novak: We are starting with… Bryan vs. Big E. Bryan is the #1 entrant, so this should prove interesting.

Robert O’Neill: After 15-20 minutes, Bryan got the upper hand on Big E (who looked good throughout) and then Samoa Joe was next! Bryan got the victory over Joe via countout, which was smart, but the Bludgeon Brothers, who stared Bryan down on his way to the ring, came out and beat him down after Joe left. Miz came out and took advantage and hit Bryan with the Skull Crushing Finale! But Rusev is here to try and take The Miz down, and he does! Miz taps to the Accolade and we have a Happy Rusev Day as the big man will be in his first ever WWE title match at Extreme Rules!

Chris Novak: Stellar showings for just about everyone here. They handled Bryan and Miz’s parts EXTREMELY well. I don’t know where they’re going with Bryan vs. The Bludgeon Bros. and I’m not sure who Bryan’s partner will be in the eventual Tag Team Championships Match. But it’s intriguing nonetheless. Rusev/Styles is going to be great, and it’s awesome that they went with Rusev.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: What a week for WWE. Four straight days of shows that I really enjoyed watching. Obviously, the gauntlet match was always going to be great, but I was a fan of everything on this show and am super intrigued with Jeff Hardy reverting to 2009-10 Jeff Hardy. I think SAnitY being up and wrecking shop is pretty cool too. A

Chris Novak: Another A for me here. SmackDown Live hit every right note possible here. This was an exceptional show.

Money in the Bank 2018 results, recap: Alexa Bliss, Braun Strowman and AJ Styles stand tall
mitb.gif

Robert O’Neill: What a damn weekend of wrestling. Your boys Rob and Chris did the Takeover/MITB combo at the Rosemont Horizon, and whew buddy it was. We’re gonna keep it exclusively on Money in the Bank in this recap though, and there’s a lot to get to so let’s dive in.

Chris Novak: Gonna structure this about as well as we can here since we were with the live crowd. So, let’s see what we can do!

Robert O’Neill: I thought Bryan/Cass was pretty much a perfect opener for this show. Obviously Daniel Bryan was going to get a massive reaction no matter where he was on the card, so why not put him out first? I also really enjoyed this match, which I didn’t expect to do with a Big Cass match. Bryan winning was probably the right call, and I’m interested in seeing what happens next. Also Daniel Bryan is still more over than anyone on the WWE roster with live crowds.

Chris Novak: The sample size is small, but this was Big Cass’ best singles match ever. Point blank. He did a very good job in this match and having Bryan around him obviously didn’t help. Bryan, who by the way, still is fantastic at this pro wrestling thing. Bryan made Cass tap out eventually to pick up the W, and it was certainly the right call. I do wonder what this means going forward for both. Pulling a 3rd match out of these two with how decisive it’s been would probably be a mistake. So what’s next for these two? Time will tell, I suppose.

Robert O’Neill: So, Bobby Lashley and Sami Zayn had a match. It was early in the night and over quickly and Lashley won and now we can all move on, right?

Chris Novak: I hope so. The match accomplished what it sought out to accomplish. Let’s move on.

Robert O’Neill: I’ve been to two shows with Elias this year and I’ve seen a grand total of ZERO performances. It’s just not right, I gotta say. But the match between him and Seth Rollins was absolutely insane and it furthered the gap between Seth Rollins and every other pro wrestler not named Johnny Gargano for me. I think Elias has quickly become a top 10 guy, as well, and I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets the IC title and has an excellent reign with it.

Chris Novak: I’m intrigued at the fact that Rollins had to use a hook of the olive pants to beat Elias. But, “by any means necessary” is a fine way to do things and makes Elias look good himself. In that, Seth was pushed to the limit and had to go to those lengths to defeat him. It also extends this feud out longer, which is great, because I was really enjoying it.

Robert O’Neill: Right off the bat here, I want to say that the Women’s MITB was so much better than either of the two they did last year. They stopped being timid and did cool and unique spots we’ve never seen before, including a few insane things by (who else?) Sasha Banks.

Chris Novak: It was outstanding, and probably the best match on the card. Just about everyone took a bump in the match and everyone looked good and had their shine. Alexa Bliss won the match, which teed a few folks off. Listen, I will sit here and entertain your conversations about Bliss’ push and how it might be overdoing it. That’s fine, you’re allowed to think that. You’re allowed to think that there were some better options on the table. I said as much on the podcast this weekend that I think she was on the tier of people who shouldn’t be anywhere near it.

That being said, I’m gonna take a moment to look at things realistically. A great deal of the contenders here didn’t stand much a chance of winning. What it really boiled down to was that Natalya seemed like the favorite here. God bless her, Natalya isn’t the one who should’ve walked away with the briefcase. I know that, from a storyline perspective, it would’ve worked. But at this stage of her career, giving the briefcase (and eventually the championship) to someone of her age and skillset would be the wrong decision. Especially because she would turn up as the #1 heel on Raw.

And if you look at it from THAT way? There ain’t nobody on the roster right now who can play the #1 heel role as EFFECTIVELY as Alexa Bliss (Yes, I know, Sasha Banks is also a great heel. It’s also been three years now. We can keep waiting for that to happen or think the ship’s sailed). So when you take it from that perspective? I have ZERO issue with this decision. It’s far better than Charlotte adding the only freaking accolade left besides a Rumble win. Far better than someone like Lana winning, and far better than Natalya winning. Ember was never winning (it’s far too early for her). Measuring it up with Naomi, Becky or Sasha will probably only get you angry. But this wasn’t a bad move, or nearly as bad a move as some think.

Robert O’Neill: Also, if I may, Alexa Bliss is fantastic and I’ve been with her since day one, so it was a big night for me personally.

Chris Novak: We know, Rob. We know. Okay… Jinder-Roman happened next and the crowd trolled their asses off for almost the entire match. Don’t know what really happened here, but Roman won after a Spear. Let’s move forward again.

Robert O’Neill: The crowd was bad and that’s pretty inexcusable, but also I don’t know what WWE was thinking would happen putting Roman and Jinder in a match in Rosemont in 2018. For as much as Vince seems to think Roman is still THE GUY, he sure sets him up to fail as often as possible.

Carmella-Asuka time. Carmella played the perfect chickenshit heel in her match against Asuka, and that’s really what she was going to have to do the whole time. She went for the champions’ advantage countout before Asuka dragged her back in and kicked her for a while, and then when it looked like Asuka was going to win, another Asuka appeared at ringside, and the other Asuka removed their mask to show that it was JAMES ELLSWORTH! Asuka was stunned and Carmella picked up the victory. This was awesome.

Chris Novak: I’m here for The Big Hog being back, baby. The match itself was pretty good! Much better than the disaster that was Charlotte-Carmella at Backlash. Some very good stuff here.

Robert O’Neill: Alright. Let’s talk about Styles vs. Nakamura. I think it was the best match of the ones they’ve had in WWE and it was violent and action-packed like a Last Man Standing match should be, but the wrong guy won. The problem with Nakamura losing is he’s now lost to Styles three times and logically shouldn’t get another title match. PLUS he turned heel and named his own stipulation for this match and still lost. Combine this with Shinsuke’s losses to Jinder Mahal last year for the title and it becomes very murky to see what exactly WWE is doing with him

Chris Novak: At the same time, it’s not like he isn’t super over still. I think he’ll be fine. It’s weird, but I think he’ll be fine. The two had the best match of their entire series of matches this spring so that was a nice, positive takeaway here.

Robert O’Neill: Now that she’s had two matches and they’ve both been above average, are we ready to say Ronda Rousey actually does deserve to be here? I mean, credit to Nia Jax as well, she controlled the match and has shown a ton of improvement in what was likely her best main roster match to date, but Ronda was excellent. And of course the ending was absolutely perfect as Alexa Bliss got her revenge on Nia and won the title again and all is right in the world.

Chris Novak: I think we can be ready to say that about Ronda. She was very good last night in just about every aspect. A couple things she might need to improve on, but all in all, it was a fantastic performance. Credit to Nia as well who stepped her game up in a big, big way.

WWE

WWE

Alexa’s cash-in was done extraordinarily well, and the crowd was hot as ALL hell for it. I look forward to the eventual Alexa-Ronda program. Bliss is probably going to die.

Also, imagine that scenario happening, only with Natalya instead of Alexa. LOL.

Robert O’Neill: God, that would have been awful. Would have made me check out for the Men’s MITB match which was unsurprisingly very good. I think the thing I’ll remember most from a live perspective is how loud the crowd was for all eight entrances. I’m not sure it came across on TV  because I haven’t rewatched the show yet, but all eight guys got a massive pop and people were scream-singing Bobby Roode’s theme song and the New Day intro. It was awesome. Also Aiden English’s “Go Cubs Go” riff in his Rusev rap was phenomenal.

(Editors note: MAJOR love to Columbia Chicago alum Aiden English for repping Englewood on the front of his jeans Sunday night.)

As for the match, it was what you think it would be with these eight dudes. Chaotic and excellent. I loved the fact that Kofi was the New Day’s pick, I loved Braun getting buried by all the ladders on the set early in the match, I loved Miz’s facial expressions whenever he was confronted by Braun, it goes on an on. They also didn’t do a bunch of insane spots like they did in last year’s match, which was nice to see.

Chris Novak: Braun winning legit shocked me, to be honest. I thought this was Miz’s briefcase to lose, but the right guy still won. Braun is obviously over like rover, and the eventual Braun-Brock confrontation should hopefully be great stuff this time unlike No Mercy last year. Owens bumped like a freaking madman (like always) and had a huge spot where he got thrown off a ladder through a table. Say what you want about the dude, but he ALWAYS goes hard in these matches. Everyone looked great in this match, to be honest. Really enjoyed it.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: What a show. What a weekend. Roman/Jinder aside, the crowd was amazing and engaged all weekend and we were rewarded with a pair of excellent shows. Money in the Bank was a blast and definitely didn’t feel like a four-hour show. I look forward to seeing what WWE has in store for us going forward. A

Chris Novak: I’m going to give Money in the Bank a solid A-. Probably the best main roster show this year other than the Royal Rumble, in my humble opinion. Only down parts were the Lashley-Zayn match and the Roman-Jinder one, and the latter is probably best viewed with the crowd muted, anyways. Other than that, a super fun show.

Money in the Bank guide: previews, predictions for NXT Takeover & MITB

What started as a unique concept for Wrestlemania has turned into the fifth of WWE's new "Big Five" pay per views: Money in the Bank! The big event returns to the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, but this time bringing its indie darling, NXT, along with it for a stacked card on Saturday night. Of course, the main course will be not one, but TWO Money in the Bank ladder matches - one for the men and one for the ladies. The Barber's Chair has your guide to all of the matches this weekend, including who we think will leave Chicagoland victorious.

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Ricochet v. Velveteen Dream

Pierce: This is a Dream match, no pun. Not because I've wanted to see it for years, but because I didn't know I wanted to see it this badly. This should open Takeover, and could attempt to steal the show just like the ladder match did in New Orleans. Dream has his sights set on one of two things: an NXT title or a WWE call-up. A win furthers both objectives.
Prediction: Velveteen Dream

T.C.: I didn't care for Dream's whole schtick when he first debuted, but his match with Aleister Black at War Games completely changed my opinion of him. I think he's an easy choice to face Black in a rematch in Brooklyn, so it'll be smart to keep his momentum going into SummerSlam weekend.
Prediction: Velveteen Dream

Markus Howell: Let me be the first to tell you that I might be the biggest Velveteen Dream fan just because of everything he represents and how damn good he is. Dude is a MEGASTAR. That being said, this match is a MOTY candidate for sure. Ricochet is proven between those ropes and Dream ain't too bad himself. Dream needs a win here though before he enters "Bray Wyatt" range.            Prediction: Velveteen Dream

Chris Novak: This match really fascinates me. I think it has major steal-the-show potential and will probably end up kicking things off on Saturday night. I get the sense that Velveteen Dream is going to win. Ricochet may have only started a couple months ago, but he's a big star. He can afford the loss, and can afford to put Dream over. You can easily slide Ricochet into a feud with Adam Cole for the NA Championship or even have him in a side feud with Aleister Black on the road to Brooklyn, and nobody would really bat an eye. Speaking of which, I think this Dream win will tee up Dream/Black II in Brooklyn, like T.C. said. 
Prediction: Velveteen Dream

Robert O'Neill: The first of two MOTN candidates, I really can't wait to watch these guys in person. They were the high points of the best multi-man ladder match of all time at Takeover NOLA and there's no reason to believe this match won't be awesome. Dream wins though because I think he's going to be the next #1 contender for the title and this is your start of that.

Prediction: Velveteen Dream

NXT Women's Championship - Shayna Baszler (c) v. Nikki Cross

Pierce: Shayna is mid to me, but they're running with her as long as they can. Nikki Cross belongs up top anyway.
Prediction: Shayna Baszler

T.C.: What the hell happened to SAnitY debuting on the main roster? I'd assume they're holding off until Nikki is done in NXT, but I can see them trying to distance her from the group at this point as she gets a run with the Women's title down in Orlando.
Prediction: Nikki Cross

Markus Howell: Seems like this match was thrown together randomly. But hey, whatever. This has all the components of a filler match until Bianca Belair is done smoking everybody else in the division.   
Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Chris Novak: Haven't minded the build to this. Nikki is crazy as hell and I think her finally getting a 1-on-1 TakeOver opportunity rules. I don't see her winning the belt though. She'll fall to Shayna, but this match should be real good.
Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Robert O'Neill: It's really hard to get a read on this because Cross is probably overdue for a title shot and Shayna really hasn't done much as champion, but they likely won't have her lose yet. Baszler retains.

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

NXT Tag Team Championship - Undisputed Era (c) v. Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan

Pierce: Burch and Lorcan are good hands but they have no business winning the tag titles over Undisputed Era.
Prediction: Undisputed Era

T.C.: Undisputed Era are flaming hot right now, and things are only looking up for the group. Burch and Lorcan have had the Undisputed Era's number the last few weeks, but it's not their time yet.
Prediction: Undisputed Era

Markus Howell: Undisputed Era > nWo. Kyle O'Reilly air guitar with the title > Hollywood Hulk Hogan air guitar with the title. Do I need to say anything else?
Prediction: Undisputed Era

Chris Novak: Markus, I completely agree about KOR's air guitar being better than The Hulkster's. This match is going to surprise a lot of people who may not be familiar with Lorcan and Burch. Then again, if you watch NXT, you probably are anyway.
Prediction: Undisputed Era

Robert O'Neill: While a lot of people were surprised that Lorcan and Burch got the title shot, I think it’s it’s pretty cool. However, I think Undisputed Era retains because they have the numbers in their favor provided Adam Cole goes to the ring with KOR and Roddy Strong.  

Prediction: Undisputed Era

NXT Championship - Aleister Black (c) v. Lars Sullivan

Pierce: Ion really fuck with Lars.
Prediction: Aleister Black

T.C.: Aleister Black hasn't really had a chance to show off as champion since winning the belt back during WrestleMania weekend, and I can't see him losing here. Lars Sullivan has laid the champion out multiple weeks now, and looks stronger than ever heading into Chicago, but Black will finally overcome the thorn in his side.
Prediction: Aleister Black

Markus Howell: This match here has seemingly gotten overshadowed with the Ricochet/Dream and Gargano/Ciampa feuds. LARS (Yes we capitalize that man name around here) has looked great in the past few months. Black has been relatively quiet waiting on this new challenger to appear and boy has LARS appeared. It's a bit too early for Black to drop the title though so look for him to hold on the strap a while longer.
Prediction: Aleister Black

Chris Novak: I'm not surprised that this match has gotten a second- or third-billing deal. This feels like Roode/Itami from last year in Chicago, in that it's a transition feud where the challenger doesn't stand much a chance. I like Lars a lot but putting Black over is the easiest choice of the night. 
Prediction: Aleister Black

Robert O'Neill: The NXT Title match is the third most hyped match on a five match card, which is odd, but also perfectly fine. This will be a good match that a lot of people will sleep on. Black retains.

Prediction: Aleister Black

Chicago Street Fight - Johnny Gargano v. Tommaso Ciampa

Pierce: This rivalry is destined to end in Brooklyn, so it's only right Tommaso wins, probably through some fuckery involving Candice Lerae. These two put on the match of Wrestlemania weekend and could do the same in Chicago.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

T.C.: Usually when someone's wife or girlfriend gets injured in a personal storyline, that's a red alert to me that they'll be turning on their partner down the line. Ciampa wins after interference from Candice LeRae, setting up a Hell in a Cell battle in Brooklyn.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

Markus Howell.: Ciampa is the best heel in the business and possibly the best heel we have seen in YEARS. Everything about this man just oozes evil and he does not care one bit. Using simple wrestling logic here though, it says he will pull out the win in a brutal, yet satisfying match and set up the final installment in this epic rivalry at Brooklyn.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa      

Chris Novak: Ciampa wins because Candice LeRae incidentally costs her husband, Johnny Gargano, the victory. No heel turn here, but she'll try to save Gargano from himself and he'll pay for it. Hell in a Cell cometh in Brooklyn.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

Robert O'Neill: How poetic. It all comes back to Rosemont, where Ciampa turned on Gargano in the first place. It kills me to say it, but I think Ciampa wins and sets up a rubber match with all the stakes in Brooklyn.

Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

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Women's Money in the Bank
Charlotte v. Sasha Banks v. Natalya v. Ember Moon v. Becky Lynch v. Alexa Bliss v. Naomi v. Lana

Pierce: Booking history tells me Natalya wins & probably cashes in on Ronda, but the superstar who needs the briefcase the most is Becky. She talked on Smackdown about falling to the back of the pack since being the first SDL Women's Champion. She needs something to reinvigorate her character, so give her the briefcase and let her have fun with it.
Prediction: Becky Lynch

T.C.: If Natalya doesn't win this, then I don't see the point in them making her a focal point with the biggest star in the division the past few weeks.
Prediction: Natalya

Markus Howell.: Okay so look, I think everybody knows I'm not a fan of this person but I'd be hard pressed to find someone who is a more "That's so WWE" pick to win this match than Ember Moon. Yes, they are setting Natalya up for another turn (she's like the female Big Show when it comes to that I swear), but Ember just screams "safe pick".                                                                Prediction: Ember Moon

Chris Novak: Have to agree with T.C. here. The obvious choice based on EVERYTHING they have put out there is Natalya, as terrible a wrestler and performer that I find her. Alexa and Charlotte have no business winning this, and neither does Lana. Ember hasn't been here long enough. And while Becky, Sasha and/or Naomi would be great choices because of the kinds of performers they are, well... it wouldn't be the first time or the last time they overlooked ability.
Prediction: Natalya

Robert O'Neill: This one certainly has me more hyped than last year’s version. I really want to see Sasha or Becky win, but it will likely be Natalya which will be dumb.  

Men's Money in the Bank
Braun Strowman v. The Miz v. Finn Balor v. Samoa Joe v. Kevin Owens v. Rusev v. Bobby Roode v. Big E/Kofi Kingston/Xavier Woods

Pierce: All of these guys would make for a great winner besides Bobby Roode, but the Awesome one has killed it the last two years and will get his long-deserved second run with the belt in due time.
Prediction: The Miz

T.C.: My head says Samoa Joe, but I'm selecting my choice with full stan mode enabled: The Miz wins. 
Prediction: The Miz

Markus Howell: Ahem. Click here
Prediction: Samoa Joe

Chris Novak: Mike "The Miz" Mizanin wins MITB for the second time in his career. I would say that he'd cash in later in the night, but this match will probably main event the show. 
Prediction: The Miz

Robert O'Neill: This is probably the hardest match of the night to pick because I could see any of the eight men winning. If I had to pick one, it would be The Miz, and I'm not even super sold/confident on that.  

Daniel Bryan v. Big Cass

Pierce: Daniel doesn't need a win here. He made Cass submit last month. I hate even steven booking but if Daniel wins here, what am I supposed to make of Cass?
Prediction: Big Cass

T.C.: Part of me wants to think they'll give Daniel Bryan the win again (especially if there's still some backstage heat on Cass as reported a few weeks back), but I'm gonna assume there's a swerve in the making with Cass evening the score against his tiny foe.
Prediction: Big Cass

Markus Howell: Outside of not giving two shits about this feud.......yeah that's all I got man. It's a warmup feud for the both of them returning from their respective injuries so whatever. Prediction: Daniel Bryan

Chris Novak: I didn't think Bryan needed the win over Cass at Backlash. But they gave him it in emphatic fashion. I don't think he needs the win here at MTIB either. But Cass has been written as kind of a dickheaded goof. So maybe Bryan will make him tap out anyway. I gave Cass a chance, and he hasn't exactly been great. Just put Bryan over again.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan

Robert O'Neill: I guess Cass could use a win over Bryan, but I'm also not sure Cass can be saved at this point. He just doesn't have "it". Whatever happens, I hope this is the last match these two have.

Prediction: Big Cass

Roman Reigns v. Jinder Mahal

Pierce: Is it fine to say I just don't care where they go with Roman anymore?
Prediction: Roman Reigns

T.C.: Contrary to public opinion of these two, I actually think they're really good workers. But the chemistry between the two isn't working for me as a fan. Hope this is a one and done and they both move on to something else next month. 
Prediction: Roman Reigns

Markus Howell: NOW THIS IS WHY IM HERE BABY. CONTENT. THE MAHARAJA HIVE IS HERE. DON'T HINDER JINDER. I DON'T GET WHY PEOPLE HATE JINDER. THE MAN HAS DONE NOTHING BUT WORK HIS ASS OFF TO GET BETTER AND PEOPLE HATE HIM. The Maharaja ain't losing to no dude who wear Brett Favre wranglers in his downtime man. Hell no. Prediction: Jinder Mahal

Chris Novak: This will be a better match than the crowd gives it a chance to be. I will side with Markus here and say that the Maharajah is successful.
Prediction: Jinder Mahal

Robert O'Neill: Contrary to what the likely crowd reactions will lead you to believe, this should be a perfectly fine match. Each man cost the other a spot in the MITB match, so the motivation for this match is clear and smart. I think Jinder wins with underhanded tactics and Roman gets him back at Extreme Rules.

Prediction: Jinder Mahal

Bobby Lashley v. Sami Zayn

Pierce: This is my piss break.
Prediction: Bobby Lashley

T.C.: Absolutely pointless and terrible feud. Hopefully this doesn't go more than 7 minutes.
Prediction: Bobby Lashley

Markus Howell: #FreeElGenerico
Prediction: Sami Zayn

Chris Novak: God, this feud sucks.
Prediction: Bobby Lashley

Robert O'Neill: Lashley wins and we never have to think about this feud again.

Prediction: Bobby Lashley

Smackdown Tag Team Championship - The Bludgeon Brothers (c) v. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows

Pierce: The Bludgeon Brothers finally got some competition in Anderson and Gallows, and while I think the Good Brothers will get the strap eventually, now's not the time.
Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

T.C.: Harper and Rowan have been built up as THE guys in the Smackdown Tag Team title division (rightfully so, they're the champs), and it doesn't seem like the Good Brothers have enough momentum right now to start another reign right now.
Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

Markus Howell.: The Good Brothers and The Bludgeon Brothers. The Brothers against The Brothers. Which sounds better? Good or Bludgeon? Cool hand gestures and a dude with a nickname like Machine Gun or dudes with fake ass mallets and horrible ring gear? Yeah, exactly. Prediction: Anderson and Gallows

Chris Novak: SmackDown Live's tag division is not nearly as dead as Raw's is, but for a division that has Bludgeon Brothers, Good Brothers, The Usos, The New Day AND The Bar as well as Rusev Day, this should be a hell of a lot better than it is. I digress. The Bludgeon Brothers will likely win on the kickoff show.
Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

Robert O'Neill: There's been a surprising lack of build to this match, but it should be pretty solid provided you enjoy watching four big dudes beat each other up. If you don't, well, it's not for you. Bludgeon Brothers retain.

Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

RAW Women's Championship - Nia Jax (c) v. Ronda Rousey

Pierce: I was back and forth on this until Ronda's UFC Hall of Fame induction was announced. WWE would be smart to flex her as their champion at the event.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey

T.C.: I'm sure WWE caught some early rumblings about Ronda Rousey getting inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame next month, and decided to hot shot her into the title picture ahead of the time they wanted to. Always thirsty for mainstream attention, they'll slap the belt on Ronda, get some press the following Monday, and then have Natalya cash in the following night.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Markus Howell: This match gonna be trash. Nia, as fine as she is, aint that good in the ring and Ronda just too green in the ring. Ronda can legitimately beat Nia ass so idk man. Having Ronda win is a real slap in the face. To who? Take your pick. Also kinda dumb how they just randomly made Nia a heel in this feud. Also dumb how much Rousey smiles and taps hands with the fans. It's annoying. Idk who wins here but for kicks and giggles.......
Prediction: Nia Jax

Chris Novak: I still don't understand why this match is happening so early but, like T.C. said, this probably has a lot to do with fishing for mainstream press. Ronda wins, but I don't think she makes it out of Rosemont with the championship. Nattie's going to cash in and win it, meaning Natalya vs. Ronda Rousey will be the summer women's program. God help us all.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Robert O'Neill:  Well, Ronda certainly isn't going to lose her first singles match. The big thing to watch is if there's a cash in after.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Smackdown Women's Championship - Carmella (c) v. Asuka

Pierce: Carmella has no business losing the belt two months in, no matter how good Asuka is.
Prediction: Carmella

T.C.: I have no idea what is going to happen here. When Carmella had the MITB briefcase, I always looked at her as a transitional champion and nothing more than that. However, she's GOLD as a character, and the belt only enhances that. I'll be safe here and say Asuka comes out with the W.
Prediction: Asuka

Markus Howell: I. Love. Carmella. As. Champ. There I said it. She's been looking better. Her mic skills are gold. Her character has improved. And her in ring skills....well......she don't need to show them because of her heel work. I love it. Asuka has lost her aura since losing at Mania and I just don't get what the payoff was for that. Not sure what's gonna happen here but Asuka aint winning.
Prediction: Carmella

Chris Novak: Carmella wins because James Ellsworth is going to return and help her get the W.
Prediction: Carmella

Robert O'Neill: Carmella’s run has been delightful and I think it continues either by countout, DQ, or underhanded tactics

Prediction: Carmella

Intercontinental Championship - Seth Rollins (c) v. Elias

Pierce: The Walk With Elias Intercontinental Title Tour is about to heat up all summer '18! Elias is crazy over... some times gimmicks don't click in NXT but they work in the Federation, and Elias has made the most of his time up. Rollins is a great guy to take the belt off, and it doesn't hurt him to lose; it only propels him to that inevitable championship match with Brock.
Prediction: Elias

T.C.: I've been huge on Rollins' run as IC Champ thus far, and a huge fan Elias' whole run on the main roster. I feel like it's time for Seth to move on to bigger and better things, but with Extreme Rules a month away, I can see them dragging this feud out until then.
Prediction: Seth Rollins by DQ

Markus Howell: It's Elias' time. Seth doesn't need the title anymore and I'm sure Elias can continue to elevate the IC title. Also, the IC title > Universal title. But anyway, this match should be a great one. I wouldn't be surprised to see Elias win clean, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see a DQ. Prediction: Elias

Chris Novak: It's time for everyone to walk with Intercontinental Champion Elias. Seth won't lose anything by dropping the belt to him. Depending on what you read into with the rumors about Brock, this could free him up for a feud at SummerSlam with him. If not, then we get a summer feud between these two. Either option is OK with me.
Prediction: Elias

Robert O'Neill: If they're going to do Seth/Brock at Summerslam, which seems to be the natural plan, why not have Elias get the win here? He has the fanbase and ability. I would like to see it

Prediction: Elias

Last Man Standing match for the WWE Championship
AJ Styles (c) v. Shinsuke Nakamura

Pierce: Well we know the prediction below won't happen because the men's ladder match will reportedly end the show, but it's Nakamura's time. He's waited long enough, and the heel turn set in motion at Wrestlemania has done well in turning him from one of the most beloved babyfaces to one of the most interesting heels to watch in the company. He'll watch out of Chicago with the championship.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

T.C.: This feud hasn't been nearly half as interesting as I thought it would be, but it's picked up a bit in the past few weeks. Please, no more. AJ Styles gets the W in a hard fought battle, but gets booked in an impromptu match with The Miz. Both MITB briefcase holders cash in within 24 hours, as WWE tries to freshen up the gimmick a bit.
Prediction: AJ Styles, The Miz cashes in and walks out champion

Markus Howell: I'm tired of seeing this. Leave it to WWE to take something good and ruin it. I don't know how they do it but dammit they are talented. Shinsuke should've been champ months ago yet they turned him into a dick punching japanese dude who picks and chooses when to speak english. I hate this company sometimes.
Prediction: Shinsuke after he hits a super kinshasa on AJ's family jewels

Chris Novak: I don't have a clue about this one. I'll say Shinsuke because they've given him enough chances over the last year to win the WWE Title and he hasn't. If not, I have no idea what they do.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Robert O'Neill: I think Shinsuke has to win eventually, so why not this one? He picked the stipulation so it would make sense for him to get the win.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

WWE Backlash recap

Robert O’Neill: For the third time in four weeks, we have a WWE PPV to write about! Welcome to Backlash!

Chris Novak: After 45 minutes of preshow talk, it’s time to get to action. Bayley gets a big pop on her way to the ring. Thank you, New Jersey, for proving to me that you’re still a great state. Ruby Riott comes on out next with the rest of the Riott Squad. So, we’re doing the 3-on-1 deal. Bayley tried to get Sasha to come out with her earlier, extend an olive branch and be the better person. But Banks was having nothing of it. Typical.

So, Bayley and Ruby have what was a… decent match. Bayley looked a little off her game, and I hope she’s alright. She was grabbing her head and neck area a bit and while it could be selling, it definitely looked like it took her out of it. Ruby wins with the Riott Kick. She’s now beaten both Bayley and Sasha Banks in the last six days. Guessing that after Nia takes care of Alexa tonight, she and the Riott Squad will pursue Nia’s title while Bayley and Banks and others pursue MITB.

Robert O’Neill: That was a fine match. Bayley looked out of it. Ruby has wins over Sasha and Bayley this week, so they’re certainly using her correctly.

Chris Novak: And away… we… go!

WWE

WWE

Robert O’Neill: The Miz and Seth Rollins are opening the show. This should be awesome.

Chris Novak: Both Miz AND Seth get great reactions right out of the gate. This New Jersey crowd is going to be hot tonight. Oh dear Lord, that match was amazing. Seth’s knee selling after hitting a high knee on the ringpost was excellent. His knee gave out, which led to a Skull-Crushing Finale near fall. Then he went for his Superplex→Falcon Arrow combo, but Miz countered THAT and hit a Skull-Crushing Finale AGAIN. But AGAIN, Seth kicked out. Seth went for the Stomp off the second rope, which led to another exchange, but Seth hit the Stomp on Miz after a reversal of a roll-up to retain. What a way to start the show.

Robert O’Neill: Holy crap that was awesome. I’ll keep saying it, Rollins needs to be the guy to beat Brock Lesnar.

Chris Novak: Seth is on a heater right now. He’s the best in the company at the moment and I don’t think there’s any arguing that right now.

Robert O’Neill: Alexa and Nia are next up. This match should be shorter than their Mania match, I would imagine.

Well. It hasn’t been.

Chris Novak: I have no clue what this matchwasis to be honest. I was sour on their WM match being long, but it was better than this. They just don’t seem to blend well this time around. Nia will move on to probably work with Ruby and the Riott Squad while Alexa likely barrels towards MITB. Probably best for both parties here. But this didn’t work for me.

Woof. And then Nia got booed afterwards for cutting what was a corny, PR-type promo. That was a bad sequence for both ladies, which stinks. But it’s not surprising that they booed it either. They’ll always boo that stuff, right or wrong.

Robert O’Neill: I think they need to move Alexa away from the title. Nia/Ruby would be fine.

Chris Novak: Alright, so here we are for the US Title Match. Jeff won with a Swanton Bomb. This was about what you’d expect from these two at this point. Nothing offensive about it, but a match that was good, not great. Curious to see what’s next for thee two. They’ll be prime contenders for the MITB match. I figure since they’ve been involving him, Shelton Benjamin may be next in line for a title shot with Jeff, which would be fun. OR Andrade Almas, which would be even more fun.

Robert O’Neill: Randy Orton is bad, so this match was good to me.

Chris Novak: Here comes Elias, the greatest performer of our lifetime. He says he’s talked to NJ icon Bruce Springsteen, and wants to perform a song for him. He goes to, but then says he wants to leave then. He has a few indecisive moments before going down to play again. “Bruce needs to hear this!”

And here comes… The New Day! They say they want to have a dual-brand concert and walk with Elias. Elias says he’s a solo act, however. New Day starts playing with their instruments (cymbals, Francesca, and a big ol’ drum). Elias says there’s something there and maybe they can open for Elias. Then he goes to perform and… MY GOD, THAT’S THE SOUND OF AIDEN ENGLISH’S HARMONIC VOICE! Rusev says there’s only one person who can celebrate a day in their honor. Not “Bootleg Bob Dylan” or “The Booty Boys.” It’s him! Elias again goes to perform… and HERE COMES NO WAY JOSE!! New Jersey let out a big pop for Jose, and him and his conga line went on down to the ring. Elias wants NO MORE interruptions… and goes to perform again…

And here comes Bobby Roode! Roode hits the Glorious DDT and drops Elias to another big pop. Hilarious and fun segment here.

Robert O’Neill: I’m pretty sure Elias and The New Day are the two most entertaining acts in all of WWE, so when you put them together and add Rusev Day and BOB ROODE, you’re in for some fun. This show has been mostly entertaining so far. I can’t complain.

Chris Novak: Time now for Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass. So, Bryan bumped like crazy for Cass and made him tap out rather emphatically. Surprising way of going about things, but the ends justify the means. Cass gets in a very good beatdown of Bryan after the match and got “YOU TAPPED OUT!” and “ASSHOLE!” chants. When that happens, you can’t really call any of this a failure. So, this worked and was effective.

Robert O’Neill: I don’t like the finish, because Cass needed a win more than Bryan, but I think the post match stuff makes up for it.

Chris Novak: On to Charlotte-Carmella, which I was not high on going into. And as it turns out, unfortunately, my preconceived notions were on the money. Carmella still has a lot to work on, but Charlotte did not help that match at all, either. Charlotte went for a Moonsault at the end of it, and landed on her feet after Carmella moved out of the way. She ‘tweaked’ her knee, Carmella kicked her in the leg and pinned her. That was definitely a wrestling match.

WWE

WWE

Styles-Nakamura III time. If AJ isn’t wearing a cup, he deserves what he gets. Welp, these two fought for a while. And then they punched each other in the nuts. And then they kicked each other in the nuts. And the match went to a double countout. Welp.

Robert O’Neill: It was a really good match up until then! I guess I get it, but I would have rather seen Nakamura win given the stipulation.

Chris Novak: Alright, it’s on to a tag match that we’ve seen… multiple times these past few weeks.

WWE

WWE

Robert O’Neill: Owens/Zayn vs. Braun/Lashley was weird because the faces won and they also kind of did the exact finish they did when this match was on Raw two weeks ago, but I guess there’s tension between Owens and Zayn now?

Chris Novak: I don’t know what to make of any of this. Even Braun couldn’t rescue this crowd at this point.

Robert O’Neill: Well, Roman Reigns beat Samoa Joe after eating a ton of Joe’s moves but ultimately got the upper hand with a spear. Sound familiar? Yup. They keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result which is an interesting strategy.

Chris Novak: Yuck, that was bad.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Backlash was always going to be a bit of a throwaway PPV, and that’s pretty much what it was. With the exception of Miz/Rollins, which was a match of the year candidate, and the Elias segment, this felt like an episode of Raw at best. Nothing that happened really matter, and despite the best Styles/Nakamura match we’ve seen so far, the ending soured me. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe was one of the worst matches of the year, all things considered. I’m glad this Mania-Shakeup-GRR-Backlash stretch is over and there isn’t another show for six weeks. It gives them a much-needed chance to hit the reset button. C-

Chris Novak: This wasn’t the worst show ever. That being said, it was still a bad show. Even with the epic Rollins-Miz match in mind. The women’s matches were nothing special at all, with Carmella-Charlotte being positively awful. The WWE Title Match was fine, with an ending that assures this feud will continue… even though we’re nearing ad nauseum with it at this point. And they haven’t had the hit match that everyone expected them to have. The main event sucked, and they’re still doing this Roman thing in the worst possible way. This stretch from Mania to now has been dreadful, and hopefully they dig themselves out of the hole they created for themselves. C- for me as well.

WWE Backlash Predictions

Ruby Riott vs. Bayley

Rob: It’s cool that they’re continuing this feud between the Riott Squad and Bayley and Sasha. I still have fairly high hopes for the Riott Squad, but I really think WWE needs to pull the trigger on a full-blown Bayley/Sasha feud. Prediction: Ruby Riott

Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz

TC: There’s been a lot of clusterfuck booking over the past month, hopefully this signals the end of it. As much of a fan of Mr. Mizanin that I am, it’s kind of a given that he’ll lose his single’s rematch. Prediction: Seth Rollins

Robert: This is where we run into problems with this show. This match is for the Intercontinental Title, a Raw championship. Miz is on Smackdown. The United States title is the midcard title on Smackdown. The United States title match features two Smackdown wrestlers. Prediction: Seth Rollins

United States Championship: Jeff Hardy(c) vs. Randy Orton

TC: These two had a really good program about 10.5 years ago on Raw. While I don’t expect this one to equal up to that, I’m sure they can get a decent match going to hype the crowd up (I’m sure it will be the opener). Going out on a limb here and I’ll say that Jeff Hardy retains by DQ after an Orton heel turn. Prediction: Jeff Hardy by DQ

Robert: It would be really dumb for Randy Orton to win given the fact that Hardy just won the title a couple weeks ago. Prediction: Jeff Hardy

RAW Women's Championship: Nia Jax (c) vs. Alexa Bliss

TC: Not much I look forward to on Monday nights other than Alexa Bliss segments, she’s been really amazing since losing her championship at WrestleMania. Surprisingly, they had a really good match at WrestleMania, and here’s to another “clinic” this weekend. Prediction: Nia Jax

Robert: It would be really dumb for Alexa to win given how they’ve booked Nia the past couple months. Prediction: Nia Jax

Smackdown Women's Championship: Carmella (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

TC: Charlotte held the Raw Women’s title four separate times in the first 8 months of that championship’s existence, with each gap being less than four weeks long. It’ll be just under four weeks since losing to Carmella after WrestleMania, so they have to do something different here. Since it’s not Sasha Banks, it’s almost a given that Charlotte will lose here, with some assistance from The IIconics. Prediction: Carmella

Robert: It would be really dumb for Charlotte to win given how they’ve booked everything since Carmella’s cash-in. Prediction: Carmella

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

TC: There’s literally no reason to burn a Daniel Bryan vs. Miz matchup this early on, so I don’t understand the bickering fans on the internet (I never do). They’ll be complaining again after Sunday when Big Cass goes over Daniel Bryan, which is necessary for his character to build some momentum going into the summer. Prediction: Big Cass

Robert: See, this is actually kind of intriguing! I think the smart thing to do would be to give Cass the win cause Bryan is a top guy who has been made to look awesome since Wrestlemania, and Cass never really got the full push they were looking for before his injury last year. Prediction: Big Cass

Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

TC: Bobby Lashley couldn’t be any less interesting right now upon his return to WWE. A partnership (hopefully turned rivalry) with Braun Strowman is a good way to build him up going forward. Apparently, Lashley was gold as a heel in iMPACT, and they’d be smart to let him do his thing against the most popular guy on the Raw roster at the moment. For the time being though, they’ll get a win here to lead up to that. Prediction: Braun and Lashley

Robert: I’m really trying hard to be optimistic about this PPV but… we literally saw this match two weeks ago on Raw! Why are they running it again?!? I would really like to see miscommunication between Strowman and Lashley lead to a KO/Zayn win and a mini-feud between the big guys. Let’s go with that. Prediction: Owens/Zayn

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe

TC: Joe’s been on one with pulling Roman’s card for the last few weeks (all facts btw). Roman on the other hand has been on a bit of a losing streak since WrestleMania. Roman gets the win here which leads to a frustrated Joe getting himself involved in the main event. Prediction: Roman Reigns

Robert: WWE wants Reigns to be the guy but never wants him to actually win, so I’ll take Samoa Joe. Prediction: Samoa Joe

WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

TC: With SmackDown Live GM Paige announcing this past week that this is now a No DQ match, I suspect we’ll get some funky outcome in this match. Look for ol’ Joey Samoey to get involved here and assert himself into the WWE title picture going forward.

Robert: This is the most intriguing match of the night. If logic prevails (which is rare in WWE), Nakamura should win. It’s a no-DQ match and Nak’s big thing has been the low blow, which Styles hasn’t shown any ability to stop. Plus, having Nakamura lose for a third time in a month would kind of ruin this feud. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Wrestlemania Predictions

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

T.C.: With the Andre documentary being promoted, I’m surprised that this one is on the pre-show this year. While there haven’t been many competitors announced so far, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say the most likely of the announced participants to win would be Dolph Ziggler. It’s a safe pick, and he isn’t doing much else (the story of the last three years of his career).

Prediction: Dolph Ziggler

Robert: These things are always super hard to predict. Maybe Bray Wyatt comes back as… not Bray Wyatt and wins it? Maybe Dolph Ziggler wins, squanders the opportunity, and complains about it for the millionth time? Maybe Big Show wins again? I truly don’t have a read on this. I guess I’ll take Bray.

Prediction: Bray Wyatt

Chris: Honestly, like always, I have no idea where this is going to go. It’s the match with the least amount of build so far, and I guess that makes sense, in a way. It would be cool if Mark Henry showed up and won it. But, I doubt it. Now that I know he’s in the match, I predict Elias will win, and then give the performance of a lifetime later on in the show.

Prediction: Elias

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

T.C.: With the Sasha Banks vs. Bayley feud coming to a head, I can see a situation where they both brawl to the back, effectively eliminating each other. Initially I was going to say that Ruby Riott would walk away the victor here. However, I think we get a main roster debut of Ember Moon, who should be dropping the NXT Women’s title about 24 hours earlier.

Prediction: Ember Moon

I’m almost more excited for this than the women’s Royal Rumble, if only because it probably won’t be littered with legends. It’ll be a lot of NXT and WWE women, as it should be. I think Bayley and Sasha Banks will prevent each other from winning, and it’ll be someone from Smackdown as a result. Becky Lynch? Sure! Let’s go with Becky Lynch.

Prediction: Becky Lynch

Chris: FKA the Moolah Battle Royal, but Moolah is trash. So, they changed the name. The only substantial hype this match has going into it revolves around Bayley and Sasha Banks. Which might tell you that they probably SHOULDN’T be in the match, and instead have a standalone match on their own. Oh well, I guess. Those two are the only ones who I could see winning this whole thing. If they want to tell this story the right way, then Bayley has to win it to drive Sasha over the edge.

Prediction: Bayley

WWE Cruiserweight Championship tournament final: Mustafa Ali vs. Cedric Alexander

T.C.: Cedric Alexander has been getting a push towards the Cruiserweight title since about December, but several issues out of his control have prevented him from climbing that mountain top. I predict that he’ll finally have his moment, a WrestleMania one, this Sunday.

Prediction: Cedric Alexander

Robert: Do you watch 205 Live? No? Why? You need to. It’s incredible and these two are two of the best. This match should really get the crowd going, and I hope they don’t give it the first slot when people are still getting in the building and getting situated. Give it the middle or last preshow slot and let ‘em rip for 15 minutes.

Prediction: Mustafa Ali

Chris: If you haven’t watched any of 205 Live in the post-Enzo Amore era, do yourself a favor and do that. It’s absolutely sensational, and they’re putting on a stellar in-ring product on a weekly basis. Mustafa and Ceddy are two CWC originals, and they definitely deserve the spotlight they’ll be given. Part of me has wondered what’s taken so long with Cedric, but I think he’ll have to wait a little longer. Mustafa Ali is my pick to win the CW Title.

Prediction: Mustafa Ali

WWE Universal Championship - Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

T.C.: I honestly believe the whole “Brock Lesnar is returning to UFC” thing is a red herring, but we’ll just have to wait and see. I’d like for them to go the route of having Brock win here, as it would add some unpredictability. But we all know that Roman will come out victorious here. Hopefully, we can get Heyman teaming up with Reigns at the end, which could freshen up his character going into his title reign.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Robert: If you have a problem with Reigns or this feud’s build, I don’t think we’ll agree on much. I’ve loved it. And I’m going to love Reigns winning and the title being back in the fold on a weekly basis.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Chris: Roman Reigns wins here to get the Universal Title, thus ending this three-year feud and sending Brock back to UFC in a few months. Easy call.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

WWE Championship - AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

T.C.: This one has match of the night written all over it, and they should be able to deliver a clinic in about 12-15 minutes. Nakamura is the favorite here, and he should be getting the W when it’s all said and done.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Robert: It’s still wild that this is happening at Wrestlemania, isn’t it? Styles and Nakamura have been all over the world and now they’re finally meeting on the big stage. I think Styles has been a great champion, but it’s Shinsuke’s time.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Chris: As good as both these guys are, I hope that everyone’s heightened expectations of this match doesn’t hurt them if they “fall short.” That being said, they will probably put on an A-grade match. Nakamura gets his crowning moment, and wins the WWE Championship.

Prediction: Nakamura

Intercontinental Championship - The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor

T.C.: Rumors have been going around over the last week regarding Samoa Joe getting added to this match, making it a Fatal Four Way. For sake of this post, I’ll act like that won’t happen. Instead, I have Finn Bálor pulling away with the Intercontinental championship in his first reign.

Prediction: Finn Balor

Robert: This is a sneaky contender for match of the night, if only because how well these three work together. Pick any two and we’ve seen at least one great match, so there’s no reason that shouldn’t carry over into a triple threat. I think Miz needs to retain and become the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time, because he’s made that belt mean more than anyone in decades.

Prediction: The Miz

Chris: I’m lowkey telling you what my match order prediction is here as well, so pay attention here if you must. Miz, Rollins and Balor have all stepped their games up in the past couple months. Rollins in particular has looked awesome, and Finn has, too. We know how good Miz is by now, so that’s no surprise. I suspect these three will help put on a damn good opener to start us off. I don’t think there’s gonna be a title change, though. By hook or crook, Miz will retain his IC Title.

Prediction: The Miz

United States Championship - Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev

T.C.: The logical thing to do here would be to place the United States championship on the most popular guy in the match. I’ve been watching the product since 1998, and full time since 2002...so I’m used to the WWE not going the logical route. Look for Randy Orton to win and retain his title.

Prediction: Randy Orton

Robert: It’s pretty wild that Wrestlemania falls on Rusev Day, huh? Anyways, adding Rusev to this match really saved it for me. Orton and Mahal don’t do anything for me, especially after watching it all last summer. Roode is fine, but his slow style makes him hard to watch. With all that said, with how much crowd support Rusev has, they HAVE to give him the title.

Prediction: Rusev

Chris: This match looked like a bit of a dud. Then Rusev showed up! I’ll keep this short and sweet here: Rusev is the guy to win this match. You don’t put him in it if you don’t give him the title. At this point, it’s a must.

Prediction: Rusev

Raw Women's Championship - Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax

T.C.: I don’t expect this one to be long at all. I could see a scenario where Nia Jax blacking out on Bliss, getting hit with a disqualification by the referee. Moments later, Ms. Money in the Bank, Carmella takes advantage and cashes in on the unconscious champion and goes home with the Raw Women’s title.

Prediction: Alexa Bliss by DQ, Carmella cashes in MITB

Robert: As someone who has been with Alexa since day one, I’ve enjoyed her title run(s) far more than most people. WWE is getting to the point, though, where they need to do something with Nia instead of having her lose to everyone. There’s always one head-scratching decision per Wrestlemania though, and I’ll use mine right here.

Prediction: Alexa Bliss

Chris: Gonna keep this short and sweet, too. Nia Jax HAS TO WIN. She has to win and must win in a squash-type deal. If they have this match be lengthy, it will be a disservice to both of these ladies and the program. I know people want long women’s matches, but Nia-Alexa is not the type of feud to do that. And it’s not the kind of match, either. If Alexa somehow retains, it would be a monumentally poor decision. That’s no knock on her. Just the story that they’re telling here. Although she could definitely use time away from the belt, in my opinion.

Prediction: Nia Jax

Smackdown Women's Championship - Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka

T.C.: This one is sure to give Styles vs. Nakamura a run for their money, as both women definitely know how to put on a show. It would be foolish for the winner of the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble to lose her title match at WrestleMania. With that being said, look for Asuka’s streak to make it out of New Orleans alive and well.

Prediction: Asuka

Robert: This is probably the most realistic shot we’ve seen where Asuka could lose her streak. I don’t think she will, but Charlotte at Wrestlemania would certainly be a good time and place to drop it. However, I think Asuka prevails.

Prediction: Asuka

Chris: Yep… I think this is the penultimate match on this Mania card. It’s been a while since Charlotte has had the spotlight on her, considering her run on SDL has made her lose all her luster. I think that changes come Sunday in NOLA. Her and Asuka put on a fantastic match, but it will be Asuka who wins the SDL Women’s Championship.

Prediction: Asuka

Raw Tag Team Championships - The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman and TBD

T.C.: I don’t care what other fans have said about this feud, I’m enjoying it, and I’m enjoying seeing Braun Strowman add more range to his character. You can risk placing the tag titles on Braun temporarily, and then vacating the titles the next night on Raw. Pull the trigger, WWE.

Prediction: Braun wins by himself

Chris: So, first prediction: Samoa Joe is Braun’s partner. Second prediction, Strowman and Joe win the Tag Team Titles.

Smackdown Tag Team Championships - The Usos (c) vs. New Day vs. Bludgeon Brothers

T.C.: The biggest story in this one even before Fastlane, was how the Usos have never competed at a WrestleMania. It’s time for them to get their moment, and I see one of the twins getting the pinfall over a member of the New Day. This way, you keep the Bludgeon Brothers safe, and they have the case for another title shot going into Backlash.

Prediction: The Usos

Robert: Can’t wait for this one. The build has been awesome and we already know what the New Day/Usos feud was capable of. I think it’s time to get some fresh blood in though and give the titles to the Bludgeon Brothers.

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers

Chris: Finally, at long last, The Usos are on the main card. This should be an outstanding showcase, and a deserved one for the SDLive tag division. I can’t decide if they’re going to throw The Usos a bone or crown new champs. But then again, what’s the point of hyping up Harper and Rowan all these months then? Bludgeon Brothers, for the win, and our second title change of the night.

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers

Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon

WWE

WWE

T.C.: There is no way Stephanie McMahon isn’t tapping out to Ronda Rousey at the end of this match. Would also be kind of neat to get Shayna Baszler and Sonya Deville in to celebrate with Ronda after the match.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle

Robert: They’re not going to have their biggest female attraction of all time lose her first match.

Prediction: Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey

Chris: This is an easy one. I don’t think this will last very long at all. Angle and HHH duke it out for the most part, HHH eats some offense from Ronda, and Ronda rips Stephanie’s arm off to give her and Angle the win.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle

Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

WWE

WWE

T.C.: If Owens and Zayn lose here, they won’t be reinstated back to the WWE roster. As of now, there’s no room for them over on Raw, and I’m honestly tired of them playing Frogger between rosters. Look for them to come away with not only their jobs, but their first WrestleMania wins.

Prediction: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens

Robert: This is going to be special, obviously. Daniel Bryan returns to the ring in the same place as he had his biggest career win. The goodwill probably won’t last long, though, as I expect Owens and Zayn to win via some sort of shenanigans from Shane McMahon. I don’t trust him.

Prediction: Owens and Zayn

Chris: Daniel Bryan makes his in-ring return, and what a moment that will be. In the same building where he won the WWE Title four years ago, no less. Bryan and Shane’s tenuous relationship has me thinking that shenanigans are going to happen here. So, I think Owens and Zayn get their jobs back after Shane turns on Bryan and costs them the match.

Prediction: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens

John Cena vs. The Undertaker

WWE

WWE

Robert: Assuming this happens, it’s probably going to be pretty dumb. Once you get past the spectacle of two of the WWE’s best of all time fighting on a huge stage, it kinda becomes a dud. Maybe it’s because Undertaker is about five years removed from his last good match or because Cena’s been annoying during this whole build, but it really doesn’t do anything for me. I guess I’ll pick Cena to win? I don’t know. Neither party gains anything with a win or loses anything with a loss.

Prediction: John Cena

Rousey puts Trips through a table, Alexa, Roman prevail in Elimination Chamber

Robert O’Neill: It’s Elimination Chamber time! Well, almost. I want to start this off with the excellent Wrestlemania video package WWE showed near the end of the preshow focusing on the seven guys in the men’s chamber match, because it was fantastic.

Chris Novak: Looks like we’re getting a Chamber match to start. The question is, which?

Robert O’Neill: The women! Had to kinda figure, especially since the Rumble main evented and Braun is probably going to do some spots later where he destroys the chamber.

Chris Novak: Alright, so Bayley is starting. Interesting spot for her. Could prove to be intriguing. Could prove to nuke her. Who’s to say?! No, but this should be fun. I like all of these girls’ gear.

Robert O’Neill: Mandy being the first person out of their pod so her and Sonya and team up against Bayley is good storytelling. Bet Sasha is next.

Chris Novak: Well… obviously!

Robert O’Neill: Hey I was right! And now Sasha and Bayley are using their advantage and Sasha eliminated Mandy. And Mickie eliminated Sonya by diving off the pod! That was cool. And Bayley took out Mickie! Chaos! 

Chris Novak: Okay. That was SO GOOD. SO GOOD. Everyone played their parts extremely well. Bayley’s looking like a strong babyface. She got caught after the second-rope B2B, but that’s okay! Alexa’s smart like that. Sasha looked awesome (as always). The top of the pod Twisted Bliss into a Bank Statement was SO COOL.

Oh, wow. Are they babyfacing Alexa? Well, I mean, she’s super popular. She has a lot going for her. And… OH, YOU SNAKE! Alexa’s so good on the mic. So good. THAT is why they didn’t take the title off her.

Robert O’Neill: Alexa and Sasha and Bayley had their best showing in… quite some time. That was the point of this match. Also Sasha and Bayley are gonna have an Eddie Guerrero/Rey Mysterio WM21 match at Mania this year and it’ll be a blast.

Chris Novak: Hey, here comes The Bar and… damn. A cooldown match AGAIN?

Robert O’Neill: I feel bad for The Bar. They’ve been in the cooldown match at like three straight PPVs and while each match has been good, you can tell the crowd hasn’t been into it. This was a fine match where they won to retain, but the tag division needs some direction, and the likely multi-team match at Wrestlemania probably won’t help.

Chris Novak: Nia-Asuka is quite great here. Probably one of Nia’s best performances so far, I’d say.

Robert O’Neill: Holy crap this post-match beatdown from Nia is fierce. She threw Asuka through the barricade!

Chris Novak: Well, they’re heating Nia up for… something.

Robert O’Neill: I’m not talking about Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy. Chris, if you want to, go for it. But I’m out. This is unfathomably stupid.

Chris Novak: At least Hardy salvaged it at the end. Here comes the Rousey contract signing…

WWE

WWE

Robert O’Neill: Trips and Steph are here with Angle? I smell shenanigans!

Chris Novak: And then there were… no shenanigans. Huh.

Robert O’Neill: Alright so, Ronda’s not great on the mic. That’s to be expected, plus nerves could have been a factor. But Angle being an instigating shitheel, Triple H getting put through a table by Ronda, and Stephanie being a full-blown heel and slapping Ronda really saved the segment. It started rough, but certainly recovered.

Chris Novak: Yeah, that got effective late. Ronda has charisma. She just may have had stage fright. Or, she needs to work out the kinks. I’m not surprised that she had trouble speaking publicly. Anyways, here’s the Elimination Chamber match.

WWE

WWE

Robert O’Neill: Alright this has been interesting so far. The pace is much slower than the women’s match, but it started to pick up after Miz’s elimination. It’s just odd that we’re currently right at the 10 PM CT mark and this match is nowhere near ending, but such is life in the WWE Network era. Overrun no longer matters.

Chris Novak: That it doesn’t… as evident by when this PPV ended!

Robert O’Neill: Miz and Elias have both been eliminated by Braun Strowman so far. He’ll probably be in the final two. And now Strowman eliminated Cena. It’s pretty clear how they want Strowman to look. Finn Balor got eliminated by… Braun Strowman! Seth Rollins looked good and also did a frog splash off the top of the pod but got eliminated by Braun Strowman! So we’re down to Roman and Braun, and Roman just threw him through the pod!

Chris Novak: And, unsurprisingly, Roman defeats Braun with two Spears and a few Superman Punches. That was a very good Chamber Match, #AsExpected.

Robert O’Neill: This was a fine show that was highlighted, in my opinion, by the women’s matches. Both were predictable but I liked the stories that were told, and I think both chamber matches themselves were pretty good despite the men’s one being a bit plodding at times. All in all, I’m very interested to see what happens on Raw, which is the point of a PPV.

Quick Results

Alexa Bliss d. Bayley, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville to retain the Raw Women’s Championship

The Bar d. Titus Worldwide to retain the Raw Tag Team Championships

Asuka d. Nia Jax

Matt Hardy d. Bray Wyatt

Roman Reigns d. Braun Strowman, Seth Rollins, John Cena, Finn Balor, The Miz, and Elias to become the #1 Contender for the WWE Universal Championship

Elimination Chamber predictions
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Gallows and Anderson vs. Miztourage

Robert O'Neill: Gallows and Anderson have had a really nice 2018 so far as they’ve reestablished themselves as friends of Finn Balor, and it’s paid off in droves. They’ll probably be in some sort of multi-team match at Wrestlemania. Miztourage will too! It’ll be fun.

As far as this match… Gallows and Anderson will probably win. Maybe not. I don’t know. I’m picking them. Preshow matches are weird sometimes.

Chris Novak: Going to go with The Club here. They’ve heated them up a bit over the last few weeks, even with their feud against The Revival in mind. I have a… funny feeling that this is going to set up to something further down the line involving the leaders of these groups. Gonna say Gallows and Anderson win though so the crowd starts off happy.

Lincoln Ricketts: Gallows and Anderson needs this win, especially if Balor Club wants to be shown as a legit stable. This match can potentially set up a Miztourage v Balor Club feud heading towards Wrestlemania.

Winner: Gallows & Anderson

Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt

Rob: If you read the Raw and Smackdown recap every week you know these are two of my three or four least favorite characters in the whole company. It sucks, because Matt’s gimmick in TNA was so good and revolutionary and then WWE came and ruined it. I guess I’ll give Bray the win here because… he needs it? I guess? Sure.

Winner: Bray Wyatt

Chris Novak:  Thinking Matt Hardy wins here because they’ve talked about how he’s yet to beat Bray. I don’t know what’s to come for either of these two at Mania, which says a lot about what can happen in a year, eh? Bray was in the WWE TITLE MATCH LAST YEAR, and Matt was part of one of the best moments of the show. If not THE best. His brother’s absence has hampered things a little bit for him. But for Bray? Well… uh. Yeah.

Lynx: While this has been an underwhelming feud, I see this feud ending at Wrestlemania creating the WOKEN universe, so expect Bray to win.

Winner: Bray Wyatt

The Bar vs. Titus Worldwide

Rob: It’s kind of weird that they’re doing this match again, as it’s happened on Raw a bunch recently. They’ve all been pretty good matches, though, as these four work well together. The Bar will likely retain and head into Wrestlemania as champions.

Winners: The Bar

Chris: Titus Worldwide has dominated this feud so I think The Bar retain here. The problem I have here is I wonder if it’s gotten a little too stale. It feels like there’s more possibilities for a face team as the champs than a heel team. I won’t be surprised if Titus Worldwide wins, but I’m just going to pick The Bar right now.

Lynx: Sure, Titus Worldwide has had the number of the Raw Tag Team Champions but let’s be serious, The Bar are not losing to Titus Worldwide before Wrestlemania.

Winners: The Bar

Asuka vs. Nia Jax

Rob: If Nia beats Asuka, the match at Wrestlemania where Asuka will face either Charlotte or the winner of the Women’s Elimination Chamber becomes a triple threat. It would be a really weird decision to have Asuka lose her first match in WWE in this fashion, so I’m inclined to believe she’ll win, while making Nia look good in the process.

Winner: Asuka

Chris Novak: It would be SO WWE to not have two singles matches for their Women’s Titles after all this talk over the past few weeks. That being said… Asuka will win here. I don’t get what they’re doing at all with Nia, and frankly, I’m closer to just being over her than I am being intrigued by her. How can you have a monster who doesn’t win against… well, any of the big guns? Give me The Empress of Tomorrow.

Lynx: Logic dedicates that Asuka will win and maintain her undefeated streak…..but this is the WWE and I’m kind of scared because they did this to Charlotte last year against Bayley. I’m determined that the WWE will do the right thing and make Asuka win.

Winner: Asuka