Posts tagged Raw
First Black Champ - Search Viking Experience on Pornhub

The Superstar Shakeup happened and for one week only #CamBeKnowin! We talk the moves, the disbands and who can benefit the most or get future endeavored with the latest shakeup. We spend more time than expected on AEW implications and the Cody vs Dustin match set for Double or Nothing. Then we breakdown Mark Henry's Top 10 African American wrestlers of all time list after laughing at it. J.R. Bang then provides his as we close out probably the most educational segment ever of the #FirstBlackChamp podcast! 

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

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
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Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
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First Black Champ - The Rock Is COINTELPRO

The main idea to remember about this show is, A lot of niggas don't watch wrestling like that! So we take the most thorough approach to Kofimania, the history of the WWE Championship, what Kofi's Wrestlemania win meant and who it was truly for. We talk about the injury bug hitting Big E and Nia Jax and try to find out what's real and what's kayfabe with everything Surrounding Sasha Banks!

Our GuaranDAMNTee segment is all about the Superstar Shakeup and we agreed more than we thought on this week's #FirstBlackChamp podcast! Respect to The Big Cat Ernie Ladd

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

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
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or
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TLC 2018: Results, recap, analysis
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An action-packed night in San Jose is in the books. Rob and Chris dissect what went down at TLC.

Buddy Murphy vs. Cedric Alexander - Cruiserweight Championship

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

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

Elias vs. Bobby Lashley - Ladder Match

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

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

Fabulous Truth vs. Mahalicia -- MMC Finals

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

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

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

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

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

Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin - TLC Match

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

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

Ruby Riott vs. Natalya - Tables Match

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

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

Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre

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

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

Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton - Chairs Match

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

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

Nia Jax vs Ronda Rousey - Raw Women’s Championship

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

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

Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles - WWE Championship

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

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

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - WWE Intercontinental Championship

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND THEN THEY DID THE FUCKING DEAL!

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

This Week in WWE: Becky's coronation and more chaos runs amok on Raw

In the aftermath of HIAC, we now build towards WWE Super Show-Down, Crown Jewel and Evolution. Rob and Chris dissect the happenings of Raw and SmackDown Live right here!

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Chris Novak: After HIAC last night, it’s back to business. We’re on the road to Super Show-Down AND Evolution, as well as another Saudi show in late October. So it will be intriguing to see how we build toward all these events. Whatever the case, it’s time for another episode of Raw. And Raw is beginning with Roman Reigns! Roman wants a piece of Brock Lesnar… but instead, he gets BRAUN, who ain’t too pleased about all this, either.

Yep, figured this was coming. Braun, Brock and Roman are facing off at the next Saudi show. Which, evidently, is called “WWE Crown Jewel.” I feel as though we can do better than that name. But, hey. The expected outcome is expected. Braun is NOT thrilled, though. He says he thinks the idea sucks, that Corbin sucks, that Roman sucks and that the whole situation sucks and the entire arena sucks.

Aaaaaaand that leads to ol’ Paul Heyman, who’s come out with the door to the HIAC cage. Heyman crows about Lesnar being ‘the crown jewel’ of WWE, talking him up as the reason for their soaring stock and why they got the TV deals, etc. After Strowman goes after Heyman, Corbin informs Reigns that he’s going to face… HIM for the Universal Championship. Well then.

Robert O’Neill: Hey that was a good opening segment! Crown Jewel is a very dumb name, but the people who run Jewel-Osco would be foolish not to get some sponsorship ties in. That’s local humor for my Chicago people. I am to please.

Anyway, Heyman coming out was cool, Braun being mad makes sense, Corbin/Roman will be fun. All of that.

Chris Novak: The in-ring portion of the program begins with Dean Ambrose vs. Drew McIntyre. Hey… I’ll take it. Wound up being a pretty stellar match. Ambrose was nearly counted out, but walked into a Claymore by Drew Mac which led to the 1-2-3. Solid stuff there.

Robert O’Neill: Drew Mac is the guy. Get him away from Dolph and let him prosper.

Chris Novak: Backstage, Mac meets up with Dolph, and then Corbin shows up. Corbin tells Dolph that he should invoke his IC Title rematch. While Dolph is banged up, Corbin reminds him that Seth is too, and isn’t even here. So… he could wind up forfeiting the title. Some good ‘heel strategy’ on display here.

Apparently we’re getting a Women’s Championship Open Challenge. I’m sure many fanbases will work themselves into a shoot here.

Robert O’Neill: It would be so amazing and hilarious if it’s Sasha Banks.

Chris Novak: Chad Gable defeated Viktor in what was a banger of a match. That is one of the more unexpected outcomes I could have foreseen happening tonight. But it happened! Chad Gable is way too good, man. Way too good.

Robert O’Neill: I know we’ve been VERY pro-Chad Gable on here but yeah I never expected him to get a good match out of Viktor. That was ridiculous.

Chris Novak: Honestly though!

Robert O’Neill: The Undertaker is here to talk about why you shouldn’t wear Nik-

His match with Triple H at Super Show-Down.

Anyway, since Shawn Michaels will be in Triple H’s corner, Kane will be in Undertaker’s. Cool.

Chris Novak: Bayley beat Dana Brooke in a short but effective match. Bayley’s running knee is rather strong. I desire more, but honestly, I’m not gonna complain about that match.

Robert O’Neill: Yup that was fine. Onward.

Chris Novak: Pain was authored. NEXT.

Robert O’Neill: You won’t believe this, but Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler had an awesome match. Rollins got the win with the Blackout, and it’s cool that the Intercontinental Title is still the workhorse belt.

Chris Novak: Yeah, I really dug that match a lot honestly. The two meshed well again. All in another day’s work.

Robert O’Neill: Here’s Ronda for her open challenge. This should be interesting.

Chris Novak: Well, Natalya WAS set to answer the bell… BUT, The Riott Squad got to her first! It looked like Ruby was going to answer, but it turned into a 3-on-1 attack. That led to The Bellas arriving as the cavalry! The odds were evened and we’ve got ourselves some build to Super Show-Down!

Braun basically warned Corbin backstage, and said he knows he could kill him. Words that were uttered. Basically verbatim.

Elias came out and commanded the crowd as he is to do.

Robert O’Neill: And then Lio Rush came out on behalf of Bob Lashley and was far more entertaining and charismatic than Lashley has ever been. This is a great pairing.

Chris Novak: Lio is SO entertaining. Oh my goodness. That was really great, honestly. All of it. I’m all the way here for this pairing. Tandem. Duo. Whatever you want to call it.

Robert O’Neill: Alicia Fox and Mickie James are in the ring with Alexa Bliss in their corner and they’re set to battle Ember Moon and a mystery partner. Aaaaaand… it’s Nia Jax! That’s pretty neat. Alexa’s face was priceless. The faces got the victory, to no surprise.

Chris Novak: Pretty enjoyable contest here. Nia looked good in her first match in two months. You have to wonder if all these tag teams aligning together is less of a coincidence at this point.

So then we get our main event of the evening. Roman defeated Baron Corbin to retain the Universal Championship. This was quite a bit overbooked, but it was fun too! Unlike last night’s ???? stuff, this actually was effective. Especially since it was on TV. Corbin initially lost, but like the smarmy heel he is, he restarted and made it a No DQ match. That set the stage for Braun, Dolph, Drew Mac, Seth and Dean to all get involved before Reigns hit the Spear on Baron. Pretty fun main event.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah, I mean, it was kind of overbooked and I made a Nitro joke on Twitter, but it’s fine. Nitro did it every week. WWE did it every week in 1999-2000. For Raw to do it once in a while is fine. It got the job done, plus all seven of the guys are in the most important story going on right now, so it’s fine.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: I’ll be completely frank. That was the best Raw in quite a few weeks. From top to bottom the show was really, really fun. I love the Lio & Lashley combo; Gable looked great in his match with Viktor; every woman got TV time; the main event was fun and we had some good rebound from HIAC. I’ll give this episode of Raw a very solid B.

Robert O’Neill:  That was an excellent Raw. They answered some lingering questions after Hell in a Cell while building to Super Show-Down, Evolution and (ugh, this name) Crown Jewel. Everything worked for me on this show, and the matches were all very good and not just filler! More of this going forward would be ideal. A-

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Chris Novak: Big night ahead of us. Almas-Styles, Nak-Rusev for the US Title, Becky’s title coronation and a special episode of MizTV. It’s the latter that’s about to start the show off. Miz reminds us all that he’s facing Daniel Bryan at Super Show-Down for the right to face whomever the WWE Champion is at a later date. Miz says he’s superior to Bryan and WILL beat him at SSD. Miz then introduces HIS VERY SPECIAL GUEST…

MARYSE!! Hey, any time they play “POURQUOI” is a good time for me.

Robert O’Neill: Well that was to be expected! Anyway, they talk about how they’re great and Bryan and Brie aren’t. Then Bryan comes out and goes to attack Miz but inadvertently hits Maryse, who is stretchered out. Whoa.

Chris Novak: It was a trap! Maryse wasn’t actually hurt at all. HOWEVER… the tide was turned anyway. Miz nearly ran into Maryse and was promptly clotheslined over the top rope for his troubles.

Robert O’Neill: This is quite a good feud.

Chris Novak: It’s straight out of Memphis.

Robert O’Neill: The New Day is here! And dressed like The Crocodile Hunter. Sheamus and Cesaro aren’t amused with their antics.

Chris Novak: Cesaro won with a Neutralizer. There’s no surprise here, but the match was quite good. QUITE good. These two used to have some damn good singles matches a few years ago and they definitely produced one tonight.

Robert O’Neill: Rusev blames Aiden English for losing the match on Sunday and tells him not to come to the ring later. As Rusev and Lana walk off, Aiden vents to a producer about how Lana sucks, and guess who was right behind him?!? Lana. And she’s going to tell Rusev.

Meanwhile, Randy Orton is in the production truck being a weirdo to a production assistant. Go figure.

Chris Novak: This proved to be a high-quality match. Although this wasn’t really surprising. Nak and Rusev have some pretty strong chemistry. Nakamura won with a rollup after Aiden goofed. But, Aiden had a little more in the tank for Rusev, as it turned out. He walloped him after the match and repeatedly struck him with the mic. It would appear that, for once, Rusev is the babyface in a feud.

Robert O’Neill: That was a much better way to go about things than having Lana tell Rusev what Aiden said. It’s a bit of a shame they never got a tag title run but this feud should be good.

Chris Novak: It’s Styles-Almas time!  

Robert O’Neill: It’s pretty wild that Andrade “Cien” Almas has become a major player on Smackdown in such a short time. Kinda kills the whole “every NXT guy immediately gets killed on the main roster” narrative.

Chris Novak: People only like to say that when it’s convenient for them to. Anyways, that was the best TV match I’ve seen in a while. That and KO-Rollins were both bangers. It’s not surprising since Andrade is amazing at wrestling as is Styles. Put ‘em together and this is what you get.

Robert O’Neill: That was so good. I wouldn’t mind a long-term feud between these two at some point.

Chris Novak: So we ended the show with Becky’s championship coronation. Lynch called Charlotte out and kept faking her out with things she wanted to do (raise her hand, strap the title around her waist) and also said she wanted to call her queen… bitch. The two then scrapped, and Lynch got the upper-hand and left her lying in the ring after a Bexploder.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: As usual, tops effort from SmackDown Live. A few really good matches, with Almas-Styles being the obvious highlight. I can’t stress enough just how good this show is right now. A lot of what made it tops two years ago was because of the writing but it’s really just a lot of great in-ring work mixed with solid writing. Going to give this a hearty A- here. Really great week of TV.

Robert O’Neill: This really was an excellent episode top to bottom. Everything is working, and it doesn’t look like that will be changing any time soon. I loved that they saved the Becky and Charlotte stuff for the end, because it deserves to feel important, and it sure does now. A.

First Black Champ - Just protect Brock and Ronda

Summerslam is on the way and we got swerve predictions on deck! We also have special guest, DJ Boogie D on the show to give us his SS predictions and also how he wants to know if Vince McMahon is racist or just "out of touch". All that and who we believe is the greatest Intercontinental Champion so far on this weeks #FirstBlackChamp podcast.

Follow Cam: @ImCamQuotes
Follow JR Bang: @jrbang

WWE Extreme Rules recap: it was what we thought it would be

The B-Team vs. Deleters of Worlds: This is probably the right call to start the show. I’m pretty firmly of the belief that every PPV should start with a tag match because the faster pace is generally better to get the crowd going, plus no one really cares about this match thanks to the poor build on Raw and general indifference toward Hardy and Wyatt. After about ten minutes of back and forth action, Bo pinned Hardy for the win. Hey, sure! I mean, Hardy and Wyatt were a novelty act. Dallas and Axel used to be, but aren’t anymore. If you’ve followed any of our other recaps that we’ve ever done, you know where I’m hoping this feud goes next.

After the match, Kurt Angle is interviewed backstage and demands Brock Lesnar shows up on Raw tomorrow night.

Finn Balor vs. Constable Corbin: Look, Corbin will never be my cup of tea, but he’s been doing pretty good character work with this Constable stuff, including demanding he gets introduced as such whenever he gets in the ring. Corbin dominated most of the match and then lost by a rollup, which was actually pretty excellent storytelling given how they’ve handled this entire feud.

We head backstage to see the Bludgeon Brothers ambushing Team Hell No!

Carmella vs. Asuka: Alright, so this match really wasn’t that good. Especially compared to their Money in the Bank match. HOWEVER, Ellsworth got out of the shark cage, but his foot got stuck and security personnel had to come in and try to save him, but Asuka pushed them all out and starting kicking him. In the meantime, Carmella shoved her face first into the shark cage and pinned her to retain the title! After the match, Ellsworth was still in the ring and Asuka beat him up more.

Jeff Hardy vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: Alright this should be a fun and long ma- OH MY GOD SHINSUKE HIT JEFF IN THE NUTS WHILE THE REF WAS TAKING THE TITLE OUTSIDE THE RING. IT’S OVER. So Shinsuke finally has a title. Neat!

And now Randy Orton is back. Gross. Absolutely not.

Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens: If they didn’t have the previous match end in a few seconds, I would think this would be 10 minutes of Owens doing comedy and 15 seconds of an actual match with Braun taking him out. As it is, though, it’ll be like 10 minutes of Owens taking crazy bumps and losing. Owens thought he had the upper hand when he handcuffed Braun to the top rope, but Strowman broke out of the handcuffs, climbed to the top of the cage, and chokeslammed Owens from the top of the cage through the announce table. So… Owens won. But, like, he also might be dead.

As a Kevin Owens fan from day 1 (in NXT at least, but I followed him moderately as Kevin Steen), I’m pretty concerned with all the bumps he’s taken this year. I get that he agrees to them, but it’s starting to feel like Mick Foley level stuff.

Team Hell No vs. Bludgeon Brothers: Welp. Let’s see how much the attack earlier affected Team Hell No. Will Kane be able to compete? Will Bryan? How good will they be?

Well. Bryan’s out here. Kane isn’t. Looks like it’ll be a handicap tag title match. Bryan fought valiantly but the numbers game got to be too much… but now Kane’s here! He’s hobbled, but he’s here. Regardless of all of that, the ambush was too much for Team Hell No to handle. The Bludgeon Brothers took care of business to keep the belts.

Roman Reigns vs. Bobby Lashley: Whoa, okay. The common belief was that this was gonna main event the show, so to have it here is certainly a surprise.

It’s hard to follow Roman matches because the crowd is SOOOOO distracting. Anyway, this one started slow but finished hot and Lashley got the win, which was a surprise.

Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax: The Queen is here, everyone! I hope she hits Nia with several foreign objects and then civilly resolves her differences with Ronda Rousey.

It was a bit overbooked but there were good weapon spots, Rousey kicked Mickie’s ass and Alexa avoided her, and Alexa retained with a DDT onto a chair on Nia. Excellent. Onto Summerslam.

They announced a US TItle rematch for Smackdown. Cool! Hopefully Shinsuke doesn’t get bit by a dog.

AJ Styles vs. Rusev: It’s pretty crazy that this match falls on Rusev Day! I wonder if they might pull the trigger on Rusev tonight finally.

It was one of the better world title matches in recent memory, but AJ ultimately won. Rusev is close though. You can feel it.


Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler: Well. It’s time for the main event! After a few minutes of chain wrestling, Seth picked up the first fall five minutes in with a backslide. That’s what you gotta do early in an iron man match, look for a quick fall. He picked up the second fall as well with a Blackout! A 2-0 lead eight minutes in. Don’t blow it, Seth! And now Drew McIntyre is in the ring beating Seth up! 3-0! Uh oh. Ziggler got two quick falls as a result of the interference and it’s suddenly 3-2. And now it’s tied. Six falls in 14 minutes seems a little excessive! And now Ziggler’s up 4-3. Whoa! Seth catapulted Dolph into the turnbuckle with rolled him up. We’re tied with two minutes to go!

OVERTIME!

Drew McIntyre came back out and distracted Rollins and Dolph took advantage and hit a Zig-Zag for the win. That’s it for Extreme Rules.

Final Thoughts

This was a weird show. I really didn't hate it overall because I had tempered by expectations going in, but man, some parts were terrible. The Roman/Lashley match was weird and slow for most of the time, and everything felt pretty inconsequential. A good Rusev/AJ match and a pretty solid Strowman/Owens match stood out, but everything else was average at best.

With that being said, I’m ready for the Road to Summerslam to be underway. I hope Monday’s Raw is used as a reset for some of these stale storylines. C

This Week in WWE: Ronda goes Stone Cold on 'em, Bayley and Sasha are DONE, and the GREATEST Rusev Day EVER

Robert O’Neill: After seven good hours of wrestling this weekend, we’re loaded up for five more! It’s time for Raw, and I’m really looking forward to it, honestly. I think Money in the Bank did a good job getting things set up for the road to Summerslam.

Chris Novak: Indeed, you’re right about that, Rob. Let’s hope the first night after continues that trend.

Robert O’Neill: Alright! We’re opening with Kurt Angle. He’s pleased with Raw’s performance at Money in the Bank. And now Alexa is here! She’s getting a YOU DESERVE IT chant, because she does deserve it.

Uh oh, Ronda Rousey is here and she’s none too pleased. But Alexa’s not backing down. She’s telling Ronda how it is. Surely this won’t end poorly for her. Ronda went after Alexa and then Kurt Angle tried to break it up and Ronda took him down! And then Ronda put Alexa through a table. That was one hell of a segment.

Kurt’s not pleased with Ronda backstage. He suspended her for 30 days for attacking him. Let’s see if that sticks!

Chris Novak: Overall, just an extremely well done opening segment. Everyone played their parts well. Alexa was her usual great self on the mic, and will be a great foil for Ronda. She took a huge table bump (so much for those folks who say she’s scared to) and Ronda looked like a total badass.

Robert O’Neill: *grabs large megaphone* BURN IT DOOOOOWWWWNNNNN!

Seth Rollins is here to discuss his match last night, which was quite good. Starting with back to back segments is interesting, but given the length and intensity of the matches last night it might be a light night for actual in-ring stuff.

Chris Novak: And now we get an IC Title Open Challenge. Answering the call is… ugh, Dolph Ziggler.

Robert O’Neill: The storytelling was really good where Rollins continued to sell the fact that his knee got messed up against Elias and he took all he could last night to win, but good lord did they really have to have Ziggler win the Intercontinental Title? Couldn’t it have been McIntyre? I hope this is the start of something bigger and better for Seth.

Chris Novak: Ugh. Like you said, did it REALLY have to be Dolph? Hopefully this really is the start of something bigger and better for Seth. Otherwise… gross.

Robert O’Neill: “You can cry online or write a blog about it, but this is our show now”

Good advice, Dolph. I WILL cry online about it.

Chris Novak: Dolph sucks.

Robert O’Neill: Curt Hawkins is in action against Bob Roode! Maybe this will be the night the losing streak ends! Nope. It was not the night. 203 in a row.

Chris Novak: I am liking that this is now a weekly fixture, honestly. It might actually be a legit good moment when he finally wins, to be honest. Here comes Braun, who’s the “Monster in the Bank” now. He says he’s going to be the next Universal Champion and The Beast is gonna get these hands. Welp, here comes Kevin Owens. Owens is selling like a MF, as usual. KO is here to be man enough to congratulate him. He says he deserves it as well, and he has an incredible opportunity, but he has to be smart and have a strategy. So, essentially, KO is offering his services up for Strowman. Braun… well, he responded as you would expect them to.

Robert O’Neill: I’m on the record as loving Owens/Strowman interactions so I’m here for a mini program between the two.

Chris Novak: Hmmmm. Interesting. So, next, they recap what happened last week with the Riott Squad and Bayley. Then we go to the back and Bayley’s now with… Sasha Banks. The two “friends” hash things out and seem to be on the up and up. But how long is this going to last?

Next come the Deleters of Worlds. They face Heath Slater and Rhyno and… oh, here’s the B-Team, and THEY’RE DRESSED UP LIKE THE DELETERS OF WORLDS! HAHAHAHA, BO IS DRESSED UP LIKE HIS BROTHER, BRAY! CURTIS IS DRESSED UP AS WOKEN MATT! This is actually hilarious. They parodied them and parodied them well, honest to God.

Robert O’Neill: That was absolutely hilarious.

Chris Novak: Slater and Rhyno go off on the sneak attack from behind afterwards. Eventually, Deleters of Worlds win. I’ll admit, this was a good segment for the tag division in a comedic way. Let’s get away from these squash matches though. Geez.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah it would be ideal to get something of substance going with the Raw tag team.

Chris Novak: You said it, not me.

Robert O’Neill: Jinder is facing Chad Gable, which is good. The more Chad Gable matches, the better.

Chris Novak: That was pretty fun. Jinder won the match. I think we should see more of Gable on Raw, tbh. And now… now, it’s time for Bayley-Sasha vs. Riott Squad.

Robert O’Neill: Hearing reports that It’s Boss Time.

Chris Novak: So, dissension is the name of the game here. Sasha insists that she’s “fine” after Bayley was concerned for her. Eventually, more miscues led to the Riott Squad winning. Bayley and Sasha had a confrontation in the ring, and that led to Sasha shoving Bayley to the ground and then walking away.

Robert O’Neill: After the commercial break things turned into a pull apart brawl! Neat.

Chris Novak: Bayley hit her with a freaking trashcan lid AND fired the first shot. Unfortunately, she got smoked afterwards. Honestly, people can say whatever they want about this. They devoted THREE segments to this feud. It’s clear that they give a shit about it. I’m expecting this to proceed going forward.

Robert O’Neill: Kurt Angle is back out for a big announcement! He knows who Brock Lesnar is facing at Summerslam. It’ll be the winner of a to be announced multi-man match at Extreme Rules. Roman Reigns would like to be in the match. So would Bob Lashley. In the midst of the bickering The Revival came out, and they have a match against Reigns and Lashley and pull off a stunning vic-

They lost. Of course they lost. They’re The Revival.

Chris Novak: Lashley was just… uh, well, Lashley in that final segment. No idea why they’re dragging out the participants but whew, hopefully someone who isn’t Roman (or Lashley, for that matter) wins that match at Extreme Rules. All I have to say. Anyways, you can be sad all you want Rob. That match was REAL good. Backstage we go. Finn says he’ll do what it takes to be in the multi-man #1 contender’s match. Constable Corbin puts him down, and KO comes in and agrees with him. Naturally… Strowman is RIGHT behind him. So, after a bit of interaction, we now have a tag team main event. Dead at Kurt saying “this is a runaway train” and abruptly leaving. My dude has to get control of this show, hahahahaha.

Robert O’Neill: Hey it’s Mojo Rawley! He took down No Way Jose and then cut a promo afterwards. Neat.

Chris Novak: Sasha is about to leave the arena. But, here’s Bayley again. Sasha reiterates that she’s done with her and done being her friend. Bayley tries to get her before she drives away. Alas… she is unsuccessful. Four segments devoted to this feud tonight. At least we finally got some action out of it.

Robert O’Neill: We got a full song by Elias, and it was an absolute banger.

Chris Novak: Why do we keep getting screwed over, Rob? We’ve been to two shows and Elias performed in neither!

Robert O’Neill: It’s just not right!

Time for the main event! Braun Strowman and Finn Balor are teaming up again to face Constable Corbin and Kevin Owens. It’s pretty cool that Balor and Strowman are kind of a full-time tag team these days. Bet they could fix the Raw tag division. Regardless, Corbin and Owens get the win, and, honestly, it was a bit surprising to me. But I like it.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: WWE’s really good week keeps rolling along. I particularly like the Alexa/Ronda and Bayley/Sasha stuff, and I’ll never complain about a title change on “free TV” even if it’s Dolph Ziggler winning the title. This show tied up all the loose ends from Money in the Bank and got us on the road to Summerslam, which is all you can hope for. A

Chris Novak: I felt like this was a very positive step in the right direction after MITB. Like Rob said, the women’s segments were all very good. Dolph winning wasn’t my cup of tea at all, but everything else was good to very good to great. A for me, as well.

Smackdown.png

Chris Novak: SmackDown Live begins with the announcement of a 5-man Gauntlet Match to determine the next #1 Contender for the WWE Title. The participants? Big E, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Rusev and Samoa Joe. Sounds like a certified banger. The show itself begins with the appearance of Women’s Champion, Carmella, who has emerged as the lone member of the old Enzo/Cass/Carmella act after Cass’ release. Pretty extraordinary, no?

Robert O’Neill: Honestly, people joke about it, but Carmella is excellent. She’s kind of like Alexa Bliss in that her excellence on the microphone covers up for her average ring work (which is getting better). And, yeah, I’m thrilled she outlasted those other two goons. Anyways, Carmella’s talking about how great she is, and now Asuka is coming out, but…. It’s not actually Asuka. It’s your boy Jimmy Dream! But then the real Asuka came out and she was none too pleased with JayMella.

Chris Novak: SMH, get your ships right Rob. It’s Carmellsworth. Anyways, wasn’t really a fan of how Alexa and Carmella cut what was essentially the same promo, but it was still effective. On to the next segment: Billie Kay vs. Becky Lynch. The IIconics take the mics when they come out and start mocking Toledo and then Becky.

Robert O’Neill: It seems like people don’t like The IIconics (Twitter people, at least), and I don’t really get why. They’re fine.

Chris Novak: I suppose I can see why (their comedy bits may be a bit forced at times). Can’t please anyone. Anyways, Becky and Billie fought in what was a solid, competitive match. Not too shabby. Becky picks up the win, as she tapped Billie out with the Dis-Arm-Her.

Jeff Hardy cut a promo on Nakamura, as it appears that’s where they’re headed next for these two. Hardy then showed off some 2009-style facepaint, which was white and black, that also had his eyes colored white. It was… terrifying. Oh, hey, cool: SAnitY is here, and they’re going to face The Usos.

Robert O’Neill: Jeff Hardy looks terrifying! So SAnitY vs. The Usos was more just a beatdown by the newcomers, which was actually pretty cool and smart.

Chris Novak:Honestly, much smarter than an actual match. Speaking of tag teams, we’re about to get a Tag Team Titles rematch between The Good Brothers and The Bludgeon Brothers. So, that’s fun.

Robert O’Neill: The Bludgeon Brothers retained, of course. It’s time for the gauntlet match!

Chris Novak: We are starting with… Bryan vs. Big E. Bryan is the #1 entrant, so this should prove interesting.

Robert O’Neill: After 15-20 minutes, Bryan got the upper hand on Big E (who looked good throughout) and then Samoa Joe was next! Bryan got the victory over Joe via countout, which was smart, but the Bludgeon Brothers, who stared Bryan down on his way to the ring, came out and beat him down after Joe left. Miz came out and took advantage and hit Bryan with the Skull Crushing Finale! But Rusev is here to try and take The Miz down, and he does! Miz taps to the Accolade and we have a Happy Rusev Day as the big man will be in his first ever WWE title match at Extreme Rules!

Chris Novak: Stellar showings for just about everyone here. They handled Bryan and Miz’s parts EXTREMELY well. I don’t know where they’re going with Bryan vs. The Bludgeon Bros. and I’m not sure who Bryan’s partner will be in the eventual Tag Team Championships Match. But it’s intriguing nonetheless. Rusev/Styles is going to be great, and it’s awesome that they went with Rusev.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: What a week for WWE. Four straight days of shows that I really enjoyed watching. Obviously, the gauntlet match was always going to be great, but I was a fan of everything on this show and am super intrigued with Jeff Hardy reverting to 2009-10 Jeff Hardy. I think SAnitY being up and wrecking shop is pretty cool too. A

Chris Novak: Another A for me here. SmackDown Live hit every right note possible here. This was an exceptional show.

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

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

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Ricochet v. Velveteen Dream

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Velveteen Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Undisputed Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Aleister Black

Chicago Street Fight - Johnny Gargano v. Tommaso Ciampa

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Markus Howell: Ahem. Click here
Prediction: Samoa Joe

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

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

Daniel Bryan v. Big Cass

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Big Cass

Roman Reigns v. Jinder Mahal

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Jinder Mahal

Bobby Lashley v. Sami Zayn

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

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

Markus Howell: #FreeElGenerico
Prediction: Sami Zayn

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

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

Prediction: Bobby Lashley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Ronda Rousey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Carmella

Intercontinental Championship - Seth Rollins (c) v. Elias

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Elias

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

This Week in WWE: Money in the Banks

This edition of This Week in WWE will be done a little differently than normal. Chris was the only one able to watch RAW this week, as Rob was out of commission on Memorial Day. Both Rob and Chris were able to watch SmackDown Live, however, so that recap will be done in its usual fashion. 

MONEY IN THE BANKS

WWE

WWE

Sasha Banks became the final entrant in this year's Women's MITB Ladder Match on Monday. Banks entered the Last Chance Gauntlet Match and submitted Ruby Riott to earn her way into the match after Riott had eliminated Bayley, Dana Brooke and Mickie James consecutively. Here are a few thoughts on all this. 

- Sasha winning was the right choice and right decision. While I would've had no problem with Ruby winning, or Bayley, the match is in desperate need of an elite in-ring worker. No disrespect to anybody who was in this Gauntlet, or who's in this match already, but Sasha Banks is so clearly the best in-ring talent on the women's roster. You could probably make the argument that she's Top 5 in the company, as well. So putting her in gets no qualms from me. 

- Had no problem with the booking of both Bayley and Ruby Riott. Riott looked genuinely good at times and this is the second time that her and Sasha have connected well in the ring. Imagine what a title feud would do for both? Bayley, meanwhile, mowed through Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan before Ruby eliminated her. To which I say, about time they threw her a bone in a situation like this. Liv only lasted like 20 seconds against her, to which I say, "Well, they've already embarrassed Bayley enough times. Liv will be fine. Maybe." 

- The qualm I do have with this match was its length. Giving the women 25 minutes for this kind of match was a foolhardy decision. Especially after the men's gauntlet match a couple months ago got so many rave reviews. I'm not saying, "Give the women 106 minutes" like the men got. But at least give them more than 25, for goodness sake. This was the only blemish on this match though. 

NOT A ROUSING START

So, after we had the contract signing last week, the Nia Jax-Ronda Rousey contract signing hit its next stage. And, um, a lot was left to be desired here.

First things first: You have to love the fact that the narrative around Nia Jax inexplicably did a 180º turn out of nowhere. So, for the last two months, she spent time being "anti-bully" in her feud against Alexa Bliss. Now, in her feud with Ronda Rousey for the Women's Title, she's... become the bully, as she chastised Ronda and her jobber opponent. With this and the fact that Nia, last week, didn't try to rebutt anything that Stephanie McMahon was saying, I'm not sure what exactly they're doing here. 

As for Rousey, she was on commentary while Nia was using a mic throughout her match. Whoever decided that should happen... well, let's just say it was ill-advised. Ronda didn't do much here, although she appears to be back to her smiling-and-waving phase, even though it's so obvious that she's so much better when she's just an ass-kicking badass. Not the first time they've missed the mark in that regard, though. Won't be the last, I reckon. 

I'm not sure what this means going forward, but this was a step backward. Adding onto the fact that next week, we have a match between Nia Jax and Natalya, Ronda's "friend" and "ally," I'm not sure what to think here. Will Jax try to take out Nattie? And if that's the case, is Nattie going to be out of MITB? Will they put her in anyway, and go forward with the program they've been teasing between the two of them? I'm not entirely sure here, but I do know that this program hasn't been it so far. Which is something, since it probably shouldn't be happening in the first place

MITB PREVIEWS

So, we got two matches this week featuring the four competitors in the MITB Ladder Match on RAW's side. Bobby Roode faced Kevin Owens, while Finn Bálor faced Braun Strowman in a rematch of last week's epic. 

Finn looked pretty strong in his match against Strowman, and nearly defeated The Monster Among Men. However, Owens came out and caused a DQ to end the match. He wasn't particularly liked by either Bálor OR Strowman, as evident by the fact that Strowman nearly hit him with a ladder he tossed from the ring. 

Owens got the last laugh of sorts later on, when he defeated Bobby Roode to pick up a huge win going into MITB. Quietly, KO has been gaining a lot of momentum on the RAW side of things. I'm not saying he's going to win the MITB Ladder Match. But right now, of the RAW competitors... he kind of looks like the strongest choice right now.

ALL THE REST

- Seth Rollins defeated Jinder Mahal to retain his Intercontinental Title. Honestly thought we'd get some kind of interaction with Roman Reigns here, but it never wound up happening. This was a pretty fun match, and continued Rollins' strong run. He was promptly hit with a guitar by Elias afterward. Later on in the week, we learned Elias vs. Seth for the IC Title will be happening at MITB. Sounds good to me. 

- Sami Zayn issued an "apology" for last week's gutter-trash segment. That brought Lashley out, and the two made themselves a match for MITB. I guess this will be fine, although I will give Sami credit: He did TREMENDOUSLY here and he continues to be a tremendous heel. Remember when everyone thought he should just be a babyface for life? We didn't know you had this in you, Sami.

- I continue to have absolutely no clue what they're doing with the RAW tag team division. But next week's battle royal should clear things up. It seems telegraphed that The B-Team will win, and all credit to Bo and Curtis: They're making the most of this and then some and have provided some extremely entertaining bits and interactions. That being said, Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt vs. Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, from a name-brand standpoint is low on the bar, and you could probably do better. Meanwhile, hearing that AoP are being put on milk cartons and we need everyone's help in trying to find them. 

Grade: A C+ for me here. There wasn't anything standout about this RAW, but nothing was terrible. It was just very average. The women's gauntlet had a lot more promise than what was delivered, and if they gave that match more time, I very well could have pushed this up to a B- or even a B or B+ if it really carried through. But its abbreviated form did no one good, the Women's Title segment bombed, and everything else was just... okay. 

Chris Novak: Away we go here for SDLive. Samoa Joe begins the night with a mic in his hand, as well as the MITB briefcase, and a ladder in the ring.

Robert O’Neill: And now Bryan is here because Joe was talking about Brie and Birdie, and they’re ready to fight RIGHT NOW, but instead Big Cass is out here in a suit and on crutches. Cass says he talked to Paige and Joe won’t be facing Bryan tonight, but instead Joe will face Cass!

Chris Novak: Paige is backstage after the break. She talks with Absolution, who say there’s more deserving people out there than Asuka to contend for the title. So,Paige makes a match between Mandy and Asuka. Then, after the chaos that happened before the break, she tells Renee Young that Big Cass vs. Samoa Joe vs. Daniel Bryan for the final MITB spot is the main event. Completely fine with this, to be honest.

Robert O’Neill: Shinsuke Nakamura is facing Tye Dillinger, which I actually really like. Obviously a lot of it comes from Dillinger’s 10 gimmick and Nak being in a last man standing match, and that’s a story they told in the match. Nakamura would try to keep Dillinger down for a 10 count and Tye kept getting up and looked good in getting some offense in. Nakamura obviously won with a Kinshasa (and a 1-2-3, instead of going for 10 that time), but it was a solid match.

Chris Novak: This was a perfect use of Tye Dillinger, to be honest. You have Shinsuke face a guy who’s impressive enough to look good but also take the fall.

Robert O’Neill: Lana and Naomi had a dance off, which is a pretty insulting way to promote women’s wrestling in 2018. I get it, they both have dancing gimmicks, but come on.

Chris Novak: Yeah. Hard pass on that. It sets up a mixed tag next week, featuring Aiden English instead of Rusev. Methinks that means English gets pinned, and Lana uses that as a way to pit Rusev against him. But… we’ll see.

Robert O’Neill: The Bludgeon Brothers said they were going to “liquify” Gallows and Anderson. Gross.

Chris Novak: Yeah, that’s one word for it!

Robert O’Neill: This will shock you (it will not shock you), but The New Day vs. The Bar and Miz was absolutely excellent. When you have six guys who are really good, you’ll get a really good match. We still don’t know which member of the New Day will be in the MITB match, but that’s fine.

Chris Novak: It feels like we’re not going to know until the night of the event. Which is completely fine with me.

Robert O’Neill: Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose beat up Asuka before Mandy’s match with her. Asuka still prevailed, but Mandy looked solid and Carmella was excellent on commentary.

Chris Novak: People were impressed with Mandy, I’m just sitting here, meanwhile, remembering that I’ve been on the bandwagon since late 2016.

Robert O’Neill: Speaking of the women’s division. Becky Lynch (remember her?) was talking to Charlotte backstage and things got a little heated about who was going to win the MITB match and Paige came and set up Becky vs. Charlotte for next week. I’m entirely here for that.

Chris Novak: It’s about damn time. Would be great if Becky showed off her ‘desperation’ in that match somehow, someway. Then we got a backstage segment between Andrade "Cien" Almas and Sin Cara. Allow me to be the one to say it: HERE. FOR. THIS. Sin Cara and Andrade Almas will shoot fight the hell out of each other for about 10-12 minutes at MITB, it looks like. And it will be a thrill. 

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event. I have a problem with saying you’re going to give us Joe vs. Bryan, a match that hasn’t been seen in a decade, and then adding Cass. I get it, they didn’t know if he was hurt, but that’s pretty much exactly what WCW used to do in terms of false advertising. It was a very good match that Joe won with the Coquina Clutch on Bryan, who passed out instead of submitting, but I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened had it been a singles match instead.

Chris Novak: I enjoyed that match for what it was. The right guy won and we’ll get Bryan-Cass II at MITB, likely.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Since I missed Raw and have nothing to compare Smackdown to, I guess my grade is a tad harsher than it would normally be. I liked the matches and the content of the show, but not getting the promised main event was a bummer. Regardless this was a solid B.

Chris Novak: SmackDown Live continues to be the better show and brand since WrestleMania, and it gained momentum quite a bit heading into the big show, as well. The matches were all pretty great. Despite the fact that we had that nonsense dance off, the show didn't suffer too greatly from it at all. Going to give this a strong B here, as well. But make no mistake: This is the A-Show. 

Ruthless Aggression ep. 19 - Show Me the Money
This Week in WWE: An all-time bad segment on RAW, while Bryan-Joe looms on SmackDown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*checks RAW Tag Team Champions*

Oh. I see. Never mind then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Robert O’Neill: Miz still looks ridiculous though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: And so should Almas.

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

WWE Strikes Gold With New TV Deals

Don’t let anyone tell you Vince McMahon isn’t an absolute genius.

After what seemed like years of rumors and discussions, McMahon and WWE appear to have new TV deals in place for both Raw and Smackdown Live, and the deals are a bit staggering.

Last week, The Hollywood Reporter reported that NBCUniversal and WWE had reached an extension to keep Raw on USA Network for the foreseeable future at “three times its current value”, which was estimated to be around $240 million a year. As a result of NBCUniversal pulling out all the stops for Raw, they chose to pass on Smackdown Live, which made the blue brand a lucrative free agent.

On Monday, the other shoe dropped. After reportedly entertaining offers from Facebook and Amazon, WWE reached an agreement with Fox to air Smackdown for five years at $205 million a year, starting in October 2019. That’s a billion-plus dollar deal.

The Wrap reports that Smackdown will likely be moved back to Friday nights, so it will be interesting to see how the WWE schedule is affected.

Looking past the sheer volume of the numbers, let’s take a look at how we got to this point. It’s fairly simple, but there are a few big keys to WWE’s massive growth and success over the past five years.

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First, the rise of the WWE Network has to be accounted for. Between the on-demand library of classic content, original programming, and live PPVs, there’s something for everyone, and it’s evident why it’s on the rise. Getting into WWE programming has never been easier, and being able to watch a PPV for $10 a month instead of $40 a month is a huge deal for key audiences.

Nathan Congleton/NBC

Nathan Congleton/NBC

Second, the mainstream success of people like Ronda Rousey, John Cena, and Brock Lesnar has to be considered. There are other examples, but these are the three most prevalent, as even the most casual of fan has heard of these three. Obviously, Rousey and Lesnar made their names in UFC, but Cena’s crossover stardom in movies and on the Today Show has made him a commodity in the industry, and Vince McMahon realizes that. Cena’s likely a significant reason why WWE didn’t move entirely to Fox, keeping Raw with NBCUniversal.

With all of this in mind, it’s pretty awesome as a lifelong fan to see the growth and mainstream success of WWE. I’m excited to see what these deals mean for the future of WWE.

This Week in WWE: El Idolo arrives, Nakamura-Styles have their best match so far in WWE

Robert O’Neill: Time for another edition of Monday Night Raw! This week we have a taped show (which I've never liked, but I obviously understand it since they're in London) and I have bronchitis so we should have ourselves an interesting show!

Chris Novak: Get better, Rob. Anyways, we’re set to “find out” what happened between Nia and Rousey later! ...Just go here, folks. Anyways, now that I’m done plugging my article, here comes Roman Reigns. The reaction seems subdued. Gee, I wonder why. Roman says that if Jinder wants to be “more relevant than he has in his entire career,” then he should come out to his yard right now. Counterpoint: Jinder was WWE Champion more recently than Roman was a champ. Anyhow, Kurt Angle comes out instead.

Robert O'Neill: We really don't need to relive the summer of Jinder and Randy though!

Chris Novak: So we’re doing this Roman vs. Management thing. And, it’s bad! And now Kurt says he got a phone call, and he was essentially reprimanded by “management” (aka Stephanie, it sure sounds). He says tonight, Jinder will be in a match against Elias and Bobby Lashley in a MITB qualifier. Roman wants in, but Kurt says management said no. I mean, yeah. He lost last week. Why would it make sense to give him an opportunity again? So Roman says he gets it, and now he’s going to do what he has to do. Reigns goes in the back, looks around, wants to know where Jinder’s at. And he finds him and a brawl ensues. Jinder getting cheers for this is hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. Reigns hits him with a Superman Punch on the stage and then walks away. So, there’s your opening segment.

Robert O’Neill: It’s still pretty wild that the way WWE is going to endear Roman to the crowd finally is to have him feud with Jinder. Like… That’s not gonna work.

Chris Novak: Time for Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens for the IC Title. Seth issued another open challenge over the weekend, and Owens responded via social media. So, off we go. Let’s see if Rollins’ heater can continue. So far, so good. Rollins hit a crazy Falcon Arrow onto the apron (#HardestPartOfTheRing) and then hit back-to-back suicide dives on Owens. So, he’s still on his A-game. Later, Owens hits a Fisherman-buster suplex, but then Rollins goes out of the ring. Owens gets him back in, but Seth hits the Stomp! 1-2-3, and Seth retains. Another terrific match for Seth, and another great IC Title Match. They are doing their damnedest to make that title important, and they’re sure succeeding.

Robert O’Neill: All the “fighting champion” stuff with regards to Rollins can’t be a coincidence, right? They’re planning to have him face Lesnar, right?

Chris Novak: You have to hope. Anyways, they showed the Nia-Ronda setup. Is it just me or could Charlotte have come off any lamer in that bit? Also that was very much the friendliest challenge ever.

Robert O’Neill: I’m a big Rousey fan AND have Money in the Bank tickets and even I’m not excited about this match.

Chris Novak: I mean, why should you be? On to the next MITB qualifier, between Bobby Roode, Baron Corbin and No Way Jose. That is certainly a trio.

Robert O’Neill: I talked about this on the Ruthless Aggression Podcast this week, but they’re handling these MITB qualifiers in the stupidest possible way. Like, after this match Raw will have one spot left. There’s a full month until the pay-per-view. What are they gonna do for that time?

Chris Novak: And that spot’s being decided later tonight! Anyways, Bob Roode won a pretty fun match here, I’ll say. Corbin was solid in a multi-man match again, and NWJ was good as well. We go backstage now. Kevin Owens wants a rematch. He seems desperate. Kurt won’t give in, so Owens pulls the “I’m going to call Stephanie” card. I guess this has to be used against him constantly after what happened at WrestleMania. Then Kurt goes in and Jinder is hurt. He wants the match postponed, but when Angle says it won’t be, Jinder says he’ll fight through whatever. Awfully sympathetic of them here.

Chris Novak: So the B-Team faces Breezango here next. After a not-so-lengthy match and some decent tag action, they win after a back suplex/neckbreaker combo. Honestly, good for them. They’ve both raised their games recently and they’re both not too bad either! And most of all, they’ve both been hilariously entertaining.

Robert O’Neill: I don’t mind them at all. The Raw tag division is a giant mess anyway, so what does it matter?

Chris Novak: Next up, six-woman tag match. The Riott Squad faces off with Ember, Natalya and Sasha Banks. There wasn’t much to this match, other than it being pretty solid. Nattie won after making Liv Morgan tap out to the Sharpshooter. They’re heating her up here, so I won’t be surprised when she wins her qualifier next week to get into MITB.

Chris Novak: Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt beat The Revival in a non-title tag team match. It was what it was. Not much else to say about the tag division except, “Hey, at least they’re getting reps.”

Robert O’Neill: TOP GUYS WATCH!!!! At least they were on Raw? I guess? Sure?

Chris Novak: More than they can say about AOP.

Robert O’Neill: So, Sami Zayn is gonna face Bobby Lashley at some point soon I guess? That’s… fine.

Chris Novak: Somehow I don’t think this ends well.

Robert O’Neill: Alexa Bliss and Mickie James and Bayley are here for their triple threat MITB qualifier, and after a pretty good match, Bliss wins. That makes sense, she’s looking to get the title back and they’ll either have Bayley and Sasha in some last chance thing to continue their underlying feud or they’ll do something else at the event.

Chris Novak: Because God forbid they have Alexa pin Mickie James, who draws the same reactions that you or I would on any given night, right? They just HAD to have Alexa pin Bayley AGAIN, right? Okay, but anyways, Alexa winning is fine. People are complaining about it, but it’s fine. Will be humorous to see how she takes a bump though. I have NO IDEA what they’re doing with Bayley or Sasha at this point. And to be honest, it’s looking likely that neither will be in the MITB match. The next qualifier is going to be Natalya vs. Liv vs. Sarah (who the hell thought that was a good idea to have the same type of match two weeks in a row, with two people as ‘allies’ -- Alexa/Mickie one week, Liv/Sarah another -- against a babyface) and I reckon they’re going to have Nattie win that. Then there’ll be some kind of last chance match, and with two babyfaces accounted for (Ember, Natalya) they’ll pick a heel (likely Ruby). So, I don’t know what either of those two will be doing. I do know that there’ll probably be some complaining about that though. Justified? Perhaps.

Robert O’Neill: Braun Strowman and Finn Balor lost to Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler in a tag match as they continue to make Ziggler actually seem entertaining and captivating. Balor ate the pin as Braun was distracted on the outside. It’s kind of interesting how they’ve had him in so many tag matches of late.

Chris Novak: Apparently them going through the trophy outside wasn’t planned. The more you know.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! Another triple threat as Elias, Lashley, and Owens are battling for Raw’s last MITB spot. After a good back and forth match, Elias stopped to deliver a concert, which was excellent. After that ended, Zayn came down and took out Lashley, allowing Owens to pin Elias for the win!

Chris Novak: Totally fine with this result, to be honest. Not much else to really add. Sami costing Lashley the match was fine. Bummed that Elias has nothing to do again though.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Raw was fine. Like I said, it was taped and I was under the weather, so my interest was always going to be a bit skewed, but I enjoyed the show overall, despite the fact that I’m not pleased that all four men’s MITB spots are already claimed. Regardless. C+

Chris Novak: Yeah, this was a perfectly inoffensive show, but didn’t really do much for me. C+ for me as well.

Robert O’Neill: Well, Raw was… something. Time for Smackdown!

Chris Novak: London is the site again for SD as the European tour is winding down.

Robert O’Neill: Shinsuke and Styles are in the main event in a non-title match to decide the MITB stipulation. That’s fine.

Chris Novak: Totally fine with that.

Robert O’Neill: Daniel Bryan is opening the show. The fans like him. Big surprise!

Chris Novak: And here comes Big Cass. Cass says that he disagrees with Renee that Rusev was his first setback, and that he was instead. That he was the reason he lost to Rusev, and that he’s the reason he keeps losing and will ensure he won’t achieve his dreams and aspirations. Cass says some stuff about how Bryan should’ve stayed retired and how he should be a stay at home dad. Bryan responds by beating the crap out of Cass and putting him in a heel hook. So, Bryan comes off like a badass here. Cass kind of deserves these beatings he’s getting for being that much of a jackass, I suppose.

Robert O’Neill: The Bar and New Day are in the first match here, with a member of the winning team competing in the Money in the Bank match. It was a good match, unsurprisingly.  New Day won, and i have to imagine it’ll be Big E going into the ladder match

Chris Novak: That would be my bet and would definitely be the best bet.

Robert O’Neill: We get a Bludgeon Brothers vignette, which, hey, nice to see them! Followed by Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville mouthing off to Paige and getting a MITB qualifying match out of it. A triple-threat match against Becky Lynch!

Chris Novak: I have my reservations. OK, time to shut up. Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega have arrived on SmackDown Live.

Robert O’Neill: He beat a local wrestler and she cut a scathing promo after. Heroes.

Chris Novak: I will be irrationally angry if these two don’t succeed on the main roster.

Robert O’Neill: Alright. The Royal Mellabration was INCREDIBLE.

Chris Novak: She got a proper introduction, moonwalked in heels and shot on the Royal Family. Is there anything Mella won’t touch on? She continues to excel in these spots. Paige then comes out to a very nice home country pop. She then announces that Carmella will face Asuka at MITB. Well, I guess that will certainly be a match to watch.

Robert O’Neill: The Royal Family is actually bad, so I don’t really blame her for taking that route. Anyways, Becky Lynch won that aforementioned triple threat match which was probably for the best, no disrespect to Sonya or Mandy.

Chris Novak: I can’t believe she actually won. It’s about time that she wins something. Maybe she’l win Money in the… I’m not getting ahead of myself.

Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura are facing off to determine their Money in the Bank stipulation, and this was probably their best match yet! So that’s promising, each match gets better and better. Nakamura gets the victory after faking a low blow, and then hitting a Kinshasa. He didn’t announce the stipulation.

Chris Novak: This was the best Nakamura-Styles match of this series so far. A legit banger. Really enjoyed this one a lot. Thought Nak was going to low blow Styles but they structured that end sequence very well. Wonder what Nak will pick for the stip. Leading candidate is Roshambo.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Much like Raw, Smackdown was fine. At least they aren’t all out of MITB spots yet. Excited for them to get back stateside. B-

Chris Novak: SmackDown Live was considerably better than Raw again. That’s been the theme since Mania, and it’ll probably continue that way next week, too. B for SDLive, boosted by the legit great Nak-Styles match, and no real low points.

#FreeRomanReigns #ScrewVince

What if I told you that the “chair shot heard ‘round the world” would ruin a superstar before they even get the chance to succeed? What if I told you that a billion dollar company has all the tools to help a superstar succeed but refuses to do so because they can’t just stop and listen? Would you believe me?

Look, let’s get this out of the way right now: I like Roman Reigns. I don’t hate the guy. He’s a damn good worker and is a great person as evidenced by his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. But cut the nonsense; his character sucks.

Everything.

Yes, everything about the man Joe Anoa’I portrays stinks, and it’s because of the infamous “Plan B” that Triple H had the night after Wrestlemania XXX.

Seth Rollins’ betrayal has led Roman on a path of never ending success because Roman wasn’t ready, but what has come with that path is overwhelming hatred from the WWE Universe. And it’s not his fault. If you want someone to point the finger at, blame Vince McMahon. Yes, the man CM Punk once told us “is a millionaire, but should be a billionaire” is behind the failed Roman Reigns experiment.

For the last four years following WM XXX, Reigns has main evented 22 PPVs out of a possible 49 (excluding Smackdown branded shows), won the 2015 Royal Rumble, won the WWE Championship three separate times, and became a grand slam champ in 2017. That should mean that folks like the guy right?

Nope.

When Roman comes out, what is the first thing you hear……? Don’t worry, I’m sure you can hear them in your head right now without even HEARING the music. That’s how goddamn bad it is. Roman has retained everything from the glory days of the Shield. While his Shield brethren have gone on and made themselves known for something outside of that, Roman has stuck with everything that made the Shield famous.

Roman is a corporate shell. Vince wants us to now have us believe that management and the machine is against him. L O FUCKING L.

Vince has pushed Roman so far down our throats, the ONLY thing he is reluctant to do is turn Roman heel (which he needs bad). Roman is the ANTI-Cena. He’s been put through so many storylines it’s hard to keep up with them all.

I mean when The goddamn Rock can’t get you cheered, that says a lot.

Roman has been fumbled so many times in the years since the Shield dissolved, which is crazy to say considering he’s main-evented four straight Mania’s. (The shit show that the Taker match was his fault). Now they are even taking the “Daniel Bryan” underdog approach in an attempt to get him liked, which will inevitably fail because the clowns who make the decisions behind the curtain don’t have common sense.

Even when Roman gets his ass beat by Brock at Mania and loses to him again (in an unwarranted title rematch), WWE gives him a damn win against a superstar who is arguably more popular and liked than him, just to make sure Roman doesn’t fall down the totem pole.

WWE is in a prime position to get what they want from Roman. Let Roman grow his full beard out (yes, that will help rehabilitate his image), get him new music, get him new gear, and let him be a badass. It worked for Rikishi. It worked for The Usos. It worked for The Rock. It worked for Triple H. It worked for Stone Cold. I mean the list goes on and on.

I just wonder, is it too late for him?

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

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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.

Ruthless Aggression ep. 16 - the Plane Ride from Hell