Posts tagged Charlotte
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
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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-

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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-

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

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Ruthless Aggression - "Rey Mysterio Drinks Modelo"

Pierce Chris and Rob talk about that ridiculous Almas-Mysterio match from Smackdown, Balor replacing Braun in the Royal Rumble match against the Beast, the new women's tag titles, AEW and more!

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 503
Smackdown 179
Royal Rumble 2003

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

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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 - Santa-Dust

Celebrate Christmas with Santa-Dust and Ruthless Aggression!

Topics:
WWE apologizing for terrible shows
The vague message of change from the McMahon's
NXT Call-Ups
Ryan Satin's comments on The Elite's mainstream popularity
TLC Recap

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 499
Smackdown 175

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

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TLC 2018: Results, recap, analysis
WWETLC2014.0.0.png

An action-packed night in San Jose is in the books. Rob and Chris dissect what went down at TLC.

Buddy Murphy vs. Cedric Alexander - Cruiserweight Championship

Chris Novak: Buddy retained after a somewhat lengthy preshow match. The match was pretty solid, as cruiserweight kickoff matches come around. There’ve been better matches in Buddy’s title reign but this was more than serviceable. I will give it ***¼ and move on from there.

Robert O’Neill: People were mad that this was on the preshow, but it’s actually fine. They were just on the main card a month ago!

Elias vs. Bobby Lashley - Ladder Match

Chris Novak: This got preshow treatment and I’m a bit surprised but I guess it doesn’t really matter. They’re doing a ladder match with a guitar above the ring. This feels very 2000 WCW and I’m really not sure how to feel about it. The match was solid and not spectacular. Elias won, and they did a deal with him trying to hit Lashley with the guitar. Lio stopped him from doing so and then Lashley attacked him. Lio dove off the top rope afterwards, and hit Elias with a frog splash and Lashley hit him with the guitar after. *** I suppose, although it was nothing memorable. Post-match angle wasn’t really my taste since Elias and the other Raw babyfaces have been getting dominated, so I don’t see the point in continuing to run that.

Robert O’Neill: Ya know, if Jeff Jarrett is back in good graces with WWE and they’re insistent on this Elias guitar weaponry why don’t they make him Elias’ manager? That would be cool even if it’s just a one-off. Anyway this match was what it is. Both guys can move on now.

Fabulous Truth vs. Mahalicia -- MMC Finals

Chris Novak: This was a petty fun opener that got plenty of time. Do I have sour grapes? Does a bear shit in the woods? Fabulous Truth won after Carmella broke out the Code of Silence for the win. So, Carmella and R-Truth get their vacation and they also get the #30 spots in the Royal Rumble this year.

Robert O’Neill: I actually enjoyed this as the opener. It made a lot of sense to be in that spot, and I hope the third installment of the Mixed Match Challenge isn’t cursed and has better injury luck. I think there can be a lot of entertaining stuff over the next few weeks with regards to the vacation (since Truth picked WWE Headquarters in Stamford, which will be hilarious.) and Royal Rumble situation.

The New Day vs. The Usos vs. The Bar - SD Tag Team Championships

Chris Novak: Very good match here, as is to be expected. These three teams brought out the goods and there were hardly any chances to catch your breath. The Bar retained after Sheamus hit the Brogue Kick. Right team won. Wondering what’s going to happen next here but it honestly doesn’t matter because the SD tag division is awesome. Going to give this **** and not think twice about it.

Robert O’Neill: That was fine. I mean, they’re three of the best tag teams in WWE history. It makes sense. The Bar retaining is good. I hope The Usos or New Day go to Raw soon.

Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin - TLC Match

Chris Novak: So Braun is still hurt. Instead of doing Braun-Corbin, they had all the babyfaces that Corbin has dicked with (Apollo Crews, Gable and Roode, Finn AND Heath Slater) attack Corbin and go after him with chairs. After they attacked Corbin, Kurt Angle showed up to give Corbin his desserts too. Everyone hit their finishers on Corbin, Strowman stepped on Corbin and got the 1-2-3. Braun gets his title match at the Rumble. Honestly, I’m not going to rate this match, but this was FANTASTICALLY done, and a GREAT way for the babyfaces to get comeuppance.

Robert O’Neill: That was like a house show match stuck in the middle of a PPV where all the faces got their moves in, but the return of Angle and the end of the Constable Corbin stuff, which was fine for what it is, is a net positive for me.

Ruby Riott vs. Natalya - Tables Match

Chris Novak: Storytelling in this one was very good but I did not dig the pace. Took way too long to get everything accomplished honestly, but the ends did justify the means. Nattie systematically took everybody out and then pulled out a table with Ruby on it, much like Ruby had a table with The Anvil on it. She also put on Anvil’s jacket. Nattie eventually put Ruby on the table and looked like she was going to jump through her. Ruby countered, and looked to hurricarana her. But Nattie powerbombed her through to win the match. *** for that. Just fine.

Robert O’Neill: This took a long time and I was pretty concerned that Liv Morgan might have gotten injured after her bump through the table, but in all it was fine. Nothing on this show has been bad so far, which is nice, given how Raw has been the past few weeks.

Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre

Chris Novak: Would you look at that? Finn Balor got a big win on a PPV! The match was really good (although I’d argue that it could’ve been a bit better if it wasn’t slowly paced). Balor got the win with a little assistance from Dolph Ziggler who provided distraction (although perhaps not intentionally so to help Finn but rather to meddle with Drew Mac). Finn hit the Coup de Grace for the W. ***, and this show continues to be very solid.

Robert O’Neill: Hey that was fun! It had much more Dolph Ziggler than I care to see (see, any amount of Dolph Ziggler), but I thought it was good. It didn’t last as long as it could have, but it was fine. This show has been fine so far.

Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton - Chairs Match

Chris Novak: This went about as expected. Just really solid stuff all around from two vets. Lot of chairs utilized here and plenty of violence and weaponry. Rey won via a rollup. Lot of babyfaces winning tonight and I obviously have NO problem with that. Going to give this **¼.

Robert O’Neill: Randy Orton sucks, but that match was good! I enjoyed it a lot all things considered (it had Randy Orton and was a gimmick match). Mysterio can still go and I think he’s my pick to win the Royal Rumble so he can face Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania for the title, which would be an excellent match and feud.

Nia Jax vs Ronda Rousey - Raw Women’s Championship

Chris Novak: Ronda Rousey carried Nia Jax in a match that showed off all of her goods. There’s really no other way to describe it other than that. She played a very good babyface and showed off some great power moves also including a powerbomb off the top rope after finessing out of a Samoan Drop attempt. Rousey won via an armbar and had a ridiculous torque on it. **** for me here, tied up with the tag match as the MOTN.

Robert O’Neill: Honestly, this match surpassed my expectations by quite a bit. It was the first time that Rousey really looked comfortable carrying a match, and was even better than their Money in the Bank match, which was also quite good. To Nia’s credit, she was as good as she needed to be, but Ronda was the star of the match. Shoutout to Becky Lynch for her backstage beatdown of Nia after the match, too!

Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles - WWE Championship

Chris Novak: MR. SMALL PACKAGE HAS MADE HIS TRIUMPHANT RETURN! This won’t surprise you but Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles had a great match together. Maybe could’ve been a little bit faster paced, but still, excellent stuff. Bryan retained the WWE Title via the small package after a fun sequence. ****½ here as well, and the clear MOTN so far.

Robert O’Neill: Oh, man. That was awesome. They let them go for like 25 minutes and it was slow at points, but all in all it was great. I hope to see an iron man match somewhere down the line, because I could watch these two all night.

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - WWE Intercontinental Championship

Chris Novak: We have ourselves a new IC Champ. This match fell flat in a lot of ways. Slow, plodding, lot of rest holds and not a lot of blood feuding. Hurt the match considerably. Some might say that the lack of a stipulation hurt it but I don’t know if it would’ve. You would’ve gotten more plunder in that case, but this just didn’t really work. Disappointing showing here. *** and I might be being generous here. Just missed the mark.

Robert O’Neill: No WWE trope frustrates me more than when a BLOOD FEUD ends with two guys doing slow rest holds over and over instead of beating the shit out of each other. This also should have been Raw’s TLC match instead of Corbin/Strowman. I thought it would be good because Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose are both good, but it was not good.

Asuka vs. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch - Smackdown Women’s Championship

Chris Novak: A ridiculous, hotly contested match. Asuka won the SmackDown Women’s Title after Ronda Rousey came out and pushed a ladder down that had both Charlotte and Becky Lynch on it. This was nothing short of a fight. Charlotte bumped like a psycho and everybody took the brunt of punishment. ****¾ for me, and a MOTYC on a show with another MOTYC in Styles/Bryan III. Excellent match, excellent storytelling, booked properly. The women’s division is amazing.

Robert O’Neill: Good lord, what a match. Action-packed and loaded with spots from start to finish, and one of Charlotte’s best main roster performances. Becky Lynch still gets the great reactions and still will, there’s even more seeds planted for the eventual Four Horsewomen match, and Asuka is back on top after a weird year. This is all great.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: You might as well just call WWE “Women’s Wrestling Entertainment” at this point. Everything revolving around the women is just so much more intriguing than the men right now. And it’s really not remotely close, with the exception of whatever Daniel Bryan’s doing. This show had multiple babyfaces winning, which is a surprise and also is exactly what made WWE so great for so many years before they insisted on having heels dominate everything. This was a great show with one real dud, and even that wasn’t that bad. A for me.

Robert O’Neill: I couldn’t agree more. The women’s matches and segments were the best thing on this show, and I can definitively say the women have been better than the men this year. Obviously Daniel Bryan and AJ Styles are still great, but you definitely shudder to think where WWE would be if they had the same injury situation but had the women’s divisions of decades past. This show was great aside from Rollins/Ambrose. A

Re-booking TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2018

Normally I wouldn’t do this for a B-show PPV in the middle of December, but the direction that things have been going in for the last couple of months has been pretty poor. In that case, I might as well have some fun with it. Here’s what this Sunday’s TLC PPV would look like if The Barber’s Chair booked it.

Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin - TLC Match

Source: WWE Network

Source: WWE Network

Assuming this match will still take place, the stipulation is as follows: If Strowman wins, he will receive a shot at Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship next month at the Royal Rumble, and Baron Corbin will be stripped of his GM-elect role. If Corbin wins, he will become Raw GM permanently.

What Should Happen: The Baron Corbin authority angle was fun to me in the beginning, even with Kurt Angle being placed on “vacation”. But it’s run its course (as with all authority angles), and this is where it ends. Braun Strowman wins.

What Will Likely Happen: Braun Strowman returns, makes quick work of GM-elect Baron Corbin, and a new GM will be announced on Monday. Hopefully we get a Brock Lesnar appearance as well.

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

Dean Ambrose hasn’t competed on TV since the emotional night when he turned on his Shield brothers and attacked Seth Rollins two months ago. The heat has kind of cooled off on Ambrose since then, but it’s still fresh enough to pick it back up again.

What Should Happen: If the TLC match from this past Monday is indicative of anything, Seth Rollins should lose here due to one final power play from Baron Corbin. It wouldn’t make sense to have Rollins win two ladder matches in six days, but then again what has made sense on this show since October?

What Will Likely Happen: Seth Rollins may likely be considered the unanimous MVP over the course of 2018, and he doesn’t necessarily need the Intercontinental belt at this point. It would be wise to let Dean Ambrose go over in this one as Rollins (hopefully) transitions into Universal title contention over the next few months.

Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship

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Environmentalist Daniel Bryan aka The NEW Daniel Bryan might be the favorite WWE version of the former American Dragon. He also helps solidify my theory that tree-hugging vegans aren’t as nice of people that they think.

Bryan’s heel turn has done wonders to rejuvenate his career, and his WWE title run has been fun sp far. AJ Styles has consistently been one of the best workers in the company, and I can’t really name a bad match that he’s put on since debuting in the Federation three years ago. We all know what these two can bring, and I’d love to see them top the match they had on Smackdown a few weeks ago.

What Should Happen: For someone who was as beloved as Daniel Bryan was for the last five years, if you’re going to make him a villain, you have to go all out with it. To keep AJ Styles strong, have him win by DQ as Daniel Bryan goes crazy with a brutal attack as he further cements himself as the top dog on Tuesday nights.

What Will Likely Happen: I don’t know what’s in store for Daniel Bryan as we merge onto the Road to WrestleMania, but he’ll be WWE Champion for the good portion of that ride.

Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women’s Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

After legitimately breaking Becky Lynch’s face and taking her out of Survivor Series, WWE’s used the incident to propel Nia Jax towards another battle with Ronda Rousey six months later. This is one of three matches I don’t really care about, but it will have some long term ramifications to it.

What Should Happen: Make no secret that I am Ronda Rousey’s #1 hater, but the honeymoon phase with her has long passed, and I can see myself eventually having some competition if Ronda isn’t booked as someone we should care about. Jax has been positioned similarly to how she was in NXT, albeit this time she’s been given more mic time, which is another factor to me not giving a shit about what goes on in this feud. Six months after their initial battle, Rousey now has a little more experience and should be able to command the battle better this go around. She needs to look good in victory.

What Will Likely Happen: I can honestly see them formulating the matchup the same exact way that it was done at Money in the Bank, this time with Rousey actually getting a chance to close it out. Either way, she’ll be walking into 2019 still the Raw Women’s Champion.

Asuka vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair - Triple Threat TLC Match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

This absolutely NEEDS to main event the show on Sunday night. (The Man) Becky Lynch has been incredible since winning the belt at Hell In A Cell, and her 2019 is already shaping up to be a great one if they book her the right way. Unfortunately, I see her dropping her title this weekend in one of two ways...

What Should Happen: Asuka started off the year strong by winning the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble, but a loss to Charlotte at WrestleMania has derailed any momentum she had until just recently. Winning her first main roster championship would help her close out the year strong at a point when it seemed her WWE career was dead in the water.

As for Becky Lynch, this would give her the opportunity to jump ship to Monday nights, as we know that she has some business there waiting for her in the form of Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey. Perhaps a Royal Rumble win is in line?

What Will Likely Happen: Charlotte wins yet again *insert eye roll emoji*. Asuka has still yet to beat Charlotte one-on-one, and it’s likely that a Charlotte victory can build to a rematch in New Jersey this spring.

Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Bálor

This stat may be shocking if you haven’t paid attention, but Finn Bálor is undefeated in PPV singles matches since debuting on the main roster (6-0). Hopefully they play up this fact, as it’s something simple that can help the fans invest into this match even more.

What Should Happen: Can we get a Demon King appearance on this PPV? Drew Mac can surely afford a loss to THAT incarnation of Finn Balor.

What Will Likely Happen: WWE seems to have Bálor be the reliable stepping stone for others at this point in his career (not that that’s a bad thing), and I don’t expect anything different this go around as the Scottish Psychopath continues to run roughshod over the Raw roster. Drew McIntyre has asserted himself as a force on the red brand since his return in April, and now seems primed to reach the heights expected of him in 2009. A win here keeps him strong going into the Royal Rumble, as he can position himself as the favorite to win the annual classic.

The Usos vs. The New Day vs. The Bar for the Smackdown Tag Team Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

I just want to get one thing off of my chest before proceeding with this match preview: Why the FUCK is this not a TLC match or at least a ladder match?

With that being said, This is a sleeper for match of the night. We already know what The Usos and New Day can bring to the table, and The Bar has slowly crept up to legendary tag team status (I recently realized that they’re in their FIFTH title reign in only two years). Should be a great match that will possibly open the show.

What Should Happen: There hasn’t been a whole lot of heat with this feud, but it isn’t necessary when you have three great teams like this. The Bar have been on a good run here, but I can see WWE wanting The New Day to set a record of title reigns (plus I’m bias), and a win here would bring them that much closer.

What Will Likely Happen: Since The Bar stood tall on the go home show this past week, that usually spells doom come the PPV. The Smackdown Tag Team belts have been playing hot potato a bit this year, so it would be smart to stick with a team and build them into the new year.

Elias vs. Bobby Lashley - Guitar Ladder Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

Before the main event of every PPV, there’s a moment where I go “Weren’t so and so supposed to wrestle?”, only to find out that match already happened on the pre-show. This is that match and I’ll probably never watch it.

What Should Happen: Bobby Lashley has been EXTREMELY lackluster since coming back to WWE. And while the partnership with Lio Rush had some potential early on, it’s very meh at this point. Have Rush pull a James Ellsworth and help win the match for Lashley, but have him receive his comeuppance post-match.

What Will Likely Happen: A likely pre-show main event, Elias wins to hype the crowd up for the main course.

Cedric Alexander vs. Buddy Murphy for the Cruiserweight Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

Aside from their boss having an R. Kelly fetish all of a sudden, the 205 Live guys have been getting a lot of shine the past couple months. This past Tuesday, Mustafa Ali had a fantastic match with the WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, and while typically being relegated to the pre-show in the past, the Cruiserweight title has been defended on the main show in two of the last three Network exclusive events. Hopefully that trend continues this Sunday night, and I expect Buddy Murphy and Cedric Alexander to shut the place down.

What Should Happen: Continuing on with my “Let all the black wrestlers win tonight” narrative, I’m going to choose Cedric Alexander for no other reason.

What Will Likely Happen: It’s awfully soon for Buddy Murphy to drop the title, and I see him continuing his run of dominance over the Cruiserweight division. Time for some new blood to step up and present a new challenge.

Natalya vs. Ruby Riott - Tables Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

I don’t typically like when real life deaths are included in a storyline, but I can understand why it’s done, especially when all those involved agree with it. However, I really don’t care about this feud and can’t wait for it to end this weekend.

What Should Happen: I don’t believe crowds are invested enough in these two women enough to have Ruby Riott win. Riott has antagonized Natalya over Jim Neidhart’s death this entire feud, so there’s really only one way to end this and that’s with the Hart family name standing tall.

What Will Likely Happen: Sasha Banks, Bayley and Ember Moon aren’t doing anything noteworthy this evening. Let them help Natalya even the odds

Fabulous Truth (R-Truth and Carmella) vs. Mahalicia (Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox) - Mixed Match Challenge Finals

R-Truth and Carmella’s chemistry has been a factor in building momentum for their run through the tournament. And while Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox have slowly but surely gotten on the same page, there are some kinks that still need to be worked out if they want to close strong. It was harder to get invested in this season of the Mixed Match Challenge as injuries and kayfabe write-offs didn’t help at all. At the end of it all, the two healthiest teams from each brand persevered, and now have a shot at coveted #30 position in their respective Royal Rumble matches.

What Should Happen: I always look forward to a surprise #30 entrant each year, but Dolph Ziggler’s overall performance this past year made it a little lackluster. So I guess I can lower my expectations for 2019 since I know neither of the two on the men’s side have a chance of winning. Although, there’s a bit more credibility with Jinder Mahal being a former world champion which you can go off of, rather than R-Truth who has been an amazing comedic act for years.

What Will Happen: We get a Royal Dance Break at #30 as Fabulous Truth comes out of this one victorious. Should be a no-brainer, but I can’t wait to see if Truth tries to enter the Women’s Royal Rumble.

Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton - Chairs Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

Sidenote: I was in the 8th grade when these two first feuded on Smackdown in 2005-06. Glad to see they can both haven’t lost a step since.

Rey Mysterio has only been back in WWE for about two months, but it’s like he never left. The chemistry that he and Orton have when working together is amazing, and they won’t disappoint on Sunday.

What Should Happen: Randy Orton has been on a tear since his heel turn at Extreme Rules, and it wouldn’t make much sense to have that randomly stop here. The Viper’s run of dominance should continue on.

What Will Likely Happen: It’s a toss up as to who WILL win this match, as they can go either way with it. However, Rey Mysterio will always be in a great position to recover after a loss (see Jeff Hardy at Hell In A Cell) to where it wouldn’t be an issue.

WWE Evolution 2018: Recap, results, analysis
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Rob and Chris recap the first-ever all-women’s PPV, which provided plenty of action from start to finish and all of the goods on what was an incredible night on Long Island.

TRISH STRATUS & LITA vs. ALICIA FOX & MICKIE JAMES

Chris Novak: Okay, this match was a super fun opener. This crowd is going to be n absolute hoot all night long. Trish and Lita both had some great spots and it feels like each could definitely have a couple of matches down the line. They set this match up for a hot tag with both Mickie AND Trish. Team Bestie won after Lita hit a Litasault on both Alicia and Mickie, which was then turned into a Chick Kick on Mickie. I have to give this ***1/4. Super-duper fun opener and a great way to get this event started.

Robert O’Neill: Wow. After Alexa Bliss got taken out of this match, my interest cratered a bit, but they certainly proved me wrong. It was really good! Trish and Lita can both still go (Trish in particular), and it was a wildly entertaining tag match to open the show. That’s been a WWE formula as long as I can remember, and it rarely disappoints. ***1/2

Chris Novak: Wow, I thought I was going to be the high man on this match! Rob usurped me by a 0.5 star.

20-WOMAN BATTLE ROYAL

Chris Novak: I clowned this beforehand. I said it was a silly idea even if it was expected. AND YET IT WAS SO FUN! They had plenty of little wrinkles in there that made it really fun. Nia Jax wound up winning, which was a little bit of a shock, as it came down between her and Ember. It’s possible that they could flip her to SDL, but regardless of decision, that was extremely fun. I’ll give it ***.

Robert O’Neill: Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows how little I was looking forward to this match. Holy crap, was I wrong. That was absolutely outstanding. It wasn’t as good as the Women’s Royal Rumble, but it was right up there to me. Nia Jax winning is perfectly fine, too. I think Nia and Ember Moon both looked great as the final two, the legends were fine, and everyone else got the job done. ***

MAE YOUNG CLASSIC FINAL: TONI STORM vs. IO SHIRAI

Chris Novak: Toni Storm gets the win! Storm and Shirai had a full-fledged sprint and it was extremely good. Lot of crazy spots busted out, including a smooth-as-hell moonsault by Shirai, a German Suplex on the apron, and a whole lot more. I am unsurprised by the result as there’s obviously a lot of hype around Storm. Really good stuff here. I’ll give it ***1/2 and go from there.

Robert O’Neill: This felt a little short, but it was still good. Really pumped to watch both of these two in NXT over the next few months. They’re both so different than anyone else on the NXT or WWE rosters, it could really be special. ***1/2

THE RIOTT SQUAD vs. SASHA BANKS, BAYLEY & NATALYA

Chris Novak: This was a rather crazy six-woman tag team match. A lot of wild stuff went down in this one, especially, as per the usual: Sasha going for broke. She took a wicked bump against the barricade in the latter stages of the match. Some tremendous theater late with Bayley protecting Sasha from a top rope senton splash by Ruby. The end sequence was pretty awesome. Nattie hit a powerbomb, Sasha hit an elbow drop and THREW HERSELF OUT OF THE RING TO TAKE OUT RUBY AND SARAH! And then Sasha hit a Frog Splash for the 1-2-3. ***3/4 for me. Just a whole lot of fun.

KAIRI SANE vs. SHAYNA BASZLER - NXT WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP

Chris Novak: WOW… okay. So the match itself was really good. That’s no surprise considering who was involved. But… wow, they utilized Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, two of the other Four Horsewomen, to help Shayna become the first-ever TWO-TIME NXT Women’s Champion! Shayna forced Sane into submission with her finisher and picked up the duke. Best match of the night so far if you ask me. ***3/4

Robert O’Neill: Wow. This was a surprising result. I think I liked it more than their match in Brooklyn, and I liked getting the other two Horsewomen involved, but I can’t help but to think it might have been a bad decision to take the belt off of Sane that quickly. Regardless, it was a fantastic match. ****

BECKY LYNCH vs. CHARLOTTE - LAST WOMAN STANDING MATCH FOR THE SDLIVE WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP

Chris Novak: Holy shit. The greatest Last (Wo)man Standing Match in the company’s history. I’m not afraid to say it. *****

Robert O’Neill: Not only was this the best last (wo)man standing match of all time, it was the best womens match in WWE history. Charlotte deserves credit for improving after a rough start to the year, but Becky Lynch absolutely stole the show again. WWE finally realizes what they have in her and they’re not screwing it up It’s amazing. *****

RONDA ROUSEY vs. NIKKI BELLA - RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP

Chris Novak: A fantastic match to end the show. Ronda and Nikki both put in some serious work here and both took some really big bumps. Match was set up very well and Ronda defended herself well against the 2-on-1 disadvantage she faced. She eventually won via the armbar of course. Very good stuff. ***1/2 for me.

Robert O’Neill: This match was as good as everyone expected. Every match Ronda has wrestled in her short career has been good, and heel Nikki is so good. I liked the storytelling and getting Brie involved, and while it wasn’t quite as good as Becky/Charlotte, it was still an excellent main event. ***1/2

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: Not one single match missed. There were good matches, very good matches, great matches and all-timers. Everyone stepped up to the plate and everyone hit it out of the park. The performers deserve to have their praises sung until the cows come home. This was the show of the year for WWE. It only solidifies, for me, the fact that the women are the straws that stir the drink in the company right now. A++++++++ for me.

Robert O’Neill: If you didn’t like this show, it’s because you formed that opinion long before tonight. This had something for everybody and was one of the best WWE PPVs of the year. The last three matches were absolutely excellent, the legends were used perfectly in the first two, and everything else was solid. A+

First Black Champ - The Evolution of Becky Lynch

"Monday Night Shield" and Smackdown 1000 were underwhelming this week to say the least. Cam Quotes and JR Bang try and make this week’s show as entertaining as possible, and ask whether there are too many superstars on the roster or not enough stepping up? Then we talk about WWE’s first all women's pay per view and give our predictions for Evolution on this week's #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

Follow JR Bang: @jrbang
Follow Cam Quotes: @ImCamQuotes

WWE Summerslam 2018: Results, reactions and analysis
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The Biggest Event of the Summer has come and gone! Rob and Chris are here to talk about what went down in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

Andrade Cien Almas & Zelina Vega vs. Rusev & Lana

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

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

Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MITB On the Line: Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe

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

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

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

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

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

Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin

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

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

US Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruthless Aggression EP 29 - RIP Anvil
This Week in WWE: Trouble in Paradise for Brock and Heyman, and Becky and Charlotte

Welcome to this week's edition of This Week in WWE! Rob and Chris are here to bring you the who/what/where/why/when on what happened in a pretty tumultuous week in the Federation.

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Chris Novak: Another week, another episode of Monday Night Raw. They’re in Miami tonight, and Brock Lesnar AND Ronda Rousey are set to be in attendance. We’re also getting Seth vs. Drew Mac, Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin and probably a couple other fun things.

Roman’s here to start Raw. And… well, this promo is pretty much just like everything before WrestleMania 34. He says Brock won’t go up to Roman and badmouth him.

Ah, there’s Paul Heyman. “This is not a prediction, this is a spoiler.” Yes, this is… basically… the same promo. “Just shut up Paul,” goes Roman. Yes, king. Go off.

Robert O’Neill: “We’re here to see Brock Lesnar, so bring him out here.” Yup!

Chris Novak: Naturally it merely ends with Roman calling Brock out. So, that’s that.

Finn vs. Constable Corbin is next. Also, we’re getting Nattie-Foxy later this week. HYPE! It’s 2011 again!

Robert O’Neill: We come back from commercial to see Brock reading a magazine and literally telling Paul Heyman he doesn’t watch the show. That was amazing.

Chris Novak: Honestly a really funny segment with Brock there.

Finn vs. Corbin was … just fine so far. I’ve no idea why it went on for as long as it did but they went through two commercial breaks and change. Finn went for the Coup de Grace, but Baron dropped him with the End of Days for the win. Alright finish, but again… just too long.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah, I mean, it was a fine match. It just went literally 20 minutes which feels unnecessary.

Chris Novak: This is a case where a matc doesn’t HAVE to go that long. If it was shorter by like, 5 minutes, it would’ve been okay.

Robert O’Neill: Alicia Fox is delightful. She’s facing Natalya (ew) and Ronda Rousey’s back from suspension! Uh oh!

Alicia got the win! Alexa helped a bit, but hey it counts just the same.

Chris Novak: Alicia looked real good in her first match in seemingly forever. Really enjoyed this match, actually. Ronda got in the ring and went after Alexa and took her down. Then she did the same to Alicia and went after Bliss again. BUT, then Foxy charged at her from behind. Ronda bumped for Foxy, as she got thrown into the barricade. And then off Alexa and Foxy went. Y’know what? That segment as a whole was completely fine.

Robert O’Neill: Elias is here! He teases The Rock coming out (they’re in Miami, ya know) but instead Bob Lashley comes out. I guess this is the new feud. Sure! They sing together, and then Elias attacks Bob from behind.

Chris Novak: But Bob soon fights back and sends Lashley crashing to the outside! I’m… fine with this feud.

Kevin Owens wants Constable Corbin to “do something” about the fact that Braun could cash in before he has his match with Owens at SummerSlam. Corbs says that Brock is Kurt’s problem and that until the match happens, Braun has MITB. Welp, ya lost that one, KO.

Robert O’Neill: Apollo Crews is facing Akam of Pain, which means Titus O’Neil will likely face Rezar of Pain next week. Hey Apollo got a rollup win! #CrewsCantLose!

Chris Novak: An interesting and surprising decision, to be sure. But, hey, they can’t have Titus and Apollo look like complete scrubs.

Robert O’Neill: Drew McIntyre’s facing Seth Rollins. Pretty excited for this one at the top of the second hour. Seth hit the Stomp after about 10 minutes and Ziggler came in and caused a disqualification, but Rollins got the last laugh as he beat Ziggler down and stood tall.

Chris Novak: B-Team got interviewed and the Deleters of Worlds interrupted. THEN, Revival interrupted and a fight broke out. This led to a match between The Revival and the Deleters.

Robert O’Neill: Revival won! Could this be the start of something? Probably not! But it’s fun to dream.

Chris Novak: The match itself was… uh, not great. Or even good. But at least they made the right decision.

OH MY GOD BAYLEY AND SASHA HAVE MATCHING GEAR AND BOSS N HUG CONNECTION IS CANON IN WWE!

Robert O’Neill: That was also a really good tag team match. Like, it stood out in terms of recent women’s matches, so that’s really saying something. This is why I think Women’s Tag Titles would be good at Evolution.

Robert O’Neill: Well, it’s time for the main event segment. Will Brock Lesnar come out or will Paul Heyman be fired? Heyman is going on and on to Kurt Angle about how he doesn’t like Lesnar anymore and he should be spared. Then Brock comes out and hits Angle with an F5 and screams at Paul and we get a WE WANT ROMAN chant as Raw goes off the air. Wow.

Chris Novak: An extremely effective way of making Brock look like a complete, total asshole. Job well done all around to whomever wrote him tonight and to Brock for nailing it, also.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: That was the best episode of Raw in the past few weeks, but is that an accomplishment at this point? It was cool to see Brock Lesnar back and heavily utilized and cool that WWE managed to get a pro-Reigns crowd reaction, but most of the other stuff kinda felt like filler, sans Bayley and Sasha’s newfound tag team skills. It was fine, I guess, but that’s about it. C+

Chris Novak: A fine Raw, better than the ones from recently. It’s not up to SmackDown’s par lately but, really, what is besides NXT? C+ for me, also. But I gotta admit: Having Boss 'n Hug be canon is an A+ worthy maneuver.

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Chris Novak: SmackDown Live has begun! We’re getting Zelina Vega vs. Lana, The Bar vs. The Usos and a couple other notable things are going to go down. We start off with Becky Lynch, who’s out here, talking about how long it’s been since she’s been champion. Or, hell, even had a TITLE MATCH (WrestleMania 33, for all those wondering and didn’t watch the show). She used the “I wasn’t born to be a champion” line that she’d used wayyyyy back when, which was a nice touch.

And here comes Carmella, the incumbent champ. Carm goes on a fake insincere tangent about WWE Evolution. It hasn’t happened yet, but I can guarantee you that’s what’s happened here. She talks up their differences, hypes Becky up a bit… and she’s gonna probably pivot.

And… an ELLSWORTH tease… leads to Carmella attacking Becky. There’s the pivot.

Welp, there’s Charlotte. She goes after Carmella and suplexes her out of the ring.

Robert O’Neill: Charlotte is gonna weasel her way into this match somehow. No member of the Four Horsewomen (or women’s division in general) has gotten more opportunities for fewer reasons than Charlotte Flair. It’s absurd.

Chris Novak: Charlotte is everything fans think Roman Reigns is.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the second Smackdown tag tournament match as we have The Bar facing The Usos! This should be a blast.

Chris Novak: The New Day being on commentary will also enhance this experience.

Robert O’Neill: Good lord, what a match. The Bar got the win after about 20 minutes loaded with action. They’ll face New Day next week for a title shot.

Chris Novak: Jesus everloving Christ. That match was amazing. I cannot wait for New Day-Bar next week. Hat tip as always to The Usos, who remain one of the best tag teams in the ENTIRE world right now.

Robert O’Neill: Oh man. Samoa Joe is tearing AJ Styles apart right now. This feud is gonna whip ass.

Chris Novak: Joe essentially said AJ Styles was a terrible father and that his kids would be rooting for Joe instead of their own dad. My goodness.

Robert O’Neill: Jeff Hardy came out and said what the US Title meant to him, and Randy Orton beat him up. Alright then.

Chris Novak: Didn’t just beat him up. Beat him up BADLY. Rubbed off the facepaint and all that. That was an A-grade beatdown. Nakamura, the US Champion, also played a role in this. He came out and gave Jeff the Kinshasa before Orton went full dickhead on Jeff.

Robert O’Neill: Zelina Vega is here! She’s facing Lana. All hail. And she won! Almas distracted Lana and Zelina got the rollup (with tights). Excellent.

Chris Novak: The match was… just okay. But that’s to be expected. Rusev, Lana and Aiden English continued to have dissension in the ranks afterwards. I’m unsure of how this is all going to break down, but I do know that Lana has… lost her accent! Completely!

Robert O’Neill: Well, time for the main event. Charlotte is facing Carmella, and if Charlotte wins, she’s in the Becky/Carmella match at Summerslam. Gee, I wonder what will happen.

Charlotte won. That’s what happened. Kind of annoying.

Chris Novak: The expected but disappointing maneuver here. Charlotte didn’t really “need” to be in this match, and they could’ve done what they SEEM to be doing anyway with her on the outside looking in. Nevertheless… the match was fine, despite a lot of sloppiness.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Other than CHARLOTTE WINS LOL, this was a perfectly fine Smackdown. I like how they made the women’s division seem important, and it’s kinda cool how women main eventing shows is so commonplace when, a decade ago, Trish and Lita main eventing Raw was a once in a lifetime type of thing. I’m super excited for AJ/Joe at Summerslam, and the tag match next week should be a great one. A

Chris Novak: I’m going to give this an A-. The tag team match was outstanding and so was the Miz-Bryan segment. I also really liked the wrinkles they put in the Becky/Carmella/Charlotte story, even if the ending of the show was somewhat unsavory. All told, another great SmackDown. What a shock that is?

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

Courtesy: WWE

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

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

 

Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte

Courtesy: WWE

Courtesy: WWE

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

The IIconics vs. LayCool

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

Nia Jax vs. Kharma

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

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

Beth Phoenix vs. Asuka vs. Jazz

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

Sasha Banks vs. Bayley

Courtesy: WWE

Courtesy: WWE

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

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

Honorable Mentions

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

This Week in WWE: the build to Money in the Bank begins

Robert O’Neill: Welp. Time for Raw! Kurt Angle is in the ring to lead off the show. This should be exciting.

Chris Novak: I imagine some stock, standard, MITB-related announcements will be made. Hopefully this is the start of a needed rebound for WWE programming because the last month has been a trip. Last night was bad. Kurt does in fact make the announcements: Two qualifying matches tonight. Ruby vs. Ember vs. Sasha, and Sami vs. Finn vs. Roman. Both of those matches should own. Out comes Braun Strowman now. Braun tells us a story about destroying a treehouse with people in it. Sounds about right. Kurt says that Braun is as deserving as anybody to be in Money in the Bank.

Robert O’Neill: And now Kevin Owens is here to interrupt!

Chris Novak: Owens says he’s the RAW MVP and that he deserves to be in the MITB Ladder Match. On the contrary, Braun says he deserves to “get these hands.” Kurt made another qualifier, pitting Owens against Strowman. So, we’ll be doing this to start the show.

Robert O’Neill: There will be two MITB matches (one men’s, one women’s) and each will have eight superstars. Four from each show. Neat.

Chris Novak: Anyways, Owens vs. Strowman was pretty great. KO bumping like crazy for Braun has been a fun sight these past few weeks. And he did so even more tonight. Strowman won after a Running Powerslam. Gonna go with a B for that match. Unironically quite good.

Chris Novak: Roman is then interviewed by Mike Rome after we came back from the break, and… they are going with that he’s being screwed over by backstage politics. Yup, THAT’LL go over well. Big shock, big surprise, they’re still trudging on with this.

Robert O’Neill: Good lord they need to give this a rest.

TOP GUYS WATCH! The Revival are in action in a six-man tag against Titus Worldwide and No Way Jose and… GODDAMMIT THEY’RE TEAMING WITH BARON CORBIN. I DON’T WATCH BARON CORBIN MATCHES AND NOW I HAVE TO.

It really is pretty stupid how they continue to treat The Revival though. Not to go on a tangent, but American Alpha, Revival, and Authors of Pain are probably the three best NXT tag teams of all time and WWE has severely mismanaged two of the three. Why should I believe there’s any hope for AOP?

Anyways, Corbin pinned No Way Jose.

Chris Novak: I will only contest with you that at least American Alpha won titles and had good programs with The Wyatt Family and The Usos, and had their fair share of very good tags. The others… well, it’s early on AOP but they have no real place. And The Revival… have been snakebitten, and I don’t know what to make of it. Anyways, looks like a loaded SmackDown Live tomorrow. Miz/Hardy, Bryan/Rusev and Charlotte/Peyton, all in MITB qualifiers.

Robert O’Neill: Alright so Ember Moon, Sasha Banks, and Ruby Riott had a triple-threat qualifying match and it was actually very good! Bayley came out to try and save Sasha from a beatdown from Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan and she did but also Ember was able to win over Ruby Riott in the meantime to qualify for the MITB match.

Chris Novak: Bayley coming out was… odd, but the match itself was very, very good. As expected. Not sure about them seemingly portraying Ember as an “underdog,” but I’ll hold out on it I suppose. Wondering what happens here, because it seems like they’re having Bayley and Sasha tangle with The Riott Squad. And, if that’s the case… where does that leave Nia? Weird stuff here. But nonetheless, away we go.

Robert O’Neill: That was a really good video of Bobby Lashley’s career that got completely wiped away when he started speaking. I really don’t know what they’re planning on doing with him.

Chris Novak: That was ultra-confusing. Didn’t seem like Renee was listening, which… I mean, do I blame her? I don’t know. Next up here, Jinder Mahal vs. Chad Gable. If this is as good as their match in St. Louis was, we’ll be in for a fun little wrestling match here.

Robert O’Neill: That was alright! A lot of people are mad about Jinder winning cancelling out Gable’s win in STL, but 50-50 booking is generally fine.

Chris Novak: Eh… I’m not so annoyed at 50/50 booking as many people are. What’re you going to do? You have to make a heel look credible somehow. Gable will be fine.

Robert O’Neill: So after a Jinder match, Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler tagged against Heath Slater and Rhyno. We were SO CLOSE to all of 3MB in the ring at the same time. Ziggler and McIntyre did a Zig-Zag/Claymore combo for the finish. It was fine.

Chris Novak: This tag team division has all the heat of an igloo right now, though. Like, almost at 2009-11 levels. Amazing that this is the same company that has all the great tag teams on SDL.

So here comes the IC Champ, Seth Rollins. Rollins says he wants to be a fighting champ, and starts up an Open Challenge. Who else but Mojo Rawley answers the bell? So, we’re going to have an IC Title Match here. Mojo and Seth had a really fun match here, as Seth’s heater continues. This was a heat check for me. Mojo busted out the POUUUUUUUUUNCE~!!! (Period.) but, to no avail, Seth hit the Superkick, the knee to the face and then the Curb Stomp for the 1-2-3.

Robert O’Neill: Seth Rollins is having the best year of anyone not named Johnny Gargano at this point. This match was excellent, and probably Mojo’s best match in his WWE run. I’m going to keep saying it, Seth Rollins needs to be the guy to beat Brock Lesnar.

Chris Novak: On to… tag team action.

Robert O’Neill: Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt beat Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas. AOP was left off the show again.

Chris Novak: They were, and that’s a hard feat, as there were three (count ‘em, 3) matches with tag teams on this show. Anyways, decent tag match. At least the champs got on the show. I have zero clue what they do with this division though. Much as the Hardy-Wyatt team is a fun act, they certainly don’t have the… uh, workrate capability of others. Especially on SDL. The tag division is the worst part about Raw right now, and I don’t think that’s a debate.

It’s main event time now!

Robert O’Neill: Alright, well. There’s a lot going on there. Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, and Roman Reigns had a good match, as you would expect. Balor and Zayn double teamed Reigns for a bit of time and took him out of the match. Of course, since you’ve watched a WWE program in the past four years, you know what happened next. Reigns came back from the beatdown and looked like he was going to get the upper hand and win the match, but Jinder Mahal tripped him while he was going for the spear and Balor hit the coup de grace for the win!

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Raw was pretty good! I liked how they’re building up to the Money in the Bank PPV with qualifying matches. If I had to make a small nitpitck, I would say they probably shouldn’t have automatically put Braun in AND had a match tonight. Suddenly two of Raw’s four spots are filled and we’re still five weeks from the PPV. It’ll be fine, but I would have done it differently. Other than that, I was fine with mostly everything. Rollins doing an IC Title open challenge is an excellent idea that I hope they stick with, and while the stuff with the women is confusing (where was Nia?), they can have a pass for this week as they look toward what they want to do next. B

Chris Novak: A strong B- for me for RAW. The qualifiers were all very good matches, even though the women’s match had some weird stuff happen afterwards. And, like Rob said, the lack of Nia Jax was… um, concerning? I wish I knew what they were doing with her (Also, where’s Ronda?). I’m fearful that they’re going to have Reigns beat Jinder next week and put him in the MITB match anyway, even after he lost his opportunity tonight. But anyway, this show was perfectly acceptable and a nice bounce back from the previous night.