Posts tagged Seth Rollins
This Week in WWE: The Phenomenal One rises again, KO's old habits die hard
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Robert O’Neill: The first Raw after the Superstar Shakeup looks positively loaded, with WWE having announced a pair of triple threat matches to decide the #1 contender for Seth Rollins’ title:

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe (who is on Raw now, more on that in a moment) vs. Rey Mysterio in one, and Miz vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Baron Corbin in the other.

Additionally, Cesaro (who is also on Raw now) will be facing Cedric Alexander and Becky Lynch will face Alicia Fox.

As noted, Samoa Joe and Cesaro are on Raw now. Andrade, Zelina Vega, and Aleister Black are on Smackdown.

Chris Novak: The show, officially, is starting up with Triple H. Not sure what The Game has to say/what’s on his mind, but we’ll soon see. Before he even gets started, Seth Rollins, who’s from iowa in case you didn’t know, comes out. Seth touts up the fact that he’s home, which naturally garners a loud reception. Triple H touts up his victory and points out how the landscape has changed and that he’s now the measuring stick. Rollins says he’s fine with everyone gunning for him though.

Robert O’Neill: Samoa Joe comes out and says that Becky Lynch is onto something with the double champion concept and he would like to be a double champion as well! Then Rey Mysterio comes out and says that he wants to face Seth! Then Drew McIntyre tells them it doesn’t matter what they think or what the people think, and the only reason Seth is champion is because he got to Brock first. Miz says that he’s faced Rollins before, but he’s a different man now and wants to do it again.

Chris Novak: This is pretty much your basic, stock revolving door promo. Baron Corbin comes out and says he’s the most deserving man to challenge Seth. He points out that he retired a legend at WrestleMania. AJ Styles comes on out, last but not least, of course. Styles says, of course, that he intends on winning and showing why SmackDown was the house that AJ Styles built. Seth then says he’s up for the task and will burn it down, yada yada, and now we’re on to our first Triple Threat Match -- AJ Styles vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Samoa Joe.

Robert O’Neill: What a damn match. These three guys are all over 40 and had one of the best TV matches of the year. Samoa Joe did a super double backdrop, and AJ Styles got the win after taking down Joe, then Styles Clashing Mysterio on top of him. That was incredible.

Chris Novak: It certainly was great.

Now we’re getting Naomi vs. Billie Kay. Last week, Naomi got the pin for the win last week in a tag team match featuring new SmackDown superstar, Bayley. Now, Naomi’s on her own. What ever will she do now? Well, for Naomi’s sake, hopefully defeat Billie Kay.

She defeated Billie Kay with a sunset flip. The match was… very short.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah that seems like it could have been a bit longer!

Chris Novak: They ran another Bray Wyatt vignette.

Triple Threat Match #2 is about to start. Unsurprisingly, this winds up being a pretty great match too. Drew showed out big time, and so did Miz. Corbin played his role pretty well here too. Lot of great near falls towards the end of this one. Corbin won after McIntyre hit the Claymore Kick on Miz. He snuck in, sent Mac flying and got the pin. Honestly, a pretty smartly booked finish. I don’t love the prospect of Corbin-Rollins at all, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Robert O’Neill: Sami Zayn is here! He’s telling everyone the truth about themselves, and accuses everyone of being in denial, then starts showing everyone all the vacations he took over the past 10 months and how happy he was. And now he’s not happy because the WWE structure sucks and the people around him suck and Des Moines sucks. He closes by saying everyone should take a trip… to hell!

Chris Novak: As usual, a legitimately funny promo again from Sami.

Cedric Alexander vs. Cesaro is NEXT!

Turned out to be a pretty solid match, honestly. Cesaro picked up the win after destroying Cedric with an uppercut. Ceddy got some good offense in but, in the end, it was Cesaro who prevailed. Dug this entirely, to be perfectly honest.

Robert O’Neill: The newly-named Viking Raiders demolished Lucha House Party. Alright then!

Becky Lynch is here now. She’s not pleased with Lacey Evans, and was kind of problematic about it. So here’s Lacey now, and she’s naturally not pleased with Becky and wants her to know to be on high alert at Money In The Bank. That was effective but, again, kind of not great on Becky’s end.

Chris Novak: I don’t think you can say “kind of.” She was problematic. Don’t care for the direction here and, quite frankly, don’t care much for the promo battle in general.

Becky’s now facing Alicia Fox. I can give you a few guesses to how this match will go. It actually went… a bit differently than I expected. Even though Becky win, it certainly went longer than I expected it would. Nevertheless, she won, and Lacey Evans came in and hit her with The Women’s Right two times.

Robert O’Neill: That match went a bit long but it worked out in the end.

Ricochet is here now for a match with Robert Roode. He has a mustache now and his name is Robert.

Chris Novak: Hey, it’s a throwback to Robert Roode Inc. He also just has a stache now so he looks like Rick Rude. Is that what they’re trying to play off of? Who’s to really say?

This match went… fine. I guess. I think I’m suddenly remembering why Roode as a singles guy got really old really quickly. It’s not that this is bad. It’s just not very high-energy. The Des Moines crowd doesn’t particularly help matters, either. Also… very surprising result in that Roode beat Ricochet. That’s the… first loss that I can remember Ricochet having in a while.

Robert O’Neill: I enjoyed the match. Bob Roode is the Iowa of wrestlers, so they should have liked it more.

BRAY WYATT IS A CHILDREN’S HOST NOW.

Chris Novak: God damn that vignette was awesome hahaha. Time for Styles-Corbin.

A Moment of Bliss is set to take place next week, in which Alexa will be announcing the Raw side of things. Sure do wonder if she’s going to announce herself as one of the participants (she’s probably going to).

Okay! That was a SURPRISING result (in a good way!). AJ Styles defeated Baron Corbin with the Phenomenal Forearm. Match was pretty solid. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty intrigued

Robert O’Neill: Yeah, they got me I thought Corbin was going to win and everyone online was going to be very mad about it. This was a nice surprise.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Just like every week, I enjoyed Raw and found myself entertained throughout. This is where it gets difficult to assign a letter grade because if you compare it to the fall when the show was actually awful, it’s night and day. Every show obviously isn’t an A+, but when most things hit and I’m not bored or displeased by everything, it deserves an A-

Chris Novak: I’m going to give this show a B. It was not nearly as bad as people thought it was going to be, and helped to set some pieces for future development. I look forward to seeing who’s going to be in MITB next week during AMOB. The in-ring action was pretty good, although the women’s matches… missed the mark for me. So that’s why I’m going to give this a B. A quality show that could’ve definitely been aided by better in-ring work in certain departments.

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Chris Novak: SmackDown Live is beginning with Shane McMahon. I have a hunch that we’ll probably spend the next few minutes hearing Greg Hamilton call him the best in the world. If that sounds a little cynical, I’m sorry, but this has certainly gotten a bit old. Alright, luckily they didn’t do this for too long. Shane says he’s here to talk about Roman Reigns and what he did to Vince last week. He goes over possible options for discipline, but instead just orders that he come out here. So, naturally, here comes Roman to the ring.

Robert O’Neill: He squared up with Shane, but Elias came out from behind and attacked and the Big Dog fell to the numbers. Not ideal!

Chris Novak: Roman is going to need to find some friends. Anyways, Andrade and Finn Balor are about to face off again. The match was fun, although I think their Raw match was better. Finn got the better of him this time around after a misdial by Zelina Vega. I’m digging this feud and don’t really care that they 50-50’d it. This all really worked for me.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah that was fun. I’m here for that continuing as an Intercontinental Title feud

Peyton Royce is facing Kairi Sane as the tag scene continues to be developed. Sane gets the win relatively quickly, as the IIconics look weak for the second straight night.

Chris Novak: “Look weak.” There’s never been another setting for the IIconics, Rob. Never.

Aleister Black had a short vignette where he actually wore a t-shirt. Didn’t speak at length or anything, but I’m intrigued a bit to see where it all goes.

Chad Gable-Jinder Mahal is a match that was supposed to happen, but never did. Why? Lars Sullivan came out, beat up Chad Gable and the Singhs. R-Truth tried to avenge what happened last week, but he too caught a beatdown.

Roman Reigns was interviewed by Kayla Braxton in the back. Reigns accepted Elias’ challenge for a match at Money in the Bank. So, that should be fun!

Robert O’Neill: Charlotte is here, and she’s ready to go face to face with Becky Lynch for the first time since Wrestlemania. That’s exciting. She’s not sure why she lost her title since Becky didn’t beat *her*, but Becky reminds Charlotte what winner takes all means.

But then Bayley comes out! And she’s tired of Charlotte getting all the opportunities all the time, and isn’t going to take it anymore!

Chris Novak: Two words: Fuck. Yeah. Bayley also told Becky that she’s never beaten her (Facts! At least on the main roster) before. This sets up a match between Bayley and Charlotte Flair, where the winner will get a future title shot at Becky Lynch.

Bayley and Charlotte’s match was an outstanding one. They did some great limb work with Bayley working through a bum knee that wound up being her undoing. Tremendous fire shown from her though, and great crowd chants in her direction (I’m shocked that everything reversed course here). Bayley didn’t win, as she succumbed to the Figure Eight. But she still looked great in defeat.

Becky doesn’t really have a problem with facing Lacey and/or Charlotte. Will that be her undoing? Time will tell!

Robert O’Neill: Really great match. Seems like they have big summer plans for Bayley, and I’m here for it.

Kofi Kingston vs. Shinsuke Nakamura is next!

Robert O’Neill: It was a very good match before Rusev (in a suit) interfered to cause a disqualification. Woods and Kevin Owens hit the ring to take care of Nakamura and Rusev, but the two get their shots in and it comes down to Kofi and Shinsuke yet again. Kofi takes him out but runs right into a Kevin Owens superkick! Owens spends the final few minutes of the show picking Kofi and Woods apart.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Well, if I gave Raw an A- and enjoyed Smackdown more than Raw, Smackdown gets an A! Fun stuff this week.

Chris Novak: God this show is so good. Week-to-week. We had a great, GREAT TV match in Bayley-Charlotte, some fun matches elsewhere, and a not-so-surprising heel turn by Kevin Owens to cap off the show. I look forward to KO-Kofi down the road. Give me an A for this show.

This Week in WWE: The Big Dog is BACK!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAITCH is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owens will tag with Kofi later against Bryan and Rowan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: Read between those lines, baby.

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

First Black Champ - Scarface Told Me To STFU, So He Right About Ric Flair

It's Super Bowl Sunday and J.R. Bang talks about his Super Bowl Week experience and another moment of Black Inclusion. We also recap the Royal Rumble and all of our accurate predictions. The question Cam wants to know is can Ronda Rousey handle the WWE long term? We have new black champ and one in waiting. We close the show questioning how racist Ric Flair is, because Scarface don't fuck with him. It's more real an important conversation on this weeks #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

Follow Cam Quotes on Twitter: @ImCamQuotes
Follow JR Bang on Twitter: @JRBang

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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Ruthless Aggression - Rumble recap, Dean Ambrose leaving WWE

What a Rumble is was! Pierce Chris and Rob recap the 2019 Royal Rumble, the winners, the surprises, and how the road to Wrestlemania is starting to take shape. Plus we analyze Chris' first set of rankings in the WWE Top 25, Dean Ambrose and Hideo Itami leaving the WWE, and so much more

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 505
Smackdown 181

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

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair

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!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

The 2019 WWE Top 25: "Preseason" Edition

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

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

What is the WWE Top 25?

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

How are the rankings determined?

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

What is the grading system and how is it calculated?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you really going to be watching EVERYTHING?

I sure as hell hope so!


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

25. Bayley

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

24. Velveteen Dream

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

23. Shayna Baszler

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

22. Sasha Banks

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

21. Pete Dunne

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

20. Drew McIntyre

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

19. Ronda Rousey

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

18. Ricochet

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

17. Mustafa Ali

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

16. Matt Riddle

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

15. Finn Balor

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

14. The Miz

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

13. Kyle O’Reilly

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

12. Andrade “Cien” Almas

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

11. Charlotte Flair

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

10. Adam Cole

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

9. Tommaso Ciampa

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

8. Asuka

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

7. Johnny Gargano

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

6. Becky Lynch

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

5. AJ Styles

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

4. Roderick Strong

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

3. Seth Rollins

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

2. Buddy Murphy

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

1. Daniel Bryan

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

Ruthless Aggression - Santa-Dust

Celebrate Christmas with Santa-Dust and Ruthless Aggression!

Topics:
WWE apologizing for terrible shows
The vague message of change from the McMahon's
NXT Call-Ups
Ryan Satin's comments on The Elite's mainstream popularity
TLC Recap

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 499
Smackdown 175

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

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TLC 2018: Results, recap, analysis
WWETLC2014.0.0.png

An action-packed night in San Jose is in the books. Rob and Chris dissect what went down at TLC.

Buddy Murphy vs. Cedric Alexander - Cruiserweight Championship

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

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

Elias vs. Bobby Lashley - Ladder Match

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

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

Fabulous Truth vs. Mahalicia -- MMC Finals

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

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

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

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

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

Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin - TLC Match

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

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

Ruby Riott vs. Natalya - Tables Match

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

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

Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre

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

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

Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton - Chairs Match

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

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

Nia Jax vs Ronda Rousey - Raw Women’s Championship

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

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

Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles - WWE Championship

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

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

Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose - WWE Intercontinental Championship

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

Re-booking TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2018

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

Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin - TLC Match

Source: WWE Network

Source: WWE Network

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship

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

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Bálor

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

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

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

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

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Elias vs. Bobby Lashley - Guitar Ladder Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

Cedric Alexander vs. Buddy Murphy for the Cruiserweight Championship

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

Natalya vs. Ruby Riott - Tables Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rey Mysterio vs. Randy Orton - Chairs Match

Source: WWE

Source: WWE

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

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

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

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

Ruthless Aggression - the Elimination Chamber

The gang doubles up on shows this week! First up: Raw 494 and Smackdown 169, leading right up to Survivor Series 2002 from Madison Square Garden, featuring the first edition of the Elimination Chamber! Then: Raw 495 and Smackdown 170! Plus, Pierce, Rob and Chris give their predictions for this Sunday's Survivor Series PPV in LA, along with NXT Takeover: War Games!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND THEN THEY DID THE FUCKING DEAL!

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

First Black Champ: Roman Couldn't Wait

It's a special Midweek edition of the #FirstBlackChamp podcast! Roman Reigns announced his leukemia has returned, Dean Ambrose picks a perfect time to turn heel and Crown Jewel is still looking like anything but a good idea. Then Cam Quotes & JR Bang try to predict who will be the next Universal Champion. Remember where you all heard it first!

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

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

New Day vs. Rusev Day - SDL Tag Team Championships

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

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

Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton - Hell in a Cell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe - WWE Championship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

The 10 greatest NXT superstars of all-time

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

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

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

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

WWE

WWE

The Shield

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

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

WWE

WWE

Velveteen Dream

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

WWE

WWE

Dash and Dawson

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

WWE

WWE

Aleister Black

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

WWE

WWE

Adrian Neville

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

WWE

WWE

Undisputed Era

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


10. Shinsuke Nakamura

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

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

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


9. Samoa Joe

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

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

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

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

And plus, his mic skills still remain aces.


8. Tommaso Ciampa

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

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

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

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


7. Kevin Owens

WWE

WWE

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

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

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

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

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


6. Sami Zayn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


WWE

WWE

5. Asuka

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

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

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

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


WWE

WWE

4. Sasha Banks

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

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

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


WWE

WWE

3. Johnny Gargano

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

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

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

Nothing would ever be the same.

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

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

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

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

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


2. Finn Balor

WWE

WWE

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

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

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


1. Bayley

WWE

WWE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: That sentence is very 2018 pro wrestling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: Ellsworth issssss gonna die.

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

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

Chris Novak: TEAM HELL NO!!!

Final Thoughts

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

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