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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

Ali vs. Andrade is next.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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+

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.

Ruthless Aggression - Armageddon 2002

Enter the Three Stages of Hell with us on Ruthless Aggression!

Topics:
Daniel Bryan's brilliant heel turn
Nia Jax floundering
The lack of depth in the RAW women's & tag team divisions
Trading players from RAW and Smackdown
BS Meter on Cody turning down WWE deal rumor

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 498
Smackdown 174
Armageddon 2002

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

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Ruthless Aggression - Who run the world? Girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Day vs. Rusev Day - SDL Tag Team Championships

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

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

Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton - Hell in a Cell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe - WWE Championship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

This Week in WWE: Bayley says Sasha ain't shit, Tell Hell No reunites
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Robert O’Neill: Welp. It’s Monday, so that means it’s time for another exciting edition of Monday Night Raw!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: That sentence is very 2018 pro wrestling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: Ellsworth issssss gonna die.

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

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

Chris Novak: TEAM HELL NO!!!

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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Ricochet v. Velveteen Dream

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Velveteen Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Undisputed Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Aleister Black

Chicago Street Fight - Johnny Gargano v. Tommaso Ciampa

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Markus Howell: Ahem. Click here
Prediction: Samoa Joe

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

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

Daniel Bryan v. Big Cass

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Big Cass

Roman Reigns v. Jinder Mahal

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Jinder Mahal

Bobby Lashley v. Sami Zayn

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

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

Markus Howell: #FreeElGenerico
Prediction: Sami Zayn

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

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

Prediction: Bobby Lashley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Ronda Rousey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Carmella

Intercontinental Championship - Seth Rollins (c) v. Elias

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Elias

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

This Week in WWE: An all-time bad segment on RAW, while Bryan-Joe looms on SmackDown

Chris Novak: We’ve begun a big episode of RAW on a big day for WWE! We’re getting a contract signing between Nia & Ronda and, apparently, Sami Zayn interviewing Bobby Lashley’s sisters. One of those things sounds more appealing than the other. Can you guess which one it is? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not the second of the two. Here’s Kurt Angle, who teased “big announcements” for the start of RAW on Twitter. He says Ronda is in the house (duh, that was just announced no less than two minutes ago.) so it sounds like he’s just parroting those announcements.

There’s gonna be a F4W qualifier between… oh, no. That’s Stephanie McMahon’s music. Steph is back. Steph says that everything that happened at WM is now “water under the bridge” and she’ll always do “what’s best for business.” She responds to the “You Tapped Out!” chants by saying she, in fact, did, and she’s forgiving everything. Steph says he’s done a phenomenal job and she wants to see growth. Steph says that instead of Kurt presiding over the contract signing, it will be her. That certainly won’t spur any narratives about what THAT match could turn out to be. And… now here’s Roman Reigns for… um, some reason. Roman says that he wants Steph to say whatever he wants to him to his face. Steph says she doesn’t understand his temper or his attitude lately, and says that if he can’t help it, then he should find a new line of work. Roman responds by saying he’ll just go out and destroy “her favorite superstars.”

So then, Roman says that he thinks they don’t want him near the Universal Title. Steph responds by saying he lost his qualifying match and that he should take it up with Jinder. Roman snarkily responds that he did… and here comes Kevin Owens. Owens says he’s indebted to Roman now after he took out Mahal last week. He says he actually really likes Roman. He tries to get a “Thank You Roman!” chant up but it doesn’t work TOO well in Albany tonight. KO says that Steph doesn’t play favorites, bringing up his history with her brother and her father. Really funny moment with Owens leaning on Steph’s shoulder as he said, “She knows talent when she sees it.” Steph then makes a match pitting Roman against Owens. I get the sense that this will be quite good!

Robert O’Neill: It was a fantastic match (Roman is good. The in-ring stuff is hardly the problem). Jinder Mahal interfered and he and Owens beat Roman down before Seth Rollins came out to even the odds and set up a *extreme teddy long voice* TAG TEAM MATCH. That match was good too! Rollins got the win over Jinder because he is The Guy.

Chris Novak: On to… the Bobby Lashley/Sami Zayn segment.

Robert O’Neill: What the fuck is this? I’m not gonna talk about the Lashley segment. Watch the video. It’s bad.

Chris Novak: We’re going to spend exactly that amount of time talking about this. Okay! Onto Ember Moon vs. Alexa Bliss! Bliss gets interviewed by Renee Young, and is asked if she’s worried after what happened in Ember’s debut. Bliss brings up what happened with the Romans back in 410 AD. I’m actually laughing. That was hysterical. Anyways, onto the match. It was really fun! Alexa held her own in the ring and Ember did her thing as well. It ended after Ember hit the Eclipse on Bliss, getting the 1-2-3 after Mickie was thrown out of the ringside area.

Robert O’Neill: Alexa/Ember is a fresh-feeling matchup. I would really like to see more of that from the women’s division instead of recycling the same matches over and over.

Robert O’Neill: The B-Team faced Breezango and won. At some point WWE will have to go away from comedy tag teams and get us back to good tag team wrestling, right?

*checks RAW Tag Team Champions*

Oh. I see. Never mind then.

It’s not that I DISLIKE Breezango or Axel and Dallas, it’s just that they aren’t as good as Authors of Pain or Revival.

Chris Novak: My counterpoint to that, Rob, is that they just had The Shield (Seth & Dean) and The Bar trade victories and tag titles for much of the year. I get what you’re saying, but the B-Team is working. Let’s calm down a peg.

Chris Novak: Onto our “final” qualifying match (we’ll probably get a Last Chance Match next week) between Natalya, Dana, Liv and Sarah. I’m not certain what the thought process was while they were constructing these matches but the end result is this, and woof. Naturally, Natalya won and seemed to tease the idea of her and Ronda, her “training partner” being champ and MITB holder. This is going to result into a feud and it’s going to be insufferable.

Robert O’Neill: Hey, another Chad Gable singles match! Neat. Sure, it’s against Dolph Ziggler, but I still appreciate any and all Gable singles matches. Ziggler got the victory in pretty quick time and then Drew McIntyre hit the ring to double team Gable. Hmmmmmm. If only there were someone returning soon that could help Gable even the odds.

Chris Novak: Are you suggesting that Gable needs an… “Alpha” at his side?  No. No. Not THAT Alpha. He’s facing Naito in New Japan. The other one. An American Alpha.

Robert O’Neill: Elias came out and took credit for the TV deals and stock price and then beat Bob Roode (again). What a night!

Chris Novak: They really need to do a double-turn here because it’s obvious that 1) Elias is over as hell and 2) Roode needs some kind of switch flipped.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! Finn Balor and Braun Strowman are gonna duke it out in the ring after their tag team experiment last week. Unsurprisingly, it was an excellent match. It’s pretty clear where both of these guys stand in the company, and eventually they’ll both have title runs. Braun won with the powerslam and then picked Balor up after instead of hitting him with more powerslams, which I thought was a nice touch.

Chris Novak: That was a really excellent match. They did a lot considering the fact that both Balor and Strowman are, obviously, different sizes. They made it work though. And made it work REALLY well. Came away very impressed with this match and these two.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: I think all good things on this Raw were overshadowed by that Bobby Lashley segment. And I think that segment has added importance on the day that it gets out that you have billion-dollar TV deals in the works. There’s a non-zero chance that people heard that news, decided to tune in, and saw… that. There’s not a great time for an all-time bad segment, but even if they did it on Memorial Day it probably would have been less of a lead balloon.

And it sucks, because there was a lot of good on this Raw (Alexa/Ember, Nia/Ronda, Strowman/Balor), but I think everyone was left with a sour taste in their mouth at best after that segment that lingered throughout the night. D

Chris Novak: I don’t know if I’m going to be as harsh as Rob here is. This RAW was pretty good. It featured an all-time bad segment, but with some great matches here, I’m going to give this a B-. I don’t think we’ve differed this much here, but to me, one REALLY REALLY bad segment doesn’t kill the whole show for me. RAW needs some obvious enhancements, but for this week, they did well.

Robert O’Neill: MizTV is opening the billion dollar program. All Hail.

Chris Novak: And already, this segment between Miz and New Day has been outstanding.

Robert O’Neill: Miz still looks ridiculous though.

Chris Novak: Of course he does. That’s the thing about him though. Anyways, Miz tries to get an answer out of The New Day and seemingly tried to pit them against each other. But, The New Day don’t give Miz the answer he wanted for the interview. Miz says that he could beat any of them any day of the week, and so they say that Big E is “the guy.” But… not the guy for MITB, but instead the guy to face Miz. He tries getting out of it, so New Day pelts him with pancakes. Miz then sprints away, but runs into Paige, who says that the match must proceed.

Robert O’Neill: And the match was pretty good! It was the first time Miz and Big E ever faced off, so that was cool. The high point of the match was how it spiraled into chaos at the end when The Bar came down to mess with New Day and Kofi JUMPED OFF CESARO INTO SHEAMUS. Meanwhile in the ring, Miz took advantage of the distraction and hit Big E with the Skull Crushing Finale for the win.

Chris Novak: Daniel Bryan is interviewed by Dasha Fuentes. Bryan talks about getting second chances, which fits his bill pretty well, to say the least. He then talks about how surreal it is that he’s facing Jeff Hardy in 2018. He calls him a legend and an innovator and a very tough hill to climb. But, he also says he loves a good challenge and intends on making a legend tap out.

Lana then faced Billie Kay and won within about 2 minutes. Please send The IIconics back to NXT. What is the point, at this point?

Robert O’Neill: This is so stupid. The Women’s MITB match is going to be trash.

Chris Novak: Finishing your sentence… again. Because it’s not like the two editions last year were good. Anyways, Andrade “Cien” Almas kicked a dude’s ass and won. That was academic.

Robert O’Neill: You know who should win Money in the Bank? Zelina Vega.

Chris Novak: And so should Almas.

Robert O’Neill: Well! We know the stipulation of the AJ Styles/Shinsuke Nakamura match at Money in the Bank. It’ll be a Last Man Standing match, so that’s neat.

Chris Novak: That’s one way to call it “Roshambo.”

Robert O’Neill: Up next, The Usos face The Club for the right to face The Bludgeon Brothers at Money in the Bank. I think the best part of this match was it made me remember how much I enjoy The Club. They’re quite good in the ring, and after picking up the win, I’m pretty interested in how they’ll fare against the Bludgeon Brothers.

Chris Novak: I’m fine with it, as it allows for some fresh blood here. Anyways, Naomi then went and defeated Sonya Deville in a MITB qualifier. It was a very good match. Naomi has improved tenfold, but we all already know that.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! It’s kind of wild that Daniel Bryan and Jeff Hardy have a combined 20 years of WWE experience between them and this was the first time they’ve ever squared off, but it’s also pretty awesome. This was always the big dream for a potential Bryan return. He can now have matches with guys he’s never faced (Hardy), or guys he had previously faced in non-WWE promotions (Samoa Joe, AJ Styles). It opens up new and fresh matchups. Bryan beat Hardy to advance to face Joe next week for Smackdown’s final MITB spot, in a match that will surely whip ass.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: While Smackdown didn’t have an all-time bad segment, they DID have Lana qualify for the MITB match. Unlike the Lashley thing, I guess I can look past it. Pretty much every match on this show worked for me and felt important, which is the major benefit of a two hour show. The main event was great, and Miz/Big E set up a Miz & The Bar vs. The New Day six-man tag that will be absolutely awesome next week. B.

Chris Novak: A B+ show for me. This featured an awesome Bryan-Hardy match, a very good Miz-Big E match and a really good Sonya-Naomi match. SDLive keeps hitting ALLLLL the right notes since ‘Mania. It’s back to being tops and it’s looking like it will stay that way too.

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.

Chris Novak: Loaded show going into tonight after Backlash. Bryan vs. Rusev and Miz vs. Jeff Hardy on the men’s side, and Peyton Royce vs. Charlotte for the women’s side. All three are qualifying matches. Here’s hoping for the best here, because those three matches alone can bring some serious noise.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah this should be a lot of fun! We get going with Miz//Hardy, and it’s… very good. Has Jeff Hardy become one of the company’s most underrated workers? After an excellent back and forth, Miz rolled Hardy up after a Swanton Bomb for the win.

Chris Novak: That was yet another excellent match from The Miz. He continues to be on a hell of a roll in 2018. Jeff wasn’t too bad himself in this match, either. Really, really dug this. ANd really liked the finish.

Robert O’Neill: Meanwhile Renee Young tried to interview Shinsuke Nakamura, who, as you may know, does not speak English.

Chris Novak: Alright, on to another qualifier: Peyton Royce vs. Charlotte. This match was something else. Peyton threw the kitchen sink at Charlotte, a Billie distraction included, but Charlotte ‘overcame the odds’ and won the match with the Figure Eight. The match was good, and while Peyton certainly looked capable against Charlotte, the act with Charlotte is getting a touch bit tiresome. I don’t think she had much to lose by taking the fall in that match to elevate Peyton and put her in the MITB match. But, alas, this is where we’re at. Char had a couple bad spots in the match as well. Not the greatest week for her.

Robert O’Neill: Charlotte is awful. It’s hard to deny it at this point.

Chris Novak: I wouldn’t go that far… but her booking is bad, and she can’t elevate talent like someone in her position should while being in the ring. She plays up to her competition and down to her competition.