Posts tagged Bobby Roode
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.  

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.

nxt takeover chicago.png

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 Fastlane predictions

Becky Lynch & Naomi vs. Natalya & Carmella

Lincoln: I cannot wait for the dual brand PPVs so matches like this won’t happen. These women deserve better storylines, not just a throwaway match on a PPV. Enough criticism, I’m picking Becky Lynch & Naomi.

Rob: Ah, yes. The classic “this match is happening because… Twitter? I guess?” match. This will be perfectly fine because Becky and Naomi are good, Carmella is getting better, and Natalya isn’t always outwardly terrible in the ring. As far as picking a winner? I guess I’ll go with the faces. Sure.

Prediction: Becky Lynch/Naomi

Chris: SDL’s women’s division has been pretty dead in the water in the past few months. This tag team match is a decent way of getting them time, but it feels very thrown together after the last week or so. I’m not really sure who’s going to win this one because of that. So, I’ll play it safe and just say the faces win. Becky Lynch & Naomi will defeat Natalya & Carmella.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev

Lincoln: While I wish this match would happen in different circumstances, I think we all know who’s going to win. Nakamura needs a match on Fastlane to increase his momentum since he’s part of the WWE championship match at Wrestlemania 34. Nakamura wins

Rob: I can’t wait for this match. These two have all the skills to put on a great showing, plus Rusev has become the most entertaining person on all of Smackdown (thanks to Aiden English!). Shinsuke will (should, at least) win, but it’s a good win for him to get as a tune-up for his Wrestlemania match.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Chris: I’m looking forward to this match as it’s probably going to be pretty good. Rusev and Nakamura are both extremely over with the crowd (although people thinking Nak is going to be booed in this match are hilarious). This is an easy call, as Shinsuke Nakamura will win to gain momentum towards WrestleMania. But I suspect Rusev will look good in doing so.

Charlotte vs. Ruby Riott, SDL Women’s Championship

Lincoln: Happy for Ruby Riot as she got promoted to the main roster and already has a singles match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Even with all that praise, Charlotte will retain and I feel that there will be a money in the bank fake cash-in after the match.

Rob: For as bad as the SDL women’s division is, they’ve done a fairly good job with this, having Charlotte beat Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan and having Ruby beat Becky Lynch and Naomi. I think Charlotte has to retain here, though.

Prediction: Charlotte

Chris: It’s pretty crazy that Ruby Riott is getting a Women’s Championship match on a PPV. It’s also pretty awesome. People may not realize how good she is yet, but if they give these two enough time to showcase their talents and keep all the frills and BS out of it, this will be an EXCELLENT match. SDL desperately needs a really, REALLY women’s match because… well… the well is really dry in that department. Especially compared to RAW. Charlotte will retain here, and I am honestly clueless as to what they do at Mania. Which is both good and bad.

The Usos vs. The New Day, SDL Tag Team Championships

Lincoln: We are getting another New Day / Usos feud but there is an interesting element in play, The Bludgeon Brothers. I have a feeling that this will be a DQwith The Bludgeon Brothers attacking both sides and this will set up a triple threat at Wrestlemania.

Rob: One of the best tag-team feuds of all-time gets another match added to its history. I’m here for it. These two teams work so well together that it’s almost certainly going to be the match of the night, and the mic work will also be fantastic. I’m going to take the New Day with a rematch coming at Wrestlemania.

Prediction: New Day

Chris: Normally, reigniting a rivalry only four months after this whole thing came to an end would draw heat. But The Usos and The New Day are SO GOOD that it’s easy to look past that. Maybe that’s hypocritical, maybe not. Anyways, this is going to be an absolute hoot. These two teams have never not created magic, and I doubt that stops anytime soon. I’m undecided on this… but if they want to keep things interesting… I’m going to predict that The New Day get the win. The Bludgeon Brothers are looming ahead, but I’m predicting we get one title change here.

Bobby Roode vs. Randy Orton, United States Championship

Lincoln: I tried to care about this feud, but it’s not moving me at all. Bobby retains with some unwarranted help from Jinder Mahal, setting up a triple threat at Wrestlemania.

Rob: Oh, man. This match is gonna be… not for me. Both guys are fine, but their slow deliberate styles lead to matches that take forever to get going and I really can’t handle it. If you like it, good for you! But it’s not for me. I guess I’ll pick Roode to retain.

Prediction: BOB ROODE

Chris: I’m tentatively excited about this match. I say tentatively because it could also be slow and plodding like… well, most Randy Orton matches and most Bobby Roode matches, as well. They usually get an uptick late, so that’s why I still have my reservations about it. I don’t think this ends cleanly at ALL. Especially with Jinder Mahal calling himself the uncrowned United States Champ on Twitter and Insta. I think Mahal interferes and causes a no contest, setting up a Triple Threat at Mania.

WWE Championship Six-Pack Challenge

Lincoln: AJ Styles retains, WWE have done dumb things in the past but I have faith that they will keep the dream match alive for WM34.

Rob: Well, this is a mess. At least they went away from yet another match of just Styles/Owens/Zayn? That’s good, that’s been overdone. But the solution was… this. Which, there’s a lot going on. My biggest problem with PPVs between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania is it’s hard to predict anything big happening, because it would mess with the Wrestlemania card.

Prediction: AJ Styles

Chris: Okay, I don’t need to do too much here. AJ Styles will retain the title. I think he pins John Cena. I don’t think Dolph Ziggler or Baron Corbin will factor too much into this, although Corbin is excellent in multi-man matches. And Sami Zayn will continue to bleed towards turning his back on Kevin Owens.

This week in WWE
Raw_rendered--ec68e1bc84425572999a0fb774ea7165.png

Chris Novak: Alright, so we start off with Roman Reigns vs. Bray Wyatt as an Elimination Chamber Qualifier. Guess how that went? 

WWE

WWE

Robert O’Neill: It was actually a pretty good match (it was a Roman TV match, duh). Bray got his moves in and reminded me that he’s actually not terrible in the right role. Then Matt Hardy came out and laughed like a moron. Segment ruined.

Chris: I’ve gathered you aren’t much of a fan of The Delete Man. But I know who you are a fan of: The Revival. They got some burn tonight against Finn Balor and “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson.

Robert: *ahem* TOP GUYS WATCH: The Revival came out, scheduled for a singles match against Finn Balor. That was quickly turned into a tag match as Finn picked Karl Anderson as his partner

WWE

WWE

Chris: And… oh, what is this? A Bayley-Sasha interaction on my TV? Hey now, Sasha’s watching her match last week, lamenting in her loss. Bayley attempts to get things out of Sasha, but she says she’s keeping her tricks to herself. Then… oh, baby, then things get SPICY. Sasha, preposterously, asks Bayley if she really thinks she can beat Asuka. So, what does Bayley say in return? “I know I can beat YOU.” !!!!!!

Robert: Have Bayley face Sasha at Mania in the Eddie Guererro/Rey Mysterio WM21 frienimies match and ride the wave all summer.

Chris: That’s all I’ve ever wanted in life. We seem to be on a collision course for that now. Especially with them referencing the Rumble. I suspect Bayley loses this match, maybe with Sasha interfering, and Bayley gets the better of Sasha at Elimination Chamber. Then, Banks snaps.

And hey, look at that, the Cruiserweights had a fun tag match. The crowd got involved. Drake Maverick is a fun guy. I think they might have finally figured this whole division out. What say you?

Robert: I was happy to see Drew Gulak, because he’s a treasure. Cedric Alexander is also fun as hell and probably should be the next Cruiserweight champion.

Kurt Angle encouraging the YOU SUCK chant makes the whole thing really lame.

Chris: It really does, doesn’t it? Hey, Alexa Bliss works here? I had no idea. Anywho, Alexa is mad now that Nia could get added to the match. Hey, what a surprise that Bliss is good on the mic.

Robert: That got kinda weird in a hurry. I get what they were trying to do but… yeah they took it a bit too far.

Chris: Not sure how much I liked the whole “sexist” bit. Poorly contrived there. HOWEVER… they addressed a lot of the complaints that people have had about Alexa (someone should write an article about her treatment on RAW) so, in that sense, I liked it. We’ll see where this takes us. I have no idea why they’re having Nia-Asuka happen, where Nia would get “added” to the match. Asuka never made her decision. Unless they’re pulling our legs, and having Asuka go to SDL after the match, thereby setting up… Alexa vs. Nia? At Mania? Hmmm.

Robert: It wasn’t the best match Bayley and Asuka have ever had, but it was fun. I like this new trend where it looks like there’s at least a chance Asuka might lose the match. Nice refresh from the first couple months of her main roster stint.

Chris: What a surprise that Very Good Professional Wrestler Bayley had a very good match. I, for one, am shocked.

No, I’m not shocked. That was EASILY one of her best matches on the main roster. Her 2017 was injury-riddled and mired in some, um, let’s call it “poor” booking and be nice about it. Yeah. Anywho, I want to see more of this Bayley going forward. The attitude. The SNARK. The aggressiveness in the ring. That was all very good.

Now, let’s shift gears. Looks like The Miz is fighting for his Elimination Chamber spot against Apollo Crews. A SummerSlam 2016 rematch!

Robert: That was fun. Apollo is good. Titus Worldwide is a lot of fun. Miz winning was probably the right decision because he can get involved with someone else in the chamber for an IC title match at Mania.

Chris: Wait, we get TWO Roman matches tonight? What a night. Jordan, injured evidently, couldn’t go, and with Rollins needing a partner… Roman shows up #outtanowhere, and nothing even needed to be said there. If I wasn’t so damn sure that Jordan was being written off TV here because of his reported neck issues (I hope he heals up, because that’s scary shit) I would say he was going to cost Reigns and Rollins this match.

And then what happened? He DID cost them the match.

Robert: Roman and Seth work well together (duh). Sheamus and Cesaro are great (duh.) Jason Jordan is dumb and Kurt Angle banished him from Raw until he “gets medically cleared”

Chris: Wait. Hold on a minute here. We had a Nia squash and an in-ring interview. Then we had Sonya versus Mickie… *does the math* SIX WOMEN’S SEGMENTS? THREE WOMEN’S MATCHES? What in the world is going on? Are they… gasp… actually rolling out with proper booking and presentation of the women? Finally? My word.

Also very intriguing that Alexa saved Mickie. Rob, your thoughts??

Robert: It’s definitely interesting, but I actually really like it. Alexa knows she needs all the help she can get in the elimination chamber, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see her continue to butter up some of her opponents.

QUICK RESULTS:
Roman Reigns def. Bray Wyatt to qualify for the Elimination Chamber
Finn Balor & Karl Anderson def. The Revival
Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali def. Drew Gulak & Tony Nese
Asuka def. Bayley
The Miz def. Apollo Crews to qualify for the Elimination Chamber
The Bar def. Seth Rollins & Jason Jordan to retain the RAW Tag Team Titles
Nia Jax squashed Vanessa Floyd, a jobber
Mickie James def. Sonya Deville
Elias def. John Cena and Braun Strowman. Elias will enter the Elimination Chamber last

Robert: We were in the building for Smackdown this week, so our views may differ, because the live wrestling experience bumps everything up regardless of if it’s actually good. That’s just science.

WWE

WWE

Chris: It’s true. Live wrestling experiences are typically great and much better than watching on TV. The only bad part is the fact that you may have to deal with a bunch of dorky and sometimes uncomfortable fans.

Robert: I really want this Shane/Bryan story to have a satisfying payoff. And I want Bryan to be cleared and have a match, but damn if this isn’t starting to get annoying. It’s just repetitive. And, as I’ve noted, I like Styles/Zayn/Owens a whole bunch, but they don’t work well together.

Chris: I liked this angle a lot when there were layers to it. Now they just seem to be dragging it out unnecessarily. Kill the bait after Fastlane and get one with Nakamura/Styles. Please and thank you.

Robert: Liv and Charlotte worked really well for me. You knew Charlotte was going to win the entire time, but how they tell that story is so important. Liv tried using the numbers game to her advantage until Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan got ejected from ringside, and Charlotte was able to use her size and strength advantage to overpower Liv. You can tell they have high hopes for Liv though.

Chris: I get the sense that Charlotte’s gonna face Ruby at Fastlane. Or perhaps face all three in a Fatal 4-Way of some kind. I don’t particularly know, but it would be fun either way. That said… uh, where was the rest of the women’s division? After the absolutely brilliant usage of the women on RAW, with character developments, multiple matchups (including a very good one with Asuka and Bayley) the fact that SDL had one and only one segment dedicated to the women was incredibly disappointing. Then again, SDL’s women’s division has always either been overrated or thrown together.

Robert: It’s Wednesday evening and the Bludgeon Brothers theme is still stuck in my head. I was kind of curious as to if The Usos could have a good (eventual) match with them given the difference  in size and styles, but The Usos are one of the best tag teams in WWE history, so they’ll be fine. Speaking of The Usos, they cut another banger of a promo.

Chris: That they did. You have to respect what they’ve done over the past year. Reinvented themselves and then some. The Usos-Bludgeon Brothers seems like a fair bet for Fastlane. I don’t know what’s to come after that, but The Usos have more than earned the right to be on the main card of WrestleMania.

WWE

WWE

Robert: Rusev and BOB ROODE had a fantastic match that made me believe more than once that Rusev may pull off the victory. Rusev is incredibly over with the live crowd, and it seems like just a matter of time before he gets a title, either US or WWE. Not to mention, Aiden English has put his heart and soul into the singing gimmick and made it incredible. Randy Orton coming out and RKOing everyone at the end was dumb because Randy Orton sucks.

Chris: I’m going to disagree here. I actually like the prospect of Orton-Roode going forward. Orton’s chasing after the one championship he’s never gotten (he’s basically gotten everything except for the old WWE Tag Team Titles from SmackDown and the current RAW Tag Team Titles). Even though this would be a feud where you have two guys who work better as heels than faces. I don’t know, I’ll wait until the jury’s out here.

Robert: I can’t help but to feel like they could be doing more with Gable and Benjamin, especially considering how they booked them the last two months. Being the heel jock tag team is good, I guess, but they’re very good and probably should get more action.

Chris: The rest of the tag division could certainly be booked a lot better, because these two are terrific characters right now.

Robert: Despite being beyond tired of Zayn/Owens at this point, this match worked for me. You can tell these guys have been fighting each other for most of the past two decades, and whenever Sami does the spot where he dives through the gap between the turnbuckle and the ringpost, I go crazy for it. The ending was… whatever. I would have rather seen Sami win just to get some fresh blood in the match, but Styles is winning anyway so it really doesn’t matter who they have him face. This is why having a PPV between the Rumble and Mania is dumb.

Chris: There’s always been PPVs before the Rumble tho, Rob. They gotta maketheir money somehow. Being predictable isn’t necessarily a wrong thing either. That said… God, like I said before, please just end this stuff.

Robert: The Mixed Match Challenge remains a ton of fun. The fact that Goldust is still working in 2018 is pretty amazing to me, and his laugh during the “you still got it” chant was excellent. Mandy Rose continues to be better in the ring than people give her credit for, and Naomi and Jim Uso unsurprisingly worked well together. Daniel Bryan as the guest ref was a cool touch too, even though he Pebbles Flintstone’d his hair for whatever reason.

Chris: Honestly crying at the Pebbles Flintstone comparison. Because it’s totally true. This was a fun one, but I’m still annoyed that we missed out on Elias and Bayley by a week. Cannot wait to see those two in the ring with a guitar next week. Going to be EPIC. EPIC I tell you. EPIC.

QUICK RESULTS
Charlotte def. Liv Morgan in a non-title match
The Bludgeon Brothers squashed two jobbers
Bob Roode def. Rusev to retain the United States Championship
Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable def. The Ascension
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn fought to a no contest

WWE Weekly recap

Good

BRRRRRRAAAAAUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN

Without exaggeration, this was one of the most entertaining and iconic things to ever happen on Raw. The show opened with Braun Strowman coming to the ring and talking about how he was going to win the title at Royal Rumble. Eventually Kurt Angle came out, and he was none too pleased considering Strowman literally tried to kill Brock Lesnar and Kane by pulling a wall down on them with a grappling hook last week. This led to Angle removing Strowman from the match at Royal Rumble and firing him.

A security team tried to get Strowman out of the building. It went… poorly. He threw a couple of them into a large garage door and put another one through a table as he made it back into the building to try and find Angle. After going to Angle’s office and not finding him, Strowman trashed it, INCLUDING THROWING AN OFFICE CHAIR THROUGH A TELEVISION. He then made his way to catering and put Curt Hawkins through a table. A short time later, Strowman made his way to the production trucks (they’re worth twelve million dollars!) and threatened to break all the monitors. He didn’t. Instead, he left the truck, unhooked the trailer, AND LITERALLY FLIPPED THE SEMI OVER.

That still wasn’t enough. He went back into the arena and grabbed Michael Cole. By this point, Angle came out and said Strowman could be back in the match as long as he let Cole go. Well… he did. He threw Cole off the stage into the security guards to end his rampage.

A lot has been made about how Strowman is essentially 1996-97 Stone Cold at this point, and it’s tough to disagree. Especially from an “arrive, raise hell, leave” point of view. It’s a matter of if, not when, for his WWE title hopes.  

 

Titus Worldwide!

For the second straight week, Titus Worldwide picked up a win over The Bar. Unlike last week, however, it was thanks to a distraction from Jason Jordan. This match accomplished two things: First, it continues to get Titus Worldwide some credibility. Second, Jordan coming out wasn’t something Seth Rollins was aware of. Rollins came out shortly after the match and expressed his displeasure with it. Eventually, Rollins is gonna tire of Jordan and cut bait, and this helps further that.

Goldberg Being Inducted in the Hall of Fame

Ah, yes. Hall of Fame tickets go on sale this week, so WWE has to announce the headliner. While I would have preferred The Rock (they’ll probably wait until they’re in Miami again for that, right?), there’s no arguing Goldberg belongs in the WWE Hall of Fame. His WCW run stands on its own in terms of unprecedented dominance, his initial WWE debut the night after Wrestlemania 19 is probably the second-best WWE debut ever after Chris Jericho, and his second run proved a lot of people (myself included) wrong as he had a series of memorable matches with Brock Lesnar. The only question now is who will induct Goldberg?

Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

Remember a couple months ago when the big rumor was that Balor had fallen out of sorts with the powers that be in WWE? Well, he main evented Raw for the second straight week.

This match came about because Jason Jordan told Kurt Angle to put Rollins in a match with Balor, so the rift is getting furthered there. As for the actual match, it was exactly what you’d expect. Balor and Rollins are probably two of the five best workers in the company, so we were in for a treat.

Near the end of the match, Seth hit a frog splash and Balor kicked out after a veeeerrrrrry close two count. Near falls don’t generally get me these days because WWE does them all the time, but this one did. A few minutes later, The Bar’s music hit and they came out. Jordan got out of the way and The Bar started brawling with Gallows and Anderson outside. Balor went over the top and took everyone out and got back in the ring to attempt a Coup De Grace. Rollins avoided it and Jordan tripped Balor behind the referee’s back, leading to a CURB STOMP (!!!!!) from Rollins to end the match.

Rollins doesn’t have a defined finisher, so going back to the curb stomp would be a welcome addition.

Bad

Woken Matt Hardy

It’s just not working for me. It was pretty cool and unique a couple times in TNA, and by this point it just feels kind of… not good. All he does is say weird stuff and laugh weirdly. He won a match over Heath Slater and it was a perfectly fine match, but I just don’t like the gimmick.

 

TOP GUYS WATCH

Whew, boy. There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, The Revival had a match on Raw! They won! One of the guys they faced was Aaron Solow, who is married to Bayley! After the match, Charly Caruso interviewed them in the ring and they did a worked shoot about how they aren’t a product of the WWE boardroom and they’re the best tag team in wrestling. Hard agree.

Other Stuff

Asuka defeated Nia Jax: This was a solid match, despite everyone knowing Asuka was going to win. That’s the main problem when you have someone on a big-time streak on one side, it’s always clear how the result is going to be so you have to be as creative as possible in getting to the result. They’re generally good at that with Asuka. Nia used her size and strength to dominate Asuka for most of the match before Asuka kicked Nia in the calf on the stairs and Nia hurt her leg, leading to a referee stoppage.

Cedric Alexander defeated Tony Nese: Alexander is facing Enzo Amore for the Cruiserweight Championship at Royal Rumble, so he faced Nese, who was with Enzo again instead of the much more entertaining Drew Gulak.

Elias: Elias introduced The Miz, yet again. He continues to be one of the most entertaining acts on Raw, if not in the history of Raw at this point.

Sonya Deville defeated Sasha Banks: This was a pretty short match, but Sonya’s physicality and MMA roots were on display. If the reports are to be believe and Paige is unable to compete again in WWE, making the rest of Absolution look strong is a necessity. This is a good start

Roman Reigns defeated The Miztourage: It was a perfectly good Reigns match. Miztourage used the numbers game in their favor, as you should in a handicap match, and Reigns ultimately overcame when attempted distractions by the Miz ended up working against his team. Really wise heel booking, even if it’s been overdone in the majority of tag team matches.

 

Quick Results:
Titus Worldwide d. The Bar
Cedric Alexander d. Tony Nese
Asuka d. Nia Jax
The Revival d. Aaron Solow & Ricky Starks
Roman Reigns d. The Miztourage
Sonya Deville d. Sasha Banks
Matt Hardy d. Heath Slater
Seth Rollins d. Finn Balor

Good

GLORIOUS!

While it’s admittedly a bit weird to start these recaps with the show’s main event, Bobby Roode defeating Jinder Mahal for the United States Championship was easily the most important thing to happen on Smackdown. Heading into the evening, the semifinals of Mahal vs. Xavier Woods and Roode vs. Mojo Rawley were the only things scheduled, with the finals presumably next week. However, after Roode’s victory over Rawley, the Singh Brothers came out and attacked him, leading to Mahal saying he wanted Roode to think about the attack for a full week. Daniel Bryan then came out and moved the finals from next week to this week’s main event!

Bryan and Shane McMahon came out for the main event and the Singh Brothers were banned from ringside as a result of the attack earlier in the night. Roode and Mahal went at it for about 15 minutes, which was impressive given each had already wrestled a match earlier. After a back and forth bout, Roode hit a Glorious DDT to capture his first main roster championship.

If I had to guess, I would imagine Dolph Ziggler shows up next week and goes on about how he never technically lost the title and Roode faces him at Royal Rumble, but we’ll have to wait and see.

It was a pretty weird night for Smackdown, because of the four matches, three were part of the US Title tournament. So, aside from this stuff, nothing really happened.

A-Squad vs. Riott Squad

While no one has actually taken to calling Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Naomi the “A-Squad”, they’re clearly the three best women on Smackdown, and if they’re gonna go against the Riott Squad, the nickname is right there for the taking. This is actually the first installment of this match we’ve seen, unlike Raw which ran Sasha/Bayley/Mickie vs. Absolution like 25 times in a month. It was a nice long match that saw everyone get some solid work in and Liv Morgan took down Naomi for the finish.

It’s going to be interesting to see how these factions work in the Royal Rumble, and what the plans for them are after the Royal Rumble, because it doesn’t seem like a long-lasting idea given they’ve done pretty much everything there is to do at this point.

Regardless of that, I liked this.

Bad/Other Stuff

It’s hard to really say anything “bad” happened, because I liked all four matches and have a hard time calling interviews or backstage stuff “bad” because it’s ultimately just filler. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens weren’t on the show, which was a weird decision (Owens is apparently dealing with a “nagging injury” according to The Observer) but AJ Styles talked up the handicap match in an interview with Renee Young.

Dasha Fuentes tried to interview The Usos about their 2 of 3 falls match with Gable and Benjamin, but Gable and Benjamin attacked them from behind and had to be pulled apart by officials.

Quick Results

Jinder Mahal d. Xavier Woods (US Title Semifinal)
Bobby Roode d. Mojo Rawley (US Title Semifinal)
Riott Squad d. Lynch/Charlotte/Naomi
Bobby Roode d. Jinder Mahal (US Title Final)

WWE Mixed Match Challenge preview

One of the coolest WWE things of the past few years has been the rise of unexpected tournaments. In 2017, we saw the United Kingdom Championship Tournament and Mae Young Classic. Both came after the success of 2016’s Cruiserweight Classic.

2018’s tournament is perhaps the most ambitious installment to date: The Mixed Match Challenge. Twelve teams containing one male and one female superstar will battle it out over the next three months for the prize of $100,000 to a charity of their choice. One match a week will air on Facebook Live following Smackdown every week.

 

Finn Balor and Sasha Banks

Off the bat, we have one of my favorite teams in the entire MMC. Banks and Balor have similar styles and should develop chemistry fairly easy, not to mention watching Balor square off with Shinsuke Nakamura will be a blast in the first round. Bonus points for this team if Banks does demon paint or Balor wears stunner shades as part of the entrance. While this team is fine, I probably would have put Banks with Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns and save Balor for someone I’ll touch on below.

Shinsuke Nakamura and Natalya

This team misses the mark for me, if only because I don’t really care for Natalya. I wish there was a way she could have teamed with Cesaro, despite the show difference, as a callback to Cesaro’s tag team with Natayla’s husband, Tyson Kidd. As noted above, watching Nakamura and Balor go at it will be fun, and Banks is good enough that Natalya won’t bore me as much as usual.

The Miz and Asuka

As you can see from the bracket, most real-life couples in WWE are teaming up for this. However, with Maryse being pregnant, Miz was left without a partner. He ended up with a good one. Miz is one of the most underrated workers in the company and everyone knows how great Asuka is. This is a team that could go far.

Big E and Carmella

Carmella has been misused ever since James Ellsworth got released so I didn’t care much about this pairing, but then New Day released a Rocky-style training montage complete with pancakes and music and I’m 100% on board now.

Big E can handle Miz but, uh, Carmella is probably a bit overmatched against Asuka.

Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman

My personal favorite team in this entire tournament. Just the visual of the two of them standing next to each other will be amazing, but I also really enjoy watching both of them work, and will especially like watching them each rehash old rivalries in the first-round tilt against Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn. It’s tough to bet against any team with BRRRRRAAAAAUUUUUNNNNN in a tournament like this, so they may very well end up being my pick to take the whole thing.

Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn

I really wish they didn’t face Braun and Alexa in the first round, because this is probably my second-favorite team in the tournament. Becky and Sami work well together because they’re both weird and it’s embraced and fantastic. I’m pretty sure the losing team between these two will be back in with the fans’ choice vote later in the tournament.

Goldust and Alicia Fox

Speaking of weird, how about these two? Goldust remains the same weird character he was 20 years ago (except PG, but it still works) and Fox is coming off one of her most fun runs in a while after Survivor Series. She’s cooled off a little since then, but I think the comedy between these two will be top notch.

Jimmy Uso and Naomi

We’ve finally gotten to one of the real-life couples! This will be a ton of fun. Jimmy Uso is one of the best tag team wrestlers in WWE history and Naomi has been one of the highlights of the women’s division since reinventing herself to the Feel The Glow persona. Like with Banks and Balor, I’m interested in seeing how they handle the entrance.

Elias and Bayley

Elias is a fun act that everyone really enjoys. Bayley is a fun act that everyone really enjoys. And yet… WWE dropped the ball here. Putting Balor and Bayley together was an absolute layup, and WWE blew it.

Again, Elias and Bayley will be fine and probably lead to some fun pre-match concert stuff, but the entire time I’ll be thinking about the big time missed opportunity, and that’s unfortunate.

Rusev and Lana

Real life couple, again. It’s fine. Lana’s not very good but Rusev is excellent in and out of the ring and if there’s any good in the world, Aiden English will still be the one to announce their entrance

Apollo Crews and Nia Jax

Nia wanted to team with Enzo Amore but he got sick and was ruled out of the MMC, so she ended up with Apollo Crews. That’ll be fun. They have similar styles and their first round match against Bobby Roode and Charlotte should click well.

Bobby Roode and Charlotte

Another dark horse team brought together by their love of nice robes. Roode and Charlotte are two of the most decorated NXT stars of all time and the success has translated to the main roster. It definitely wouldn’t be a surprise to see them in the finals.

Prediction

It’s really tough to predict something like this because it’s never happened before and we don’t know how the teams are going to gel. If I had to pick right now, though, I would take Braun and Alexa over Roode and Charlotte in the finals.

All photos courtesy of WWE