Posts tagged Dean Ambrose
Ruthless Aggression - AEW Is MOX

Looking back at AEW's first event "Double or Nothing", the signing of Jon Moxley and his comments on the end of his WWE run on the most recent Talk is Jericho. Plus, NXT Takeover XXV predictions and TWO WEEKS of RAW and Smackdown from May 2003!

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 521 & 522
Smackdown 196 & 197

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
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or
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This Week in WWE: The Big Dog is BACK!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAITCH is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owens will tag with Kofi later against Bryan and Rowan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: Read between those lines, baby.

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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.

This Week in WWE: A tragic announcement by Roman Reigns owns the week

This week’s edition of This Week in WWE starts off on a somber note that, quite frankly, nobody expected. We did our best to write through this week, and we feel we did an okay job doing so.

Chris Novak: Raw is starting off with Roman Reigns, who announced he has been living with leukemia for the last 11 years. And now, it’s back and because of it, he has to relinquish the Universal Title. I don’t know what to say other than I hope he recovers promptly. I could not have ever expected this, but this sucks so much.

Robert O’Neill: This is as stunned and saddened I’ve ever been in my life as a wrestling fan. I really don’t know what more to say here.

Chris Novak: How the hell are we supposed to just watch this now?

Robert O’Neill: Finn Balor defeated Bobby Lashley. It was a good match.

Chris Novak: Sasha Banks faced Ruby Riott in a preview of what’s to come this weekend in their six-woman tag match. It was very solid. Ruby picked up the victory, as she continues to be one of the most protected wrestlers in the company.

Robert O’Neill: DX is out here to talk about their match with Undertaker and Kane. Triple H says Halloween is a movie from 40 years ago but it’s also #1 at the box office right now so old things aren’t always bad. On another night I might have chuckled at this segment, but I just can’t do it tonight.

Chris Novak: I kind of chuckled. Make what you will of that. Kane and Taker did a vignette promo in response. If you’ve watched them over the last 20 years, you probably know how it went.

So it will be Brock vs. Braun for the Universal Championship. 1-on-1, no gimmicks, nothing. Makes sense.

Paul Heyman is next. He talks about Roman Reigns, the locker room and how they everyone is reacting towards this whole thing. And how the Universal Championship was #1, and how Roman wants the title and the show to go on.

Robert O’Neill: He manages to bring the promo back to Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman though, because the show must go on and the title must go on. He says Strowman isn’t as good as Lesnar, and then Strowman comes out and says he’s going to beat Brock Lesnar, but Drew McIntyre Claymore Kicks him from behind!

Chris Novak: If I didn’t know any better, I would swear that they were turning Braun into a babyface again.

Elias came out, played a little guitar, and then Apollo Crews came out. After a spirited contest, Elias prevailed.

Kurt Angle cut a promo about everyone else in the WWE World Cup. Honestly kinda dug this.

ELIAS IS PERFORMING AN ENCORE! Wait, no he’s not.

Robert O’Neill: Baron Corbin comes out and says absolutely not, Elias runs him down for a little bit, then leaves, but comes back and smashes his guitar into Corbin’s back! Face Elias. I’m here for it.

Chris Novak: As am I! I’m ready for this.

The Rousey-Nikki contract signing is next. The Bellas bolt as soon as Ronda gets in. Rousey says she’s not gonna go after them tonight, but wants Nikki to sign the contract so she can on Sunday. They eventually get in, and Nikki says that Ronda’s mother (who Ronda mentioned earlier in the promo) would be embarrassed for her if a “diva” beat her. Nikki signed the contract and slapped Ronda, which didn’t incite Ronda… yet. She signed and said that she’d end her, and she has her word.

Robert O’Neill: There was trash talk and slapping but no one went through the table, which is always the lone highlight of contract signings.

Chris Novak: Seth and Dean were interviewed and they put together a pretty great promo.

Ember Moon beat Nia Jax, Tamina and Dana Brooke in a Fatal 4-Way Match. Right woman won.

They did a very nice segment with Titus and breast cancer survivors.

Trish and Lita were interviewed by Charly Caruso before Evolution. Alicia came in to intervene, and then Mickie James joined in to jump them both. They got the upper hands… until they didn’t. Conspicuous by her absence was Alexa, who’s reportedly injured. That would add up if she wasn’t able to even partake in this brawl here. Hopefully she’s OK.

They then went on with the main event. The Tag Team Titles were on the line, as Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins challenged Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler. After a very lengthy match, Rollins dropped Ziggler with the Curb Stomp to get the 1-2-3 and the titles.

AND THEN THEY DID THE FUCKING DEAL!

THEY TURNED DEAN AMBROSE ON TONIGHT OF ALL NIGHTS!!!!

Ambrose dropped Seth with Dirty Deeds in the ring, beat his ass in the ring and out, and then hit him again with Dirty Deeds on the exposed concrete floor.

Holy shit, I cannot honestly process all this at once. That might be one of the tackiest things they’ve ever done, but at the same time… it’s absolutely brilliant. Ambrose is set for life as a villain and BOI if you thought Ciampa was a villain, Ambrose is about to ascend to another level. Everything about this was sold incredibly well. The entire Dunkin Donuts Center was in shock. You had people LEGITIMATELY IN TEARS! You don’t get that kind of raw emotion. Yes, the cost to get there was insane and probably really bad. But… holy… wow.

Robert O’Neill: That was an all-time great Raw moment. From The Shield winning the tag titles to Dean becoming the industry’s top heel within the span of five minutes, wrestling is at its best when it invokes emotion, and it’s the cream of the crop when you get your entire spectrum of emotions in a five minute span.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: I don’t know how like… I don’t know how to grade that Raw properly. I thought I was going to be in a haze after Roman’s announcement. I really did. But they lured me back in and… I don’t know. That was a wild, wild ride, and one that we’ll likely (and hopefully) never deal with again.

Robert O’Neill: Get well soon, Roman. A+

Chris Novak: SmackDown kicks off with the former SmackDown Tag Team Champions, The New Day. Before we get started, we find out that The Bar will defend their newly won titles against The New Day. Big Show was in the graphic, so he will, in fact, be involved in this match. Kofi says that they set the bar… and lowered the bar. He wonders what we’re all thinking: Big Show?!?!Xavier wonders if he’s the bar…tender. Cue Big E making a joke about how many times he flips and calls him a flapjack.

So, here’s The Bar with The Big Show. One person from each side will be facing off in singles action to start the show. As it turns out, it’s… The Big Show vs. Kofi Kingston. Show dominates this match and hits him with more than a few chokeslams. Four in particular before the match gets thrown out after The Bar and The New Day decide to just collide in the ring. New Day wind up getting absolutely smoked. Is to be expected in order to get Show over as an X-Factor.

Robert O’Neill: I really like how they’re using Big Show. I think Big Show vs. Big E is an eventual money match, but for now they can keep doing it this way, The Bar using who they needed to use to even the odds was a great choice.

Chris Novak: Usos-Bryan & Styles is next. They played an extremely well-produced video package about Roman’s announcement from last night. Unsurprisingly, this was fun yet again. The Usos won again over Bryan and Styles, this after an errant Pele Kick struck Bryan, which led to the victory.

Robert O’Neill: The Usos have been doing incredible work so far in this feud. It’s so simple and so well done. Bryan and AJ are starting to have a rift, which is what you have to do in face vs face singles feuds.

Chris Novak: They played a video of an altercation that Charlotte and WWF Champion Becky Lynch got into over the weekend. It was pretty well done and capped off with a pull-apart brawl featuring the women of NXT. I am, of course, really digging this angle. Charlotte cut a (pre-recorded) promo afterwards saying she would win back the Women’s Title. Standard fare.

Miz hosted Rey Mysterio on MizTV. Miz recapped what he missed while he was gone, essentially, and put himself over as the multiplatform star of WWE. Mysterio says he’s disappointed that he wasn’t on Truth TV, which got a few laughs. This eventually led to a physical altercation, and then that led to a really fun match. Miz fell to Mysterio after being hit with the 619.

Robert O’Neill: Miz and Rey Mysterio reigniting their Summerslam 2012 feud. Classic! It was kind of weird to do this match since both are in the World Cup and will probably face off again in that, but it was a good match.

Chris Novak: We were supposed to have a women’s tag bout between Naomi & Asuka and Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville. But then The IIconics showed up… and then everyone else showed up and we got a brawl. Asuka stood tall at the end of it. It was battle royal hype.

Randy Orton defeated Jeff Hardy in the main event. The match was pretty okay all things considered.

Robert O’Neill: Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton didn’t really do anything for me. It’s just like… we’ve seen this already a lot this year. It was a very weird decision

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: For the first time in a long time I thought Raw was significantly better than SmackDown. That’s not to say this show was bad, it just wasn’t great, while Raw was. I’ll give this a solid B-, but they could’ve put something better in for this show, I felt.

Robert O’Neill: I tend to agree, Raw was the better show this week. Smackdown was just kinda there, which is rarely the case, but it kind of felt like a big inconsequential bore. C+

First Black Champ: Roman Couldn't Wait
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+.

The 10 greatest NXT superstars of all-time

In six years, NXT exploded from a shitty competition-style show to fill the left-over hour of the dearly departed ECW brand, into a global phenomenon. Triple H's vision has essentially turned WWE's minor league into a quasi-indie promotion, featuring the biggest up-and-comers to have not yet grace a WWE ring.

From Seth Rollins and Big E, to Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn, to Bayley and Finn Balor, to Asuka and Johnny Gargano, NXT has thrilled audiences with its fresh style of wrestling and storytelling, a stark contrast to the five hours of weekly WWE programming. Its performers over the years have changed, but the hype remains the same, if not larger than ever before.

There are so many superstars over the years who have made an impact in NXT that the debate began: if we were to rank the 10 greatest superstars in NXT history, who would (and wouldn't) make the cut? So we here at the Barber's Chair decided to put our heads together and rank them, 1-10. The list is VERY controversial, especially our top 3; SO controversial that the superstar with the best average ISN'T number one on this list! For a deeper look into our rankings, you can check out the accompanying podcast where we discuss why each superstar fell where they did on our list.

Before we go into our top 10, let's name our best of the rest.

WWE

WWE

The Shield

Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta.

The Shield arrived on the scene in WWE at Survivor Series 2012, but they did have a spell together in NXT towards the end of Seth Rollins' NXT title run. Of the three, Rollins was the standout out on NXT, but Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose held their own. They were the first superstars to defect from NXT to the main roster and have an immediate impact, thus why they made our Best of the Rest.

WWE

WWE

Velveteen Dream

The most eccentric superstar in NXT history very well might crack our top 10 when we revisit this list a year from now. Patrick Clark took the Dream from a poor Prince imitation and molded it into his own character, raising his charisma to 10 and his in-ring skills to another level. The Dream is the next big thing in the company, IF they do right by him.

WWE

WWE

Dash and Dawson

The greatest tag team in NXT history, the Revival were the throwback to old school tag team wrestling, and their dominance helped establish the NXT Tag Team division in 2016. Their series of matches with DIY and the Authors of Pain have gone down among the greatest tag team matches in modern wrestling history, so it's only right they cracked the best of the rest.

WWE

WWE

Aleister Black

No man is ever truly good. No man is ever truly evil. From the second Aleister Black's music hit in NXT, he became a superstar. The Black Mask is one of the most lethal, protected finishers in the brand's history, and his mystique is captivating. His run with the NXT Championship was incredibly lackluster, but it hasn't hurt his standing among the best the brand has ever seen.

WWE

WWE

Adrian Neville

Neville was the first major superstar for NXT after the inception of the WWE Network. He helped carry the brand through the infant stages of the Network when NXT was the only weekly show around on there. His bouts with Tyson Kidd, Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn helped to elevate NXT before their real takeoff; that says something about a guy Neville's stature to be that over and make such a stand in history.

WWE

WWE

Undisputed Era

One year ago in Brooklyn, Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly shocked the system when they debuted in NXT. A dominant faction of indie darlings would never work off the bat in WWE, but in NXT the Undisputed Era are a game-changer. The addition of Roderick Strong in a HOT heel turn in New Orleans gave the group a new element. Thanks to Fish's injury they have yet to hold every single title in NXT, but it's only a matter of time until they do.


10. Shinsuke Nakamura

T.C. Fontaine: The first quarter of 2016 saw many top names from New Japan Pro Wrestling make their way over to the WWE; but perhaps none bigger than Shinsuke Nakamura. Without a doubt Nakamura is the biggest Japanese-born star to compete in WWE, and his signing to NXT garnered appropriate attention, complete with a press conference in Tokyo. “The King of Strong Style” would make his highly anticipated WWE debut during Wrestlemania weekend at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, defeating Sami Zayn in a critically-acclaimed bout.

Nakamura quickly shot up the NXT ranks, triumphing over Finn Bálor, which solidified himself in the title picture. His year-long NXT run was notable for his feud with Samoa Joe, which saw Nak defeat Joe for top NXT crown at TakeOver: Brooklyn II. He and Joe would trade the NXT Championship throughout the second half of 2016, culminating with Nak winning the strap a second time in his home country, and retaining in a classic cage match in Australia.

Although it was a brief run in developmental, Nakamura definitely made a name for himself as one of the best in NXT’s history.


9. Samoa Joe

Chris Novak: On May 20, 2015, NXT produced TakeOver: Unstoppable. It’s an event best remembered for a clash between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, but many fans will also recall how the show concluded. As reigning NXT Champion Kevin Owens stood tall after defeating Sami Zayn and Finn Balor, the fans in Full Sail witnessed an historic arrival. After spending over 10 years with TNA and Ring of Honor, NXT was graced by the presence of The Samoan Submission Machine.

When Samoa Joe walked out that night in Full Sail and confronted Owens in the ring, it produced quite a moment. It was perhaps the first of the “Oh Shit!” kind for NXT, a brand that was just 15 months into the Network Era. Those past 15 months solidified it as a rising brand, and one that was producing better results than the main roster. But adding Samoa Joe? This was the kind of moment that turned heads. This meant that NXT wasn’t only a developmental brand, but something that was about to take it around the US and the world, as well.

Throughout the duration of Joe’s career in NXT, that’s exactly what they did. It helped that they had the likes of Finn Balor, Bayley and later Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka, but Joe was a household name. The kind of impact that he provided NXT at the gate was a powerful and evident one. It’s probably why he was around there for so long. An impactful presence away from the ring will absolutely land you Top 10 consideration, so it’s no surprise that he was on this list.

Not only that, but Joe’s in-ring accomplishments were great in NXT history. He was the first ever two-time NXT Champion; he won the first-ever Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic with Finn Balor; he defeated Balor, alongside a host of big names in NXT’s history. While his workrate wasn’t nearly what it was 10 years ago or even a few years before his arrival to the brand, he was still more than competent.

And plus, his mic skills still remain aces.


8. Tommaso Ciampa

Markus Howell: *Fuck you Ciampa* *clap clap clapclapclap*

Tommaso Ciampa deserves his spot in the top 10 greatest NXT superstars of all time based off everything after his knee injury alone. The run he’s had since his return in January is impeccable. His social media work? Flawless. In-ring work? Vastly underrated. Heel tactics? Legendary. Ciampa’s story is largely attached to Johnny Wrestling but what great evil doesn’t have a great good guy to attempt to foil? Ciampa is currently the NXT champion (something his counterpart cannot currently say) which puts his run right now on another level.

Now, his DIY work with Gargano also attributed to his status as one of NXT’s greats, but the singles work he has put in on his own has catapulted him over some others who deserve it. Ciampa’s subtleties are what make him such a great heel and an even better character. I mean hell, NO THEME SONG?! Incredible.

But seriously, Ciampa deserves this spot as one of the greats due to his overall body of work. All I can hope for is that when Ciampa is gone and his feud with Johnny is over, he debuts on the main roster with no theme music. Like….never get a theme song. Ever.


7. Kevin Owens

WWE

WWE

Markus: From the moment Kevin Owens stepped onto the NXT scene at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution, he made it known that he was in NXT for business and business only.

Owens’ NXT career was arguably one of the best we have ever seen. He debuted in a vicious and vile way, defeating CJ Parker in his first match before attacking his best friend and new NXT Champion Sami Zayn later that night, letting the audience know what he was here for . “Prizefighter” Kevin Owens, the most dangerous of Owens’ personalities, came into Full Sail to do what he needed to do in order to provide for his family.

Throughout his tenure in NXT, KO put on countless quality matches with Sami, Samoa Joe, and Finn Balor, helping to elevate NXT to a new level with his ruthlessness. However his legend on the roster will be known for what he did on the main roster as NXT champion.

KO made his main roster debut unannounced as the NXT champion, answering John Cena's U.S. Open Challenge. This set up a match at Elimination Chamber weeks later, which Owens won cleanly. This firmly put Owens in the “Oh Shit, we should pay attention to this guy” category along with bringing an audience to NXT that they did not have before.

Owens’ impact on the main roster is largely underrated but rightfully overshadowed, but what he achieved in his brief tenure is not to be dismissed. KO is arguably the first or second-most successful NXT alum and looking back at his NXT run, you shouldn’t be surprised.


6. Sami Zayn

Robert O'Neill: After years of making his name in Ring of Honor as El Generico, Sami Zayn’s arrival in NXT in 2013 marked a huge step for the promotion. After The Shield got promoted to the main roster, the brand was starting to look a little barren of talent. That all changed when Zayn signed in January and made his debut a few weeks later, with a bang. Zayn defeated Curt Hawkins and Antonio Cesaro on the same night to announce to the world that he was there.

The rest of 2013 would see Zayn work against Cesaro, whom he had a ton of familiarity with from his ROH days, before entering a title feud with Bo Dallas. He ultimately lost the feud, though, and would go on to lose a few more feuds over the course of the early part of 2014, but he won a feud against Tyson Kidd and started teaming up with NXT Champion Adrian Neville in tag bouts. That is, until Neville cost Zayn the title at NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-Way.

From that point on, Zayn was desperate for another title shot. So desperate that he put his career on the line against Neville’s title at NXT Takeover: R Evolution. Zayn proved victorious and captured the elusive gold, but, as you probably know, his joy was very short-lived. His recently signed longtime friend/foe Kevin Owens came down to the ring to celebrate with Zayn before turning on him and throwing him into the ring apron.

To be entirely honest with you, the Owens/Zayn feud was almost a rough draft of the ongoing Johnny Gargano/Tomasso Ciampa feud. Owens and Zayn were best friends turned into bitter enemies, and Owens was able to get the title off Zayn after just two months, winning by referee stoppage at NXT Takeover: Rival.

While Zayn remained in the NXT title hunt preparing for his rematch against Owens, he answered John Cena’s United States Open Challenge on Raw in his native Montreal, being introduced by Bret Hart. Zayn lost to Cena, but put on a great match. However… he suffered a an injury in the match and was written off TV at NXT Takeover: Unstoppable when Owens beat him down to the point where he couldn’t partake in the match.

Seven months later, Zayn returned, but things were different. He no longer found himself in the title picture and looked poised to go to the main roster soon. He partook in the 2016 Royal Rumble, eliminating Kevin Owens, and then returned to Raw in March to team up with Neville to face Owens and Miz. However, Zayn had one more match ahead of him in NXT.

Wrestlemania weekend was set to commence from Dallas, and while it was a weekend loaded with high-caliber matches, Sami Zayn versus a debuting Shinsuke Nakamura stole the show. Nakamura got the win in Zayn’s send off, but it was a perfect way to send off a guy who was the ultimate underdog for so long.


WWE

WWE

5. Asuka

Lincoln Ricketts: The undefeated empress of NXT belongs on this list without any hesitation.

While walking in the shadows of the "Four Horsewomen", Asuka had to endure a slow influx of talent, yet she prevailed nonetheless. From her entrance to her wrestling skills, Asuka maintained an aura that attracted fans to watch her matches regardless of her opponents.

Asuka’s reign will be remembered as Goldberg-esque, dominating her opponents with ease. Luckily she gained a few adversaries who matched her talents in the ring, most memorably Ember Moon who gave Asuka the best match of her career thus far. After a Triple Threat Match for the Women’s Championship with Ruby Riot, Nikki Cross gave Asuka an exceptional Last Woman Standing match, with both women pushing it to the absolute limit.

In the end, no one was ready for Asuka, as she relinquished her title before leaving for the main roster.


WWE

WWE

4. Sasha Banks

Lynx: Sasha Banks is one of the best heels that NXT ever created. Banks was the BOSS that let everyone know who she was, from wrestlers to the viewers. Banks came up with a character for herself and it worked out extremely well; she wound up becoming NXT Women's Champion and was part of the best women’s match in NXT history with Bayley.

It’s amazing that NXT planned to use her in order to make other Superstars look good. I mean think about it; almost every wrestler who has been in the ring with Sasha Banks has had their best match with her. Banks’ feud with Becky Lynch shows her character and her worth in the ring. Before TakeOver: Brooklyn, Banks vs. Lynch was must-see TV. Banks sacrifices herself to ensure that the match gets to that next level.

Sasha (as well as the other Four Horsewomen) changed our mindset on how women wrestle. She pushed forward and broke through the glass ceiling to become one of the best NXT wrestlers of all-time. Banks popularity transferred to the main roster, as she is one of the most popular stars in WWE today.


WWE

WWE

3. Johnny Gargano

Rob: What is there to say about Johnny Gargano at this point? He’s one of the best tag team wrestlers AND best singles wrestlers in NXT history, and that’s why he was #1 on my ballot despite finishing third in the overall rankings.

Gargano and Ciampa really burst onto the tag team scene in late 2016 after they won the titles against The Revival at NXT Takeover: Toronto. They dropped them shortly later to Authors of Pain, then fell short again in the rematch vs. AOP and Revival at NXT Takeover: Orlando, but the duo never stopped fighting to get the gold back. Well, until they did.

NXT Takeover: Chicago saw DIY face AOP in a ladder match. Though coming very close, Gargano and Ciampa lost the match in the end. That’s when everything changed. As the show was set to go off the air, Ciampa snapped and savagely beat Gargano on the stage.

Nothing would ever be the same.

Ciampa left to deal with injuries, but it was always in the back of everyone’s mind that he would be back and Gargano would eventually be waiting for him. In the meantime, Gargano faced off with Andrade “Cien” Almas in Brooklyn, and lost when Zelina Vega threw a DIY shirt at Gargano. He persisted, though, becoming the #1 contender for Almas’ title at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia and delivering WWE’s first five-star match since 2011, but Gargano fell short yet again. To make things worse, Ciampa attacked him with a crutch after the match.

Then, on NXT TV in February, Gargano put his career on the line against Almas’ title. With the referee knocked out, Ciampa came out and assisted Almas for the victory. Gargano convinced William Regal to give him an unsanctioned match against Ciampa in New Orleans to try to get his job back. What followed was a brutal contest with all sorts of weaponry, and this time Gargano got the win to get his job back.

They weren’t done yet, though. After Gargano was awarded a championship match against Aleister Black on NXT TV, Ciampa took him out on the entrance ramp. This led to another match, this time a Chicago Street Fight in Rosemont. What followed was one of the most punishing wrestling matches of all time, featuring an incredible table spot, and a DDT onto the exposed wood underneath the ring. Ciampa got the win this time, but still the feud rages on.

This weekend in Brooklyn, Gargano and Ciampa (now the NXT Champion thanks to Gargano’s interference in Ciampa’s match with Black leading to Ciampa’s victory) will face off in a Last Man Standing match of the NXT Championship. It will likely be the final match in the feud, and there’s no better way to cap off this 15-month war.

Gargano’s ability to play the ultimate white meat babyface to Ciampa’s blackhearted heel, combined with his in-ring excellence is what has made him #1 on my list of all-time NXT superstars.


2. Finn Balor

WWE

WWE

TC: In the spring of 2014, Finn Bálor was the first of several major post-Network era WWE migrations from New Japan Pro Wrestling. After a short stint tag-teaming with Hideo Itami upon his debut, he soon set his sights on the NXT Championship. The Demon King’s victory over Kevin Owens at the Beast in the East special saw him become the first superstar to win the NXT title outside of Full Sail arena (also the first and only title change that has occurred outside of North America).

Over the course of his record 292-day reign (which no titleholder has come close to since) Bálor defended the title in several standout matches, including a classic ladder match versus Kevin Owens at the inaugural TakeOver: Brooklyn event. His reign also saw him win the Dusty Rhodes Classic with Samoa Joe.

All of these things considered, it’s impossible to argue against Finn Bálor being one of the greatest NXT superstars of all-time.


1. Bayley

WWE

WWE

Chris: It’s not difficult to see why Bayley was voted as the greatest superstar in NXT history. For one, as of writing, no ‘story’ ever crafted by the brand has ever reached the kind of climax that Bayley’s reached. She was the truest of underdogs from the jump, not winning a singles match until November 2013. It was that night, when she defeated Summer Rae, that the hope truly began. The belief that some day, Bayley could assert herself at the top of the mountain.

2014 was when she started to turn the corner. She began to gain the attention of the NXT Universe, and many more began to take her seriously. She was part of NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way, where she came up short in an effort to wrestle the NXT Women’s Championship away from Charlotte. She lost that night in Orlando, but fans began to flock. In 2015, she sought to become champion and rid the ‘loser’ reputation. A reputation that, smartly, gained more fuel when her contemporaries -- Becky Lynch, the aforementioned Charlotte, and Sasha Banks -- were called up to the main roster. The only member of the ‘4 Horsewomen’ who wasn’t? That was Bayley, who “fell behind.” And it was during this time that she began a crusade for the NXT Women’s Title that nobody would soon forget.

The climactic moment of this chase, and perhaps the greatest moment in NXT history, took place at the biggest NXT event ever. TakeOver: Brooklyn on August 22, 2015 saw the best women’s match in company history. Bayley went toe-to-toe with Banks, and captured the title that eluded her. It was this moment in time that jumped off the page. It was the conclusion of an incredible ride for Bayley, who captured the hearts of everyone around the wrestling world. From kids to adults, marks to smarks, it didn’t matter.

Bayley’s impact on the brand was substantial away from the ring, as well. She was different, in that for the first time in a long time, NXT (and WWE still, to this day) had someone to market towards young girls. Her ‘huggers’ were always around, capturing her attention. Her presence helped bring families to the shows on NXT’s Florida circuit. It was commonplace to see a multitude of young kids with their mothers and fathers, all screaming and cheering their hearts out for Bayley.

She was family-friendly and accepted among the ENTIRE fanbase, too, in a day and age where WWE being “PG” is still occasionally lambasted. It was against the usual grain, and her absence from the brand only showcases what was lost. Families don’t typically show up in large volumes like they used to anymore. They’ve now elevated and gone to WWE house shows. So not only did Bayley have an impact on TV, but she also had impact at the gate, and for one of the targeted audiences. The void still hasn’t been filled, and may never be filled to the extent that it was again.

Bayley is, was, and always will be the quintessential NXT superstar. The lovable underdog. The purest babyface this side of town. All that was right. Someone who even made the most cynical smark bellow out the loudest of cheers in appreciation. She’s the greatest superstar the brand has ever seen and will ever see.

Ranking the best Money in the Bank cash-ins
Courtesy: WWE.com

Courtesy: WWE.com

We are just days away from one of my personal favorite WWE events of the year, and it couldn't come at a better time. WWE has been dragging their feet through the mud creatively since WrestleMania, but things look to pick up at Money in the Bank this Sunday in Chicago.

Introduced back in 2005, winners of the Money in the Bank briefcase have experienced many ups (and a few downs) when it comes time to cashing in their title shot. Here's a ranking of all of the MITB cash-in's so far, from worst to best. I'll also be ranking the significance of each cash-in as well as the quality of the match.

19. Baron Corbin (Smackdown Live, 2017)

Courtesy: WWE Network

Courtesy: WWE Network

Significance of Moment: Meh.
Match Quality: Meh.

Not only was this the worst match, Baron Corbin just might be the worst Mr. Money in the Bank of all time. His one-month run with the briefcase was lackluster, and it's almost like there was no intention of having him win the belt to begin with.

Having interfered in a match John Cena and then-WWE Champion Jinder Mahal on the go-home episode of Smackdown before SummerSlam, Corbin felt that there was no better opportunity to cash in while the champ was still in a daze. However, Cena gained his revenge and interfered shortly after the match began, causing Mahal to roll Corbin up and retain his championship after only 5 seconds.

18. Damien Sandow (Monday Night Raw, 2013)

Significance of Moment: 1/10
Match Quality: 5/10

It never felt as if WWE had a plan with Damien Sandow from the get go, as was evident by his time spent holding the briefcase.

After attacking World Heavyweight Champion John Cena, Sandow announced that he would be cashing in his briefcase. While the match itself was pretty good, Sandow eventually was defeated by Cena and became the first superstar to lose his Money in the Bank cash in match.

17. Jack Swagger (Smackdown, 2010)

Significance of Moment: 3/10
Match Quality: 1/10

Jack Swagger never was able to catch on in WWE despite multiple attempts to get over, and this cash-in was perhaps the peak moment of his career.

After having defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Edge at WrestleMania with some illegal assistance, Chris Jericho came out to gloat on his victory. Having felt cheated, Edge would come out to attack his former partner once again. Out of nowhere, Jack Swagger laid Edge out and announced that he would be “cathing in my Money in the Bank contract”. One Gutwrench Powerbomb later, Swagger would then become the new World Heavyweight Champ.

16. Alberto Del Rio (SummerSlam 2011)

Significance of Moment: 0/10
Match Quality: 1/10

After not having the chance to cash in on CM Punk at Money in the Bank a month prior, WWE decided to permanently put an end to one of the best angles they’ve had in years by having Alberto Del Rio win the WWE title from Punk following an attack from Kevin Nash. The moment itself seemed flat, and the audience never really accepted him as champion in the months following.

15. Kane (Money in the Bank 2010)

Significance of Moment: 5/10
Match Quality: 1/10

Let's recap the beginning of Kane's summer 2010, shall we?: After defeating Rey Mysterio to qualify for a World title shot, The Undertaker was found in a vegetative state, with his brother Kane hell bent on finding out who was to blame. Two of the top suspects on his list just so happened to be Rey Mysterio and Jack Swagger. 

Fast forward a few weeks later at the inaugural Money in the Bank PPV, Mysterio retained his World Heavyweight Championship in a battle with Swagger. Swagger attacked Mysterio after the match in frustration only to be ran off by Kane, who was still on the lookout for who attacked his brother. Mysterio would continue his celebration for a few more seconds, only to be interrupted again by Kane, who pretty much went backstage for one final (and legitimate) deserved reign as world champion. Kane holds the distinction of being the first superstar to win the Money in the Bank ladder match at a non-WrestleMania event, and is also the first to cash in within an hour of winning the briefcase (and on the first Money in the Bank PPV no less).

14. CM Punk (Monday Night Raw, 2008)

Significance of Moment: 5/10
Match Quality: 0/10

Although Punk was merely a transitional champion called upon to bring the World Heavyweight title back to Raw, this was still a cool moment. Edge retained the World Heavyweight title against Batista the night before at Night of Champions (with some outside assistance), meaning the belt would remain Smackdown property. Edge showed up the next night on Raw to gloat about Raw not having a world champion to call their own, only to be attacked by a vengeful Batista. Having twice cashed in on fallen foes, Edge got a taste of his own medicine as CM Punk cashed in for his first world title in WWE. Punk’s underwhelming title reign would last about three months.

13. Sheamus (Survivor Series 2015)

Significance of Moment: 3/10
Match Quality: 0/10

After chasing the WWE Championship for the majority of a controversial year, Roman Reigns finally reached the top of the mountaintop after winning the vacant title at Survivor Series. Reigns’ celebration was short-lived however, as Sheamus would hit him with a Brogue Kick out of nowhere. He would then put Reigns away for good with another Brogue Kick, as the crowd erupted due to clear disdain for ‘The Big Dog’. The cash-in, and the timing, was perfect, even if Sheamus' reign as champion wasn't.

12. John Cena (Raw 1000, 2012)

Significance of Moment: 4/10
Match Quality: 6/10

After having won the briefcase at Money in the Bank a week prior, John Cena announced that he would be cashing in on CM Punk at the 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw. What was a decent back and forth battle was ended prematurely following interference from Big Show, who caused Cena to win by disqualification, and ultimately become the first superstar to unsuccessfully cash in their briefcase.

11. Carmella (Smackdown Live, 2018)

Courtesy: WWE.com

Courtesy: WWE.com

Significance of Moment: 6/10
Match Quality: 0/10

"Are you sure?!" - Mike Chioda.

Although Carmella's reign as Ms. Money in the Bank was considerably lackluster, you'd have to figure that they wouldn't have their first Women's Money in the Bank winner lose her cash-in match (especially after the first Women's Royal Rumble winner lost her mandated championship match).

After celebrating her win over the previously undefeated Asuka two nights earlier at WrestleMania, Charlotte Flair would be attacked by the debuting Iconic Duo. After multiple pumpfakes over the previous nine months, Carmella finally waited for the right time to cash in and become Smackdown Women's Champion.

10. Edge (Smackdown 2007)

Significance of Moment: 5/10
Match Quality: 1/10

In what is probably a testament to how great of a worker Adam Copeland was, he was called upon during one of the most injury-ridden weeks in WWE. Edge attacked Mr. Kennedy (...KENNEDY!) prior to their match on RAW for the briefcase and ended up becoming the first multi-time Mr. Money in the Bank.

Later that week, The Undertaker retained his World Heavyweight Championship after drawing Batista in a steel cage. Beaten, bloodied and battered, Undertaker would be laid out and attacked by a returning Mark Henry. Always one to live up to the Ultimate Opportunist label, Edge showed up on Smackdown, made his way down to the ring and successfully cashed in for a second time.

9. CM Punk (Extreme Rules 2009)

Significance of Moment: 6/10
Match Quality: 1/10

As mentioned earlier, Punk's first go with the World title a year prior is seemingly a footnote in history. This time around, he was more of a central figure in the title scene and less than a transitional champion.

Following a grueling ladder match with Edge to claim his second overall world championship in WWE, Jeff Hardy's celebration was cut short immediately as CM Punk would go to cash in again on another debilitated opponent, leading into a more well-deserved championship reign(s) for Punk.

8. The Miz (Monday Night Raw, 2010)

Significance of Moment: 7/10
Match Quality: 4/10

One of my favorite Money in the Bank moments saw The Miz cash in on Randy Orton.

This might be the best match quality wise to occur when blindsiding a fallen champion. Following a successful defense against Wade Barrett in the main event on Raw, Orton's moment was cut short as The Miz took the opportunity to take advantage of an exhausted RKO and won his first WWE Championship (shout out to #AngryMizGirl).

Courtesy: WWE Network

Courtesy: WWE Network

 

7. Daniel Bryan (TLC: Tables, Ladders, Chairs 2011)

Significance of Moment: 6/10
Match Quality: 0/10

After grinding around the industry for 12 long years, Daniel Bryan finally reached the mountain top in WWE.

At TLC in 2011, Big Show retained his World Heavyweight title against Mark Henry in a Chairs match that was by far one of the worst matches of that year. In typical sore loser Mark Henry fashion, he retaliated against Big Show and DDT'd him onto a pile of steel chairs. In what was a slight shocker, Bryan would simply pin his fallen "friend", and walk away with his championship. Daniel Bryan would be the first NXT star to win a World title in WWE.

6. Randy Orton (SummerSlam 2013)

Courtesy: WWE Network

Courtesy: WWE Network

Significance of Moment: 8/10
Match Quality: 0/10

If you're a Daniel Bryan fan like me, the following eight-month period may have been one of the most frustrating time periods. Making his WrestleMania main card debut the previous year, Bryan's first World title reign ended in 18 FUCKING SECONDS in the opening match. Fans clamored for him to receive another go with a top title for over a year, and seemed to finally get one when John Cena handpicked Bryan as his Summerslam opponent (much to the chagrin of Vince McMahon), with Triple H serving as the guest referee. 

Bryan would go on to defeat John Cena and win his first WWE Championship, making up for how the World Heavyweight title reign ended a year earlier...or so we thought. Following the victory, Mr. Money in the Bank, Randy Orton would tease a cash-in, only to turn around and start walking back to the locker room. However, Bryan was hit by a Pedigree from Triple H, who would count Randy Orton for the victory.

5. Dean Ambrose (Money in the Bank 2016)

Courtesy: WWE.com

Courtesy: WWE.com

Significance of Moment: 8/10
Match Quality: 0/10

This moment was special in its own right, as it saw all three members of The Shield hold the WWE Championship within 5 minutes of each other. Shortly after defeating former champion Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins was attacked from behind by Ambrose, who cashed in his briefcase and celebrated in front of the Sin City crowd. Another former Mr. Money in the Bank getting hit with some well deserved karma.

4. Dolph Ziggler (Monday Night Raw, 2013)

Significance of Moment: 8/10
Match Quality: 3/10

Shout out to Jersey for a moment, as this night was basically the OG "Night After WrestleMania" episode of Raw. After successfully defending the World Heavyweight Championship the night before at 'Mania, Alberto Del Rio faced off against Jack Swagger and his manager Zeb Colter. Swagger worked on Del Rio's injured knee throughout the match, but failed to achieve victory for the second night in a row. While having his knee tended to by officials and medical staff inside the ring, Dolph Ziggler made his way to the ring and successfully cashed with one of the loudest ovations in the last five years to follow.

3. Rob Van Dam (ECW One Night Stand 2006)

Significance of Moment: 10/10

Match Quality: 9/10

As of 2018, RVD is still the only Money in the Bank briefcase holder to challenge for a championship ahead of time AND walk out with the championship. With the impending ECW brand being launched after One Night Stand, Van Dam challenged John Cena for the WWE Championship and announced his intentions to rechristen the title as the ECW Championship. In what was easily the best cash-in match ever, the decidedly pro-ECW crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom gave RVD the homefield advantage, as he would defeat Cena following some interference from Edge to win his first and only WWE Championship.

2. Edge (New Year’s Resolution 2006)

Significance of Moment: 10/10
Match Quality: 1/10

Edge still is the longest-running Mr. Money in the Bank (Carmella surpassed him overall by a whole week in 2018), and he waited until the best possible moment to make the first cash-in.

After defending the WWE Championship in a brutal war inside the Elimination Chamber, John Cena’s celebration was cut short by the boss man Vince McMahon, who came out to let everybody that Edge would be cashing in his briefcase. After losing an Intercontinental title match to Ric Flair earlier in the night, Edge made sure to live up to his Ultimate Opportunist moniker and head for greener pastures: the WWE Championship.

1. Seth Rollins (WrestleMania 31)

Courtesy: WWE.com

Courtesy: WWE.com

Significance of Moment: 10/10
Match Quality: 7/10*
*Factoring in the match that was already taking place at the time of the cash-in.

I struggled with the top two here, as you could make a case for both being #1. However, there were a few things considered that put this over the top.

First, it was the first (and so far only) cash-in to take place at WrestleMania. Having failed to defeat Randy Orton earlier in the night, Seth Rollins' music crashed Suplex City and became the first Mr. Money in the Bank to cash-in DURING a championship match. After Curb Stomps to first Brock Lesnar and then Roman Reigns, Rollins left Mania as the champion. There are only so many original moments you can create with the briefcase at this point, and this was the first one in nine years.

Royal Rumble non-Rumble countdown

WrestleMania is the preeminent event for WWE, but the Royal Rumble isn’t too far off. The event is perhaps even more fun for the casual fan because of the possible surprise appearances from the past, and the overall chaos of the Royal Rumble Match.

But even though the Royal Rumble Match takes precedence, that doesn’t mean everything else is chopped liver. The undercard has had its moments in the sun too. In fact, there’ve been times where individual matches have stolen the show. So while your focus might be on who’s going to WrestleMania, there have been plenty of great matches throughout the years that have gotten us through the night, too.

And so, here is a countdown of the best non-Royal Rumble matches in history to take place at the annual event. All matches were viewed by yours truly, and weighed through my own mind. No, I’m not #DaMeltz/#BIGDAVE, so there won’t be any SIX STARS/SEVEN STARS given out here. This is just the way that I see it and how I was captivated by the psychology, storytelling, and overall entertainment of the match.

Before we get to the Top 10 though, here are a few Honorable Mentions:

The Rock vs. Mankind | I Quit Match, 1999 | Rating: ***¾

This couldn’t quite crack the Top 10, but the sheer brutality of it is just so stomach-churning. It’s a hard watch, knowing the state of things now with what we know about head trauma, and what we probably know about Mick Foley’s condition. Still, this is a match, for the right and wrong reasons, that was too memorable to be left off the HM’s.

Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan | 2014 | Rating: ***¾

Ah… the 2014 Rumble. Aka, perhaps, the most bungled Rumble ever (until 2015). At least we had this match between Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan, who of course would go on to win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania anyway. It was a very solid opener with a hot crowd that was defiantly behind Bryan. I will say, it loses its luster a little on the second watch. That’s why it find itself here.

Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty | Intercontinental Championship, 1993 | Rating: ***¾

HBK and Marty Jannetty had two memorable Intercontinental Championship matches. One took place on Monday Night RAW, and the other went down at the 1993 Rumble. This one was built around Sensational Sherri, who made her return after being off TV for quite some time. There were questions as to whose side she was on, and in this match, it appeared she was on the side of Jannetty. However, her misstep in striking Marty with her heel allowed for HBK to hit him with Sweet Chin Music and retain his IC Title. Fun match with some good storytelling.

The Rockers vs. The Orient Express | 1991 | Rating: ****

The best tag team match in Royal Rumble history took place all the way back in 1991. The Rockers faced off with The Orient Express in Miami, and the two teams put on an absolute clinic to start the night. 27 years later, this match still holds up EXCELLENTLY. There’s drama, great tag spots, and a very fun finish too.

Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens | Universal Championship, 2017 | Rating: ****¼

Last year’s Universal Championship match just misses the cut for the Top 10. But don’t thumb your nose at that. Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens’ collision is certainly one of the best World Title matches to ever take place at a Royal Rumble. Reigns and Owens had a physical encounter that’s best remembered for Braun Strowman’s run-in, which ultimately led to KO retaining the title. And also ultimately led to the great Braun-Roman feud. Oh, and Jericho was in a shark cage above the ring. That was a thing.
 

And now… The Top 10 non-Royal Rumble Matches in history.
 

10. Dean Ambrose vs. Kevin Owens | Intercontinental Championship Last Man Standing Match, 2016 | Rating: ****¼

The 2016 Royal Rumble is remembered for many things. AJ Styles made his VERY FIRST appearance in WWE. Becky Lynch and Charlotte had a pretty stirring Divas Championship match. But the best match of the night was the one that went on first.

Dean Ambrose and Kevin Owens fought over the Intercontinental Championship in a rather incredible Last Man Standing Match. There are several violent spots in the match-up, many of which involving chairs. Ambrose late in the match nearly won the match after an elbow drop through the table, but it wasn’t enough at the time. Owens thought he sealed it up late with a Sidewinder Suplex through the table, but Dean the madman got up from that, too. The match came to a bitter conclusion after Owens was pushed into a stacked set of tables on the outside, finishing off one brutal encounter.

9. Diesel vs. Bret Hart | WWF Championship, 1995 | Rating: ****¼

The 1995 Rumble is notable for two reasons. Shawn Michaels went coast to coast, and Diesel and Bret Hart had an amazing WWF Title Match.

What sets this match apart is the psychology in it. The Hitman did everything in his power to try and cut Big Daddy Cool and his legs down. And by that, I mean EVERYTHING. Attacks on the leg and knee. Knee drops. Slamming them against the ringpost. Using the Figure Four on the ringpost. There’s even a spot where Hitman RIPS OFF HIS WRIST TAPE, TIES IT AROUND DIESEL’S ANKLES, and goes back in the ring to attack him while he’s trapped around the ringpost.

Shawn Michaels and Owen Hart make cameos in a match that didn’t have a finish, but it left an impact. That’s for sure.

8. Chris Jericho vs. The Rock | WWF Undisputed Championship, 2002 | Rating: ****½

Chris Jericho’s run as Undisputed Champion is something he’ll never let you forget. It unfortunately lasted only 3 months, but Jericho worked with the big names and had stirring performances.

Especially so against The Great One at the 2002 Rumble. Y2J’s heel work shined from the get go, as he stole Rocky’s taunt, putting his hand out in front of his face. The Brahma Bull gave it his best shot, but thanks to the handiwork of Lance Storm and Christian, Jericho was able to get out of Atlanta as Undisputed Champion.

7. CM Punk vs. The Rock | WWE Championship, 2013 | Rating: ****½

Sometimes, a match can be great, and also be aided by its atmosphere. CM Punk vs. The Rock in 2013 is one of those cases. Punk, who walked in as Champion, while carrying a streak of 434 days with the championship, squared off with The People’s Champion in a high-stakes encounter. The “big fight” feel that the crowd in Phoenix gave off in this match was absolutely electric.

It helped that Punk and Rock were both at a very high caliber in this matchup. Punk especially, as the man was on a run for the ages at the time. 434 came to an end after The People’s Elbow, and we know the rest from there. The electricity around this match helped it shine, though.

6. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho | Ladder Match, 2001 | Rating: ****¾

Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit had their fair share of classics. One that will never be forgotten occurred at the 2001 Rumble in New Orleans. The two fought over the Intercontinental Championship in an absolutely ridiculous Ladder Match.

The thing that I REALLY love about this match? They had a match INSIDE a Ladder Match. A lot of times, you see the match built around the chase for the title. These two didn’t do that though. They fought and kicked and scrapped. They used the ladder as a weapon. Jericho used the ladder to apply the Walls of Jericho on Benoit in a memorable spot. This is one of the greatest Intercontinental Championship Matches in general, and surely the best ever in Royal Rumble history.

5. AJ Styles vs. John Cena | WWE Championship, 2017 | Rating: ****¾

AJ Styles and John Cena had one hell of a rivalry in 2016. Cena and Styles had a classic the first time they faced each other at Money in the Bank. Then, they had another at SummerSlam. Five months later at the Royal Rumble, they would fight again. But this time, with a lot more on the line.

Styles’ WWE Championship was up for grabs, and Cena’s shot at the elusive 16th Championship reign. And man, did they ever deliver. In what was one of 2017’s Matches of the Year, the two icons did what they did best in San Antonio. Cena ended the match emphatically with an AA-rollthrough-AA combo to win the title for the 16th time.

4. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins | WWE Championship Triple Threat Match, 2015 | Rating: ****¾

The 2015 Rumble was… okay, anyways, Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Seth Rollins stole the damn show in Philadelphia on this night.

This match wasn’t your typical WWE triple threat match. It was chaotic. It was hectic. It was like watching wildfire in wrestling form. EVERYONE found a way to make an impact. Seth Rollins got his breakthrough opportunity here, and boy, oh boy, did he make the most of it. Rollins’ Phoenix Splash is one of the more memorable spots of this matchup. He wouldn’t win the title that night, as Brock would retain, but he would get the last laugh a few months later...

3. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit | WWE Championship, 2003 | Rating: *****

SmackDown’s epic run in 2002 was largely aided by the SmackDown Six, and Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit were at the forefront. The Rabid Wolverine had spent much of his time in the WWF as a heel, besides for a run in 2001 against… you guessed it: Kurt Angle, but the tide was turning in his favor late in 2002. He would earn the right to be #1 contender going into the 2003 Rumble, and on that night in Boston, he faced off against his rival.

What would happen next was one of the greatest WWE Title Matches EVER. Point blank period. Not just the Rumble. EVER. Angle and Benoit put on a wrestling clinic for nearly 20 minutes, with the story focusing in on Benoit’s quest to become WWE Champion for the first time ever. Angle would retain the championship that night, but the booking in this match was Hall of Fame-grade. This is the best pure wrestling match in the history of the Royal Rumble. And it likely won’t EVER be topped. 

2. John Cena vs. Umaga | WWE Championship Last Man Standing, 2007 | Rating: *****

The 2007 Royal Rumble in San Antonio is one of the best Rumbles ever. Largely because of the main event, but also because of the Last Man Standing Match that happened that night. John Cena and Umaga had what is regarded as the greatest LMS Match in history that night, and any run through the match can show you why.

#SuperCena booking be damned here, because The Samoan Bulldozer was hardly hurt at all. This is one of the last REALLY brutal matches in WWE before the turn to PG in 2008, so there’s blood and violence galore. Plenty of usages of the steel steps were used, and Cena won the match after passing ‘Mags out with the unlatched ring ropes.

1. Triple H vs. Cactus Jack | WWF Championship Street Fight, 2000 | Rating: *****

The greatest non-Royal Rumble Match ever took place on January 23, 2000. Sure enough, it happened in the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, at the start of what was the World Wrestling Federation’s greatest year ever.

Cactus Jack and Triple H, no stranger to each other, fought over the World Wrestling Federation Title in a Street Fight. Jack’s dream of becoming WWF Champion, spliced in with his love for violence, makes the story in the match so easily captivating. Barbed wire, tables, thumbtacks and chairs all make cameos in this memorable encounter. Hunter’s Pedigree onto the thumbtacks is how this one ends, and it ended in such brilliant fashion. Both men looked like absolute warriors, with Foley still gaining plenty of sympathy from the crowd in the process of the loss.

It will always be remembered as one of the greatest championship matches in the company’s history. It’s also remembered as the greatest non-Royal Rumble Match in history.

(All photos courtesy of WWE)