Posts tagged Triple H
Ruthless Aggression - Fastlane Preview

Pierce Chris and Rob predict Sunday's Fastlane PPV and talk about the week in wrestling. Plus Pierce gives his thoughts on MLW's latest show in Chicago, and in this week's trip back to the Ruthless Aggression Era, First Black Champ's JR Bang and Cam Quotes talk about Triple H's "People Like You" promo on Booker T from RAW 510.

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 510
Smackdown 186

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First Black Champ - Check The Archives

Roman Reigns is back! Does that effect the send off for Dean Ambrose? We the 66% Shield reunion and if Dean Ambrose should have Wrestlemania plans. We also dig into Ronda Rousey and why she's just not a great sports entertainer. Bautista beat Ric Flair ass on his birthday, but Cam is not feeling Evolution explodes at Wrestlemania.

Then we revisit Triple H's "People Like You" promo on Booker T. Bang reads the transcript of what happened on 3-3-03 and we tie that and Daniel Bryan's "Yes Movement" and "Occupy RAW" moment in with Kofi Kingston getting his Wrestlemania Title Match on this #FirstBlackChamp podcast episode!

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This Week in WWE: The Big Dog is BACK!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAITCH is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owens will tag with Kofi later against Bryan and Rowan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: Read between those lines, baby.

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

This Week in WWE: Fair to Flair, Unfair to The Man
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Robert O’Neill: We open Raw with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in the ring as they’ve invited Becky Lynch back to Raw… and here she comes! Becky saw her doctors and they conferred with the WWE doctors and the match at Wrestlemania is on BUT only if Becky apologizes to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Naturally she’s not super thrilled with this idea.

Chris Novak: She’s stubbornly refused to at this point and that makes a good amount of sense. Becky eventually outright refused to, but Triple H issued an ultimatum after she and Stephanie got into a verbal argument. Becky must apologize by the end of the night, or there will be no match. This is right out of the Austin-McMahon playbook. Let’s keep it going.

Robert O’Neill: We keep rolling right along with Boss N’ Hug Connection vs. Riott Squad vs. Nia and Tamina in a triple threat tag team match.

Chris Novak: Grand Rapids popped like wild for Bayley, AND, they did a “WE WANT BAYLEY” chant. I mean, I already liked the state of Michigan quite a lot. This is adding to it though. Sasha eventually got dumptrucked by Ruby on the outside. Sasha evidently still hasn’t been cleared, if this is any indication.

Bayley put up a super valiant effort, but wound up falling to a Nia Jax Samoan Drop. So, Boss and Hug will enter the Chamber first. As expected really. Really fun match here, too, if we’re being honest.

Elias is next. Well… first he gets cut off by an interaction between Finn Balor and Becky Lynch. Then a Seth Rollins video package interrupts him! I don’t know if this is intentional… I have a feeling it is… but it’s still amusing.

Robert O’Neill: Finally, Lucha House Party interrupt him. He sings them a song and they don’t like it

Chris Novak: And Kalisto then eventually decides to strum Elias’ guitar and, sure enough, e’s pretty good at it! Elias offers to do a duet, but then Elias attacks him from behind. He leaves the ring. This was actually a pretty entertaining and engaging segment.

Finn Balor faces Drew McIntyre next.

He match eventually got disrupted after Lashley got involved and went after Finn. Kurt Angle then came down to play the role of cavalry. Corbin then came into the ring and went after Kurt. This pretty much says everything you need to know about the current state of Raw minus Seth and Brock, but this got over with the Grand Rapids crowd hugely.

Robert O’Neill: That got chaotic in a hurry. I feel like we all know Angle is old and bad now but he gets a pass because of how good he used to be. Maybe I’m off base, but that’s the feeling I get.

Apparently we’re now having a Braun/Kurt/Finn vs. Drew/Corbin/Lashley match. Alrighty. After a back and forth match Lashley appears to have the match won as he pins Balor, but Balor had his foot on the rope, but the referee didn’t see it. Another referee comes down to restore order and the match will continue!

Chris Novak: Gotta be honest… don’t know what any of that was. But it happened, and the babyfaces win. OK, cool. Let’s move the hell on.

Ruby Riott vs. Nikki Cross, which should be better than that, is next. So far, unsurprisingly it is. Ruby won with a Riott Kick. It was an okay match, all things considered.

Seth Rollins is next. Likely, so is Paul Heyman.

Robert O’Neill: That was… what it was. I mean, you know how the leadup to a Brock Lesnar match goes by now. Rollins says he’ll beat him. Heyman says he won’t. We have a lot more of this coming over the next two months which is a blessing and a curse.

Chris Novak: Got that right… segment was fine and effective but it likely won’t be too memorable.

Here comes Dean Ambrose, for some reason. Dean comes up and… tells Seth to slay the beast. Well, hey, okay then! Apparently Ambrose will be in action again.

Robert O’Neill: He’s facing EC3 again. Alright!

Chris Novak: Dean won. Okay! If I know anything about how things work, a 3rd match will happen soon. Possibly at… Elimination Chamber on Sunday? Maybe on the Kickoff Show? I don’t know. That was definitely something.

Alexa and Becky had a back and forth backstage. Lex said that Becky shouldn’t apologize, but Becky questioned her motives about it because it would open up a title match. This wound up being a very good segment. Imagine that, when you let two of the best talkers have banter with each other. Rob missing it was funny.

Revival are challenging for the Tag Team Titles (again).

Robert O’Neill: Holy shit. What a match. These two teams threw everything they had at each other and THE REVIVAL FINALLY WON THE TAG TITLES. My god. What a match. It’s not the highest bar to clear but it was the best tag match on Raw in quite some time.

Chris Novak: Wow, Rob. You got your big moment and that’s ALL you got for your reaction?!?! 4/10. You gotta do better at your fanboying.

Becky’s “apology” is next. They have her out here now and they’re trying their damnedest to get her to apologize. She eventually did, and… surprisingly (?) that was it. Becky went to talk and… then, here comes Ronda.

AND NOW… HERE COMES VINCE!

OH MY GOD… Vince says he doesn’t care what Triple H or Stephanie ruled, he’s ruling that Becky’s been suspended for 60 days. That mark would take her OUT of WrestleMania… and who else does he insert but CHARLOTTE FLAIR!

Robert O’Neill: Holy shit. What a way to end things.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: The beginning and tail ends of this show were great. Everything else… was in the middle. So I’ll give this show a B and go from there.

Robert O’Neill: I really don’t know what to think about this Raw. The beginning was quite good, The Revival winning the tag titles was one of the best TV matches of the year so far, and the end was excellent. Everything else though? Hit or miss. The women’s tag match was good, but the Balor/Angle/Strowman vs. McIntyre/Corbin/Lashley stuff lasted entirely too long, and I can’t do eight more weeks of Seth Rollins and Paul Heyman cutting the same promo back and forth. Overall, the good outweighed the bad, though. B-

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Chris Novak: We begin things with a recap of the twist from last night’s episode of Raw. And… here comes The Queen herself. Naturally she’s getting a hearty amount of heat. Charlotte cut what was a pretty great heel promo here. She’s immersing herself in the heat and leaning all the way into it. Can’t hate it at all, whatsoever.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah a lot of people have been complaining about Charlotte being added to the match and I don’t see how you can hate it. It’s such a good story being told. Anyway it’s time for a tag triple threat match between the three Smackdown teams in the Elimination Chamber. Just like on Raw, the team that gets pinned enters the Chamber first.

Things go along and the match ends up being pretty good. Naomi comes in late and goes right at Mandy, and picks up the win so the Elimination Chamber will open with Mandy and Sonya vs. Bayley and Sasha. Cool.

Chris Novak: Only right, especially since those four started last year’s Elimination Chamber Match, the first Women’s Elimination Chamber match, of course. So, nice bit of storytelling there. Little things!

Robert O’Neill: Time for McMiz TV with tonight’s guests: The Usos!

Chris Novak: This, unsurprisingly, turns out to be super entertaining. We even got a Toledo Mudhens reference, so that’s fun. There’s plenty of banter here, as The Usos said it was disrespectful for Shane and The Miz to call themselves the best tag team in the world, while Shane said that the only thing ‘real’ was that they were champs. The Usos superkicked them for their troubles and left.

We got another Miz & Mrs. ad, which is tremendous.

The Gauntlet Match is next!

Robert O’Neill: Love to start the main event with 70 minutes to go!

Chris Novak: The New Day’s representative, filling for Mustafa Ali is… KOFI KINGSTON! So, Kofi’s in the Chamber on Sunday. Fantastic.

So the first segment of this absolutely ruled. Kingston played up to snuff with Bryan and they booked him extremely well. New Day were thrown out of the ringside area, but after Rowan got involved, the ref sent him out too. Bryan was going to hit him with the Running Knee, but Kingston got him with Trouble in Paradise and got him with the 1-2-3 (kid)!

Kingston then went on to eliminate Jeff Hardy in the Gauntlet… and now, here comes Samoa Joe. Kofi continues to fight hard here but wound up in the Coquina Clutch. But Kofi used the same finish Finn used on him in London (and the Piper-Hart finish from WM VIII!) to eliminate him too!! Joe then proceeded to beat the shit out of him and choked him out with the Coquina Clutch after the elimination. Naturally this would make him easy pickens for AJ Styles, but Styles would fight Joe off and away from the scene first.

Kofi still wants to fight after being hit with the chokehold, and fight he does. They do a countout spot with him… and… he jumps into the ring to beat the 10 count. Kofi eventually taps out to the Calf Crusher after simply an incredible performance.

Styles then loses via the RKO OUTTA NOWHERE by Randy Orton. An exclamation point on an incredible main event match. Orton will now go in the Elimination Chamber last.

Robert O’Neill: What a fun match. Kofi looked like a million bucks, and the story that needed to be told was told. I’m glad they don’t do gauntlet matches too often, because every time they do them they feel good and special and fun.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: I enjoyed this show a whole lot. The Gauntlet Match was incredibly good and everything else served its purpose heading into Sunday. A- for me here. Real good stuff.

Robert O’Neill: Like Raw, Smackdown is hard to grade! The gauntlet match was excellent and took up more than half of the show. The women’s match was fine, and the Shane/Miz/Usos segment accomplished it’s intention. That’s really all that matters, right? So what if it was only a two match show? I’ll give it an A-

First Black Champ - The Oral History of Triple H

It's the last First Black Champ podcast of 2018 and it's all about the oral history of The Game, Triple H! From the years of 1994 - 2011, we cover the good, bad and great! Is Triple H rated correctly? Is he the greatest heel in wrestling history? We have answers and so much much on 2018's final #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

Follow Cam: @ImCamQuotes
Follow JR Bang: @jrbang

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A Ruthless Aggression Thanksgiving

On a special Thanksgiving episode of Ruthless Aggression, Pierce Rob & Chris talk about their favorite Thanksgiving moments in wrestling, and debut a new segment called "The List". Plus this week in the Ruthless Aggression era, including a dream match between Shawn Michaels and Rob Van Dam for the World Heavyweight Championship.

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!

First Black Champ - Triple H, You Play Spades?

First Black Champ is back and better than Crown Jewel, so it's only right we talk about everything that went wrong. In the aftermath of D-Generation X vs. the Brothers of Destruction, Cam Quotes & JR Bang have a very interesting discussion on old wrestlers in main event matches and what’s next for the men involved. Plus, the seemingly dismal future of the WWE Universal Title, and the most important question in regards to the next level of the show: do we stop saying “nigga” and rebrand? All that and more on this new edition of the #FirstBlackChamp podcast.

Ruthless Aggression - Katie Vick & No Mercy

Sans Pierce this week, Rob and Chris relive another week of RAW and Smackdown from 2002, including the infamous and unobjectively terrible "Katie Vick" angle. Plus Brock and Taker end their feud inside Hell in a Cell at No Mercy, and Torrie Wilson's dad gets wet.

All that and some talk on Smackdown 1000, Evolution and Crown Jewel.

Follow Chris: @ChrisMNovak
Follow Rob: @RobertONeill31

First Black Champ - "It's Hobo Shawn Michaels"

Saudi Arabia's relationship with the WWE is in flux, but it’s beyond the current controversy in the Middle East. DX returns… again, and Cam Quotes & JR Bang try to gauge when nostalgia won't work, no matter how much it's marketed, leading to a whole lot of old wrestler talk that bleeds into a conversation about the World Cup. Plus, why Bobby Lashley’s heel turn on RAW is a good thing, and how it should be done to make fans care. All that and more on this week’s #FirstBlackChamp Podcast!

Follow Cam Quotes: @ImCamQuotes
Follow JR Bang: @jrbang

WWE Super-Show Down 2018: Results, recap, analysis
  1. Time for the second of WWE’s three big international WWE Network events this year, Super Show-Down from the Melbourne Cricket Ground! This show originally aired at 4:30 AM on Saturday. We did not write this at 4:30 AM, just so you know.

This opening video is pretty awesome, I’ve gotta say. So was the pyro!

The Bar vs. The New Day - Smackdown Tag Team Titles

The New Day went with Woods and Kofi, which isn’t my *favorite* New Day pairing, but still good nonetheless. All possible pairings are good, if we’re being honest.

The match was what you would expect it to be, considering it’s two of the best tag teams in recent memory. The New Day retained after about 15 minutes of back and forth action, as Kofi got the pin on Cesaro. Not too shabby for the longest reigning tag team champion in WWE history.

Chris Novak: Thought this match was just fine. Both are capable of better and they’ve shown it, but that’s okay. This served as a perfectly fine opener. So far, so good here.

Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair - Smackdown Women’s Title

Robert O’Neill: Charlotte won by disqualification, but Becky retained. It wasn’t their best match, but I like the finish. There’s nothing wrong with doing that for a “heel” champion, even though Becky really isn’t technically a heel. Charlotte is getting a rematch on Smackdown where Becky will lose the title if she gets disqualified. It’s good storytelling for sure.

Chris Novak: Pretty much how I see it. This is the best series of matches between women superstars in quite some time, and so I’m glad they’re getting time to work. This was another good one (although the one at HIAC was better). Nonetheless I’m excited for SmackDown.

Elias and Kevin Owens vs. John Cena and Bob Lashley

Robert O’Neill: Ah, man. Elias and Owens were great to start the segment, as usual. Owens screamed “I TOLD THEM SUPER SHOW-DOWN SHOULD HAVE BEEN HELD IN CANADA.” It’s the little things he does that makes him so good.

Anyway this match was mostly a showcase of how John Cena can still wrestle, and he showed off his new finisher, the Lightning Punch, which is just a punch. It’s absurd and hilarious, in an ironic way. It made a ton of people on Twitter mad, so it’s a good move. Cena cut a nice promo thanking the crowd after the match.

Chris Novak: First off, Cena’s Insta post had me rolling. Secondly, this was fine. The Lightning Punch is ridiculous but it’s supposed to be. I miss seeing Cena on a week-to-week basis. I’ll say it. Hopefully we get more of Cena down the line.

Asuka and Naomi vs. The IIconics

Robert O’Neill: Awesome moment to start the match, as Billie and Peyton cut a promo about how happy they are to be in Australia. Really nice stuff.

After a solid contest, Billie and Peyton got the win. Good for WWE. They don’t always do the hometown winning thing, and you can tell it meant a lot to both of them. This video of the two of them watching their families react is also well worth your time.

Chris Novak: Yeah the match was… okay. It was okay at best, but it provided a very feel-good moment for them. Something you don’t often see them do for villains, but nonetheless, this was good stuff. Good for Billie and Peyton.

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe - WWE Title

Robert O’Neill: For the first time in recent memory, WWE started a blood feud match with both guys wildly brawling and striking instead of just locking up and doing a typical chain wrestling start. That’s how they should start these every time. The match was as brutal and physical as expected, and Styles retained when Joe tapped to the Calf Crusher. That’s certainly one way to end the match. I like it, it’s a definitive ending to the match and the feud, I guess, but it would have been nice to see Joe get some time with the belt.

Chris Novak: It is what it is. Joe was a villain who I don’t think NEEDS the belt. The end result would’ve been wanting to see Styles win it back from him anyway. So it’s like, hey, if he’s just one of the harder nuts for Styles to crack, that’s fine. This was one of the best matches they’ve had together this year, which is saying something, because the previous two at SummerSlam and at HIAC were both awesome.

Riott Squad vs. Ronda Rousey and The Bella Twins

Robert O’Neill: I think first and foremost, Liv Morgan deserves a lot of credit for getting right back in the ring with Brie Bella after the incident a couple weeks ago. I know it was an accident and Brie wasn’t being malicious, but if I was in Liv’s shoes, I would probably have some reservations.

The match was quite good. You knew the result going in, but the Riott Squad continued to look strong, and Rousey got the win by locking the armbar in on both Logan and Morgan which made for a super cool visual. There was no turn by The Bellas after the match, so that will have to wait.

Chris Novak: I’m quite surprised we didn’t get the turn in this match. But I’m guessing it’ll happen on Monday night in Chicago. Nevertheless, like you said Rob, this match was a lot of un. And that’s to be expected really when you take a look at the competitors here.

Cedric Alexander vs. Buddy Murphy - WWE Cruiserweight Title

Robert O’Neill: Buddy Murphy is another hometown hero! He came out with the Australian flag, which was pretty neat.

205 Live is the best hour of wrestling of the week every week, and these two are the brightest and the best. This match was pretty nuts. Murphy kicked out of a Lumbar Check which is very rare, then managed to score the pinfall and win the title in his home nation. Good stuff.

Chris Novak: WWE REALLY and I mean REALLY shied away from their usual tricks. Because they had TWO matches with hometown heroes, and they BOTH won. Shout out to Bud Murphy, who absolutely deserves this upcoming run with the Cruiserweight Championship. He’s been incredible and I’d love to see him intermingle with some of the guys on Raw and SmackDown someday down the line. He is that damn good.

The Shield vs. The Dogs of War

Robert O’Neill: The Shield did the crowd entrance, which looks really cool when they do it in a huge stadium like this.

I don’t think it’s possible for The Shield to have a bad six-man tag, dating back to their original run. They just get it, and it shows. Ambrose got the win on Ziggler after a long and physical match, and I like that finish because Ambrose has been the main part of the story the last few weeks.

Chris Novak: Yeah, that finish was outstanding to be honest. Great six-man tag here. Looking forward to seeing how things turn out from here.

The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan

Robert O’Neill: Whoa, okay. Bryan caught Miz with a Small Package about two minutes in and got the win. I don’t love the decision to have both Bryan and Styles win, but the eventual match should be good, and this keeps the Bryan/Miz feud running strong.

Chris Novak: I have no idea how to properly rate this or state what happened here. Cause… I was not expecting that. At all.

Undertaker vs. Triple H

Robert O’Neill: This was made a no disqualification match at the last minute. Such drama!

Naturally, that stipulation came into effect almost instantly, as Kane and Shawn Michaels got involved, as did steel chairs and, this will surprise you, sledgehammers. The match was exactly what you would expect given everyone involved. Slow, overbooked, nostalgic, and not the worst thing in the world. Triple H won with the Pedigree for THE LAST TIME he’ll ever face The Undertaker in a singles match… maybe.

Chris Novak: God help me, this match was… these guys need to just quit while they’re ahead. Like, it was a spectacle, and all that, but whoosh. Especially ‘Taker. Go home and watch Tucker Carlson, dude.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: This wasn’t a glorified house show like the Greatest Royal Rumble, but it wasn’t… not that. I mean, there was one title change on this show compared to zero at GRR, but aside from that, everything kind of went as expected. It was a fine show, but it certainly didn’t live up to the domestic pay-per-views WWE has put on pretty much all year. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to seeing where the stories go from here. C+

Chris Novak: The show was solid. You had two must-see matches (CW Title, Joe/Styles) a couple very good ones (Becky/Charlotte, Riott Squad/Ronda&Bellas, Shield/Dogs of War) and some things in between. I’ll be generous and give this a B- but that’s because I’m easy to please.

Ruthless Aggression EP 31 - All In preview

The gang previews All In & have an honest discussion about the hype the event has gotten. Plus their thoughts on Maria Kanelis' comments on the Divas Championship and how fans hate on the women who competed in that era, AND they review RAW 483 and Smackdown 158!

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

Song: "Problematic" by Pavy

Ruthless Aggression EP 28 - It was you, Hunter

Rob Pierce and Chris review RAW 480 and Smackdown! 155, highlighted by Triple H looking for the culprit who beat up Shawn Michaels last week, and Brock Lesnar defending his #1 contenders match for Summerslam against Hollywood Hulk Hogan! Plus Ronda Rousey shines in her Monday Night RAW debut, Lincoln Ricketts joins Pierce to preview the final three nights of the G1 Climax, and we preview what we have in store for Summerslam week! (note: it has nothing to do with Summerslam).

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

Brock retains, the Deadman returns, & Rousey delivers in an epic Wrestlemania

Robert O’Neill: WELP. It’s 4 PM. That means it’s time for Wrestlemania 34!

Chris Novak: [Extremely Scott Hanson voice] Seven hours of sports entertainment starts… RIGHT NOW!

Robert O’Neill: John Cena is in the crowd, because he’s attending Wrestlemania as a fan. I love it.

Chris Novak: Okay! So. The Andre started things off here. And Matt Hardy won thanks to Bray Wyatt. Looks like they’re going to go with these two as a pairing, which is fine with me. Either it means that Bray will be with BOTH Matt and Jeff Hardy. OR it means that Jeff is gonna get a singles run. EITHER WAY, this works well for me. Bray needs a refresh, and working as a babyface may very well help his cause out.

Robert O’Neill: Happy for the Laughing Man!

Chris Novak: Oh, cool. Here come the cruiserweights. They get to work in front of a damn-near full crowd, because they did the smart thing and let the crowd in super early. This is fantastic, to be honest. Ali looks like Sub-Zero, which is a heck of a look. Cedric gets the dub! I thought Mustafa was gonna win, but Ceddy is far from undeserving. Crazy to think what’s happened in the last two years for him ever since that match against Ibushi at the CWC. Good for him.

Robert O’Neill: Awesome stuff. If you don’t watch 205 Live, do you.

Chris Novak: WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal Time!

Robert O’Neill: Well, that was fun. I have various nitpitcks about it, but all in all it was a cool way to get everyone involved. The Bayley/Sasha stuff continued and Naomi had a surprise victory, which was cool.

Chris Novak: Made… not a lot

Robert O’Neill: BURN IT DOOOOOWWWWWNNNNNNNN. IC TITLE TIME. Here we go.

Chris Novak: Seth is a freaking White Walker. All hail.

Robert O’Neill: Why would Miz send the Miztourage to the back in a triple threat match? It’s a No-DQ match! Don’t be noble, be smart!

Chris Novak: Dad Miz is gonna do it all by himself. Okay, Finn, your entrance was awesome. Super-duper awesome.

Robert O’Neill: Really cool and important stuff by Balor. I like it. This match has also been predictably awesome so far. I don’t think any other match could have better opened the show. Rollins won after a pretty insane stretch with callbacks to a lot of other moves they’ve done in the past few weeks, and all three Shield members are grand slam champions now, so that’s neat.

Chris Novak: That was a fantastic opener. I’ll have to hum over the others, but that’s easily a Top 10 opener of all time at Mania.

Robert O’Neill: Time for ASUKA and Charlotte!

Chris Novak: Charlotte comes out on a throne to “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (her father’s theme!) and then her music plays. That entrance was so damn good. Here comes Asuka, who has 3D graphics in her entrance! They’ve got the presentation down pat so far.

Robert O’Neill: Every entrance has kicked ass so far tonight. Charlotte and Asuka are going pretty nuts. I liked Asuka countering the moonsault into a triangle choke and Charlotte doing a SPANISH FLY. Holy crap, Asuka tapped out. I’m stunned.

Chris Novak: That one will be controversial… An unbelievably good match, though. The streak’s payoff would’ve been hairy either way. They broke it the best way they could’ve here.

Robert O’Neill: A ref came down and said something to John Cena, and Cena went in a dead ass sprint to the back.

Chris Novak: I guess ‘Taker is coming!

Robert O’Neill: Jinder won the fatal four-way to become the US Champion. That was out of nowhere. Quick match. It is what it is.

WWE

WWE

Chris Novak: Alright, that’s the biggest dud so far on the card. Expectedly so. Don’t get not putting Rusev over. Anyways, Steph/HHH vs. Ronda/Angle is next.

Robert O’Neill: Triple H and Stephanie had a cool entrance. Angle’s entrance was Angle’s entrance, and Ronda looked like she was gonna kick someone’s ass.

Chris Novak: Holy shit, that pop when Ronda came into the match! What a professional wrestling match!! That was everything that pro wrestling should aspire to be. Ronda looked AWESOME in this match. The spot with her punching Triple H repeatedly was great. And then the armbar on him too! Eventually, Steph and HHH go for double Pedigrees, but Kurt sends HHH flying, and Ronda puts her in the armbar! She tapped! WHAT. A. MATCH.

Hahahaahahaha and now we get New Day-Usos-Bludgeon Brothers. What a hoot this show is.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah, I can’t believe how good that Ronda match was. That was Wrestlemania in a nutshell right there. It was a spectacle and it damn well delivered. I’m interested in seeing where Ronda goes from here.

Can we talk about the New Day’s entrance?

Chris Novak: Died laughing watching the little people in pancake suits. Okay, so… that match was abbreviated. The right call was made to have The Bludgeon Brothers win, though.

Robert O’Neill: Absolutely. Really don’t gain anything from having the New Day and Usos feud again, no matter how good it was.

WWE

WWE

Chris Novak: And… here comes The Undertaker… NOPE THAT’S ELIAS

Robert O’Neill: I WANT TO WALK WITH ELIAS

Chris Novak: Oh… welp. Uh… here comes that man.

Robert O’Neill: The pop when the gong hit is why Undertaker still comes back. Also holy shit this is happening.

Robert O’Neill: They did exactly what they needed to do. John Cena talked shit all month and Mean Mark showed up with receipts.

WWE

WWE

Chris Novak: Oh man. That Bryan entrance was special. Oh and here comes Owens and Zayn from behind! That was some fun. And surprisingly, a Bryan win! Thought that Shane would cost him the match. But! They didn’t overthink it, I guess. Alright, we’re doing Nia-Alexa next.

Robert O’Neill: Bryan got the victory but that match didn’t seem as good as it could have been. It’s not his fault though. The moments made were amazing.

Chris Novak: Hopefully this ends well...

Robert O’Neill: I liked Nia/Alexa. People complained about it but it was fine. Nia won and Alexa took a bunch of crazy bumps.

Chris Novak: Okay, sure. I guess that worked in the end. Intrigued to see Nia’s title reign from here on out. Think she can very easily be built up into a babyface monster.

WWE

WWE

ANYWAYS NOW IT’S TIME FOR NAKAMURA-STYLES!

Robert O’Neill: THEY HAVE A FULL BAND FOR HIM!

Chris Novak: Awesome entrance, with Nita Strauss of Alice Cooper performing “The Rising Sun.” Let’s sit back and watch this.

Robert O’Neill: That was fine. It was never going to live up to the expectation people had. I liked AJ winning with one Styles Clash, because he rarely does it, so it SHOULD be important and lethal. AND SHINSUKE TURNED HEEL AFTER THE MATCH

Chris Novak: THAT… that was surprising. Apparently heel Nakamura is superior. So, this should be fun to watch going forward! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. The Bar’s entrance is tremendous.

Robert O’Neill: So Braun Strowman teamed with… a child! And won the tag titles. All hail Nicholas!

Robert O’Neill: Well, here we go. Roman vs. Brock.

Chris Novak: Yeesh...

Robert O’Neill: Boy, oh boy. I have some thoughts on that main event. First of all, the crowd with their stupid ass chants got incredibly annoying in a hurry. Like, get over yourselves. Lesnar winning was a genuine shock and taking six F5’s to do it makes Reigns look strong. But you know what else makes him look strong? Winning. And capping off the story you started three years ago instead of chickening out. Is Lesnar not going to UFC now? I guess we’ll see.

Chris Novak: Got a lot of thoughts to air out here. I don’t know if all of them are safe to right now. I’ll let this simmer, and come back to it later.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: All month long it seemed like this would be an all-time great Wrestlemania. Was it? I mean, it depends on your definition. It wasn’t in the top 3, but I think you can make an argument for it being in the top 5, despite a couple bumps in the road. The first two hours were excellent, and Ronda Rousey had the match of the night despite everyone saying she wasn’t gonna be good at this. The two title matches were confusing, but I’m very excited for Styles vs. heel Nakamura. I have no clue what happens with Lesnar and Reigns now, but I’m glad that some new mid-card feuds were ignited as well. Overall, I think I would give Wrestlemania 34 a solid B.

Chris Novak: It’s a Top 10 WrestleMania for me, although the last hour really aided it in not being a Top 5 WrestleMania for me. Everything else pretty much knocked it out of the park, with only *some* questionable decisions along the way. B+ show for me.

Wrestlemania Predictions

Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

T.C.: With the Andre documentary being promoted, I’m surprised that this one is on the pre-show this year. While there haven’t been many competitors announced so far, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say the most likely of the announced participants to win would be Dolph Ziggler. It’s a safe pick, and he isn’t doing much else (the story of the last three years of his career).

Prediction: Dolph Ziggler

Robert: These things are always super hard to predict. Maybe Bray Wyatt comes back as… not Bray Wyatt and wins it? Maybe Dolph Ziggler wins, squanders the opportunity, and complains about it for the millionth time? Maybe Big Show wins again? I truly don’t have a read on this. I guess I’ll take Bray.

Prediction: Bray Wyatt

Chris: Honestly, like always, I have no idea where this is going to go. It’s the match with the least amount of build so far, and I guess that makes sense, in a way. It would be cool if Mark Henry showed up and won it. But, I doubt it. Now that I know he’s in the match, I predict Elias will win, and then give the performance of a lifetime later on in the show.

Prediction: Elias

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

T.C.: With the Sasha Banks vs. Bayley feud coming to a head, I can see a situation where they both brawl to the back, effectively eliminating each other. Initially I was going to say that Ruby Riott would walk away the victor here. However, I think we get a main roster debut of Ember Moon, who should be dropping the NXT Women’s title about 24 hours earlier.

Prediction: Ember Moon

I’m almost more excited for this than the women’s Royal Rumble, if only because it probably won’t be littered with legends. It’ll be a lot of NXT and WWE women, as it should be. I think Bayley and Sasha Banks will prevent each other from winning, and it’ll be someone from Smackdown as a result. Becky Lynch? Sure! Let’s go with Becky Lynch.

Prediction: Becky Lynch

Chris: FKA the Moolah Battle Royal, but Moolah is trash. So, they changed the name. The only substantial hype this match has going into it revolves around Bayley and Sasha Banks. Which might tell you that they probably SHOULDN’T be in the match, and instead have a standalone match on their own. Oh well, I guess. Those two are the only ones who I could see winning this whole thing. If they want to tell this story the right way, then Bayley has to win it to drive Sasha over the edge.

Prediction: Bayley

WWE Cruiserweight Championship tournament final: Mustafa Ali vs. Cedric Alexander

T.C.: Cedric Alexander has been getting a push towards the Cruiserweight title since about December, but several issues out of his control have prevented him from climbing that mountain top. I predict that he’ll finally have his moment, a WrestleMania one, this Sunday.

Prediction: Cedric Alexander

Robert: Do you watch 205 Live? No? Why? You need to. It’s incredible and these two are two of the best. This match should really get the crowd going, and I hope they don’t give it the first slot when people are still getting in the building and getting situated. Give it the middle or last preshow slot and let ‘em rip for 15 minutes.

Prediction: Mustafa Ali

Chris: If you haven’t watched any of 205 Live in the post-Enzo Amore era, do yourself a favor and do that. It’s absolutely sensational, and they’re putting on a stellar in-ring product on a weekly basis. Mustafa and Ceddy are two CWC originals, and they definitely deserve the spotlight they’ll be given. Part of me has wondered what’s taken so long with Cedric, but I think he’ll have to wait a little longer. Mustafa Ali is my pick to win the CW Title.

Prediction: Mustafa Ali

WWE Universal Championship - Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns

T.C.: I honestly believe the whole “Brock Lesnar is returning to UFC” thing is a red herring, but we’ll just have to wait and see. I’d like for them to go the route of having Brock win here, as it would add some unpredictability. But we all know that Roman will come out victorious here. Hopefully, we can get Heyman teaming up with Reigns at the end, which could freshen up his character going into his title reign.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Robert: If you have a problem with Reigns or this feud’s build, I don’t think we’ll agree on much. I’ve loved it. And I’m going to love Reigns winning and the title being back in the fold on a weekly basis.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Chris: Roman Reigns wins here to get the Universal Title, thus ending this three-year feud and sending Brock back to UFC in a few months. Easy call.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

WWE Championship - AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

T.C.: This one has match of the night written all over it, and they should be able to deliver a clinic in about 12-15 minutes. Nakamura is the favorite here, and he should be getting the W when it’s all said and done.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Robert: It’s still wild that this is happening at Wrestlemania, isn’t it? Styles and Nakamura have been all over the world and now they’re finally meeting on the big stage. I think Styles has been a great champion, but it’s Shinsuke’s time.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Chris: As good as both these guys are, I hope that everyone’s heightened expectations of this match doesn’t hurt them if they “fall short.” That being said, they will probably put on an A-grade match. Nakamura gets his crowning moment, and wins the WWE Championship.

Prediction: Nakamura

Intercontinental Championship - The Miz (c) vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor

T.C.: Rumors have been going around over the last week regarding Samoa Joe getting added to this match, making it a Fatal Four Way. For sake of this post, I’ll act like that won’t happen. Instead, I have Finn Bálor pulling away with the Intercontinental championship in his first reign.

Prediction: Finn Balor

Robert: This is a sneaky contender for match of the night, if only because how well these three work together. Pick any two and we’ve seen at least one great match, so there’s no reason that shouldn’t carry over into a triple threat. I think Miz needs to retain and become the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time, because he’s made that belt mean more than anyone in decades.

Prediction: The Miz

Chris: I’m lowkey telling you what my match order prediction is here as well, so pay attention here if you must. Miz, Rollins and Balor have all stepped their games up in the past couple months. Rollins in particular has looked awesome, and Finn has, too. We know how good Miz is by now, so that’s no surprise. I suspect these three will help put on a damn good opener to start us off. I don’t think there’s gonna be a title change, though. By hook or crook, Miz will retain his IC Title.

Prediction: The Miz

United States Championship - Randy Orton (c) vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev

T.C.: The logical thing to do here would be to place the United States championship on the most popular guy in the match. I’ve been watching the product since 1998, and full time since 2002...so I’m used to the WWE not going the logical route. Look for Randy Orton to win and retain his title.

Prediction: Randy Orton

Robert: It’s pretty wild that Wrestlemania falls on Rusev Day, huh? Anyways, adding Rusev to this match really saved it for me. Orton and Mahal don’t do anything for me, especially after watching it all last summer. Roode is fine, but his slow style makes him hard to watch. With all that said, with how much crowd support Rusev has, they HAVE to give him the title.

Prediction: Rusev

Chris: This match looked like a bit of a dud. Then Rusev showed up! I’ll keep this short and sweet here: Rusev is the guy to win this match. You don’t put him in it if you don’t give him the title. At this point, it’s a must.

Prediction: Rusev

Raw Women's Championship - Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Nia Jax

T.C.: I don’t expect this one to be long at all. I could see a scenario where Nia Jax blacking out on Bliss, getting hit with a disqualification by the referee. Moments later, Ms. Money in the Bank, Carmella takes advantage and cashes in on the unconscious champion and goes home with the Raw Women’s title.

Prediction: Alexa Bliss by DQ, Carmella cashes in MITB

Robert: As someone who has been with Alexa since day one, I’ve enjoyed her title run(s) far more than most people. WWE is getting to the point, though, where they need to do something with Nia instead of having her lose to everyone. There’s always one head-scratching decision per Wrestlemania though, and I’ll use mine right here.

Prediction: Alexa Bliss

Chris: Gonna keep this short and sweet, too. Nia Jax HAS TO WIN. She has to win and must win in a squash-type deal. If they have this match be lengthy, it will be a disservice to both of these ladies and the program. I know people want long women’s matches, but Nia-Alexa is not the type of feud to do that. And it’s not the kind of match, either. If Alexa somehow retains, it would be a monumentally poor decision. That’s no knock on her. Just the story that they’re telling here. Although she could definitely use time away from the belt, in my opinion.

Prediction: Nia Jax

Smackdown Women's Championship - Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Asuka

T.C.: This one is sure to give Styles vs. Nakamura a run for their money, as both women definitely know how to put on a show. It would be foolish for the winner of the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble to lose her title match at WrestleMania. With that being said, look for Asuka’s streak to make it out of New Orleans alive and well.

Prediction: Asuka

Robert: This is probably the most realistic shot we’ve seen where Asuka could lose her streak. I don’t think she will, but Charlotte at Wrestlemania would certainly be a good time and place to drop it. However, I think Asuka prevails.

Prediction: Asuka

Chris: Yep… I think this is the penultimate match on this Mania card. It’s been a while since Charlotte has had the spotlight on her, considering her run on SDL has made her lose all her luster. I think that changes come Sunday in NOLA. Her and Asuka put on a fantastic match, but it will be Asuka who wins the SDL Women’s Championship.

Prediction: Asuka

Raw Tag Team Championships - The Bar (c) vs. Braun Strowman and TBD

T.C.: I don’t care what other fans have said about this feud, I’m enjoying it, and I’m enjoying seeing Braun Strowman add more range to his character. You can risk placing the tag titles on Braun temporarily, and then vacating the titles the next night on Raw. Pull the trigger, WWE.

Prediction: Braun wins by himself

Chris: So, first prediction: Samoa Joe is Braun’s partner. Second prediction, Strowman and Joe win the Tag Team Titles.

Smackdown Tag Team Championships - The Usos (c) vs. New Day vs. Bludgeon Brothers

T.C.: The biggest story in this one even before Fastlane, was how the Usos have never competed at a WrestleMania. It’s time for them to get their moment, and I see one of the twins getting the pinfall over a member of the New Day. This way, you keep the Bludgeon Brothers safe, and they have the case for another title shot going into Backlash.

Prediction: The Usos

Robert: Can’t wait for this one. The build has been awesome and we already know what the New Day/Usos feud was capable of. I think it’s time to get some fresh blood in though and give the titles to the Bludgeon Brothers.

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers

Chris: Finally, at long last, The Usos are on the main card. This should be an outstanding showcase, and a deserved one for the SDLive tag division. I can’t decide if they’re going to throw The Usos a bone or crown new champs. But then again, what’s the point of hyping up Harper and Rowan all these months then? Bludgeon Brothers, for the win, and our second title change of the night.

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers

Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon

WWE

WWE

T.C.: There is no way Stephanie McMahon isn’t tapping out to Ronda Rousey at the end of this match. Would also be kind of neat to get Shayna Baszler and Sonya Deville in to celebrate with Ronda after the match.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle

Robert: They’re not going to have their biggest female attraction of all time lose her first match.

Prediction: Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey

Chris: This is an easy one. I don’t think this will last very long at all. Angle and HHH duke it out for the most part, HHH eats some offense from Ronda, and Ronda rips Stephanie’s arm off to give her and Angle the win.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle

Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn

WWE

WWE

T.C.: If Owens and Zayn lose here, they won’t be reinstated back to the WWE roster. As of now, there’s no room for them over on Raw, and I’m honestly tired of them playing Frogger between rosters. Look for them to come away with not only their jobs, but their first WrestleMania wins.

Prediction: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens

Robert: This is going to be special, obviously. Daniel Bryan returns to the ring in the same place as he had his biggest career win. The goodwill probably won’t last long, though, as I expect Owens and Zayn to win via some sort of shenanigans from Shane McMahon. I don’t trust him.

Prediction: Owens and Zayn

Chris: Daniel Bryan makes his in-ring return, and what a moment that will be. In the same building where he won the WWE Title four years ago, no less. Bryan and Shane’s tenuous relationship has me thinking that shenanigans are going to happen here. So, I think Owens and Zayn get their jobs back after Shane turns on Bryan and costs them the match.

Prediction: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens

John Cena vs. The Undertaker

WWE

WWE

Robert: Assuming this happens, it’s probably going to be pretty dumb. Once you get past the spectacle of two of the WWE’s best of all time fighting on a huge stage, it kinda becomes a dud. Maybe it’s because Undertaker is about five years removed from his last good match or because Cena’s been annoying during this whole build, but it really doesn’t do anything for me. I guess I’ll pick Cena to win? I don’t know. Neither party gains anything with a win or loses anything with a loss.

Prediction: John Cena

My Favorite 'Mania: Wrestlemania X8
WWE

WWE

While WrestleMania X8 had the difficult task of following up what is widely regarded as the greatest ‘Mania event in history, in many ways the 18th installment doesn’t fall too short. The big storyline heading into this event was Hollywood Hulk Hogan - in his first WrestleMania match in nine years - facing The Rock in a bout dubbed ‘Icon vs. Icon’.

I don’t necessarily think that the 2002 edition of the Showcase of the Immortals is the greatest, but it is definitely my favorite. 9-year old me had just become a full time viewer of the product at the end of the Invasion angle (specifically the episode of Smackdown where Booker T got his ass kicked inside of a supermarket), and I was as hyped up for the Road to WrestleMania as anyone could get. So you can imagine the first WrestleMania I ever watched having a close spot in my heart.

Even with every championship on the line aside from the Cruiserweight title, the event was somewhat of a dud. However, there were some fun moments throughout.

The first three matches were kind of filler, with the opener seeing Rob Van Dam make his WrestleMania debut against William Regal in a match for Regal’s Intercontinental Championship. Although short, the match was good for what it was. RVD won the title following a Five-Star Frog Splash in what could’ve been a really great match if given a few more minutes.

Next up, Diamond Dallas Page successfully defended his European Championship against Christian in another short bout that could’ve possibly been done on Sunday Night Heat prior to the PPV going live.

Following this up was another title defense, this time the Hardcore Championship. This championship was what it was at the time (a joke), but it had some fun moments on this show. In what was the first of five different title changes, champion Maven faced off against Goldust in a short match, that ended with Spike Dudley bringing in a personal referee to defeat the champion. The title would bounce from Dudley to The Hurricane, Mighty Molly, Christian and back to Maven before the night ends.

About an hour into the event, we finally get a match that lasted for over ten minutes (10:45 to be exact). At the time, Kurt Angle was arguably the best in the world but was in a lost spot following his feud with Royal Rumble winner Triple H. In addition, Kane has been a loyal company man for the entirety of his career. These two things considered, it made sense to partner them up here at WrestleMania, as there clearly wasn’t anything else for them to do. The match itself was decent, with a lot of back and forth action. Angle gets the win at the end after pinning Kane, using the ring ropes as leverage.

Ric Flair vs. Undertaker in a No DQ match was up next. Undertaker challenged Flair to a match at WrestleMania after he cost him his match against The Rock at No Way Out. Using his position as WWF co-owner, Flair repeatedly turned down the challenge week after week. Following bloody beatings of Flair’s best friend Arn Anderson and his oldest son David, Flair finally accepted Undertaker’s challenge, with his position as co-owner being temporarily removed by the board of directors. This was a fun brawl, one that was made personal over the last several weeks. A lot of offense from Taker early on, with Flair getting busted open after only about 3 minutes. Flair was able to turn some defense into offense later on, even bloodying Taker in the process. Undertaker eventually hits Flair with a Tombstone to move his WrestleMania record to 10-0.

In what was yet another filler match, Booker T made his WrestleMania debut against Edge. The story leading up to this match was Booker T being jealous over Edge getting a spot in a Japanese shampoo commercial over him. Not much going on here in this match which only lasted about 6 minutes. Edge comes away victorious here with an Edgecution, and a nice WrestleMania moment in his hometown.

For the first of the “triple main event”, we get Stone Cold vs. Scott Hall. The nWo ended up costing Austin his shot at the Undisputed Championship a month earlier, and as you could understand, Austin wasn’t a happy camper about it. The match itself was decent, and got a lot better towards the end as Kevin Nash got involved and the crowd gets into the match. Austin gets the final WrestleMania victory of his career here.

WWE

WWE

Next up, Billy and Chuck successfully defended the Tag Team titles in a four corners elimination match that also included the APA, Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz. Although not terrible, this match was way too long, and was obviously placed as filler to give the crowd a rest before the match everyone wanted to see.

In what was thought to be a once in a lifetime matchup (they would meet again in 11 months at No Way Out), The Rock went one on one with Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Prior to the match, Hogan advises his fellow nWo members that he’s good on his own. Spoiler alert...they don’t listen. Hogan comes out to the loudest ovation of the night, while the crowd booed and showered Dwayne with “Rocky Sucks!” chants throughout the match. Although not the most technically sound match, the energy these two brought more than made up for it as Rocky comes away with the W. The crowd was effective in forcing Hogan to turn face, and to this day I wonder if they called an audible with Nash and Hall turning on Hogan post-match rather than the next night.

The women’s division in 2002 was definitely not comparable to how it is currently, but the three best women in the Fed at this time were given the task to follow up Rock vs. Hogan. Women’s champion Jazz put her title on the line in a triple threat against Lita and Trish Stratus. A common theme with this PPV, what we get here is another subpar filler match. Kudos to the three ladies for making the most of it. Would have loved for Trish get her WrestleMania moment in Toronto, but Jazz retaining wasn’t a bad decision.

WWE

WWE

Realistically the show kinda falls off after Rock/Hogan, and I’m sure they regretted not placing that match last. The finale saw Royal Rumble winner Triple H cashing in on his guaranteed Undisputed title shot against Chris Jericho (who was accompanied by H’s ex-wife Stephanie McMahon). Jericho works on Hunter’s surgically repaired quad early on, but the crowd doesn’t seem to come alive until Trips finally gets his revenge and hits Stephanie with a Pedigree, something that was teased several times leading up to the match.

While not the worst WrestleMania event ever, it’s nowhere close to being the best. However, the childhood nostalgia it provides me gives it the unique distinction of being my favorite ever.

My Favorite 'Mania: Wrestlemania XXX

The second it was announced that WrestleMania was returning to the Superdome in New Orleans, I knew I would be going.

It wasn't a surefire decision; there were many factors that needed to play itself out in order for me to be in NOLA right now, but at the time, there wasn't a doubt in my mind that I wouldn't be down here breaking my WrestleMania virginity.

The Superdome is the site of my favorite WrestleMania: WrestleMania XXX. It's not the greatest - to me X-Seven is the standard for what a Mania should be - but XXX had all of the intangibles: a ferocious crowd, intriguing feuds, an influx of past, present and future, and a captivating babyface the crowd could embrace. Oh, and the unthinkable happened. Top to bottom, XXX is the most entertaining WrestleMania in recent years.


Three Kings

XXX was billed as the true return of Hulk Hogan to the company after years with TNA. He was tabbed to "host" WrestleMania, which is hard to do when you don't even know where you're hosting the show. It's the SUPERDOME, Terry... not the Silverdome.

And then... the glass broke, and the stadium went into a frenzy. Stone Cold Steve Austin standing face to face with Hogan in the center of a WWE ring. It's something we as fans have wanted for decades: the two biggest stars in their respective companies in the late 90s finally meeting.

When you didn't think it could get any better, The Rock's familiar voice hit the loudspeakers and out came the Brahma Bull, who's wrestled both Austin and Hogan in legendary WrestleMania matches. Three of the four stars on WWE's Mount Rushmore together for the very first time gave me goosebumps. It was a WrestleMania moment that will endure for ages.


From B-plus player to World Champion

The story of Daniel Bryan in WWE is so genuine. We all know about Vince McMahon's obsession for big guys and how size may have derailed a few guys from reaching the top of the company. One look at Daniel and you could see an extremely talented worker - perhaps an Intercontinental Champion - but a world champion was out of the question.

The thing about Daniel Bryan is he has what so many other superstars lack - heart.

That beating heart was felt all throughout the Superdome that night as Daniel got through not just Triple H to open the show, but then defeating the other two members of Evolution, Batista and Randy Orton, to win the WWE Championship in the main event. The purity of Daniel Bryan is so easy to get behind. He's the most relatable everyman the WWE has had since Austin, only moreso. Everybody has been told in one way or another that they're not good enough, that they don't measure up to the competition, that they'll never achieve their dreams. They said the same thing about Daniel. He proved everyone wrong.


The end of the streak

There isn't one superstar more synonymous with WrestleMania than the Undertaker. Sure the event was built off the back of Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels is nicknamed "Mr. Wrestlemania", and Stone Cold, John Cena and Roman Reigns have all headlined the show at least three times. But the Deadman has what they don't.

The Streak.

For 21 consecutive appearances, the Undertaker walked down that long aisle to the ring, got the 1-2-3, and walked back victorious. The Streak became a sideplot to the big event; you didn't just watch WrestleMania for the spectacle, you watched to see who will finally put an end to The Streak.

And then, Brock Lesnar became the one in 21-1, dropping Taker with three F5's before earning the shocking pinfall win. Go back and watch the ref's 3 count and listen to the split second of stunned silence in the air while the crowd digested what they just saw. They couldn't believe that this unstoppable force was reduced to a mere mortal, and very dominantly I might add. We knew Taker didn't stand a chance against Brock in a normal match, but this is WrestleMania. The Deadman doesn't get defeated at his show, in his yard.

But all great things must come to an emphatic end. Fans complain about the streak ending, mainly the fact that it ended to a part-timer in Brock instead of a wrestler that could have benefitted from the rub, like CM Punk. But this couldn't have ended any other way. Brock ending The Streak will live on in WWE history.

As far as Taker goes, they call WrestleMania "the showcase of the immortals." There's no greater immortal to grace the WrestleMania stage than the Undertaker.

Raw, Smackdown put forth strong go-home efforts before Wrestlemania

Robert O’Neill: Wrestlemania go-home Raw! Villanova vs. Michigan! It’s a loaded television night!

Chris Novak: “Ronda Rowdy.” Oh, Kurt.

Robert O’Neill: Kurt Angle’s constant battle with the English language aside, that was a hell of a way to open the show. The build to Angle/Ronda vs. Trips and Steph has been virtually perfect. I can’t wait for it.

Chris Novak: The segment was what it was, but I do agree with you. They’ve done a solid job here of building this up, I will say. Steph throwing Ronda through the table was a nice touch and a nice batch of revenge after Ronda sent HHH through the table at Elimination Chamber.

Robert O’Neill: Bayley vs. Sonya Deville was a pretty good match. Sonya continues to improve. After the match, Sasha saved Bayley from a beatdown and Bayley wasn’t appreciative in the least. Could it be that Bayley is the bad friend and not Sasha?

Chris Novak: Well, no. Sasha wanted Bayley to raise her hand, which is the pettiest thing.

Chris Novak: Okay, that was an AMAZING MATCH between Seth and Finn. The go-home show for Mania just produced a 4.5-star match, and I’d be tempted to even go a tick higher. Just absurdity. Seth is so good again, and Finn is still a very good in-ring worker. Loved ALL the callbacks they had in that match, too. Goddamn. That has me hyped.

Robert O’Neill: Seth and Finn should fight forever. Good lord what a match.

Chris Novak: They’ve put on nothing but good matches since they started feuding. I’ll say that much.

Chris Novak: I’m not certain what the point of this Cena stuff is right now. I guess they’re just gonna have Undertaker show up impromptu on Sunday? Weird build to this whole thing. Having Taker not show up the WHOLE way towards Mania is a misstep, in my opinion. But hey, we’ll see what happens Sunday, I suppose.

Robert O’Neill: I find myself having mixed feelings. On one hand, yeah, it’s kinda dumb to have no build (look at Undertaker/Bray Wyatt). On the other hand, these are two of WWE’s biggest stars of all time. How much build do you really need? Would it have been that much better if Undertaker came out and cut weird cryptic promos on Raw the past few weeks? It’s 2018. You know what you’re getting from him

Robert O’Neill: Goldust and Matt Hardy first wrestled each other in WWF in 1999. It’s 2018 and they had a match on Raw. I love stuff like that. .

Chris Novak: Okay, Braun and “BRAINS” Strowman was an incredible bit. I still have no idea who Braun’s tag team partner is going to be on Sunday. But this was hilarious.

Robert O’Neill: Braun’s comedy stuff has been amazing this year. From the MMC to working with Elias to this. He’s great.

Chris Novak: Haven’t been much of a fan of this whole Alexa-Nia feud. But they both seem like they’re cool with it in interviews? Whatever. Nia needs to win on Sunday in emphatic fashion for this to work. If they try to drag this out with a long match, it’s a mistake. If they have Alexa go over, it’s an even worse mistake. I’m not wholly optimistic, either.

Robert O’Neill: I’ve been team Alexa since day one, so I’m biased here, but having her retain the title probably isn’t smart.

Robert O’Neill: Rhyno is built like a refrigerator with legs.

Chris Novak: He really, truly is. I for one cannot wait for Elias’ performance on Sunday. I’m wondering who’s going to make a cameo. Jeff Jarrett? The Rock? Both? Either way, even without a match, Elias has something that you feel like you can’t miss and that you feel like is must-see TV. They’ve done a great job with him and building him up to be an attraction. It’s great stuff.

Robert O’Neill: The final segment between Roman and Brock was kind of tame but given how they’ve built up to it, I really can’t nitpick it too much. It’s a match I’m incredibly excited for, and I think it’ll be even better than the first time they met.

Chris Novak: Y’know, you say it’s tame. But I enjoyed it a lot. They played off the locker room stuff they alluded to earlier on in the feud. I don’t know if it was great to have Brock get the last laugh (again) but they did its job and there’s legitimate heat on Brock. It’ll be 50/50 in New Orleans, like you’d expect. But they won the crowd over with this feud. Point blank, period.

Quick Results
Bayley def. Sonya Deville
Seth Rollins def. Finn Balor
Matt Hardy def. Goldust
Elias def. Heath Slater
Asuka & Dana Brooke def. Alexa Bliss & Mickie James

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Welp. The Road to Wrestlemania has concluded, and frankly I think both shows did a great job taking that final step this week. Everything got lined up nicely for Sunday night, and I think every match on the card has a certain level of intrigue and importance. As far as this show specifically, Rollins/Balor could very well be the TV match of the year so far (depending what you think about Rollins’ marathon gauntlet match performance) and I always appreciate seeing Goldust in action. The Cena stuff could have been better, but it is what it is. I think bookending the show with Ronda/Kurt/Steph/Triple H and then Roman/Brock shows the level of importance of those two matches. B+

Chris Novak: A B+ for me too. The Seth-Finn match was exceptional, and everything else hit all the right notes. I think they took time to take in every possible situation going into Mania, and gave it all the appropriate time. It’s certainly one of the better go-home shows in recent memory, which 1) Says a lot about recent memory and 2) Shows that they have the depth of talent to pull such a feat off. Good going.