Posts tagged Becky Lynch
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.

This Week in WWE: Wildcard, bitches
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Chris Novak: Raw’s supposed to start with Roman Reigns. This has been something that’s been heavily discussed for whatever reason this week. But, whatever. Long as this works out and has a point, it’s okay. And since one of the people he’s been feuding with (read: Shane McMahon) bounces around the shows, then I don’t see why Roman can’t.

Anyways, that’s Vince McMahon’s music. So, Mr. McMahon’s starting the show actually. I would wager this, certainly, has a lot to do with the aforementioned paragraph. Vince says it’ll be a night to remember, because he’s here. Before he can go any further, Roman Reigns comes down to the ring. Last time they shared a ring, of course, Reigns caught him with the Superman Punch.

Robert O’Neill: Vince says he better not think of trying it again, and also he’s on Smackdown so why is he on Raw right now? Roman tells him to check his tone, because he wants to leave Raw better than he found it. Vince and his kids said the fans are the authority now, but that was a lie! Vince goes to respond but DANIEL BRYAN’S MUSIC HITS!

Chris Novak: Well… if you wanted my attention, boy, you got it. Bryan says he’s spent the last month in solitude, and now hoped to have an intellectual conversation. Before he can continue, Kofi Kingston makes his way out here.

Robert O’Neill: After Bryan and Kofi goes back and forth, Vince has an epiphany! He’s instating a “wildcard rule” where three Raw superstars can be on Smackdown and three Smackdown superstars can be on Raw. Neat.

Chris Novak: Don’t hate it as a concept going forward. We’ll see how they utilize it. Don’t really have a strong opinion either way. AJ Styles comes out, and he asks him, basically, what the hell he’s doing. Seth Rollins is now on his way out, so we’re still working here on our opening promo. We learn soon enough that Styles and Rollins are teaming up to face a tag team after the break. Who will it be? I suppose we’ll find out.

Robert O’Neill: Bob Lashley and Baron Corbin! Well, that should have been expected. It’s also fine, the story is between Rollins and Styles here. The two get along for most of the long match, but Styles catches Rollins with an inadvertent Phenomenal Forearm after Corbin ducked, and then Styles left instead of helping Rollins, as he got hit with an End of Days. That told the necessary story.

Miz has pulled up a chair right outside Shane McMahon’s dressing room, as he awaits Shane’s arrival.

Sami Zayn is here! He goes on about how the crowd is dumb and bad (correct) and then he gets interrupted by Braun Strowman, who isn’t pleased with him and decides to chase him around the ring and into the back, where he threw Sami into a dumpster which then got put into a garbage truck.

Lucha House Party got a win over some jobbers. Alrighty!

Ricochet is facing Robert Roode, and Ricochet’s Money in the Bank spot is on the line. Stakes!

Chris Novak: It’s obviously nice that they addressed this. They could’ve done it last week, but oh well. The match was fine and Ricochet got his win back. Not a surprising development in the least.

They showed a recap of last week’s events between Rey Mysterio and Samoa Joe. Announced was a United States Championship Match between the two of them. Once again, not a surprising development. Mysterio and Dominick were shown backstage, and Mysterio went into his locker room while Dominick walked away. Ominously… Samoa Joe was seen walking behind him. Probably not great news for Dom, if any horror movie ever made suggests.

Joe then is seen with him. I enjoyed the air quotes around “Uncle Eddie.” I almost wish he referenced that storyline. Joe runs him down and says that he needs to send his father a message, and that’s that he will enjoy what he’s going to do at Money in the Bank.

Up next is Lacey Evans, who’s competing in a match. Her opponent is a local talent, and she wanted the entire locker room to come down to ringside. Lord knows why.

Robert O’Neill: Lacey beats a jobber and then calls up Becky Lynch, who comes out swinging! Lacey leaves before Becky can lock in the Dis-Arm-Her.

Chris Novak: I didn’t mind this segment at all. For one, the use of a squash to put Lacey over as a legitimate threat is a good one. Secondly, having her warn and threaten the MITB competitors not to pull a fast one on her was also totally fine with me too. In fact, I think it was an effective way of getting everything in the mix. I know there are people that are going to want more out of the division, but… what more can you get out of this division right now? They did Alexa vs. Naomi last week. Any throw together tag match would’ve gotten the same usual complaints that we get.

Robert O’Neill: The Viking Raiders also beat some jobbers. Oh, wait, those were Raw Tag Team Champions Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins. Enough already. You have more than enough good tag teams to get the belt off the comedy act.

Chris Novak: Friend, you need to really calm down. There’s going to be an end to these means. It’s fine. The match was also fine, but obviously dominated by the Raiders, who’ve looked good from the jump. Now that they pinned the champs, I’d expect to see them face off at MITB. Which, hey, I’m okay with it.

Robert O’Neill: This week on Firefly Funhouse, Mercy the Buzzard has something in his box but he’s hiding it from Bray. OH MY GOD HE ATE RAMBLIN’ RABBIT. Bray says it’s okay though. You can be forgiven no matter what happens. In fact, Mercy should be rewarded.

Chris Novak: RIP Ramblin’ Rabbit. Why is this stuff so ridiculous and brilliant each week? I continue to be a huge fan of it all.

Robert O’Neill: Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre are up next in a Wrestlemania rematch. This should be pretty good. I enjoyed their match at Mania quite a bit, aside from the stupid crowd.

Chris Novak: Turns out… it was pretty good! May have been Roman’s best outing since he came back, may have been one of Drew’s best outings in a long time. Really enjoyed this match, well, up until the non-finish at the end (even if it did make sense). Shane McMahon and Elias came down to beat down Reigns. Miz then came by the chase and fend them off. Shane went running, and Miz caught up with him and beat him up with a chair.

All around, very effective stuff here. Hope we get a Miz-Roman tag team match out of this against Shane and Elias. Or something of that ilk.

I have no real comment on the segment between The Usos and The Revival.

Robert O’Neill: I think they could be approaching a feud better between two very good teams but once they finally get in the ring it’ll be fine.

Chris Novak: Lars Sullivan attacked No Way Jose. Why? I don’t know.

Kofi Kingston puts his WWE Championship on the line against Daniel Bryan next. The match was really good. What a surprise, right? There was a pretty tremendous end sequence here, where eventually, Kofi caught him with Trouble in Paradise to retain. This wasn’t quite as great of a match as they had at WrestleMania but, for a lot of reasons, it was never going to eclipse that anyway. Still a very, VERY good match.

Robert O’Neill: That was a really good TV match. Nice to see Bryan back in action.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: Weird show, just from a format perspective. Have no idea what to make of this Wildcard stuff but if they don’t go OD with it, it’ll probably be just okay. But aside from that and some of the weird stuff in the 3rd hour, the work rate here was great and both WrestleMania rematches kicked ass. I’ll give this show a B-.

Robert O’Neill: I enjoyed more than I didn'’t enjoy, and that’s good enough for me. They still struggle to fill three hours, but having more hits than misses is good. Wildcard, bitches. B

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Chris Novak: Alright, so we’re continuing on this Wildcard Rule stuff, and AJ Styles is back on Smackdown Live for the moment. I’ll try not to get too frustrated about this or anything. I just hope this doesn’t get too out of hand going forward, is really all that I ask. The good thing, I suppose, is that he’s over like rover. Styles talks for a moment until Sami Zayn arrives. So, Sami’s alive after being thrown in a dumpster last night. Good to know.

Zayn and Styles (which also could double as a reference to The X Factor) banter for a bit, until Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods arrive. Kingston wonders what Styles is doing here, and they get a bit contentious. Woods quotes Ice Cube, telling Styles to check himself before he wrecks himself. Kingston ponders what Styles is going to do about it before Sami intervenes. Sami suggests that Kofi not do this because the people aren’t happy for him. He’s caught in a web and also, that he deserves a WWE Championship opportunity instead of AJ.

Kofi and Xavier roast him for how he smells like garbage. And also, Kofi adds that he considers himself a fighting champion and that he’ll defend the title against EITHER Styles or Zayn. He says it doesn’t matter which it is, because he’ll remain as WWE Champion.

Ali vs. Andrade is next.  

Robert O’Neill: That was an awesome opening segment. I like the wild card rule so far. I’m just wondering how they’re gonna keep it fresh every week, but for now it’s good.

Chris Novak: We’ll get ourselves a Triple Threat Match later out of this segment, so that will be a good deal of fun.

Ali-Andrade was a fun but short match, interrupted by Randy Orton. Orton ate some kicks from them both but then hit Ali with a pop-up RKO. Andrade then leapt at him but Orton dropped HIM with an RKO too. So, decent segment here, although I certainly wish we could’ve gotten more time out of Ali-Andrade.

Robert O’Neill: I would be interested in an Ali-Orton feud if Andrade wins the briefcase like I think he’s going to. I think they would work very well together. I liked this match but was fine with how it ended.

Shane McMahon is here to announce the new tag team champions, but first he has to talk about how he’s not a fan of what The Miz has been up to lately. He’s going to emerge from the steal cage at Money in the Bank in victory yet again.

And now it’s time to announce the new tag team champions. It’s… Daniel Bryan and Rowan! But before Bryan and Rowan can accept, The Usos come out! They said instead of Shane just handing the titles to Bryan and Rowan, they should have a match for them, to which Shane agrees.

Chris Novak: Oh, I am all the way here for this one, baby.

Robert O’Neill: The match is, unsurprisingly, absolutely awesome. The Usos are probably the best tag team in WWE history and Daniel Bryan is the best wrestler on the planet, so it all comes together and is beautiful here. Even Rowan was very good! He got the pin with the Iron Claw to get Bryan and Rowan the tag titles.

Chris Novak: God, that match kicked so much ass. One of the better tags of the entire year so far. Rowan looked great! For once!

Robert O’Neill: Shane McMahon has news about the Money In The Bank ladder matches. Before he can get to the point, Miz comes out and attacks him! But the B-Team come out to save Shane, and while Miz is fighting them off, Shane hits Miz with a chair from behind.

Chris Novak: Well… sure. I mean, sure. I don’t know what exactly he was going to announce, but I suppose that’s not the point here. Miz getting beaten down before his ultimate comeuppance works fine with me, as that’s probably going to be the plan.

Robert O’Neill: Mandy and Sonya face off with Ember Moon and Carmella next. This match was… alright. Mandy and Sonya won as Bayley was supposed to be in the match but was removed without explanation.. Perhaps there’s something more to that. Perhaps not. Who knows.

Chris Novak: Mandy gets a big win. Still wondering what happened with Bayley and Charlotte, but that’ll be a mystery I suppose. Paige came out after and said next week, Mandy and Sonya will face Asuka and Kairi. Okay, cool!

Another Aleister Black vignette aired. I’m still wondering where this is headed, but this has all worked well for me so far.

So, the WWE Championship Triple Threat Match proceeded onwards, and it was a doozy. Kingston retained after pinning Sami Zayn after Trouble in Paradise. Kevin Owens got involved, and for a little while, it was between he and Sami after Styles was out of commission for a bit. The match was fire and was, in my view, the best match all week. A good end to this show.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: I’ll save more of my comments on this whole Wildcard deal on the podcast this week. But we got some great matches out of this thing. That being said, it’s not without its faults. It didn’t disrupt SmackDown Live too much, but I definitely felt like this show needed some more zip. I’ll give it a B and keep it moving.

Robert O’Neill: Bayley and Charlotte disappearing was weird, but I liked more than I disliked, particularly the main event match. B+

From bra and panties matches to the main event: how Chyna's impact will be felt this all throughout WrestleMania weekend

My what a difference six years makes.

The last time WWE posted up at Metlife Stadium for WrestleMania 29, women’s wrestling was so insignificant in the company, the only match scheduled on the card involving women - an eight-person intergender tag team match featuring The Funkadactyls, Naomi and Cameron, and the Bella Twins - was scrapped at the last minute due to time constraints. When they return on Sunday for the 35th installment, the ladies will take center stage for the first time in WrestleMania history.

It’s kind of appropriate that on the same weekend Chyna takes her long overdue place in the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of D-Generation X, three of the five most popular superstars of this generation - Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey - will main event the show for both the RAW and Smackdown Women’s Championships, while the other two - Bayley and Sasha Banks - will defend the new Women’s Tag Team Championships in a Fatal Four Way. It’s appropriate because Joanie “Chyna” Laurer was the linchpin of women’s wrestling at a time when when it was basically an afterthought in mainstream wrestling.

WWE

WWE

Until Chyna burst onto the scene, the WWF (at the time) Women’s Championship was suspended and re-introduced to the company a number of times, and when it was featured, the matches were rarely long and not well promoted. Even during her time with the company, the women were mostly relegated to sexual fodder for its target male demographic, competing in anything from Bra & Panties matches to Evening Gown matches to Paddle on a Pole and Bikini Mud bouts.

However, Chyna was a rare breed - a five-foot-ten powerhouse unlike anything the world of wrestling had seen before. From the second she stepped on the scene in February 1997 and rag-dolled Marlena on Monday Night RAW, she gave women the colossal shot of adrenaline it needed to make a revival in the all-important Attitude Era. It was Chyna’s gigantic presence that gave supporters of women’s wrestling hope that not only could they deliver on a stage usually reserved for men, they could compete with them on that same level.

And compete she did. She was the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble in 1999, paving the way for the women to get their own Rumble match 19 years later. She became the first woman to qualify for the King of the Ring tournament later that year, and in October she won the Intercontinental Championship from Jeff Jarrett, becoming the only woman in WWE history to hold a major title belt, a feat she accomplished twice.

Chyna quickly became one of the most popular superstars of the Attitude Era, but despite her popularity, women’s wrestling didn’t change much after her departure. Women were given a bigger platform, which isn’t saying much considering how little they were valued previously, but there was no one that rivaled Chyna's star power and ability in the ring. The WWE focused more on fitness models new to the business, and while some of them blossomed into good performers - like Trish Stratus and Torrie Wilson - others found it difficult to survive in the ever-evolving world of wrestling, and suddenly women’s wrestling fell out of favor again.

WWE’s relationship with Playboy led to annual spreads that tied into WrestleMania storylines. At the time, Chyna, herself a former Playboy cover girl, had long been gone from the company. From 2003 to 2008, a Divas match or program was highlighted by a Playboy cover girl, usually a newer, greener diva looking for exposure, leading to some poor, forgettable moments on the Grandest Stage. There was the Playboy pillow fight between Torrie and Candice Michelle at WrestleMania 22, and the BunnyMania lumberjill match hosted by Snoop Dogg.

Once their relationship with Playboy ended, the poor string of WrestleMania matches for the women’s division didn’t stop there. In 2009, a battle royal that started with a Kid Rock performance in place of superstar intros ended with “Santina” - Santino Marella in drag - winning the crown of Miss WrestleMania. In 2010, a 10-diva tag team match finished with a “Hog Splash”, as Michael Cole put it, from Vickie Guerrero (a non-wrestler) onto Kelly Kelly (a fitness model-turned-wrestler) and a painful botch of a pinfall. The following years were centered on celebrity involvement; in 2011, Snooki from Jersey Shore scored a win in a six-person tag, and in 2012, entertainment reporter (and huge wrestling fan) Maria Menounos was victorious in another tag match.

Then comes 2013, and the now-infamous scratch at Metlife. Women’s wrestling had fallen so deep into obscurity in WWE that they couldn’t even get five minutes on the biggest show of the year. The fans had had enough. Hell, some of the wrestlers had enough too, like Gail Kim, who eliminated herself from a battle royal once just to see if anyone noticed.

But what we didn’t know at the time was down in Florida, a revolution was burgeoning.

NXT grew from the ashes of WWE’s failed ECW revival, becoming what amounted to a game show before overtaking Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE’s developmental promotion for new superstars. The first woman to come out of NXT and make a difference on the main roster was Paige, who debuted on RAW the night after WrestleMania XXX in 2014 - another show with a multi-women clusterfuck of a match - and pinned Divas Champion AJ Lee to win the title on her first night on RAW. Paige would go onto tag with AJ against the Bellas the next year at WrestleMania. While Paige was growing the brand on the main roster, the seeds that were planted back in NXT were starting to blossom courtesy of the Four Horsewomen.

Charlotte Flair. Sasha Banks. Bayley. Becky Lynch. Four women who changed the face of women’s wrestling for eternity. Each one unique in their own right. Charlotte, the daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair, was physically gifted and a natural at the business. Sasha Banks, a charismatic black woman from Boston, found her voice down in NXT. Bayley became one of the biggest fan favorites in the company, moving merch like no woman in WWE or NXT at the time. Becky Lynch, the wild-card of the group, had retired and moved on from wrestling before being pulled back into the mix and signed by WWE. She carried a chip on her shoulder from day one, but when she got in the ring with her three sisters, she created magic.

WWE

WWE

These four women were the heart of the women’s revolution in wrestling, with all three being featured prominently at WrestleMania 32 in 2016. Bayley defended her NXT Women’s Championship at the biggest NXT show to date, while Becky, Charlotte and Sasha stole the show in a triple threat match for the new Women’s Championship. Women were no longer the bathroom break on the card; they were must-see.

Fast-forward to 2019, when the four of them will compete for gold on the Grandest Stage. Aided by UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey, WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix, the incomparable Asuka, and another powerhouse in Nia Jax, the three - count em, THREE - women’s matches at this year’s WrestleMania, including the second women’s battle royal and the main event - are the most anticipated matches on the card.

And on the night before, the legend who led the way 20 years ago will finally be called a Hall of Famer. It’s bittersweet that Chyna won’t be here to see the culmination of what she started, but the ladies participating in Sunday’s show will no doubt do her memory justice.

First Black Champ - A Freak In The Fastlane

Fastlane is tonight and since the card became official last Tuesday Night we doing our predictions today! We also start the conversation on how we need to start keeping it real on how tough Ronda Rousey is and how her hands are pretty trash! Then we talk Nostalgia Sex and ask the question "Can a WWE Diva fall off so hard that you never want to have sex with her?" on this week's #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

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Follow JR Bang on Twitter: @jrbang


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This Week in WWE: The Big Dog is BACK!

Chris and Rob discuss the major happenings of the week, including the much-anticipated return of Roman Reigns.

Robert O’Neill: We begin what should be a very memorable Raw with the return of Roman Reigns to a DEAFENING pop.

Chris Novak: My face -- hot. My eyes -- sweaty.

Robert O’Neill: Roman said a lot in this promo and was genuinely touching and all-time great Raw moment, but the biggest news is that his cancer is in remission and THE BIG DOG IS BACK!!!!!

Chris Novak: Just an incredible moment. I’m not sure there’s really any other way to describe it. Thank goodness the best news was given here. Totally love it.

We apparently will be doing a deal between The Revival and the tandem of Aleister Black and Ricochet. That seems fun. It was… fun, albeit short. Black and Rick won after Aleister clocked Scott Dawson with the Black Mass.

Robert O’Neill: Yes, I’m fine with this. This is fine.

Chris Novak: Elias is next… and Lacey Evans comes out to do her cameo and then leaves. Elias is not very enthused about all this. But now as he goes to play, Dean Ambrose comes out! Ambrose says all the positivity has him feeling dangerous, so he challenges Drew McIntyre to a No DQ Match later on tonight. He eventually lays Elias out with Dirty Deeds. That segment was amusing.

Looks like we’re getting Riott Squad vs. Ronda Rousey and Natalya next.

Robert O’Neill: This seems kind of thrown together, but I guess they all… have history? And Ronda needs to be on the show since Charlotte is tied up with the Ric Flair Birthday Bash?

Chris Novak: Another pretty fun match here. Well, it didn’t quite finish out the way many expected it to be because BECKY LYNCH arrived on the scene.

Robert O’Neill: Becky unloaded on Natalya with her crutch, and then went after Ronda but was whisked out of the arena by security, as she was arrested for showing up despite being suspended. After the break, Ronda remained in the ring and screamed for Vince to come out. Instead, she got Stephanie McMahon! Ronda wants Becky to be reinstated, but Stephanie's not having any of it. Ronda called Becky a ginger douche, and then said Stephanie could do a ton for her legacy if she makes the match a triple threat, but Ronda DEMANDS Stephanie reinstates Becky.

Chris Novak: Ronda doesn’t get her wish. She goes on a spiel about what the title means and eventually drops it down on the mat and says that Vince needs to make the “right” decision. This was a pleasing and effective segment to say the very least.

Robert O’Neill: That was genuinely Ronda’s best promo in her time with the company. That was amazing.

We come back from commercial to find Jinder Mahal in the ring with the Singh Brothers. He’s not a fan of all the hype about Ric Flair. He’s issuing an open challenge to anyone invited to Flair’s birthday party.

It ends up being Kurt Angle, who defeats Jinder in a hurry.

Chris Novak: There were like three other options for this that would’ve been better but, aye, I’ll take it. That was quick and effective and satisfying.

Robert O’Neill: Now it’s time for Moment of Bliss!

Chris Novak: And the guest is none other than the new IC Champion, Finn Balor. Alexa put herself over beforehand by saying that if the McMahons want someone who will be honorable with the championship, they know where to find her. Additionally, as she talked to Finn, she pointed out that his title hides his abs. I mean… look… anyways, Lio Rush winds up interrupting the segment. Because this is Moment of Bliss, and Moment of Bliss ALWAYS gets interrupted. Lio is a sad boy because Lashley doesn’t answer his calls or texts, basically, and says he wants to get the IC Title back. Finn asks if he’s challenging him and Lio is about to disagree, but Lex asked him if he wasn’t man enough for it. That obviously turns it on its side, and then the match is ready to proceed.

Sting is here. Main Event Mafia-looking ass Sting. I know he wasn’t gonna wear the facepaint… but c’mon man!

Robert O’Neill: Finn and Lio go about having their match and it’s quite fun, but oddly slow. They should have done some more high-flying stuff, but that’s me nitpicking. Finn hit 1916 for the first time in a while, then got the victory. No shock there.

Chris Novak: Lashley and Lio have an argument backstage. Okay, maybe it wasn’t an argument. Lashley was just laying into Lio. They go out to have a match with Braun Strowman. BUT… the match never happens. Braun knocks them both on their asses and our segment concludes.

Seth is interviewed and says he’s going to ‘burn it down’ with Roman but in a different way. They’re getting drunk. That’s the “joke.”

NAITCH is here.

Robert O’Neill: And now it’s time for Dean Ambrose vs. Drew McIntyre in a no DQ match.

Drew gets the win after Elias comes down and attacks Dean from behind and then Corbin and Lashley come down for a four on one attack, but Seth Rollins comes out with a chair! But he’s not alone. ROMAN REIGNS COMES OUT AND HELPS CLEAR THE RING. They leave together without Dean, so it wasn’t a full Shield reunion, yet.

Chris Novak: Time for Bayley-Nia. Nia was rude as hell and trashed Bayley’s tubeman. Up the river she goes, IMO. Bayley threw Nia down with a hip toss early on in the match. My goodness. This was a very well put-together match that culminated with Bayley scoring yet another W after an Elbow Drop on Nia. A strongly booked Bayley is the best Bayley.

Robert O’Neill: The gang’s all here for Ric Flair’s birthday. Triple H! Stephanie! Shawn Michaels! Ricky Steamboat! Sting!

Chris Novak: And now they’re about to introduce Flair! His music hits and… he’s not out here. Surely, it must be that meddling orange-haired ass kicker Becky Lynch who’s responsible for this.

OH MY GOD, IT’S NOT! IT’S NOT BECKY! IT’S BIG DAVE! BATISTA!!! Batista drags a cameraman along to grab (read: DRAG) Ric Flair’s beaten up body out into the concourse. He screams at Hunter from the back, asking if he has his attention now. Oh my WORD… the bait and switch… the bomb drop here… that was absolutely tremendous in just about every way.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Robert O’Neill: Monday night marked the 1344th episode of Monday Night Raw, and it’s safe to say that it was easily one of the best. We knew all along that it would be an iconic and memorable show, but sometimes WWE gets sloppy in its execution. That wasn’t the case here. From Roman Reigns’ tear-jerking and memorable return promo to top the show, to Batista’s shocking return and turn on Ric Flair, this show hit every single note and made me feel every possible emotion. A+

Chris Novak: A+ for me too. Just an all-around, well-produced, high-energy, damn good show. There were two humongous moments and absolutely no real lulls on this show at all, whatsoever. Just a fantastic episode of wrestling television. Love it.

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Robert O’Neill: Coming off the heels off an all-time great Raw, we’re in for a treat on Smackdown as Johnny Gargano is facing Cesaro, Aleister Black and Ricochet are facing Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura, and Daniel Bryan will have a contract signing with Kofi Kingston. This should be fun!

Chris Novak: Absolutely. Plus they’re in Charlotte, and it will be… quite the scene when Charlotte Flair comes out.

We are beginning with the contract signing for Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan’s WWE Championship Match. Stephanie and Shane are presiding over. They highlight all the achievements of Kofi’s career and the last two weeks. I actually find it REALLY funny that Stephanie is giving Bryan shit right now even as a babyface.

Kofi is about to sign the contract… however, Vince McMahon has arrived. Eh boy, I wonder what THIS could mean…

OH MY GOD VINCE HAS REPLACED KOFI KINGSTON WITH … KEVIN OWENS!!!

Robert O’Neill: Look, I don’t know how much Bruce Prichard has a hand in things, but he’s been back for two shows and we’ve had two of the biggest surprises in WWE programming in recent memory. That’s amazing.

Owens will tag with Kofi later against Bryan and Rowan.

Speaking of tag teams, it’s time for The Bar against… someone? This is weird. Cesaro was supposed to face Johnny Gargano.

Chris Novak: IT’S THE HARDY BOYZ! I’m guessing there was some kind of rewrite here. Wow. Matt looks like he’s in GREAT shape right now. Crazy things are happening here.

Robert O’Neill: The Hardys won with a Twist of Fate and Swanton Bomb. It’s like old times! This is great.

R-Truth is out here for an open challenge. And Andrade comes out to answer it! But Rey Mysterio comes out as well! And we’re having a triple threat match. Whew boy.

Chris Novak: Unsurprisingly, this match was quite good. Truth won after rolling Rey up after he hit the 619 on Andrade. This result works for everyone. It helps Truth become a credible champ and helps to further the feud between Rey and Andrade. Quality, quality stuff.

Charlotte is next up. She runs down Becky and Ronda for doing what they did on Monday, calling Rousey a quitter and calling Becky a fraud. She says she’s going to Raw on Monday to be crowned the new Women’s Champion. So it’s about to go down in Philly, in other words.

Ricochet and Aleister Black versus Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev is next.

Robert O’Neill: Unsurprisingly, it was a lot of fun! Ricochet and Black got the victory after about 10 minutes. They’re sure making them look like a big deal.

Chris Novak: Read between those lines, baby.

Robert O’Neill: Main event time! Kevin Owens and Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan and Rowan. Kofi isn’t pleased as he comes out with the New Day, who aren’t up to any of their antics.

Chris Novak: This match was fun, but it felt like it was missing an extra gear that SmackDown main events have had the last few weeks. In the end though, it worked out well for all parties. KO got the pin on Bryan after hitting a STUNNER~, and there was no turn. Which I thought was intriguing. Good ending.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Robert O’Neill: Much like Raw, Smackdown was excellent. The surprise returns of Matt Hardy and Kevin Owens were truly unexpected, and every match was fun, even if we didn’t get the advertised Johnny Gargano vs. Cesaro match. The Road to Wrestlemania is going to be wild. A+

Chris Novak: Do you guys remember when we didn’t want more hours of wrestling TV? And the market was “oversaturated?” I feel like I want another hour of SmackDown. Something. Anything. This roster’s huge and this show was great even without some of the big timers’ presence. AND almost the entire women’s division. Good lord, the WWF is on fire. A+

This Week in WWE: Fair to Flair, Unfair to The Man
Raw.png

Robert O’Neill: We open Raw with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in the ring as they’ve invited Becky Lynch back to Raw… and here she comes! Becky saw her doctors and they conferred with the WWE doctors and the match at Wrestlemania is on BUT only if Becky apologizes to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Naturally she’s not super thrilled with this idea.

Chris Novak: She’s stubbornly refused to at this point and that makes a good amount of sense. Becky eventually outright refused to, but Triple H issued an ultimatum after she and Stephanie got into a verbal argument. Becky must apologize by the end of the night, or there will be no match. This is right out of the Austin-McMahon playbook. Let’s keep it going.

Robert O’Neill: We keep rolling right along with Boss N’ Hug Connection vs. Riott Squad vs. Nia and Tamina in a triple threat tag team match.

Chris Novak: Grand Rapids popped like wild for Bayley, AND, they did a “WE WANT BAYLEY” chant. I mean, I already liked the state of Michigan quite a lot. This is adding to it though. Sasha eventually got dumptrucked by Ruby on the outside. Sasha evidently still hasn’t been cleared, if this is any indication.

Bayley put up a super valiant effort, but wound up falling to a Nia Jax Samoan Drop. So, Boss and Hug will enter the Chamber first. As expected really. Really fun match here, too, if we’re being honest.

Elias is next. Well… first he gets cut off by an interaction between Finn Balor and Becky Lynch. Then a Seth Rollins video package interrupts him! I don’t know if this is intentional… I have a feeling it is… but it’s still amusing.

Robert O’Neill: Finally, Lucha House Party interrupt him. He sings them a song and they don’t like it

Chris Novak: And Kalisto then eventually decides to strum Elias’ guitar and, sure enough, e’s pretty good at it! Elias offers to do a duet, but then Elias attacks him from behind. He leaves the ring. This was actually a pretty entertaining and engaging segment.

Finn Balor faces Drew McIntyre next.

He match eventually got disrupted after Lashley got involved and went after Finn. Kurt Angle then came down to play the role of cavalry. Corbin then came into the ring and went after Kurt. This pretty much says everything you need to know about the current state of Raw minus Seth and Brock, but this got over with the Grand Rapids crowd hugely.

Robert O’Neill: That got chaotic in a hurry. I feel like we all know Angle is old and bad now but he gets a pass because of how good he used to be. Maybe I’m off base, but that’s the feeling I get.

Apparently we’re now having a Braun/Kurt/Finn vs. Drew/Corbin/Lashley match. Alrighty. After a back and forth match Lashley appears to have the match won as he pins Balor, but Balor had his foot on the rope, but the referee didn’t see it. Another referee comes down to restore order and the match will continue!

Chris Novak: Gotta be honest… don’t know what any of that was. But it happened, and the babyfaces win. OK, cool. Let’s move the hell on.

Ruby Riott vs. Nikki Cross, which should be better than that, is next. So far, unsurprisingly it is. Ruby won with a Riott Kick. It was an okay match, all things considered.

Seth Rollins is next. Likely, so is Paul Heyman.

Robert O’Neill: That was… what it was. I mean, you know how the leadup to a Brock Lesnar match goes by now. Rollins says he’ll beat him. Heyman says he won’t. We have a lot more of this coming over the next two months which is a blessing and a curse.

Chris Novak: Got that right… segment was fine and effective but it likely won’t be too memorable.

Here comes Dean Ambrose, for some reason. Dean comes up and… tells Seth to slay the beast. Well, hey, okay then! Apparently Ambrose will be in action again.

Robert O’Neill: He’s facing EC3 again. Alright!

Chris Novak: Dean won. Okay! If I know anything about how things work, a 3rd match will happen soon. Possibly at… Elimination Chamber on Sunday? Maybe on the Kickoff Show? I don’t know. That was definitely something.

Alexa and Becky had a back and forth backstage. Lex said that Becky shouldn’t apologize, but Becky questioned her motives about it because it would open up a title match. This wound up being a very good segment. Imagine that, when you let two of the best talkers have banter with each other. Rob missing it was funny.

Revival are challenging for the Tag Team Titles (again).

Robert O’Neill: Holy shit. What a match. These two teams threw everything they had at each other and THE REVIVAL FINALLY WON THE TAG TITLES. My god. What a match. It’s not the highest bar to clear but it was the best tag match on Raw in quite some time.

Chris Novak: Wow, Rob. You got your big moment and that’s ALL you got for your reaction?!?! 4/10. You gotta do better at your fanboying.

Becky’s “apology” is next. They have her out here now and they’re trying their damnedest to get her to apologize. She eventually did, and… surprisingly (?) that was it. Becky went to talk and… then, here comes Ronda.

AND NOW… HERE COMES VINCE!

OH MY GOD… Vince says he doesn’t care what Triple H or Stephanie ruled, he’s ruling that Becky’s been suspended for 60 days. That mark would take her OUT of WrestleMania… and who else does he insert but CHARLOTTE FLAIR!

Robert O’Neill: Holy shit. What a way to end things.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: The beginning and tail ends of this show were great. Everything else… was in the middle. So I’ll give this show a B and go from there.

Robert O’Neill: I really don’t know what to think about this Raw. The beginning was quite good, The Revival winning the tag titles was one of the best TV matches of the year so far, and the end was excellent. Everything else though? Hit or miss. The women’s tag match was good, but the Balor/Angle/Strowman vs. McIntyre/Corbin/Lashley stuff lasted entirely too long, and I can’t do eight more weeks of Seth Rollins and Paul Heyman cutting the same promo back and forth. Overall, the good outweighed the bad, though. B-

Smackdown Live logo.png

Chris Novak: We begin things with a recap of the twist from last night’s episode of Raw. And… here comes The Queen herself. Naturally she’s getting a hearty amount of heat. Charlotte cut what was a pretty great heel promo here. She’s immersing herself in the heat and leaning all the way into it. Can’t hate it at all, whatsoever.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah a lot of people have been complaining about Charlotte being added to the match and I don’t see how you can hate it. It’s such a good story being told. Anyway it’s time for a tag triple threat match between the three Smackdown teams in the Elimination Chamber. Just like on Raw, the team that gets pinned enters the Chamber first.

Things go along and the match ends up being pretty good. Naomi comes in late and goes right at Mandy, and picks up the win so the Elimination Chamber will open with Mandy and Sonya vs. Bayley and Sasha. Cool.

Chris Novak: Only right, especially since those four started last year’s Elimination Chamber Match, the first Women’s Elimination Chamber match, of course. So, nice bit of storytelling there. Little things!

Robert O’Neill: Time for McMiz TV with tonight’s guests: The Usos!

Chris Novak: This, unsurprisingly, turns out to be super entertaining. We even got a Toledo Mudhens reference, so that’s fun. There’s plenty of banter here, as The Usos said it was disrespectful for Shane and The Miz to call themselves the best tag team in the world, while Shane said that the only thing ‘real’ was that they were champs. The Usos superkicked them for their troubles and left.

We got another Miz & Mrs. ad, which is tremendous.

The Gauntlet Match is next!

Robert O’Neill: Love to start the main event with 70 minutes to go!

Chris Novak: The New Day’s representative, filling for Mustafa Ali is… KOFI KINGSTON! So, Kofi’s in the Chamber on Sunday. Fantastic.

So the first segment of this absolutely ruled. Kingston played up to snuff with Bryan and they booked him extremely well. New Day were thrown out of the ringside area, but after Rowan got involved, the ref sent him out too. Bryan was going to hit him with the Running Knee, but Kingston got him with Trouble in Paradise and got him with the 1-2-3 (kid)!

Kingston then went on to eliminate Jeff Hardy in the Gauntlet… and now, here comes Samoa Joe. Kofi continues to fight hard here but wound up in the Coquina Clutch. But Kofi used the same finish Finn used on him in London (and the Piper-Hart finish from WM VIII!) to eliminate him too!! Joe then proceeded to beat the shit out of him and choked him out with the Coquina Clutch after the elimination. Naturally this would make him easy pickens for AJ Styles, but Styles would fight Joe off and away from the scene first.

Kofi still wants to fight after being hit with the chokehold, and fight he does. They do a countout spot with him… and… he jumps into the ring to beat the 10 count. Kofi eventually taps out to the Calf Crusher after simply an incredible performance.

Styles then loses via the RKO OUTTA NOWHERE by Randy Orton. An exclamation point on an incredible main event match. Orton will now go in the Elimination Chamber last.

Robert O’Neill: What a fun match. Kofi looked like a million bucks, and the story that needed to be told was told. I’m glad they don’t do gauntlet matches too often, because every time they do them they feel good and special and fun.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: I enjoyed this show a whole lot. The Gauntlet Match was incredibly good and everything else served its purpose heading into Sunday. A- for me here. Real good stuff.

Robert O’Neill: Like Raw, Smackdown is hard to grade! The gauntlet match was excellent and took up more than half of the show. The women’s match was fine, and the Shane/Miz/Usos segment accomplished it’s intention. That’s really all that matters, right? So what if it was only a two match show? I’ll give it an A-

First Black Champ - Scarface Told Me To STFU, So He Right About Ric Flair

It's Super Bowl Sunday and J.R. Bang talks about his Super Bowl Week experience and another moment of Black Inclusion. We also recap the Royal Rumble and all of our accurate predictions. The question Cam wants to know is can Ronda Rousey handle the WWE long term? We have new black champ and one in waiting. We close the show questioning how racist Ric Flair is, because Scarface don't fuck with him. It's more real an important conversation on this weeks #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

Follow Cam Quotes on Twitter: @ImCamQuotes
Follow JR Bang on Twitter: @JRBang

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
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Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops New Years Day 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
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Ruthless Aggression - Rumble recap, Dean Ambrose leaving WWE

What a Rumble is was! Pierce Chris and Rob recap the 2019 Royal Rumble, the winners, the surprises, and how the road to Wrestlemania is starting to take shape. Plus we analyze Chris' first set of rankings in the WWE Top 25, Dean Ambrose and Hideo Itami leaving the WWE, and so much more

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 505
Smackdown 181

Follow Pierce: @HennyOmega
Follow Chris: @ChrisMNovak
Follow Rob: @RobertONeill31

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
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Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops New Years Day 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
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First Black Champ - Triple H wants to Takeover the world

Lars Sullivan's anxiety attack delays his main roster debut. Is he wasting John Cena's time and business? We talk on that as well as Becky Lynch's Wrestlemania plans. Plus, an NXT and AEW conversation leads Cam into his three WWE Superstars that messed it up for main roster hopefuls who are only great wrestlers. Bang believes AEW is years away from being 1984 WWF and we encourage you to lie to execute your dreams on this week's #FirstBlackChamp podcast!


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The 2019 WWE Top 25: "Preseason" Edition

Hello out there. Welcome to what’s hoping to be a staple of The Barber’s Chair Network’s wrestling coverage for the entirety of 2019. I give to you a new premise, aptly titled the WWE Top 25.

Out of the gate, you might have some questions. The good news is, I have answers for you. So, let me get this started here.

What is the WWE Top 25?

Great question! The WWE Top 25 is going to be a list, published right here to The Barber’s Chair Network, of the top performers in WWE, month-by-month. At the conclusion of each month, I will publish the list. This will continue on and progress all the way through. You might see superstars rise, you might see superstars fall. You might see them completely fall out of the rankings. Think of it like the college football and basketball polls. Only it will just be one person “voting.”

How are the rankings determined?

These rankings are going to be determined on match quality. That’s it, that’s all. I will be watching matches on WWE’s weekly TV programs and WWE Network events, grading the matches (0 stars-5 stars) and calculating their scores thereafter. Superstars eligible for these rankings will have to have competed on Raw, SmackDown Live, NXT, 205 Live AND NXT UK. If any NXT brands are created within the next 12 months, those superstars will become eligible to be used as well.

What is the grading system and how is it calculated?

This grading system will be calculated very simplistically and easily. I will be weighting certain thresholds differently than others. Here is how it’s going to go:

  • If a superstar’s match is graded 0-*3/4, they will be given 0.25 points.

  • If a superstar’s match is graded **-**3/4, they will be given 0.5 points.

  • If a superstar’s match is graded ***-****1/4, then they will be given between 3-4.25 points, depending on the star rating they receive. This allows for those who have good-great matches to receive their due while not completely overweighting their performances.

  • If a superstar’s match is graded ****1/2, then they will be given 9 points. The 4.5-star rating will be multiplied by 2.0 to weight for quality.

  • If a superstar’s match is graded ****3/4, then they will be given 11.875 points. The 4.75-star rating will be multiplied by 2.5 to weight for quality.

  • Finally, if a superstar’s match is graded the FULL FIVE *****, then they will be given 15 points. The 5-star rating will be multiplied by 3.0 to weight for quality.

Also, it probably goes without saying, but those who are part-timers will likely fall short of being high to very high on these rankings lists, month-to-month and by the end of the year. The more matches you wrestle, the higher your score will be. But, you also will have to show out as well in order to get up way high.

So, I hope that explains everything. I used this formula for individual performances at TakeOver and it came away with pretty good results. It’s all obviously in the eye of the beholder. I don’t consider myself an ace star rater or anything of that but I figure this could be a fun project.

Are you really going to be watching EVERYTHING?

I sure as hell hope so!


So, anyways, it’s time for me to produce my “Preseason” Top 25. This is the only edition of the rankings that will be completely rooted in superficial BS. These rankings are based on how I think 2019 will look by the the time December 31, 2019 comes around. So, anyways, with that said, let’s roll with the WWE Top 25, Preseason Edition.

25. Bayley

Okay, if you follow me… did you really expect anything else here? But on a serious note, I think Bayley does have a standout 2019. The fact that Women’s Tag Team Championships are on the way greatly help her and her tag team partner (whom you’ll see shortly) in a big way. The one thing I will say, and this pertains to the entire Raw women’s division, is that opportunities are going to be interesting to sort out… for several reasons. Most of which will be explained later. But do I think The Hugger will be back to form? You bet.

24. Velveteen Dream

Velveteen Dream is probably going to have another great year. 2018 was a breakout year for the youngster and he just had his best singles match ever against Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver: WarGames 2018. Velveteen has no doubt shined in the big spots and how many TV matches he gets will go a long way towards determining where Dream is going to be. That type of stuff can be variable if you’re not the champ and not on Undisputed Era, so I have him 23rd to start. But I can see a Top 15 finish for sure.

23. Shayna Baszler

Shayna is one of NXT’s best big match performers. As the brand’s Women’s Champion, she’s no doubt going to get plenty of big matches to perform in naturally. She’s shown a great ability to work with just about anybody, and her series with Kairi Sane was legit great. I don’t think working with the new crop that NXT has is going to hurt her at all, whatsoever. And a probable call up for the rumored 4HW vs. 4HW feud wouldn’t either.

22. Sasha Banks

‘The Boss’ finds herself 22nd on my ‘preseason’ Top 25. Banks had a great start to 2018 and I’d definitely argue that if her rivalry with Bayley actually came to fruition she’d have been even higher on anybody’s Wrestler of the Year lists. Banks can have great matches with anybody and that much is absolutely certain. If big opportunities come her way, you just know she’s going to take the spotlight and make it her own. Like Bayley, Banks should see a resurgence in 2019. So long as a couple of factors go her way.

21. Pete Dunne

The UK Champion finds himself 21st on my rankings list. Dunne is likely going to be in NXT UK for good now since he wrapped up all his indie dates just a short while ago. So his opportunities will be increased big time. But the question is… how many are there going to be? They’re running a TakeOver soon and I figure there’ll be more on the way, but just how many? Will he have opportunities over in the States on the regular NXT brand? Dunne is a great talent no doubt and could go way high on this list. But we’ll see how everything plays itself out.

20. Drew McIntyre

Drew Mac has a legitimate shot at being one of the biggest faces on the Raw brand. I thought he had a good not great year this past year that was obviously hurt by the fact that he was… well, hurt at the start of it. He’s not yet had that standout match but had some good matches with Seth Rollins, Kurt Angle and a few others. If he gets that shot as being the top heel then we’ll probably see a huge year. That is yet to be seen, though.

19. Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey has no doubt shined this year. She’s arguably one of the top performers in the company and the entire industry. She’s yet to have a bad match. So why in the world is she 19th? A couple of reasons here. For one, Ronda doesn’t ALWAYS wrestle on TV. She’s had maybe one or two singles matches so far on Raw, and has otherwise competed in tag matches. So the lack of opportunities will probably hurt her in the end. And secondly… the great unknown. Everyone KNOWS that she’s going to be here through WrestleMania. But what about after that? Is she going to stick it out for the whole year? She’s made comments that might have you believe she might not be TOO long for this. So just how long is she going to be around here? No one REALLY knows. So despite the fact that she’s a great worker, I’m putting her 19th and letting things happen from there.

18. Ricochet

NXT’s North American Champion had an AWESOME first eight months in the brand. He showed out in the NA Title Match and performed at a super high level against Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole. He also didn’t miss against Pete Dunne on TV and in the 3-way against Dunne and Cole either. As with Dream, the TV match # is important to watch here, but he’s a huge star and attraction for the brand so he could wind up finishing way higher than 18th.

17. Mustafa Ali

Opportunities aren’t going to be hard to come by for one of 205 Live’s greatest success stories anymore. Mustafa Ali is off the 205 Live island and is officially on SmackDown Live, and he’s already being thrust in with some of the brand’s biggest performers. Ali is a prime candidate to have a US Championship run and could have some banger TV matches as a result. Expect another big year for Ali.

16. Matt Riddle

This is easily my most ambitious pick. But I think I’ll be repaid for it in the end. Matt Riddle is a wrestling prodigy and going to NXT was huge for him and the brand. He’s wrestled all over the world and had absolute bangers just about everywhere. So do I foresee that happening in NXT? Absolutely. Riddle being on numerous TakeOver cards should be the expectation and he’ll likely have PLENTY of TV matches going forward. With the kind of performer he is, I wouldn’t even be shocked if he somehow got into the Top 10 by year’s end, bro.

15. Finn Balor

Finn Balor might be one of WWE’s most consistent performers. He was pretty easily in the Top 10-15 performers for WWE this year and was one of their best TV match workers. Balor could have big things on his way if he gets more opportunities and due to his current positioning on Monday Night Raw, that’s a strong possibility. While some fans crave a lot more for Finn, I think they may very well get their wish. I think he’s going to have another great year.

14. The Miz

Like the aforementioned Finn Balor, Miz always shows out in TV matches which is going to help his cause and then some. He’s also showcased himself greatly on PPVs and is easily one of the most consistent workers in the company. Which is a crazy thought, ain’t it? Miz should definitely find himself very high on this list by year’s end and will likely get off to a great start in the first month of the year.

13. Kyle O’Reilly

Like his fellow Undisputed Era mates, Kyle O’Reilly is one of the best in the world. O’Reilly produced NOTHING but hits last year tagging alongside Roderick Strong as the best tag team on the entire planet. O’Reilly doesn’t always get singles match opportunities which may ‘hurt’ his chances of climbing up but you definitely could’ve made a strong case for him to be Top 10 in WWE last year. KOR should continue that momentum in 2019 and, of course, keep shredding, Kyle. Keep shredding.

12. Andrade “Cien” Almas

Andrade had a huge start to 2018, partaking in two of the matches of the year against Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black. And… then he got called up to WWE and… well… the opportunities thinned themselves out. It’s unfortunate, because it’s obvious that Almas is one of the greatest wrestlers on planet Earth. But such is life. I think that changes course however in 2019 and we get a huge year out of Almas, who has a shot to be as good as Top 5 if they let him.

11. Charlotte Flair

There is no better big match performer than Charlotte Flair. Despite a few hiccups in the middle of the year, she showed OUT. Flair had a great match against Asuka at WrestleMania. Then, she turned around and had an incredible series with Becky Lynch that elevated the two of them. She closed out with a monster showing in the TLC match at TLC for the SmackDown Live Women’s Championship. She’s ALWAYS going to get opportunities on TV and at PPVs, so she’s going to be one of the top performers this year. That’s a safe bet.

10. Adam Cole

Perhaps nobody broke out as much as Adam Cole did in 2018. He was thought to be the weakest of the talents in Undisputed Era in the ring. All he did was have great matches at every single TakeOver and had some tremendous showings on TV, as well. Cole and the rest of UE are going to get numerous NXT TV matches so it’s a safe bet that Cole is going to shine and shine brightly.

9. Tommaso Ciampa

The current NXT Champion shined very brightly this year. Ciampa was injured and off TV for much of the start of the year but had great showings against Johnny Gargano, Aleister Black and, recently, Velveteen Dream. Because he should continue to be a huge mainstay at the top, predicting big things for Ciampa is a very safe bet. He starts 9th, but Top 5 isn’t out of the question.

8. Asuka

Given that she’s Women’s Champion now and might have the avenue to herself if Charlotte and Becky move to Raw, Asuka has a chance to be the ace of the SDL women’s division. As a result, you find her here at this spot. The Empress is going to get her due now and has always been a high-level talent. I would suspect that she’s duking it out for the crown of best women’s wrestler in the company by year’s end.

7. Johnny Gargano

What’s the only thing stopping Johnny Gargano from being near the top again? Probably just himself or bad writing. Granted, the latter happened at the end of 2018 and really nuked his chance of being Top 5 or even Top 1. But his TakeOver resume is undoubtedly amazing and he’s a safe bet to have incredible matches any time he’s on TV. It all really depends on how everything is portrayed and how everything is pieced together. If it all goes well, Johnny Wrestling will once again be one of the best wrestlers under the WWE umbrella.

6. Becky Lynch

Do I foresee big things for The Man? I mean, do I want to say no? Have you seen what she does to people who dare cross her? Becky had a phenomenal run in the back half of 2018, but her early stuff definitely would’ve limited her if I did a rankings list like this for 2018 since she was barely on television for the first four months of the year. But that’s not going to be the case in 2019. Becky is the biggest star in the company and whether it’s on SmackDown or Raw, she’s GOING to get her shots. She hasn’t missed lately and with banger possibilities coming up against Ronda Rousey and maybe some of her old friends on Raw coming up, Becky will be right back up here soon enough.

5. AJ Styles

The face of SmackDown Live has been nothing if not consistent since he got to WWE. Styles may have had his moments in 2018, but he’s still without a doubt an elite in-ring worker. With fresh faces on SmackDown for him to possibly work with (I don’t foresee him going to Monday Night Raw in a Superstar Shakeup, but it’s certainly not an unreasonable thought) he could have a chance to piece together yet another great year. The only thing that might stop him? Styles is 41 going on 42 and he might wind up working a little bit of a lighter schedule, therefore limiting his chances of getting enough points to be up this high.

4. Roderick Strong

Roddy Strong had a phenomenal 2018, so is he destined to do the same in 2019? I’d argue yes. He’s the best in-ring worker in Undisputed Era (although he is definitely closely followed by at least two of his comrades). He’s also one half of what I believe to be the greatest tag team in the entire wrestling world right now alongside his UE buddy, Kyle O’Reilly. Also, I think rather highly of him as a singles wrestler and he cashed in on all of his chances in 2018. 2019 should see him get even larger amounts of success, so I think Strong has a great chance of being near the top again.

3. Seth Rollins

Rollins was a very popular pick for Wrestler of the Year in 2018 and it’s easy to see why. He went beast mode at the start of the year and was incredibly consistent in the spring and summer. The last few months have soured people a little bit with some dull and repetitive matches with Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose. But, with that said, it’s still probable that he has an outstanding 2019. He’ll get his chances on TV and at PPVs, and Seth should be able to cash in.

2. Buddy Murphy

Are you a little surprised? Maybe you shouldn’t be. Buddy Murphy pieced together an absolutely incredible 2018 and it’s arguable that he was the greatest story of 2018. Forgotten in NXT, Murphy took a huge leap in becoming one of the biggest stars on the 205 Live brand. The current Cruiserweight Champion had standout matches with just about everyone (Kalisto, Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, etc.) I am putting him very high on this list because of two reasons: One, he’s very young and while it might be hard to replicate a year like his 2018, he’ll no doubt have his chances. And secondly, I foresee him getting off the 205 Live island at some point by the time he eventually drops his championship. So an abundance of chances against top-level workers could come his way.

1. Daniel Bryan

After a three-year absence from the ring, Daniel Bryan returned with a vengeance in 2018. Bryan may have been ‘sterile’ in some eyes but he was producing at a high level. As time wore on, Bryan found his comfort zone and it really started at SummerSlam. By November, Bryan looked like the old Daniel Bryan or, hell, the old American Dragon. His matches with AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar were at a ridiculously high caliber. It is the opinion of this writer and probably many more that by the time 2020 is about to come around, Daniel Bryan will once again be known as the best wrestler in the company and arguably the best wrestler in the world. If he already isn’t right now.

Ruthless Aggression - Who run the world? Girls

After a long hiatus, there's so much to catch up on. Nia Jax's punch on Becky Lynch not only changed the Survivor Series main event; it may have changed the Wrestlemania main event as well, and it turned Becky into a supernova. Pierce Chris and Rob talk about the aftermath of that punch and the ripple effects its had on the Federation. Plus, the "new" Daniel Bryan, Johnny Loser, the rumored All Elite Wrestling league, and as always we take a trip back to this week in the Ruthless Aggression era!

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Follow Chris: @ChrisMNovak

First Black Champ - "@real1 ain't Eddie Kane Jr."

The effect of "The Man" is real! JR Bang & Cam Quotes talk about the aftermath of Becky Lynch's injury and how it effects Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair and Nia Jax. We also talk about "@real1" and how his Survivor Series antics are proof that he's fell off and isn't as big as he thought his was. All that and more on this week's #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

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Follow Cam Quotes: @ImCamQuotes

Ruthless Aggression - the Elimination Chamber

The gang doubles up on shows this week! First up: Raw 494 and Smackdown 169, leading right up to Survivor Series 2002 from Madison Square Garden, featuring the first edition of the Elimination Chamber! Then: Raw 495 and Smackdown 170! Plus, Pierce, Rob and Chris give their predictions for this Sunday's Survivor Series PPV in LA, along with NXT Takeover: War Games!