Posts tagged Finn Balor
The WWE Top 25: April Edition
WWE

WWE

One-third of the year 2019 has already come and gone. That means it’s time for the April edition of The WWE Top 25!

You know the rules by now around here. But just in case you don’t and you’re new around here, here’s a breakdown on the matter.

As I mentioned, we’re a third of the way through the year. Crazy, right? The cumulative Top 25 is starting to really separate itself from the rest of the pack (I went over this on Thursday on Twitter, actually. If you want to see, click this here link).

We’re going to go through things as we typically do here. But there’s an addition to this post now. Given the fact that there’s just one woman in the cumulative WWE Top 25 right now, I’ve decided to post the WOMEN’S Top 25 as well. Women’s wrestling is an incredibly hot topic of discussion all the time, of course, and so I figured that it would be fair to showcase the women of WWE right now and where they currently stand amongst each other. So that will be down past the April Top 25, right before the cumulative WWE Top 25.


TOP 10 TV MATCHES (APRIL)

1. The Velveteen Dream vs. Buddy Murphy (NXT, 4/17, ****¼)
2. Tony Nese vs. Buddy Murphy (205 Live, 4/9, ****)
3. Cedric Alexander vs. Oney Lorcan (205 Live, 4/16, ****)
4. Bayley vs. Charlotte Flair (SmackDown Live, 4/23, ****)
5. AJ Styles vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Samoa Joe (Raw, 4/22, ****)
6. Johnny Gargano vs. Roderick Strong (NXT, 4/24, ***¾)
7. Bayley vs. Becky Lynch (SmackDown Live, 4/30, ***¾)
8. Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane (NXT, 4/17, ***¾)
9. Andrade vs. Finn Balor (Raw, 4/15, ***½)
10. Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn (Raw, 4/8, ***½)

TOP 10 MATCHES (APRIL)

1. Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston (WrestleMania, 4/7, *****)
2. The Velveteen Dream vs. Matt Riddle (TakeOver: NY, 4/6, ****¾)
3. The War Raiders vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet (TakeOver: NY, 4/6, ****¾)
4. Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano (TakeOver: NY, 4/6, ****½)
5. The Velveteen Dream vs. Buddy Murphy (NXT, 4/17, ****¼)
6. Pete Dunne vs. WALTER (TakeOver: NY, 4/6, ****¼)
7. Charlotte vs. Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch (WrestleMania, 4/7, ****)
8. Shayna Baszler vs. Bianca Belair vs. Io Shirai vs. Kairi Sane (TakeOver: NY, 4/6, ****)
9. Dominik Dijakovic vs. Harper (Worlds Collide, 4/14, ****)
10. Tony Nese vs. Buddy Murphy (205 Live, 4/9, ****)

TOP 10 TV MATCHES (2019)

1. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/15, ****¾)
2. Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black vs. Matt Riddle vs. Ricochet vs. The Velveteen Dream (NXT, 3/20, ****½)
3. Cedric Alexander vs. Tony Nese (205 Live, 3/19, ****½)
4. Johnny Gargano vs. The Velveteen Dream (NXT, 2/20, ****¼)
5. DIY vs. The Undisputed Era (NXT, 3/6, ****¼)
6. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair (SmackDown Live, 3/26, ****¼)
7. Kofi Kingston vs. Cesaro vs. Sheamus vs. Samoa Joe vs. Rowan vs. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan (SmackDown Live, Gauntlet Match, 3/19, ****¼)
8. The Velveteen Dream vs. Buddy Murphy (NXT, 4/17, ****¼)
9. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/22, ****¼)
10. Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Samoa Joe vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles (SmackDown Live, Gauntlet Match, 2/12, ****¼)

TOP 10 MATCHES (2019)

1. Daniel Bryan vs. Kofi Kingston (WrestleMania, 4/7, *****)
2. Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens vs. Mustafa Ali (Fastlane, 3/10, ****¾)
3. Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano (TakeOver: Phoenix, 1/26, ****¾)
4. The Velveteen Dream vs. Matt Riddle (TakeOver: NY, 4/6, ****¾)
5. The War Raiders vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet (TakeOver: NY, 4/6, ****¾)
6. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/15, ****¾)
7. Asuka vs. Becky Lynch (Royal Rumble, 1/27, ****½)
8. Adam Cole vs. Johnny Gargano (TakeOver: NY, 4/6, ****½)
9. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor (Royal Rumble, 1/27, ****½)
10. Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black vs. Matt Riddle vs. Ricochet vs. The Velveteen Dream (NXT, 3/20, ****½)


WWE TOP 25 (APRIL)

1. Ricochet (37.625)
2. Aleister Black (31.375)
3. Kofi Kingston (31)
4. Finn Balor (22.75)
5. Baron Corbin (20.5)
6. Drew McIntyre (20)
T7. The War/Viking Raiders (19.125)
9. Cesaro (19)
10. Bayley (18.25)
11. Shinsuke Nakamura (16.25)
12. The Velveteen Dream (16.125)
T13. The Revival, Seth Rollins (16)
16. Kairi Sane (15.25)
17. Daniel Bryan (15)
18. AJ Styles (14.5)
19. Andrade (14)
T20. The Usos (13.5)
22. Roman Reigns (13.25)
23. Mustafa Ali (13)
T24. Johnny Gargano, Rusev, Sheamus (12.75)

The compilers really stood out this month. Ricochet and Aleister Black may have performed well as always, but they were certainly aided by just how much they worked this month. Ricochet wrestled in nine matches and built up a big lead, and continued his stay at the top of the list. The two of them were followed by the group of Kofi Kingston, Finn Balor and… yes, you read it right: Baron Corbin.

Corbin was another case of being a compiler, and at some point, whether we like it or not, he was going to find his way up to the top in one of these monthly lists at some point. Nevertheless, he’s put in decent work and was able to bounce up. That’s just how it goes sometimes here.

The highest-ranked woman in the rankings once again was Bayley. While she might not be tagging with her best friend anymore (who’s gone at the moment anyways) The Hugger is still putting in serious work. She had some terrific matches, if you couldn’t tell by how she was featured in two of the best TV matches of the month. She’s really having an extremely great 2019, and should certainly be recognized for her efforts. The only other woman to make the cut? Kairi Sane, who got a main roster bump. She’s going to probably need to do some heavy lifting if she wants to pick up ground in the cumulative edition, but she’s certainly in a very good spot right now.

Tag teams kind of ruled the day here, as well. A slew of them were featured in this list. The Revival, The War Raiders, The Bar and The Usos were all in the mix this month. I suppose if you count Aleister and Ricochet, they count too, as do Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura. Who says tag team wrestling is a dying art?

We had a tie for the final spots between Rusev, Sheamus and Johnny Gargano. And man, it was close. A difference of just 0.5 points separated these three from the others who just missed, who by the way were… another tag team: Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder.

Now, let’s talk about the women, shall we?


WOMEN’S TOP 25 (2019)

1. Bayley (50.25)
2. Sasha Banks (34.5)
3. Becky Lynch (32)
4. Nia Jax (29.25)
5. Charlotte Flair (26.5)
6. Ronda Rousey (25.5)
7. Bianca Belair (25)
8. Asuka (24.5)
9. Mandy Rose (22.25)
T10. Kairi Sane, Sarah Logan (20)
12. Nikki Cross (19.75)
13. Tamina (19.5)
T14. Io Shirai, Shayna Baszler (18.5)
16. Peyton Royce (17.75)
17. Sonya Deville (17)
T18. Naomi, Ruby Riott (16.75)
T20. Carmella, Liv Morgan (16.5)
22. Natalya (16)
23. Billie Kay (14.75)
24. Toni Storm (14.5)
25. Alexa Bliss (13)

So… bit of a significant gap, huh?

There’s a lot that plays into that. For one, Bayley has worked 18 matches that have made tap this year. Second place in that department is Sasha Banks, who’s worked 14. Sasha, of course, hasn’t wrestled since WrestleMania. Going down the ladder, third place among the women in that department is Ronda Rousey. Rousey hasn’t wrestled since WrestleMania, and we don’t know the next time that she’s going to wrestle either. Tied for fourth are Billie Kay, Ruby Riott and Peyton Royce. And, well, you see where they are with their workload this year.

Becky Lynch has worked 11 matches this year, which is tied with Nia Jax and Sarah Logan. Becky has the highest score, but she’s had a lot of variability. Nia is the same way, but Jax has another problem facing her: An injury that’s going to doubt keep her on the shelf for a very long time. Logan has competed just a few times this month, but also hasn’t been seen since The Riott Squad’s last hurrah on the Shield Last Chapter WWE Network special. She, like many others among the women this year, has had a LOT of variance, though not all of it is her fault.

When you consider these factors, it’s no surprise that Bayley finds herself where she is. She has a four-match advantage over second place, and we don’t know the next time Banks will compete. The superstar in third won’t be working again this year, it seems, and the middle of the pack are well behind the pace and have had too much variance. Bayley, meanwhile, has made the absolute most out of anything. She’s having a superb year, and it ought to be recognized as such.

I know that there’s some bias here, but if you oppose that thought, as you look at this, ask yourself who’s made the most out of their opportunities? I can make the case for Charlotte Flair for that department. However, Charlotte has wrestled just nine times this year. And she would’ve needed to have a ridiculous output each time. Because of some TV matches on Raw, that probably precluded her from doing so.

Anyhow, the rest of the Top 25 is interesting, is it not? Everyone is within only a couple of points of each other. Some opportunities that may await these ladies could result in some tremendous showcases. I’m particularly fascinated to see what happens next. Money in the Bank could be a big shift for a lot of these ladies in one direction or another. It could result in some fun movement in the month of May. A majority of this Top 25 will be competing at the event in fact, as well as a couple others who don’t find themselves here. Watch the space for Alexa Bliss also, as they may be about to go full throttle with her very soon. Also, look for Kairi Sane to go up the board, as she’s currently tied for 10th and about to get some main roster growth.

Plus, the group of NXTers all look to have big TV matches coming their way. If they hit on them, that could catapult them up the list. Bianca, for instance, could work her way near the Top 5, and Shayna Baszler and Io Shirai could touch the Top 10 if they get the ball and run with it.

Stay tuned!

Anyways, let’s get to the cumulative Top 25 now, shall we?


WWE TOP 25 (2019)

25. Dean Ambrose
Points: 37.75 | Last Month: 11
Matches in 2019: 14 | Recommended Viewing: 6 Tag, Shield’s Last Chapter

Au revoir to Dean Ambrose, who finishes his WWE career at 25th in the WWE Top 25. You likely won’t see him come near this chart again, so relish this moment! Dean competed in just one aired match this month, a six-man tag with his Shield mates against Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre. It was quite a way for him to go out, and he had a very good showing this year, having been in the Top 25 for the entirety of the year. Godspeed, Dean, and best of luck in the death matches that likely now await you.

24. Dash Wilder
Points: 38.75 | Last Month: N/A
Matches in 2019: 16 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Aleister Black/Ricochet, Raw 4/1

At some point or another, Dash Wilder and his tag team partner were going to get into the WWE Top 25. And as they continue to work nearly every week of the year, that now holds true. Dash gets in at 24th after a pretty solid month of April that saw he and his partner gain 16 points. Given that they’re going to now be feuding with The Usos, I’d expect them to continue to ascend up the ladder here in these rankings, as well as The Usos, really, as those two teams are definitely capable of making magic happen in the ring.

23. Shinsuke Nakamura
Points: 39 | Last Month: N/A
Matches in 2019: 13 | Recommended Viewing: Fatal 4-Way Tag, WrestleMania 4/7

While he’s gained (and perhaps earned) a reputation for coasting, Shinsuke Nakamura is in the midst of a rock solid 2019. Nakamura’s entered the WWE Top 25 after a strong April, earning 16.25 points in the process. That was good for 9th place in the April rankings, so needless to say he’s making a strong pitch to be among the best of the best right now. Nak is playing a very good role on SmackDown in the mid-card, and that might be where we see him stay going forward. If that’s the case, expect him to continue to be a player in this spot.

T21. Baron Corbin, Scott Dawson
Points: 39.25 | Last Month: N/A (Both)
Matches in 2019: 20 (Corbin) / 17 (Dawson)

Ah, the case of Baron Corbin. Corbin is regularly panned for not being too great, and based on match ratings that I’ve given him… it’s hard to disagree with that notion. Just six of the matches that I’ve graded of his got ***½ or above, one of them being the Royal Rumble match, of course. And half of them were given ** or less.

But, when you work 20 matches on the year, it’s going to eventually become hard to deny you a spot here. So, he’s finally made his way into the mix. Whether or not he accelerates that jump will be dependent on his workload and how well he does going forward.

As for Scott Dawson? He’s ahead of Dash Wilder just because of the match at the Royal Rumble. No, seriously. That’s it. That’s the reason for the discrepancy.

20. Adam Cole
Points: 39.5 | Last Month: 19
Matches in 2019: 9 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Johnny Gargano, ⅔ Falls, TakeOver: NY 4/6

Adam Cole made a nine-point jump from where he was last month… and fell down one spot in the rankings. Cold world? Cold world. Cole had a great showing in the ⅔ Falls Match against Johnny Gargano in the main event of TakeOver: New York. That match gave him nine points, but that was all that he did this month. Perhaps May will be a bit kinder to Adam Cole (bay bay) but he unfortunately is the victim of workload, or in his case, a lack thereof.

19. Cedric Alexander
Points: 40.75 | Last Month: 12
Matches in 2019: 11 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Oney Lorcan, 205 Live, 4/16

Cedric Alexander takes a bit of a slide this month after working just two matches in the month of April. He gained seven points, but still managed to slip behind some other wrestlers who worked a bit more than him. Ceddy should be able to see that workload increase on the Raw brand, but it also depends on how they use him and if they do at all. He worked a fun match with Cesaro two weeks ago, but wasn’t mentioned or heard from on this past week’s episode. So, we truly don’t know what lies ahead for him. But he’s still having a very, very good year.

18. Mustafa Ali
Points: 42.375 | Last Month: 21
Matches in 2019: 11 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Finn Balor, SmackDown Live, 4/16

After earning 13 points in the month of April, TAFKA Mustafa Ali leaps up three spots to the 18th spot in the WWE Top 25. Ali had quite a few solid outings in TV matches in April, getting plenty of opportunities along the way. He worked five matches, with four of them getting at least three stars. That kind of output will certainly help him out going forward, as he could be a steady riser as long as the work comes his way. He’ll be in the MITB Ladder Match, which should serve as a very good spot for him to dazzle in the middle of May.

17. Bobby Lashley
Points: 43.75 | Last Month: 12
Matches in 2019: 15 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Finn Balor, WrestleMania, 4/7

Lashley had a solid month of April, but fell five spots down to 17th. The All Mighty has put together a very good 2019 campaign so far, but certainly could use a bit more workload to help him out. 15 matches puts him around the top of the leaderboard in that category, but there are still quite a few people who’ve beaten him out. With more work, he could very well ascend up the charts after the month of May. But right now, he’s not booked for MITB. So we shall see what happens with him going forward.

16. Tyler Bate
Points: 44.25 | Last Month: 9
Matches in 2019: 13 | Recommended Viewing: w/ Trent Seven vs. Flash Morgan Webster & Mark Andrews, NXT UK, 4/24

Tyler Bate had been a bit of a workhorse through the first three months of the year. But after seeing his workload cut down by more than a couple of pegs, he’s fallen out of the Top 10 down to 16th. Granted, it’s still a very comfy spot to be in, but it’s certainly not Top 10 or hovering around it as he’s done most of the year. He’s still been one of the brightest spots of the NXT UK brand, and that should still remain true as the year progresses. Especially since he continues to get in good work in all the Worlds Collide events, too.

15. Sheamus
Points: 45.5 | Last Month: 16
Matches in 2019: 15 | Recommended Viewing: Fatal 4-Way Tag, WrestleMania, 4/7

It’s a wonder if we’ve seen the last of The Celtic Warrior in WWE. Sheamus’ injuries have mounted up and he hasn’t competed since after WrestleMania. The move for his tag team partner over to Raw might be an indication of what’s to come. If that’s indeed the case, it’s an unfortunate end to one of the strongest runs in recent memory. Sheamus finished this month at 15th after a strong showing, going up one spot from 16th last month.

14. The Velveteen Dream
Points: 48.125 | Last Month: 17
Matches in 2019: 11 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Matt Riddle, TakeOver: NY, 4/6

Everything that The Velveteen Dream touches these days turns to gold. Dream worked two matches in the month of April and they were among the best of the entire month. His match with Matt Riddle at TakeOver: New York was an incredible showing for both superstars, and it’s really hard, honestly, to pick just who shined the most. Then, Dream decided to have a banger of a North American Championship defense against Buddy Murphy on NXT TV, which proved to be the best TV match of the month of April. It’s a shame that Dream doesn’t get to wrestle more, but at this point, he’s appointment television every time he does. And while he’s 14th in the WWE Top 25, he’s easily among the elite right now.

13. Samoa Joe
Points: 48.5 | Last Month: 10
Matches in 2019: 15 | Recommended Viewing: vs. AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Raw, 4/22

Samoa Joe’s strong 2019 continued with another standout showing in the month of April. The incumbent United States Champion may not have had a stellar WrestleMania match -- he squashed Rey Mysterio in just a few minutes -- but still compiled enough points to sit 13th. That’s 3 spots down from 10th, but a strong month of May could catapult him right back into the Top 10. He might not be the worker he once was, but the man is still getting it done right now.

12. Seth Rollins
Points: 49 | Last Month: 15
Matches in 2019: 14 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Brock Lesnar, WrestleMania, 4/7

The new Universal Champion takes a three spot bump up to 12th in this month’s WWE Top 25. Seth Rollins hasn’t hit his extra gear yet in 2019, but we imagine that will soon change. Now that he’s got the workload of a champ, and seems to be healthy again, Rollins should be able to get back in the Top 10 in no time at this rate. Rollins is just a few points shy of the Top 10 mark, and could very well eclipse it with merely one match as long as it hits. Given this prior history, there’s no reason he can’t jump up to that level. It wouldn’t surprise many if he got back into that position quickly.

11. Cesaro
Points: 49.25 | Last Month: 20
Matches in 2019: 17 | Recommended Viewing: Fatal 4-Way Tag, WrestleMania, 4/7

Cesaro is a big mover in this month’s Top 25, as The Swiss Cyborg jumps up all the way to 11th. He was merely a few points shy of the Top 10 mark, missing out by a hair or two. Away from Sheamus on Raw now, we’ll see if a new landscape and environment can help Cesaro wrestle his way into the Top 10. There’s no denying that he’s one of the best on the planet when he’s on. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him as a singles competitor, and expect him to remind everybody of what he can do. His tag efforts with Sheamus certainly helped supplant him in this spot, and there may be nowhere to go but up from here.

10. Rey Mysterio
Points: 49.875 | Last Month: 7
Matches in 2019: 12 | Recommended Viewing: vs. AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Raw, 4/22

Rey Mysterio nearly dropped out of the Top 10 this month, but managed to hang on for dear life after this past week’s Raw. Mysterio was likely aided by the fact that the aforementioned Cesaro AND Seth Rollins didn’t compete. Otherwise, he may have fallen out of the Top 10 for the first time all year. Mysterio has proven to be among the greatest again this year, and April was no different. While his Mania match was short, Mysterio still made the most of his other in-ring opportunities. He dazzled in a Triple Threat Match featuring AJ Styles and Samoa Joe, and looks to still be feuding with Joe over the US Title. That match could very well help both of them, so keep your eye on Rey as the month of May progresses.

9. Bayley
Points: 50.25 | Last Month: 17
Matches in 2019: 18 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Charlotte Flair, SmackDown Live, 4/23

We’ve gone over this already… but Bayley is very clearly the workhorse of the women’s division this year. It’s completely and totally obvious that they see a lot in her, as she’s worked more matches than anybody in the entire division. She’s made the most of just about every opportunity that she’s had. Shifting back to a singles competitor hasn’t seen her miss a beat yet. She worked three singles matches this month, and all of them got 3 stars or better, including a 4-star banger against Charlotte Flair on SmackDown Live two weeks ago. We’ve already gone over this… but Bayley certainly deserves your respect this year.

8. Johnny Gargano
Points: 54.875 | Last Month: 6
Matches in 2019: 11 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Adam Cole, ⅔ Falls, TakeOver: NY, 4/6

Johnny Gargano dropped down to 8th place this month. But, despite the small drop, he’s very clearly still among the elite. Gargano finally became NXT Champion in a dazzling match against Adam Cole at TakeOver. He competed in a match against Roderick Strong on NXT TV, a match that likely helped keep him in the Top 10 this month. The problem hasn’t ever really been workload for him, because he excels in just about every single match he’s had this year. Seth Rollins is the only other superstar in the Top 25 who hasn’t had a match between 2-2 ¾ stars this year. Pretty good company to be in, we’d say.

7. Andrade
Points: 56.625 | Last Month: 5
Matches in 2019: 15 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Finn Balor, Raw, 4/15

Andrade has stayed in the Top 10 despite a relatively “quiet” month of April. He fell down to 7th, but is still obviously one of the best that the company has to offer. He may very well be gaining more steam as Money in the Bank approaches. And that event could serve as a total launching pad for him going forward. As long as he keeps getting opportunities, it’s likely that he’s going to make the most of all of them. You can’t help but be in awe of him every time he’s in the ring, and so far, the math would agree that he’s one of the best of the best.

6. Drew McIntyre
Points: 58.5 | Last Month: 8
Matches in 2019: 21 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Baron Corbin, The Miz, Raw, 4/22

The last two months for Drew McIntyre have been torrid to say the least. After finishing 8th last month, Drew has ascended up to 6th in this month’s WWE Top 25. He fell just 0.25 points shy of the 5th spot, as he’s certainly getting the job done while called upon. Quantity may certainly be helping him out a bunch, as he’s had 21 matches in 2019, fourth-most in the entire company. But he’s definitely had the ball rolling for a bit, and with the focus still on him, that shouldn’t change for a while.

5. Kofi Kingston
Points: 58.75 | Last Month: 23
Matches in 2019: 14 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Daniel Bryan, WrestleMania, 4/7

Kofi Kingston’s rise up to 5th from 23rd was mostly due to his shining performance at WrestleMania. He and Daniel Bryan produced what is the only five-star match of the entire year so far in my humble opinion. The incumbent WWE Champion has always been a very solid worker, but 2019 is looking particularly great for him. Now entrenched in a feud with Kevin Owens, Kingston should see his standing stay pretty steady going forward as the top dog on the blue brand.

4. Daniel Bryan
Points: 61.375 | Last Month: 4
Matches in 2019: 12 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Kofi Kingston, WrestleMania, 4/7

Daniel Bryan worked just one match this month… and still managed to stay steady at the 4th position in the WWE Top 25. Bryan’s five-star bout with the aforementioned Kofi Kingston earned he and Kingston 15 points, as they stand as the only recipients of that honor to this point in the year. Bryan’s been banged up, but with him reportedly being cleared, he should be able to get back in the ring soon enough. When he does, expect him to continually remind you why he is one of the best of all time and the greatest of this generation.

3. Finn Balor
Points: 74.75 | Last Month: 3
Matches in 2019: 23 | Recommended Viewing: vs. Andrade, Raw, 4/15

A shift in brands hasn’t deterred Finn Balor at all. Balor is at 3rd once again in this month’s WWE Top 25 after another consistent effort in April. Finn, like everyone else, will need to pick up a lot of ground on #1 and #2 here. But he also has a 13+ point edge on 4th place. And that standing probably won’t change, unless someone below him goes on an absolutely torrid run themselves. So Finn is still very comfortable here, and the Intercontinental Champion likely won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

2. Aleister Black
Points: 90.125 | Last Month: 2
Matches in 2019: 24 | Recommended Viewing: w/ Ricochet vs. War Raiders, TakeOver: NY, 4/6

Aleister Black sits #2 yet again in this month’s WWE Top 25. That heavy workload that he and Ricochet were on for a while seems to be slowing down significantly. But that didn’t stop him from still remaining at 2nd in this month’s edition of the rankings. Black had a great match against The War Raiders with his tag team partner at TakeOver: New York, which absolutely helped his cause. So did, you know, working every single WWE event that weekend. As we said, that workload will be slowing down. And I’m not sure if he’s going to be caught. But Black should still be able to excel in the spots that he’s in.

1. Ricochet
Points: 108 | Last Month: 1
Matches in 2019: 27 | Recommended Viewing: w/ Aleister Black vs. War Raiders, TakeOver: NY, 4/6

Yet again, The One and Only is THE #1 in the WWE Top 25. Ricochet’s workload was still very heavy this month, working nine matches throughout April across all three brands. He’s likely done working a rather ridiculous pace, but obviously he has a heavy edge on everyone else in that department. Either there’s going to be some kind of curve, or Ricochet will just continue to lap the entire field. What will happen? Your guess is as good as mine. I certainly didn’t expect this after he worked ONE match in January, but he’s just doing extraordinary things right now. He’s certainly deserving of this spot, and no one seems to be particularly close from ripping it away from him.

This Week in WWE: It's time to shake things up again!
Raw.png

Chris Novak: It’s time for the Superstar Shakeup. Stephanie McMahon is here in jeans that, no, I did not give her.

Robert O’Neill: Shane is here too! His jeans are normal.

Chris Novak: Because Shane knows how to dress. He should probably have helped his sister out. Not a very good brother. Although we know he’s kind of a jackass anyway.

Robert O’Neill: Shane is speaking french now, in honor of being in Montreal, and he calls French-Canadian a “dirty dialect” Shane then shows a collage of moments of him beating up Miz and Miz’s dad, and then we find out Miz is going back to Raw! He’s also busted open, which was wild.

Chris Novak: Move makes sense on a number of levels. Firstly, it helps out Raw’s main event scene out and the IC Title scene of course. Secondly, with SmackDown Live moving to Fox, it only makes sense for him to move over to the show that’s on the network where his reality show is. So, I’m obviously cool with this move.

Becky Lynch vs. Ruby Riott is announced for later on tonight. That’s pretty dope. Then we deal in eight-man tag deals. Ricochet, Aleister Black and the new Tag Team Champions, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder are on one end. Who’s on the other? Well, we’ll find out after the break, it seems.

They’re facing The Revival and… WAR RAIDERS????? Who have a new name, ‘The Viking Experience.’ They also changed Hanson and Rowe’s names to Ivar and Erik. I’m not keen on the name change but holy God damn hell, that’s one way to change up the Raw tag scene.

Robert O’Neill: It’s a dumb name and I’m not really sure of the point, but it’s cool to see them on the main roster!

Regardless of the name, it was a really fun match that ended with Ivar and Erik standing tall and getting the victory. The Raw tag division is suddenly much better than it was a couple months ago, and that’s cool to see.

Chris Novak: Seriously, it’s actually quite refreshed now, so that rules to me.

Robert O’Neill: Finn Balor is here for a special match against the newest member of the Raw roster… Andrade!

Chris Novak: Okay, I’m completely with this honestly. Andrade and Finn proceeded to have a DAMN good match. Zelina got involved and hit Finn with a hurricanrana, which eventually led to Andrade hitting him with the Hammerlock DDT for the 1-2-3.

We’re walking with Elias next.

Elias trashed the Canadiens and then out came REY MYSTERIO! It would appear that Rey’s now on Raw. Rey fended Elias off and then… Lars Sullivan came out. Oh joy. Rey is not afraid and he went to fend him off. Naturally, Rey got bodied.

Robert O’Neill: It was fun until Lars came out. Lars is bad.

Bob Roode and Chad Gable are here looking for some opponents aaaand THE USOS answer! How fun!

What a fun match. The Usos got the win with a double splash, and the Raw tag division CONTINUES to improve.

Chris Novak: Rather solid match, although I think they’re both capable of better. But that’s just splitting hairs. I love that The Usos are on Raw. They did everything they could POSSIBLY do on SmackDown Live, so really, the move makes way too much sense.

Let’s move on now to A Moment of Bliss, featuring… Montreal’s own Sami Zayn! This should be highly entertaining. Especially because of Sami’s promo last week.

Robert O’Neill: Good lord what a segment. Zayn did his entrance three times, then spoke french to appease the crowd, then said he hated the people on Montreal, which led Alexa to say he’s the problem, not them. Whew!

The IIconics are here and they’re taunting Bayley because Sasha Banks is MIA, so Bayley finds a new partner: Naomi!

Chris Novak: I am ALL about this team! Bayley and Naomi made pretty quick work of Peyton and Billie here. Good way of making Naomi look strong and keeping Bayley upright and afloat. Love it a lot obviously.

Braun Strowman basically beat the shit out of EC3. A match never really took place.

Now Becky Lynch is here to face Ruby Riott. Non-title style.

Robert O’Neill: Ruby got some good offense in, but ultimately tapped to the Disarmher. No surprise there.

Becky is still in the ring and Natalya comes out. She congratulates Becky on winning both titles and says she wants a shot at the Raw one but Lacey Evans says she wants a shot too, and we have a #1 contenders match!

Chris Novak: Okay so, this match wasn’t awful. It wasn’t good. Somewhere in the middle. Lacey doled out a moonsault where she jumped from the second rope to the top beforehand and it was dope. Evans now will face Becky for the Raw Women’s Championship down the line. I think Becky’s gonna be a good hand for her to work with. Whatever the case, you definitely can’t say that Lacey Evans is bad. She’s just okay right now. And that’s fine.

Our six-man tag main event is next.

Robert O’Neill: Who will the mystery partner be? Dean Ambrose? Someone else? Let’s see!

Chris Novak: It’s AJ STYLES! That’s certainly a big move. So, let’s six-man now, shall we?

Robert O’Neill: Unsurprisingly, it was awesome! The faces got the win when Roman hit a spear on Bob to send everyone home happy. Really excited to see what happens on the Smackdown side now.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Robert O’Neill: I like the changes Raw made and I liked the matches on this show. A very entertaining three hours. A

Chris Novak: I’ll give Raw a strong B+. I think there were some areas where it lacked, like in-ring wise in some instances. But apart from that, this show definitely hit the right notes. Especially A Moment of Bliss with Sami Zayn. That’s the high point.

Smackdown.png

Chris Novak: It’s time for the SmackDown Live portion of the Superstar Shakeup. Much like last night, I have absolutely zero idea what the hell is going to happen. Kevin Owens is here to start the show though in his native land of Quebec. There appears to be not one, but two seats in the ring along with KO’s seat. So… that’s intriguing to say the least!

Robert O’Neill: It’s not Shakeup related though! Instead he has WWE Champion Kofi Kingston and fellow New Day member Xavier Woods on the program. Owens congratulates Kofi and then banters back and forth before Woods reveals that Big E is hurt, but Kevin Owens volunteers to join The New Day as Big O! They give him a shirt and a unicorn horn as we have an all-time great segment for the second straight night.

And now Finn Balor is here! He’s been drafted to Smackdown.

Chris Novak: Well, well. That’s not something I expected at all. There’s a rumor that Joe is sick and that’s why he wasn’t on Raw, so you can probably move some pegs around here and figure this one out. Anyways, he’s facing Ali, so this is going to be awesome.

Robert O’Neill: That was a blast. Balor got the victory after a hard fought match. Really excited to see what he can do on Smackdown, as there’s a lot of directions they can take.

Charlotte vs. Carmella is next!

Chris Novak: That was significantly better than the series of matches they had last year. You can tell both performers have grown a lot. Charlotte won with the FIgure Eight and got Little Naitch to hold the ropes up for her.

For whatever reason, Lars is here. He attacked R-Truth. Swear I thought they said he was on Raw.

Robert O’Neill: Weird. I would prefer Lars never be around.

Anyway here’s Becky Lynch.

She talks about how she’s willing to take on any challengers, and out comes Ember Moon! Then Bayley! That’ll shake things up. The IIconics come out to banter before Paige comes out to introduce her new tag team: Kairi Sane and Asuka!

Chris Novak: God damn pal, that was quite the freaking segment. We get an eight-woman tag that proved to be a real, real fun one. Kairi Sane got the win for her team with the Elbow Drop. A lot of fun here. SmackDown Live’s women’s division is totally, super-duper stacked. And quite frankly, I’m a huge fan.

Kevin Owens did Big E’s spiel before their match. It was tremendous, as expected.

Well hey, look at THAT… Buddy Murphy’s on SmackDown Live too! God damn, what a show this is.

The six-man proved to be a fun one, as expected. Kofi, Big O and Xavier won after Owens hit a Stunner on Rusev. Real fun stuff here once again. Loved how fresh this felt even while it wasn’t super fresh. I don’t know if Owens is gonna do the turn on Kofi but I’m glad it didn’t happen tonight, at least.

Robert O’Neill: And with that, it’s time for Vince McMahon’s big announcement! Who will Smackdown get to cap off the Shakeup. It’s… Elias? That doesn’t seem right!

He started to perform but he gets interrupted by ROMAN REIGNS who Superman Punches Vince and says Smackdown Live is HIS yard! What a show.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Robert O’Neill: Smackdown is still SO good. And they probably won the Shakeup again, as well. The Kevin Owens stuff was incredible, and Roman Reigns having a Smackdown run is going to be excellent. A

Chris Novak: SmackDown Live will remain great after the Shakeup, which was to be expected. I enjoyed the in-ring work on this show and thought there was solid development elsewhere. So, I had no qualms whatsoever with this show. A for me, too.

Ruthless Aggression - "Rey Mysterio Drinks Modelo"

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

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 503
Smackdown 179
Royal Rumble 2003

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

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The 2019 WWE Top 25: "Preseason" Edition

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

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

What is the WWE Top 25?

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

How are the rankings determined?

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

What is the grading system and how is it calculated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you really going to be watching EVERYTHING?

I sure as hell hope so!


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

25. Bayley

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

24. Velveteen Dream

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

23. Shayna Baszler

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

22. Sasha Banks

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

21. Pete Dunne

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

20. Drew McIntyre

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

19. Ronda Rousey

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

18. Ricochet

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

17. Mustafa Ali

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

16. Matt Riddle

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

15. Finn Balor

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

14. The Miz

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

13. Kyle O’Reilly

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

12. Andrade “Cien” Almas

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

11. Charlotte Flair

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

10. Adam Cole

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

9. Tommaso Ciampa

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

8. Asuka

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

7. Johnny Gargano

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

6. Becky Lynch

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

5. AJ Styles

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

4. Roderick Strong

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

3. Seth Rollins

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

2. Buddy Murphy

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

1. Daniel Bryan

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

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

aj-db.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Bálor

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Elias vs. Bobby Lashley - Guitar Ladder Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

Cedric Alexander vs. Buddy Murphy for the Cruiserweight Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

Natalya vs. Ruby Riott - Tables Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton - Chairs Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

WWE Summerslam 2018: Results, reactions and analysis
SummerSlam_(2015)_-_Logo.png

The Biggest Event of the Summer has come and gone! Rob and Chris are here to talk about what went down in Brooklyn on Sunday night.

Andrade Cien Almas & Zelina Vega vs. Rusev & Lana

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

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

Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MITB On the Line: Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Championship: AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe

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

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

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

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

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

Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin

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

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

US Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Jeff Hardy

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Championship: Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 17 NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn matches, ranked

The fourth installment of TakeOver: Brooklyn is just a few days away. Chris Novak decided to delve into the previous three editions and rank all 17 matches that have taken place inside Barclays Center. The results... okay, they probably won't shock you TOO much.

TakeOver: Brooklyn is NXT's WrestleMania. Back on August 22, 2015, this event became the first NXT show to be aired on the WWE Network outside of their home of Full Sail University. To say there was pressure for the superstars of the brand to deliver that night was putting it mildly. The crowd certainly showed out in full force, as a sellout crowd watched history unfold before their eyes. The show was an absolute home run, and set up a chain of events that have led to TakeOvers being part of Big 4 weekends (and Money in the Bank, as well) now in 2018.

A TakeOver event is the surest bet in wrestling today. Duds have been few and far between, and it's arguable that there simply just hasn't been one. The events that took place in 2014 haven't aged too well, but even those have several outstanding matches that still hold up to today's standards. But TakeOver: Brooklyn? Well, the first three have been amazing in their own right, and it looks like that trend is going to continue for the fourth installment this coming week.

But enough about the not-so-distant future. Let's talk about the past. 

There have been 17 matches to take place at the last three TakeOver: Brooklyn shows. Every NXT Championship has been defended at these events, of course, and we've seen a total of 41 superstars either in the matches or at ringside. From Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Bayley, to Blue Pants and Alexa Bliss, to Austin Aries and Adam Cole (BAY BAY!)... stars and notables you may've forgotten from the wrestling world have made their presence felt at Barclays Center. 

And now, presenting: The 17 NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn matches, ranked!

17. Ember Moon vs. Billie Kay, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: **

Before she got in position to beat the streak in 2017, Ember Moon made her debut in front of the Brooklyn crowd in 2016. Moon was slated to face Billie Kay, an Aussie rookie herself, in Ember’s first match ever. Moon won rather decisively in a match that went less than 7 minutes, as she hit the Eclipse on Kay for the victory.

A few fun facts here: firstly, this is still the last TakeOver event to have two women’s matches on the card. Secondly, this was Billie Kay’s one and only TakeOver match ever.

The Verdict: This gets put near the bottom only by default, really. It’s not that it wasn’t a good match; it’s just that it was a showcase match for Ember and went a very short amount of time. Ember looked good and gave fans a small glimpse of what was to come for her in the future.

Kay, meanwhile, had a decent performance herself, played her role and played it well. Two stars for this one.

16. Tye Dillinger vs. Apollo Crews, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: **

The debut of Apollo Crews. Crews got a couple video packages en route to Brooklyn, and the folks behind the scenes decided to pit him against Tye Dillinger. This was Dillinger’s first TakeOver match of five, but he was certainly less of a fan favorite than he would soon become. It was also one of the first televised uses of his “Perfect 10” gimmick. This was nothing more than a showcase match for Crews, who won with relative ease.

The Verdict: This, like the Ember Moon match the following year, served its purpose as a showcase for a debuting talent. Crews flashed potential but, as we know, he wasn’t for long in NXT (although perhaps he should’ve been).

This was fine but obviously tough to grade compared to the rest of the matches on this show. It falls near the bottom, but like the Ember-Billie match, it by no means was a total stinker.

15. No Way Jose vs. Austin Aries, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: **¾

This was Austin Aries’ third and final NXT TakeOver match and the only one that No Way Jose ever had. The two had been feuding on NXT TV leading up to this bout, after Aries attacked Jose following a dancing celebration. NWJ returned the favor, attacking Aries a month later, and all those roads led up to Brooklyn. Aries won what was a quick-ish match (by TakeOver standards, at least. It went 10 minutes and change) after slapping on the Last Chancery.

Oh, and Hideo Itami showed up for the first time in over a year and hit a GTS on Aries, who had attacked NWJ after the match. The crowd went completely nuts for that.

The Verdict: This wasn’t anything special but it still served its purpose. You could tell both of these guys, Jose especially, were making the most of the big stage. This wasn’t anything to write home about but like a lot of TakeOver matches, it flowed well and the crowd more than enhanced this match, too. I will give it the 2.75-star treatment, and I would say it’s in third place as far as TakeOver: Brooklyn openers go.

Itami’s return and subsequent GTS is a forgotten awesome moment and having been there for it, I vividly remember the crowd going absolutely bonkers.

14. Bobby Roode vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: ***

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

Bobby Roode’s first-ever TakeOver match was against Andrade “Cien” Almas. Almas had made his debut two months prior, having been pit against NXT fan favorite Tye Dillinger at Beginning of the End. Roode’s extravagant entrance and catchy theme song grabbed plenty of attention off the bat.

Then the match started afterwards, and Almas and Roode squabbled for a while. Roode picked up the W with the Glorious Bomb, as The Glorious One started off on a high note.

The Verdict: It’s absolutely hilarious to think about where these two ventured off after this match, because this was a slow start; especially so for Almas, who became a completely different wrestler a year later at TakeOver: Brooklyn III. Seeing Roode in the position he got to a year later wasn’t too surprising, though.

That being said, this match was just kind of there. I’ve no idea why they picked Almas to be the body for Roode, especially after they put him against a fan favorite in Dillinger the TakeOver prior. Talk about doing a guy no favors. Anyways, I’ll give this three stars. These guys were capable of much better, as we’d find out later.

13. BAMF vs. The Vaudevillains, NXT Tag Team Championships, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ***

Blake and Murphy had been NXT Tag Team Champions for a couple months heading into Brooklyn, but they were three months removed from someone joining their group.

That, of course, was Alexa Bliss, who helped them defeat Enzo and Cass at TakeOver: Unstoppable. Bliss served as an asset for them and added fuel to the fire in their feud with their new challengers, The Vaudevillains. The ‘gentlemen’ of NXT refused to fight back when Alexa slapped them multiple times on the road to Brooklyn.

So, to even the odds, they brought former fan favorite Blue Pants to Brooklyn with them. What followed was a decent tag match, with some drama towards the end. A fight between Blue Pants and Alexa Bliss on the outside helped center the focus on the action. And it was then that The Vaudevillains hit the Whirling Dervish to pick up the win and the Tag Team Titles.

The Verdict: My oh my, how things change over time. The NXT Tag Team division was arguably the worst part of the brand but just a few short months later, that ultimately changed with the first Dusty Classic.

And speaking of things changing, think about how things changed with the people in THIS match. Alexa wound up becoming the biggest star of the group, Aiden English is showing his skills with Rusev and Buddy Murphy is now one of the best in-ring talents in the world. Blake is still trotting around in NXT, Gotch was released and Blue Pants evidently annoyed too many people and hasn’t been seen at Full Sail in years.

This match was just fine by the tag team standards of that time and much better than I remember. But it has obviously fallen behind the pace that’s still being set now. Which is completely fine, obviously. Still, a fun moment for Blue Pants, and the first-ever title change in the event’s history. Three stars here for a match that, like I said, is much better than I remember.

12. Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ***

Samoa Joe’s first TakeOver match saw him face “The Lone Wolf” Baron Corbin. Corbin and Joe had been feuding on TV, with Corbin’s animosity towards Joe being the purveying reason the two squared off. Joe was able to give his first true showcase to the NXT fanbase while Corbin had what was, inarguably, his best effort as a member of the NXT roster at the time.

The end of the bout saw Corbin pass out to the Coquina Clutch, giving Joe his first big win on the big stage.

The Verdict: This was a pretty solid effort from both guys here. Corbin flashed some potential and proved to be a more than competent opponent for Joe to handle. Having Corbin pass out instead of tap out was a small but notable point, protecting Corbs in some aspects. And he certainly got in enough offense against the great Samoan Submission Machine.

Three stars for me here. This more than served its purpose and was very solid.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

11. Tyler Breeze vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ***¼

Tyler Breeze was anxious to get on the TakeOver: Brooklyn card, and General Manager William Regal was more than willing to oblige him. Breezus was informed in the lead-up to the biggest show in NXT history that he wouldn’t be facing someone from NXT; instead he’d be facing a wrestling legend and icon:  the great Jushin “Thunder” Liger!

Breeze and Liger partook in the very first TakeOver: Brooklyn match and they absolutely made the most of it. In a competitive bout, Liger won after hitting his signature Liger Bomb. But Tyler made a huge impression in one of his last big matches with the brand.

The Verdict: This is one of my favorite matches in TakeOver: Brooklyn lore, even if the ‘workrate’ wasn’t up to snuff with some of the rest of the matches above this. Just the fact that JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER was involved in this match makes it freaking cool. Say what you will about Tyler and him being a JTTS, but they clearly saw something in him to put him against someone of Liger’s caliber. This just misses the Top 10 for me, but it’s an extremely fun match that will no doubt hold up as one of the more surreal moments in the brand’s history.

10. SAnitY vs. AOP, NXT Tag Team Championships, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ***¾

Authors of Pain were a year deep into a run in which they defeated just about every great tag team that NXT has ever produced. They walked into Brooklyn with the tag belts in tow against SAnitY, a team that had caused plenty of destruction in their own right. The match produced the goods in a chaotic matchup featuring a bunch of big, beefy boys. SAnitY came out on top, dethroning AOP in the process.

The Verdict: I was blindsided by the fact that SAnitY received such huge face pops in this match while being there in Barclays. This was pretty good, although it is certainly #2 on the list of NXT Tag Titles matches to take place in Brooklyn. The spot where Nikki jumps onto one of AOP, and Killian Dain runs him through the table was legit great.

This gets just a notch below four stars for me though, as it was entertaining and frenetic enough to capture my attention throughout. The ending felt like it needed a little bit more though, and that’s part of why it stands where it is. Oh and, of course, reDragon made their first showing as a unit after this match and laid both teams out. They show up later in the show too. Wink wink.

9. Bobby Roode vs. Drew McIntyre, NXT Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****

One year after his in-ring debut in Brooklyn, Bobby Roode walked into the borough with the NXT Championship in tow. His task was to take down Drew McIntyre, who returned to the WWE umbrella a few short months before. Drew Mac and Bobby fought over the NXT crown, following a ridiculous effort by the women (sound familiar?).

McIntyre would capitalize in his first big opportunity back in the fold, winning the match against Roode and becoming the NXT Champion in the process.

The Verdict: NXT Champion Has Tough Act to Follow™ is a feature, not a bug, at TakeOver: Brooklyn events. This match was certainly a more spirited effort than the one from the year prior, though. It was a bit slow and plodding, but that’s just kind of what Roode does. There was still enough drama and enough sauce for me to give this four stars.

All in all, a very good effort from both guys. This was the fourth-best match of the night that night. But that’s saying something, since this card, all in all, was the absolute best Brooklyn card that’s been produced.

Oh, and... yanno... lest I forget... ADAM COLE, BAY BAY!!

8. Hideo Itami vs. Aleister Black, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****

After debuting four months prior at TakeOver: Orlando, the hype for Aleister Black was pungent. He landed right back onto a big event card, facing off with a star who also had plenty of hype at the time of his debut.

As you well know by now, Hideo Itami is one of the biggest what ifs in NXT history, if not the absolute biggest. Itami was likely in line for gold and probably would’ve headlined the first TakeOver: Brooklyn had it not been for a debilitating shoulder injury. After making a big return the year before, Itami turned more into a villain heading into this showdown with the new kid on the block.

The Verdict: A hard-hitting affair that, in my opinion, has gotten lost in the shuffle. High points for me in this match were Black getting legit busted open and Itami stealing Black’s taunts. The striking in this match was off the charts. The sudden hit of Black Mass to emphatically end the match was very well done.

This unfortunately was Itami’s only TakeOver: Brooklyn match and just his second big arena match in TakeOver history, which is a shame given all that he’s been through. That being said, it is firmly his best effort, and one of Black’s best, too. Four stars here.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

7. Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: ****¼

Shinsuke Nakamura debuted four months prior in Dallas and immediately shot up the rankings out of a cannon. Nakamura’s star power was evident from night #1 and he found himself in the NXT Championship picture as the summer months motored on.

This led to a clash with Samoa Joe in Brooklyn. Joe and Nak engaged in a pretty hard-hitting affair that proved both captivating and scintillating. Nakamura captured the NXT Title after a Kinshasa straight to the mouth.

The Verdict: While there were tough acts to follow, unlike the previous year, the energy and the life was not sucked out of the building this time around; and Joe and Nakamura made the most of it. This might’ve been Joe’s best effort in an NXT ring. Nak, meanwhile, energized the crowd with an electric entrance in which Lee England Jr. strummed his theme on the violin. It’s the single-greatest entrance I’ve seen in person and was a ton of fun to get immersed in.

This gets 4.25 stars from me. Enjoyed the effort from both these dudes that night. This is the second-best NXT Title Match in TakeOver: Brooklyn history.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

6. Finn Balor vs. Kevin Owens, NXT Championship Ladder Match, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: ****¼

Finn Balor captured the NXT Championship at Beast in the East in Japan the month before this bout. Balor and Owens kept their feud going while KO was playing double duty in a feud with John Cena on the main roster.

Ultimately, the two would collide in a ladder match in the main event for the first TakeOver: Brooklyn event. After a couple of wicked bumps, Balor would eventually grab the title belt and retain the title, thus ending Owens’ short but impactful run in NXT.

The Verdict: This match is best viewed in a vacuum. It’s not a slight against either man. It’s simply just that the energy in Barclays Center had been completely sucked out after Bayley-Sasha. Which begs the question, of course, as to why they opted for this match to main event instead of Bayley-Sasha. It was a pretty great match, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that it will always be forgotten because of what happened before it.

You also knew that Owens wasn't recapturing the gold and was headed for the main roster full time, which took away some of the suspension of "disbelief." Unfair as it is, that’s why it stands where it is. But with that said, this is the best NXT Title Match in TakeOver: Brooklyn history.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

5. Asuka vs. Bayley, NXT Women’s Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn II
Match Rating: ****¼

After Bayley’s lengthy title reign ended in April 2016, Bayley’s quest to become a two-time NXT Women’s Champion went through some bumpy roads. An injury kept her out of action for a bit, but she kept her head up and trudged on as Bayley has always done.

She stood against the mighty Asuka in Brooklyn, hoping to win back her title. Unfortunately for her, The Empress of Tomorrow as far too powerful. A couple of hard kicks to the head led Asuka to victory, and sent Bayley off in her swan song in NXT.

The Verdict: An antithesis from last year’s monumental victory. Bayley’s might, heart and sheer will were not enough for her to overcome the daunting Asuka. This match was brilliantly done and served as Bayley’s final match and appearance in NXT. It was obviously not the last we’d see of Asuka, and perhaps that took away from some of the ‘fun’ and ‘unpredictability’ of the match.

Still, this was an excellent match, and a bit better than their first clash in Dallas four months prior. 4.25 stars. And yes… if you care to know, I did get plenty of dust in my eyes that night in the stands.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

4. Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****½

In the wake of DIY’s dissolving, Johnny Gargano was probably going to face Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver: Brooklyn III. However, a legitimate knee injury kept Ciampa on the sidelines for quite sometime. Instead, Gargano faced Andrade “Cien” Almas.

Heading into this show, stock wasn’t super high on Almas, especially after a weird, funky year with the brand; but with Zelina Vega joining up with him, his focus got clearer. Gargano and Almas delivered a high-energy opener that concluded when Vega hurled a DIY t-shirt at Gargano. The distraction provided Almas with the opportunity to blast off on Gargano’s head and give him a much-needed W.

The Verdict: The storytelling of this match was downright spectacular. This was the start of an incredible singles run for Gargano that’s still going to this day. It flashed the brilliance that even his biggest fans probably didn’t think that he had.

More importantly, this was the start of something great for Andrade, who needed that jolt in the WORST of ways. Zelina proved to be an extremely valuable asset, and her role with Almas was validated on this night. This gets a high, high mark for me.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

3. Asuka vs. Ember Moon, NXT Women’s Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn III
Match Rating: ****½

Asuka’s undefeated streak was in serious jeopardy on the night of the third TakeOver: Brooklyn. She faced off with Ember Moon in a rematch of a collision between the two several months back in Orlando. An injury forced Ember onto the sidelines after, but she got back on the saddle and took aim at her in Barclays Center.

Ember gave Asuka her best shot, arguably the best shot that ANYONE gave her during the streak. But, in the end, Asuka proved victorious.

The Verdict: I was in a bit of a haze during this match in the crowd, but after a second watch, I can see why this got so much praise. This could’ve been near a full five for me and it could have POSSIBLY unseated #1 from its spot on the throne.

But the simple choice of keeping the belt on Asuka and not giving it to Ember keeps this at ****½ and 3rd on the list. This was still dramatic and thrilling and outstanding, however, despite that booking decision.

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

2. The Revival vs. DIY, NXT Tag Team Championships, TakeOver: Brooklyn II:
Match Rating: ****¾

DIY got themselves a huge opportunity in August 2016. After forging separate paths on the indie scene, the team was kept around after solid showings in 2015. They then made headway in 2016 and pursued the NXT Tag Team Titles.

With American Alpha out of the way after The Revival became two-time NXT Tag Champs at The Beginning of the End, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder faced off with Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in Brooklyn. The two tag teams delivered a scintillating tag team bout in what was, no doubt, the biggest match of their respective careers to this point. Revival wound up retaining, but it was hardly without an effort, as Gargano and Ciampa showed off their heart and soul.

The Verdict: This is the best tag team match in TakeOver: Brooklyn history and the 2nd-best match in the event’s history, too. Although it’s not a super high bar to clear, it should be noted that it’s going to be a high bar to clear for anyone else (Of course, Undisputed Era and Moustache Mountain might wind up doing the damn thing later this month). The drama, the creative near falls and tandem offenses really make this match stand out.

The better of the series between these two teams happened three months later, but this match was still outstanding. 4 and 3-quarter stars for me.

1. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley, NXT Women’s Championship, TakeOver: Brooklyn I
Match Rating: *****

(Original Photo Credit: WWE.com)

(Original Photo Credit: WWE.com)

The spirited clash between two of the most beloved NXT superstars of all time takes the top spot. And are you really surprised? You probably shouldn’t be.

This match ended a two-year long journey for The Hugger to get championship gold. Sasha Banks got an extravagant entrance, and for the first time ever, the tubemen joined The Hugger in a bigtime venue. Bayley took Banks down after a Reverse Hurricanrana, or Poisoned Frankensteiner for other acquired tastes, and then slammed her down with the Bayley-to-Belly.

The Verdict: The greatest women’s wrestling match that WWE has ever seen is also the greatest TakeOver: Brooklyn match ever. You won’t find many disputing this as a simple fact. Bayley and Banks poured their hearts and souls into this match, and the Brooklyn crowd’s reaction to Bayley’s title victory was sensational. It got yours truly right in the gut.

This gets the full five stars from me. It is a perfect wrestling match in every single way, and one that you should go out of your way to show a non-wrestling fan who’s trying to get into the fandom.  

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyways, Corbin pinned No Way Jose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: On to… tag team action.

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

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

It’s main event time now!

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: Up next, we had Cesaro vs. Xavier Woods. Unsurprisingly, this turned into a pretty good match. Cesaro won with a huge uppercut after Xavier went for his springboard elbow drop. They teased some tension between Cesaro and Sheamus earlier, based on the fact that Sheamus didn’t beat Woods last week, while Cesaro said he could. Since he did… will this further tension between them? I suppose it’s a fine possibility.

Robert O’Neill: More singles matches for Woods please. I say it every week. He’s gotten so good in the ring after being a long-time third option in the New Day.

Chris Novak: On to more women’s action here!

Robert O’Neill: Mandy Rose faced Becky Lynch and got a stern talking to from Paige before the match began. Sonya Deville didn’t get to go to ringside because “Absolution is over”. Mandy won anyway. Good showing. Probably could have been against someone other than Becky though.

Chris Novak: Becky is completely dead in the water and it’s sad to watch. I mean, geez. You have an angle about how Mandy couldn’t have help from Sonya, who she’s been tagging along with for six months. And she wins anyway? Terribly bad booking. I get having hope, but I can’t believe that there are people who think she could win MITB. She’s not doing anything of note. I don’t even know if she’s gonna be in the dang match.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! Rusev and Daniel Bryan had an excellent match that Rusev won to qualify for Money in the Bank, and I’m perfectly fine with that for multiple reasons.

Chris Novak: And clean as a sheet, no less. This decision definitely took many by surprise, but it certainly works for a couple reasons. Firstly, it gives Rusev a HUGE win over an established guy. Secondly, Bryan is not hurt at all by it. Thirdly, it keeps Bryan and Miz apart (again). Fourthly, having Bryan in a multi-man ladder match could be terrifying. This decision works for both sides here, for the greater good.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Like Raw, Smackdown was fine. The Charlotte match was outright bad, but the four other matches made up for it. Keeping the Usos and Bludgeon Brothers off TV for the second straight week was weird, but they seem to be doing something with the tag teams that I can’t quite put my finger on. A tag team Money in the Bank match? Regardless, I enjoyed the show. B.

Chris Novak: I very much enjoyed this episode of SDLive. Apart from Charlotte’s booking, and the nonsense involving Mandy and Becky, Peyton-Charlotte was fine as a match on its own, and everything else on this show hit the right notes. Miz-Hardy was a terrific match, and Bryan-Rusev was a very good one with a shocking finish. I’m going to give this episode of a B+. SDLive has been getting very good, and should only progress upward as time goes on.

Raw, Smackdown make one last stop before Backlast this week in WWE
Raw.png

Chris Novak: Welp… one last stop before Backlash for the Raw brand. We’re in Montreal, and apparently, we’re really adding another wrinkle to the Lesnar-Reigns feud. As this Chad Patton tweet shows, they’re doing the “Ref made a wrong decision/Roman got ‘screwed over’” angle. Because of course they are. And OF COURSE we’re in Montreal for this. Super amped that this is happening.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah this is dumb. They need to move Roman away from the title. But this segment ended up being kind cool! Jinder came out (whatever) and then hometown boys Kev Owens and Sam Zayn came out and spoke French to the crowd and then everyone beat up Roman but Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman came in for the save leading to a six-man tag match later!

Chris Novak: Here comes Elias! I’m miffed they had him perform tonight and not last week while we were there in St. Louis.

Robert O’Neill: We had another Elias and Bob Roode match. It was good but unmemorable, like most of Roode’s matches. It’s kind of weird to do this two straight weeks.

Chris Novak: Say what you will about that, Rob, but this is some strong booking for Elias. They had him win last week, had a strong showing at the GRR and now just won after basically injuring Roode and his throat.

Robert O’Neill: I should clarify, the match was unmemorable. The finish was good and strong.

Chris Novak: Hey, it’s AOP. We didn’t see them last week, either. Miffed? Perhaps. Looks like they’ll be facing two scrubs. Oh, they aren’t scrubs actually. They’ll be treated as such, but they’re facing 3.0 of CHIKARA fame. Cool! They even got an entrance AND a promo. But AOP squashed them within about two minutes. Now, see, that’s how you book AOP. Stay on this train, and you’ll see what happens.

Robert O’Neill: Pain was Authored.

Chris Novak: Seth Rollins here now. Montreal is largely in favor of him, unsurprisingly. ,

Robert O’Neill: As someone who is tired of Roman Reigns and thinks putting the belt on Braun Strowman presents too many obstacles, I think I’m ready for another Seth Rollins title reign.

Chris Novak: So, Seth says he wants to be the opposite of Lesnar and a fighting champion, instead. Here comes Finn Balor, who wants a title shot tonight. Seth leaves it up to the fans to decide, and they oblige to it as well! So we’re getting Seth-Finn tonight. But here comes The Miztourage! Last week, they wanted to do a better Shield, and a different Balor Club. Now they want to recreate the Four Horsemen. That was actually hilarious. Bo and Axel are two great comedy heels right now. Seth and Finn reject the offer, and a brawl breaks out. But Seth and Finn emerge and stand tall. Oh! And there’s Finn who drops Seth. Good segment there.

Robert O’Neill: And now we’re getting a Sasha Banks and Ruby Riott match! Sure! That should be fun. I’m still not sure what they’re doing with the Riott Squad, but whatever.

It was a really fun match, with Ruby busting out a bunch of weird moves we’ve never seen before. She got the win, too! No sign of Bayley to help Sasha with the numbers game.

Chris Novak: That’s because Sasha’s a bad friend and doesn’t deserve her help. That match was real good. Sasha and Ruby have some pretty good chemistry together, I will say that much. Good stuff. Alexa Bliss is back with another Moment of Bliss!

Robert O’Neill: My God. Alexa was describing a trip to Disney World with Nia in which Nia asked if Alexa was tall enough to ride the rides and gave her a kids menu at the restaurant. This was incredible.

Chris Novak: Titus does an interview with Renee about his hilarious trip. Baron Corbin interrupted him, for some reason, and said it would’ve been more inspirational if he didn’t fall in the first place. Don’t be a dick, Corbin. TItus is just trying to turn a negative into a positive. Let him live.

Robert O’Neill: Baron Corbin might be my least favorite wrestler in the company.

Chris Novak: Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy cut a previously taped promo, in which they inserted themselves into several moments in history. This was kind of funny again. They’re managing to make these two entertaining.

Chris Novak: Six-man tag team action is up next!

Robert O’Neill: The six-man tag was a lot of fun. All six guys are obviously pretty good, Owens and Zayn bumped like crazy, Roman got his stuff in, and Braun got the pin.

Chris Novak: Hopefully things clear up a lot after this, though.

Robert O’Neill: No Way Jose vs. Baron Corbin was fine. NWJ won by a rollup after Titus Worldwide distracted Corbin. That’s what you get for being a dick.

Chris Novak: My question is how long are they going to continue with this bit for Titus. Whatever the case, it’s hilarious.

Robert O’Neill: We close the show with a Finn Balor/Seth Rollins match for the IC title, and once again, this was a banger. Rollins retained to keep his match with The Miz at Backlash, and with Roman Reigns being in a bit of a flux, I’m not entirely sure that Rollins/Lesnar shouldn’t be the Summerslam main event.

 

Chris Novak: Seth is now one of the best workers in the entire world. If he’s not in your Top 5, I don’t know what to tell you. Balor meanwhile is on the best stretch of his entire WWE career, NXT included. What a torrid run. I love watching these two face each other. Could watch for hours.

Final Thoughts

Chris Novak: Another, uh, shall we say “weird” RAW. I didn’t think it wasn’t offensive or bad or anything like that. But it’s clear that the GRR muddied a lot of things up for them. Especially with it coming only a week after the Shakeup. Poor timing has also muddied the build for Backlash up big time, as it just feels like it’s… there. After this weekend, things should clear up. For now, this was worthy of a B. Nothing bad, we got two really good matches (Ruby/Sasha, Finn/Seth) but the direction of the overarching storyline needs to be resolved and other things need to, too.

Robert O’Neill: Like last week’s episode, this was always going to be a weird Raw. My advice is to not have a “major event” on the other side of the world three days before Raw and nine days before a PPV you want to make feel important. Does Backlash even matter at this point? No. Regardless of that, this was an entertaining three hours of TV. I’m into what they’re doing with Elias, the Strowman/Lashley tag team is fun for however long it’ll last, and Finn and Seth should fight forever. They still don’t know what to do with Roman Reigns, but they’ll figure it out. Maybe. Probably not. B

Smackdown.png

Robert O’Neill: PAIGE HERE… to open Smackdown Live! Shane isn’t there tonight cause Braun murdered him in Saudi Arabia.

Miz opened the show, then Jeff Hardy came out, then Randy Orton, then Shelton Benjamin. Surely you see where this is going. The four of them had a tag match (Miz/Shelton vs. Orton/Hardy)

Chris Novak: Thought MizTV was enjoyable, per usual. The tag match was, as well. Benjamin is still such a reliable hand to have around. I wonder if he gets added to the US Title Match for Sunday. Would probably be a pretty smart play. Match ended after Orton hit an RKO on Shelton, who was then hit with a Swanton… and then Orton dropped Hardy with an RKO! Naturally.

Robert O’Neill: It’s pretty wild that the IIconics are already the best female mic workers not named Alexa Bliss in the company. That’ll get you places.

Chris Novak: They constantly have me in hysterics. They’re SO good already. Amazing that they never had a title run in NXT. Have to imagine that doesn’t last on the main roster. Hopefully, at least.

Robert O’Neill: Cass came out and cut a promo about Daniel Bryan, complete with a little person, because Bryan is short. It’s actually quite good, because Cass is a dick and people are gonna love Bryan even more than they already do.

Chris Novak: If Bryan wasn’t going to be around, this was a good way for him to get heat. Apparently they were fearful of a chest infection. I mean, Lord, did you SEE his chest? I’m not surprised.

Robert O’Neill: Samoa Joe wants to face AJ Styles at some point, but has a match with Roman Reigns at Backlash. Shinsuke Nakamura hit AJ with a low blow. Their match at Backlash is no DQ.  Again, I hope WWE learns from their mistakes and doesn’t do this Mania-Shakeup-GRR-PPV month again next year.

Chris Novak: Joe vs. Styles in a WWE ring will be one of the most mind-bending things I think we’ll see in a year where we’ve seen quite a lot of mind-bending things!

Robert O’Neill: Lana implied Aiden English is holding Rusev back. Rude.

Chris Novak: Extremely. Hopefully Rusev doesn’t take the bait.

Robert O’Neill: Sheamus and Xavier Woods had a solid match. It’s pretty crazy how good Woods is at this point. He was always good (he’s been wrestling longer than anyone else in the New Day) but WWE never really made him a focal point of things.

Chris Novak: He is the most improved in that group, by far. He will constantly go unnoticed because of his mic work, but he deserves praise.

Robert O’Neill: We close with a six-woman tag, as Carmella and the IIconics fell to Becky/Charlotte/Asuka. It’s kind of weird how they’ve booked the IIconics so far. And by weird, I mean not very smart. I hope they don’t go the way of certain other female tag teams we’ve seen come up in the past year.

Chris Novak: I think the difference to me with the IIconics and Absolution and Riott Squad is, and no offense to those two groups, but Billie and Peyton are ready for prime time. They can work in the ring AND they can talk. The other groups have at least two superstars who are green (Ruby being the only true outlier here). Their performances will pay off, although it’s annoying that they’ve taken two losses in the last three weeks. Maybe don’t have two people (Charlotte and Asuka) in a tag match who can’t take that many falls? Just throwing that out there. SDL’s women’s division has some good talent, but they gotta sort the booking out somehow. This is why I thought they’d add more depth in the Shakeup, but that never came to fruition.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: If you were looking for a show to make you excited for the upcoming PPV, this likely wasn’t it. No Daniel Bryan. No Rusev. No Bludgeon Brothers or Usos. It all just felt kind of inconsequential and pointless and like a hard reset is needed. Luckily, after Backlash, they’ll get to do that. C-

Chris Novak: A perfectly fine show with a great main event. All the angles progressed very well and all the right notes were hit. Nothing to really hit home about, but there was nothing offensive. B for me. But I’m an easy grader and easily amused.

The fallout from Wrestlemania plays out as superstars debut, return this week in WWE

Robert O’Neill: We’re off and rolling with the post-Mania Raw! Stephanie McMahon is out putting herself over and has invited Ronda Rousey to the ring. Business is about to pick up.

Chris Novak: Andddddd Steph’s arm was ripped off again! This crowd chanting “You Deserve It!” and the “Na Na Na Na (Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye)” sing-songing is just outrageous. Away we go!

Robert O’Neill: Nia is in a tag match with… someone! Facing Alexa and Mickie. I think I know what’s coming here.

Chris Novak: EMBERRRRRRR! Ember Moon is on RAW! Heck of an addition to the division. Good little showcase here. She dropped Alexa Bliss with the Eclipse and pinned the former RAW Women’s Champ. Nice debut for her. A very nice debut.

Robert O’Neill: We now cut to Kurt Angle who… is on the phone. That’s new and refreshing. Anyway, Braun and NICHOLAS are here and they’re giving up the tag titles, because NICHOLAS has a scheduling conflict. Because he’s a child. And still in school.

Chris Novak: That’s No Way Jose! A good squash to debut him with. So, Cesaro and Sheamus are facing the winner of the “Tag Team Eliminator” in Saudi Arabia. Two matches tonight, one next week. Hmmm…

Robert O’Neill: Ahem. TOP GUYS WATCH! They’re facing The Club, which will be a hoot. They’ve had a lot of fun matches this year.

Chris Novak: The Top Guys *won* the match, no less, with a Shatter Machine on Karl Anderson. Solid win for them. Alignment of this match though says their luck might run out next week. Alas. Anyways, here’s the new Intercontinental Champion, Seth Rollins!

Robert O’Neill: BURN IT DOOOOOWWWWWWWNNNNNN. Remember how dumb that was?

Chris Novak: And now everyone loves it!

Robert O’Neill: So after like 10 minutes of great back and forth banter between Seth and Miz, Miz challenged Balor and Rollins to a 3 on 2 match against the Miztourage and Jeff Hardy came out to defend Balor and Rollins! Miztourage retreated, but I’m here for this.

Chris Novak: It’s always great to see Jeff Hardy. I’m glad he’s back. The Raw midcard is pretty awesome.

Robert O’Neill: Alright we’re gonna just keep rolling right along. Mandy vs. Sasha. Mandy’s out with Absolution. Sasha is out alone. Here we go… oh. Bayley’s coming out. Alright then.

Chris Novak: And then Bayley knocks Sasha down!

Robert O’Neill: Have we considered that Bayley is the bad friend?

Chris Novak: I’m not getting into this.

Robert O’Neill: After the match, Paige got on the mic and announced her retirement. These promos are always gut-wrenching to watch. That one was right up there with Edge’s. I hope WWE finds something for Paige in another role.

Chris Novak: Just tragic for her. She started four years ago in NOLA and now has to retire in NOLA. What a sad story, man.

Robert O’Neill: Elias performed a nice song for the fans and got interrupted by BOBBY LASHLEY! That was certainly unexpected.

Chris Novak: Lashley looks like an absolute tank. My goodness. Hopefully this turns out to be pretty great.

Robert O’Neill: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were in Kurt Angle’s office posturing for a job. Kurt told them TNA was hiring. I’m not even making that up. It was amazing. Anyways, they’re facing each other later and the winner gets a Raw contract!

Chris Novak: That TNA rib was the hardest I’ve ever laughed about anything in wrestling in a long time. Maybe ever. It was just so out of nowhere and delivered so well that it was freaking incredible.

Robert O’Neill: Heath Slater and Rhyno are out for a tag match and MY GOD. THAT’S THE AUTHORS OF PAIN. AOP wins it fairly easily and symbolically dump Paul Ellering. This was the right move. Paul wasn’t going to go on the road with them, and he did more than anyone could have ever dreamed for them. They’re in good hands now.

Chris Novak: It’s great that the big boys are finally on the main roster.

Robert O’Neill: Roman’s out to cut a promo. It’s kind of the same promo he’s been cutting the past few weeks about how Brock Lesnar isn’t there, because he wasn’t there. A short time later, SAMOA JOE comes out, and this is apparently going to be your feud of the spring, and I’m here for it. Joe is excellent on the mic and I can’t wait to see him get back in the ring.

Chris Novak: Samoa Joe cut an absolutely money promo. As always.

Robert O’Neill: Titus Worldwide has a tag team eliminator match against… Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt! That’s new and exciting, I guess. Hardy and Wyatt win and will face The Revival next week.

Chris Novak: I’m willing to give Hardy and Bray a chance here. So far, so good, honestly.