Posts tagged Sasha Banks
Ruthless Aggression - Lio Rush is Wylin

Patrick Pryor of the Scheduled for One Fall podcast joins us to discuss the Lio Rush controversy backstage, his comments and Mark Henry's statements that Lio lied to his face. Pat kicks around to talk Booker T's comments on Sasha Banks' hiatus. Plus, 'Buy or Sell', and the week that was in 2003!

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 518
Smackdown 193

Follow Pierce on Twitter: @HennyOmega
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Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
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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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From bra and panties matches to the main event: how Chyna's impact will be felt this all throughout WrestleMania weekend

My what a difference six years makes.

The last time WWE posted up at Metlife Stadium for WrestleMania 29, women’s wrestling was so insignificant in the company, the only match scheduled on the card involving women - an eight-person intergender tag team match featuring The Funkadactyls, Naomi and Cameron, and the Bella Twins - was scrapped at the last minute due to time constraints. When they return on Sunday for the 35th installment, the ladies will take center stage for the first time in WrestleMania history.

It’s kind of appropriate that on the same weekend Chyna takes her long overdue place in the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of D-Generation X, three of the five most popular superstars of this generation - Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey - will main event the show for both the RAW and Smackdown Women’s Championships, while the other two - Bayley and Sasha Banks - will defend the new Women’s Tag Team Championships in a Fatal Four Way. It’s appropriate because Joanie “Chyna” Laurer was the linchpin of women’s wrestling at a time when when it was basically an afterthought in mainstream wrestling.

WWE

WWE

Until Chyna burst onto the scene, the WWF (at the time) Women’s Championship was suspended and re-introduced to the company a number of times, and when it was featured, the matches were rarely long and not well promoted. Even during her time with the company, the women were mostly relegated to sexual fodder for its target male demographic, competing in anything from Bra & Panties matches to Evening Gown matches to Paddle on a Pole and Bikini Mud bouts.

However, Chyna was a rare breed - a five-foot-ten powerhouse unlike anything the world of wrestling had seen before. From the second she stepped on the scene in February 1997 and rag-dolled Marlena on Monday Night RAW, she gave women the colossal shot of adrenaline it needed to make a revival in the all-important Attitude Era. It was Chyna’s gigantic presence that gave supporters of women’s wrestling hope that not only could they deliver on a stage usually reserved for men, they could compete with them on that same level.

And compete she did. She was the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble in 1999, paving the way for the women to get their own Rumble match 19 years later. She became the first woman to qualify for the King of the Ring tournament later that year, and in October she won the Intercontinental Championship from Jeff Jarrett, becoming the only woman in WWE history to hold a major title belt, a feat she accomplished twice.

Chyna quickly became one of the most popular superstars of the Attitude Era, but despite her popularity, women’s wrestling didn’t change much after her departure. Women were given a bigger platform, which isn’t saying much considering how little they were valued previously, but there was no one that rivaled Chyna's star power and ability in the ring. The WWE focused more on fitness models new to the business, and while some of them blossomed into good performers - like Trish Stratus and Torrie Wilson - others found it difficult to survive in the ever-evolving world of wrestling, and suddenly women’s wrestling fell out of favor again.

WWE’s relationship with Playboy led to annual spreads that tied into WrestleMania storylines. At the time, Chyna, herself a former Playboy cover girl, had long been gone from the company. From 2003 to 2008, a Divas match or program was highlighted by a Playboy cover girl, usually a newer, greener diva looking for exposure, leading to some poor, forgettable moments on the Grandest Stage. There was the Playboy pillow fight between Torrie and Candice Michelle at WrestleMania 22, and the BunnyMania lumberjill match hosted by Snoop Dogg.

Once their relationship with Playboy ended, the poor string of WrestleMania matches for the women’s division didn’t stop there. In 2009, a battle royal that started with a Kid Rock performance in place of superstar intros ended with “Santina” - Santino Marella in drag - winning the crown of Miss WrestleMania. In 2010, a 10-diva tag team match finished with a “Hog Splash”, as Michael Cole put it, from Vickie Guerrero (a non-wrestler) onto Kelly Kelly (a fitness model-turned-wrestler) and a painful botch of a pinfall. The following years were centered on celebrity involvement; in 2011, Snooki from Jersey Shore scored a win in a six-person tag, and in 2012, entertainment reporter (and huge wrestling fan) Maria Menounos was victorious in another tag match.

Then comes 2013, and the now-infamous scratch at Metlife. Women’s wrestling had fallen so deep into obscurity in WWE that they couldn’t even get five minutes on the biggest show of the year. The fans had had enough. Hell, some of the wrestlers had enough too, like Gail Kim, who eliminated herself from a battle royal once just to see if anyone noticed.

But what we didn’t know at the time was down in Florida, a revolution was burgeoning.

NXT grew from the ashes of WWE’s failed ECW revival, becoming what amounted to a game show before overtaking Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE’s developmental promotion for new superstars. The first woman to come out of NXT and make a difference on the main roster was Paige, who debuted on RAW the night after WrestleMania XXX in 2014 - another show with a multi-women clusterfuck of a match - and pinned Divas Champion AJ Lee to win the title on her first night on RAW. Paige would go onto tag with AJ against the Bellas the next year at WrestleMania. While Paige was growing the brand on the main roster, the seeds that were planted back in NXT were starting to blossom courtesy of the Four Horsewomen.

Charlotte Flair. Sasha Banks. Bayley. Becky Lynch. Four women who changed the face of women’s wrestling for eternity. Each one unique in their own right. Charlotte, the daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair, was physically gifted and a natural at the business. Sasha Banks, a charismatic black woman from Boston, found her voice down in NXT. Bayley became one of the biggest fan favorites in the company, moving merch like no woman in WWE or NXT at the time. Becky Lynch, the wild-card of the group, had retired and moved on from wrestling before being pulled back into the mix and signed by WWE. She carried a chip on her shoulder from day one, but when she got in the ring with her three sisters, she created magic.

WWE

WWE

These four women were the heart of the women’s revolution in wrestling, with all three being featured prominently at WrestleMania 32 in 2016. Bayley defended her NXT Women’s Championship at the biggest NXT show to date, while Becky, Charlotte and Sasha stole the show in a triple threat match for the new Women’s Championship. Women were no longer the bathroom break on the card; they were must-see.

Fast-forward to 2019, when the four of them will compete for gold on the Grandest Stage. Aided by UFC Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey, WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix, the incomparable Asuka, and another powerhouse in Nia Jax, the three - count em, THREE - women’s matches at this year’s WrestleMania, including the second women’s battle royal and the main event - are the most anticipated matches on the card.

And on the night before, the legend who led the way 20 years ago will finally be called a Hall of Famer. It’s bittersweet that Chyna won’t be here to see the culmination of what she started, but the ladies participating in Sunday’s show will no doubt do her memory justice.

NXTop10: The greatest matches in NXT Takeover history

Capping off a wonderful first year of The Barber's Chair with our latest NXTop10! Rob, Chris, Lincoln and Post Wrestling's Braden Herrington join Pierce as they count down the 10 greatest matches in NXT Takeover history!

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intro music: "No Money" by Yung Kartz - hooksounds.com
outro music: "Jive" by The Loyalist - hooksounds.com
Audio courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network. Please support wrestling and look up these matches.

Ruthless Aggression - "Rey Mysterio Drinks Modelo"

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

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 503
Smackdown 179
Royal Rumble 2003

Follow Pierce: @HennyOmega
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Follow Rob: @RobertONeill31

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
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Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops New Years Day 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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The 2019 WWE Top 25: "Preseason" Edition

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

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

What is the WWE Top 25?

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

How are the rankings determined?

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

What is the grading system and how is it calculated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you really going to be watching EVERYTHING?

I sure as hell hope so!


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

25. Bayley

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

24. Velveteen Dream

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

23. Shayna Baszler

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

22. Sasha Banks

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

21. Pete Dunne

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

20. Drew McIntyre

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

19. Ronda Rousey

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

18. Ricochet

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

17. Mustafa Ali

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

16. Matt Riddle

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

15. Finn Balor

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

14. The Miz

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

13. Kyle O’Reilly

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

12. Andrade “Cien” Almas

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

11. Charlotte Flair

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

10. Adam Cole

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

9. Tommaso Ciampa

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

8. Asuka

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

7. Johnny Gargano

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

6. Becky Lynch

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

5. AJ Styles

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

4. Roderick Strong

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

3. Seth Rollins

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

2. Buddy Murphy

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

1. Daniel Bryan

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

Re-booking TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2018

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

Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin - TLC Match

Source: WWE Network

Source: WWE Network

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship

aj-db.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Bálor

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Elias vs. Bobby Lashley - Guitar Ladder Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

Cedric Alexander vs. Buddy Murphy for the Cruiserweight Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

Natalya vs. Ruby Riott - Tables Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton - Chairs Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

WWE Evolution 2018: Recap, results, analysis
evolution.png

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

TRISH STRATUS & LITA vs. ALICIA FOX & MICKIE JAMES

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

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

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

20-WOMAN BATTLE ROYAL

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

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

MAE YOUNG CLASSIC FINAL: TONI STORM vs. IO SHIRAI

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

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

THE RIOTT SQUAD vs. SASHA BANKS, BAYLEY & NATALYA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

The 17 NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn matches, ranked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

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

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

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

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

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

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

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

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

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

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

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

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

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

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

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

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

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

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

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

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

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

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

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

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

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

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

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

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

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

(Credit: WWE.com)

(Credit: WWE.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Original Photo Credit: WWE.com)

(Original Photo Credit: WWE.com)

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

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

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

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

The 10 greatest NXT superstars of all-time

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

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

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

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

WWE

WWE

The Shield

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

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

WWE

WWE

Velveteen Dream

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

WWE

WWE

Dash and Dawson

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

WWE

WWE

Aleister Black

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

WWE

WWE

Adrian Neville

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

WWE

WWE

Undisputed Era

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


10. Shinsuke Nakamura

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

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

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


9. Samoa Joe

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

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

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

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

And plus, his mic skills still remain aces.


8. Tommaso Ciampa

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

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

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

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


7. Kevin Owens

WWE

WWE

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

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

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

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

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


6. Sami Zayn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


WWE

WWE

5. Asuka

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

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

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

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


WWE

WWE

4. Sasha Banks

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

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

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


WWE

WWE

3. Johnny Gargano

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

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

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

Nothing would ever be the same.

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

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

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

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

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


2. Finn Balor

WWE

WWE

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

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

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


1. Bayley

WWE

WWE

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week in WWE (8/6, 8/7): Ronda's star shines in the main event of RAW

The road to SummerSlam is nearing its end! Rob and Chris are here to dish on the first episodes of Raw and SmackDown Live of August. 

Raw.png

Christopher Novak: An “intriguing” show awaits us tonight. Ronda’s in singles action on Raw for the first time ever, as she’s facing Alicia Fox. Also, The Revival is facing the B-Team in a non-title match, Bobby Roode will take on Mojo Rawley and Boss ‘n Hug faces The Riott Squad once more.

Robert O’Neill: Will it keep me entertained to the point where I don’t go watch Better Call Saul after the first hour and catch up later on DVR? We’ll see!

Christopher Novak: Kurt Angle and Stephanie McMahon’s Personally Appointed Constable Corbin are starting off the show tonight after last week’s chaotic finish. Kurt talks about how Ronda's RAW in-ring debut is tonight, and takes a shot at Brock Lesnar in the process. He says Ronda and everyone except Brock is a champion in his book. Corbin tells Kurt to watch it, but Kurt says he's getting this off his chest. He says Brock has no class and that he's a man of his word. Since Heyman could get him to the ring, his job is still intact.

He mentions that Heyman will be interviewed by Renee Young later. He goes to add on to what he was going to say about Brock, but Roman Reigns' music hits and out comes the #1 contender. Roman says Kurt should've known better, and says he shouldn't have kicked him out, because "If the Big Dog is out, then who's gonna protect the yard?" Corbin makes a face, but Roman questions him about what he did last week. He says Corbin ran (which he did!) away. Kurt says he hopes that Roman kicks Brock's ass. Corbin says a GM shouldn't pick favorites, which begs the question: Do you WATCH the product, Baron? 

Baron says he didn't do anything because he was worn out from fighting Finn Balor. Corbin reminds Roman that Finn won the Universal Title and that Roman didn't. Kurt says he could've acted like a man last week. Baron questions whether Kurt is the "man" here and says he just makes matches. Kurt says Corbin's right, he just makes the matches, and says that we're going to get Corbin vs. Roman... right now! 

Robert O’Neill: It really is amazing how much this gimmick change has worked for Corbin. He’s so excellent now.

Christopher Novak: The match, so far, is going about as you'd expect it to. Which is to say that it's pretty solid enough to keep our attention here. Huge Deep Six towards the conclusion of the match leads to a near fall. Corbin then inadvertently nails a cameraman and walks into a Superman Punch. NEAR FALL, however. Corbin then decides to leave the ring and walk away… until FINN BALOR shows up! He, essentially, corners Corbin who walks into ANOTHER Superman Punch! Roman rolls him into the ring, Spear, you know the rest.

Robert O’Neill: I enjoyed it. Reigns’ TV matches are back to where they used to be a couple months ago after he was kinda meh for a few weeks.

Christopher Novak: Yeah, the match was perfectly fine. 

Kurt Angle is backstage with Seth Rollins, who wants to take care of both Drew Mac and Dolph Ziggler. Angle requests he find a partner… Gee, I wonder… who he… could pick… to help… him… out…

Mojo Rawley and Bobby Roode are here to fight now.

Robert O’NeIll: Bob got the win. It was an alright match I just… don’t care about him, ya know? It’s not his fault. They’ve just done nothing to make him interesting him his time in the main roster. It’s all just the music.

Hey, it’s Elias! Perhaps he’ll get to play his music uninterrupted for once.

He did for a little bit! But now Bob Lashley is here, of course. Elias has his own camera crew because he’s a star now, and he’s not happy that Bob is stealing his spotlight. Bob gets the upper hand though as he beats Elias down and makes the personal camera crew film it. 

Christopher Novak: I suspect we’ll get a SummerSlam match announced out of this at some point down the road.

Robert O’Neill: So Seth Rollins needs a tag team partner tonight against Drew and Dolph! Tyler Breeze offered (and pitched the name CROSSFIT BREEZUS) but Roman stepped in and said he’d be the partner instead!

Meanwhile Titus O’Neil is facing Rezar, and Rezar authored some pain. No surprise there.

Christopher Novak: None whatsoever. AOP gets their dose of “revenge” after what happened last week when Akam lost to Apollo Crews. Anyhow, The Kevin Owens Show is about to return. Jinder Mahal is the guest. Let’s see what happens!

So, what happened was Owens talking himself up, how he’s going to be “KO IN THE BANK” and then saying Jinder is facing Strowman. Mahal didn’t seem to like that… and Strowman didn’t show. At FIRST at least. Turns out that Strowman was creeping up from behind and tipped over the stage they were on.

Braun vs. Jinder will occur after the break. It was a short match, and Jinder won by DQ. Jinder didn't seem like he MEANT for that to happen and, naturally, Braun went after him. Sunil Singh then took the briefcase and... ummmmmmmmm he got BOOTED to Gainesville. 

Robert O’Neill: They did a pre-taped interview between Roman Reigns and Corey Graves. Later they have an interview between Renee Young and Paul Heyman. Neat.

Christopher Novak: The video package was REALLY good. But that’s par for the course.

Robert O’Neill: According to Stephanie McMahon via Baron Corbin, Roman can’t team with Seth, so the tag match is now a handicap match. Or is it…

Christopher Novak: Before we find out, let me just say: Roman punching Corbin in the ribs was absolutely hilarious.

Robert O’Neill: So it goes on as a handicap match and Dolph and Drew win and… no one saves Rollins. Thought it would be Ambrose, but no.

Christopher Novak: Well, Cole DID explicitly say that Ambrose wasn’t coming back. I guess they did mean that and they weren’t trying to pull a fast one on us.

Robert O’Neill: The B-Team has new music and it’s excellent. And they’re facing The Revival! Neat. After a few minutes, Deleters of Worlds beat down all four guys. The tag division is still kinda just there. 

Christopher Novak: No idea what they do with this situation except putting the belts on Revival and letting them cook after. Besides that? Don’t even have a clue.

Robert O’Neill: Renee interviews Paul Heyman, who brings some real good emotion as to why he doesn’t know what Brock Lesnar is thinking and how violent he’s been. Good stuff.

Chris Novak: Heyman has turned it up a notch recently and isn’t giving the same old promo every week. I’ll commend him for that.

Robert O’Neill: Bayley and Sasha are teaming up again against the Riott Squad. And as Bayley and Sasha get some momentum rolling, someone pulls Liv Morgan out of the ring to safety, and it’s Ruby Riott! And in the midst of this distraction, Sarah Logan rolls Sasha Banks up for the victory.

Christopher Novak: That is definitely one way of making things Even Steven between the two. Hoping this means a match at SummerSlam - whether it’s on the Kickoff Show or the main card.

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Robert O’Neill: Time for our main event! Alicia Fox vs. Ronda Rousey. This isn’t gonna go well for Alicia.

Christopher Novak: No they… are… definitely setting things up for Alicia to get massacred. Although so far… Alicia is holding her own. That is until Ronda gave her THAT GLARE. She threw Fox down a few times and eventually made her tap out. Ronda then was nearly attacked by Alexa, but she threw her out of the ring. She then said it didn’t matter what Alexa did, because at SummerSlam, the Women’s Championship belongs to her.

Robert O’Neill: That was a really good way to end the show. Ronda’s a star.

GRADES

Robert O’Neill: Ya know, that was a fine show. I was entertained for the entire three hours and didn’t really find much to complain about. I mean, Roode/Mojo wasn’t my cup of tea and I think the Elias/Lashley stuff was unnecessary but all in all it was a fine show. B-

Christopher Novak: Like most Raws lately, the good stuff was pretty good; the stuff in the middle lied in the middle; and the forgettable stuff was quite forgettable. This Raw was just... kind of there. I'll give it a C+/B-. Nothing inoffensive, but nothing out of this world, either.

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Christopher Novak: And we’re off! Fun show on the horizon here. New Day vs. The Bar will go down to see who faces The Bludgeon Bros. at SummerSlam. Also, Becky Lynch & Charlotte will try to coexist against the IIconics, AND we’re hearing from AJ Styles and Randy Orton. Speaking of Orton, he’s kicking off the show. He got a mega pop from the Orlando crowd which… sure, I suppose that makes sense, even if he IS playing as the villain.

Orton says he’s going to become so violent, you will want to change the channel. He, however, says they won’t change the channel because the people still believe in superheroes, like Jeff Hardy, to save the day. But according to Orton, he won’t. Orton says he will erase all the superstars that get more respect than him. I didn’t realize that Orton was starring in a remake of The Eraser. Eat your heart out, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He then starts to go and list all of his accomplishments, and says nobody respects him even with all that said.

He says everyone has made their choice and so has he.

Robert O’Neill: Randy Orton is bad. That’s my contribution. Meanwhile Becky and Charlotte are backstage having a discussion about their tag team match against the IIconics tonight and Becky isn’t thrilled with Charlotte, but Charlotte tells her it’s fine. But is it?

I guess it is! Because Becky and Charlotte got a win and looked cohesive.

Christopher Novak: That is not the result I expected but it’s the result we were given.

Kofi did a hilarious impersonation of an interviewer with Big E and Xavier. The New Day are still damn good. This is an evergreen statement.

AJ Styles is here now to respond to Samoa Joe’s comments last week, and Styles says Joe made it personal when talking about his family. Styles says he wants to be one of the best WWE superstars for his family, and while it doesn’t make him special because all parents make sacrifices, it’s what he’s supposed to do. He says he wants to be there for his kids when they’re in peril, but it’s what angers him the most.

He points out that Joe knows his kids and his parents, and calls back to a time before SmackDown Live, the two of them shared an apartment. But he threw it away because he mentioned the family name. He says he won’t let Joe get his hands on this title, and at SummerSlam, he’s not walking out as WWE Champion, and in fact, he’ll be lucky to walk out at all.

Robert O’Neill: That was some unsurprisingly excellent promo work. I’m really quite excited for this feud to continue.

Time for the Zelina/Lana rematch!

Zelina picks up yet another win after Aiden English tries to help Rusev with Almas on the outside, and inadvertently knocks Lana off the top rope. Seems like trouble in paradise for Rusev Day.

R-Truth wants a shot at Shinsuke Nakamura at Summerslam, and says he’s going to do it the same way everyone gets a shot -- by pinning Carmella! That was hilarious. Anyway, he’ll face Shinsuke later.

Miz is doing an interview “from the set of Miz and Mrs.” in which he runs down all the reasons why Daniel Bryan is awful, but Bryan attacks him from behind! I’m beginning to think he wasn’t on the set of Miz and Mrs. after all!

Christopher Novak: Bryan got the upper-hand for a moment, but after trying to fend off some security guards, Miz smashed a plant pot over his head and walked out on his own two feet. Bryan, meanwhile, was left reeling. Miz cut a pretty sensational promo and this match will more than likely rule at SummerSlam. I'm here for it.

Robert O’Neill: Shinsuke beat R-Truth, so no title shot for Truth, but he was entertaining as always!

Christopher Novak: R-Truth is, absolutely, sensational to be honest. To be moving like that at 46 years old is a credit to him.

Robert O'Neill: The Bludgeon Brothers beat THREE local talents in a tag team handicap match!

Christopher Novak: I enjoyed the ribs on commentary during this match. It was hilarious.

Robert O'Neill: New Day and The Bar closed out the show (and the Smackdown #1 contender tag tournament) and holy cow it did not disappoint. They went for about 30 minutes and the New Day picked up the victory after a hell of a match. They’ll face the Bludgeon Brothers at Summerslam!

Christopher Novak: An absurdly good tag team match. Easy MOTYC and among the best TV matches we’ll see this year. Good Lord, tag team wrestling is fun when it’s THAT good.

GRADES

Christopher Novak: Enjoyed the show as usual. The tag team match at the end of the night makes me want to give this an A-, so I will. A couple other things here and there were okay but this show was great yet again. SmackDown Live continues to hit the right notes.

Robert O’Neill: Smackdown was excellent as usual! I think A- is right where I was with it as well. Excited to continue to see the Summerslam build.

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

Courtesy: WWE

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

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

 

Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte

Courtesy: WWE

Courtesy: WWE

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

The IIconics vs. LayCool

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

Nia Jax vs. Kharma

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

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

Beth Phoenix vs. Asuka vs. Jazz

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

Sasha Banks vs. Bayley

Courtesy: WWE

Courtesy: WWE

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

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

Honorable Mentions

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

This Week in WWE: Top Guys on top and Becky Lynch's hot streak rolls on

Rob and Chris are here to deliver their thoughts on the first Raw and SmackDown episodes of the month of July. 

Robert O’Neill: Roman Reigns is here to open the show! I wonder what’s on his mind.

Chris Novak: Well, he wants to fight “Bob” Lashley. But instead, we get Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre. Earlier, we learned Dolph is facing Seth Rollins at Extreme Rules in a 30 Minute Ironman Match, which is a HELL of a thing. Dolph and Drew waste little time in putting the boots to Roman, but here comes Seth for the save!

Robert O’Neill: Hey that was fun! I imagine we’re gonna get a Seth/Roman vs. Drew/Dolph match at some point.  

Chris Novak: Rollins and Reigns run into Kurt Angle backstage, and demand they face Dolph and Drew. Angle, looking dumbfounded, says they’ll face them next week, because Roman and Bob Lashley are facing The Revival. However, Angle just snaps and changes the match to happen this week. What the hell is Kurt’s problem? Why is he so incompetent? Somehow I don’t see how this lasts for the rest of the night.

Robert O’Neill: Years of not taking care of his body. That’s how. Anyway, Matt Hardy is here for a match with Curtis Axel, who, along with Bo Dallas did a fantastic parody of Hardy and Bray Wyatt again before the match.

Chris Novak: At the same time, this feud is just… ice cold. And Bray Wyatt getting hurt (Bless him, and best wishes for a speedy recovery for him) doesn’t help matters here either. This match is fine so far, but Lord, we couldn’t do Bo vs. Matt tonight? I feel like I’m watching a rerun. Anyways the match itself was okay. Axel pinned Matt Hardy (again). That’s what this whole feud has been, so guess what’s going to happen at Extreme Rules?

Anyways, after commercial break, we’re getting our first segment of Bayley in counseling. There are many ways that this could go… hopefully it’s one of the successful ones.

Robert O’Neill: Before that though, we discover we’re getting Roman and Bob vs. The Revival and also Roman and Seth vs. Ziggler and McIntyre. How fun!

Chris Novak: Well, the first Bayley-Sasha counseling segment is in the books and… THAT’S DOCTOR SHELBY!!!

Robert O’Neill: My God, they actually did it.

Chris Novak: AOP are facing Titus Worldwide next. Can you guess what’s going to happen next?Robert O’Neill: Pain was authored.

Chris Novak: That’s correct, Rob.

Robert O’Neill: Time for Roman and Seth vs. Dolph and Drew. I’m ready for it.

Chris Novak: Roman is doing some heavy coughing, which is kinda gross to listen to on the ring mic. Anyways, this match has been outstanding so far. Seth, once again, is proving why he’s #1 in WWE this year and there really isn’t anyone close to him right now. They’re putting together so many unique spots and creative ways to try and set up the Roman hot tag. It’s actually wonderful. AND THAT’S THE REVIVAL!

Robert O’Neill: Well holy crap, they appear to be setting The Revival up for success. That’s excellent. Roman ate a Shatter Machine!

Chris Novak: Rob, remember when you thought… never mind, I won’t even rub it in. They looked spectacular here.

Robert O’Neill: Constable Corbin is in the ring and talking about how things went south with Finn Balor last week. Balor comes out and apologies and then they get into a fight. I guess this will be a match at Extreme Rules. That’s fine!

Chris Novak: Have to say again, I’m digging Corbin’s rebrand. They’ve put him in a role where he can succeed at being a gigantic dickhead.

Robert O’Neill: Liv Morgan is out for a match with Ember Moon. This is a cool usage of the two, as both aren’t near the title hunt, but can still have a match together. It was fun, too! Ember got the win, but Liv looked good.

Chris Novak: Liv has been really impressing lately. She’s improving REALLY quickly and I think there’s a lot of potential in her. Really dig her game, and not just cause I’m biased since she’s from New Jersey.

Robert O’Neill: Oh man. Another counseling segment. This time, Bayley and Sasha pretended to be the other one, and it was hilarious. These are great.

Chris Novak: Can I just say: Bayley’s been showing off a lot of comfort while talking lately, and a lot of personality also? Something that I’ve picked up on. I’m liking it a lot. This was funny, and I’m sure there’ll be people complaining about it, but it did its job.

Robert O’Neill: Liv Morgan is out for a match with Ember Moon. This is a cool usage of the two, as both aren’t near the title hunt, but can still have a match together. It was fun, too! Ember got the win, but Liv looked good.

Chris Novak: Liv has been really impressing lately. She’s improving REALLY quickly and I think there’s a lot of potential in her. Really dig her game, and not just cause I’m biased since she’s from New Jersey.

Robert O’Neill: Oh man. Another counseling segment. This time, Bayley and Sasha pretended to be the other one, and it was hilarious. These are great.

Chris Novak: Can I just say: Bayley’s been showing off a lot of comfort while talking lately, and a lot of personality also? Something that I’ve picked up on. I’m liking it a lot. This was funny, and I’m sure there’ll be people complaining about it, but it did its job.

Robert O’Neill: TOP GUYS WATCH! The Revival are out to face Roman Reigns and Bob Lashley! Let’s see how this plays out.

So the match went on, Roman refused to tag Lashley in throughout the night, he got pissed and came in on his own, but then left as The Revival started beating up Roman to the point where they got disqualified and gave him ANOTHER Shatter Machine. They look damn good tonight.  

Chris Novak: This is as good as they’ve looked on the main roster since they debuted and kicked The New Day off the territory. Hope this leads to something.

Robert O’Neill: Nia (with Natalya) beat Mickie (with Alexa). Whatever.

Chris Novak: Feud’s just kinda cold as ice at this point. Get me to Alexa-Ronda, already, please. Thank you.

Robert O’Neill: It’s time for the main event! Braun Strowman is taking on Kevin Owens, who has been trying to get out of the match all night. We know how this is gonna go.

Chris Novak: Did you expect Braun Strowman to put Kevin Owens into a portapotty and then send it barreling off the stage? That’s how it went!

Robert O’Neill: That was amazing. A lot of people didn’t like it, but I’m here for Braun Strowman essentially being a cartoon character, and Kevin Owens is the perfect foil.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Robert O’Neill: Awful lot of Roman Reigns tonight. I’m fine with it, but it we definitely noticable that Raw wanted to focus highly on the Big Dog. Both tag matches were fine, but there wasn’t much else going on aside from the hilarious visual of Kevin Owens stretchered out covered in toilet water. The Bayley/Sasha stuff was good and I’m excited to see where it goes next, but this Raw felt like a holiday week Raw. C

Chris Novak: Do agree that this definitely felt like a holiday Raw. The two tag matches were pretty well done, with the first obviously being better than the second. But Revival looked really, really strong and I think that's as good of a takeaway as you can get. The Bayley-Sasha stuff was fine and inoffensive. Everything else was just kind of there. C

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Robert O’Neill: It’s July 3 and there should be some fireworks on Smackdown Live! AJ Styles is facing Aiden English, and Jeff Hardy has a US Title open challenge lined up!

We begin the night with Renee Young in the ring, though. She’s going to be interviewing the newly reunited Team Hell No.

Kane is discussing why he came back to help Daniel Bryan, and Bryan is noting how Kane mistreated him in the past. One of my favorite things WWE does is continuity, because they do it so rarely. So when they’re like “hey remember the reason we stopped teaming up five years ago? It was because you turned on me and tried to end my career! You tried to abduct my wife!” That’s really awesome coming from the company that SWORE the first-ever Triple H/Undertaker WrestleMania match was at WrestleMania 27.

Chris Novak: Found the Team Hell No stuff to be pretty good. I legit laughed at Bryan’s comment about Kane burning his brother. While others think that Bryan’s being wasted right now, I’m quite liking this so far two weeks into it. We’ll see how it shakes out heading into the go-home SmackDown next week.

Robert O’Neill: Now the Usos are out here! And they don’t think Team Hell No should get a title shot at Extreme Rules just because they got back together, which leads to a match later tonight. If The Usos win, they’re added to the match at Extreme Rules.

Chris Novak: This should be a fun bout.

Robert O’Neill: It’s time for Jeff Hardy’s Open Challenge! Let’s see who answers the call. It’s The Miz!

Unsurprisingly, it was an awesome match from two of the ten best workers in the company at the moment. Hardy retained with a Swanton Bomb, but they made it look like Miz was going to win via the ropes but the ref caught him before the three count.

Chris Novak: Miz and Jeff Hardy had a pretty great MITB qualifier and this was a stirring matchup, as well. It’s obvious that these two are among the top workers in the company this year. They just keep performing at a high level each year.

Robert O’Neill: Up next, The New Day is out to celebrate America with pancakes! Well this is fun so fa- OH NO SANITY IS HERE. RUN EVERYONE.

Holy crap. SaniTY demolished them.

Chris Novak: Even with them losing last week, this was a good bounce back for them. I’m absolutely here for six-man warfare between these two teams. I have no doubt that what follows this will be very good.

Robert O’Neill: The much-anticipated James Ellsworth vs. Asuka match ended in a double countout after Ellsworth ran away, Asuka chased him, they came back to the ring, and Carmella took Asuka out. Strength in numbers!

Chris Novak: They protected Ellsworth. Amazing.

Robert O’Neill: Becky Lynch took out Peyton Royce, and it’s suddenly _quite_ apparent that they’re doing something with Becky. I just hope Charlotte doesn’t return and ruin it. Give me Becky vs. Carmella or Asuka at SummerSlam, please.

Chris Novak: That’s six consecutive wins for Becky on SmackDown Live… that’s not being done by accident. Nobody just wins that many matches in a row without there being some kind of method behind the madness. I suspect that Becky’s gonna get the title match at SummerSlam.

Robert O’Neill: Finally, we have Team Hell No vs. The Usos. To no surprise, this was a blast. Team Hell No got the win, and Kane did the YES chant, and all is well with our heroes as Smackdown goes off the air.

Chris Novak: That was a pretty good match, as expected. Good win for Team Hell No to establish themselves again against one of the top tag teams on the brand.

Ruthless Aggression EP 24 - Still standing

This week the crew reviews RAW 475 & Smackdown 150, featuring the Ladder Match between Jeff Hardy & The Undertaker for the WWE Undisputed Championship, Brock Lesnar v. Ric Flair, & Hulk Hogan winning the tag titles with Edge! Plus our thoughts on ROH: Best in the World, the controversy between Kenny Omega & his CEO show, PCO calling out The Undertaker, the Bayley-Sasha saga and more!

This Week in WWE: Bayley says Sasha ain't shit, Tell Hell No reunites
Raw.png

Robert O’Neill: Welp. It’s Monday, so that means it’s time for another exciting edition of Monday Night Raw!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: That sentence is very 2018 pro wrestling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: Ellsworth issssss gonna die.

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

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

Chris Novak: TEAM HELL NO!!!

Final Thoughts

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

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

Ruthless Aggression EP 23 - The Debut of John Cena

This week the Ruthless Aggression crew review RAW 474 & Smackdown 149, including the in-ring WWE debuts of John Cena & Batista! We also talk about Bayley's beatdown of Sasha Banks the other night on RAW, what's up with Brock Lesnar & the Universal title, and a whole lot more!

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