The 2018 Survivor Series is coming up, so Cam Quotes & JR Bang turn back the clock and remember Survivor Series 1997 and the infamous Montreal Screw Job, what they were both doing in 1997 and everything that really mattered about the pay per view, which was pretty terrible. Plus, Survivor Series predictions and GuaranDAMNTees on this episode of the #FirstBlackChamp podcast!
The 2018 Survivor Series is coming up, so Cam Quotes & JR Bang turn back the clock and remember Survivor Series 1997 and the infamous Montreal Screw Job, what they were both doing in 1997 and everything that really mattered about the pay per view, which was pretty terrible. Plus, Survivor Series predictions and GuaranDAMNTees on this episode of the #FirstBlackChamp podcast!
This edition of This Week in WWE will be done a little differently than normal. Chris was the only one able to watch RAW this week, as Rob was out of commission on Memorial Day. Both Rob and Chris were able to watch SmackDown Live, however, so that recap will be done in its usual fashion.
MONEY IN THE BANKS
Sasha Banks became the final entrant in this year's Women's MITB Ladder Match on Monday. Banks entered the Last Chance Gauntlet Match and submitted Ruby Riott to earn her way into the match after Riott had eliminated Bayley, Dana Brooke and Mickie James consecutively. Here are a few thoughts on all this.
- Sasha winning was the right choice and right decision. While I would've had no problem with Ruby winning, or Bayley, the match is in desperate need of an elite in-ring worker. No disrespect to anybody who was in this Gauntlet, or who's in this match already, but Sasha Banks is so clearly the best in-ring talent on the women's roster. You could probably make the argument that she's Top 5 in the company, as well. So putting her in gets no qualms from me.
- Had no problem with the booking of both Bayley and Ruby Riott. Riott looked genuinely good at times and this is the second time that her and Sasha have connected well in the ring. Imagine what a title feud would do for both? Bayley, meanwhile, mowed through Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan before Ruby eliminated her. To which I say, about time they threw her a bone in a situation like this. Liv only lasted like 20 seconds against her, to which I say, "Well, they've already embarrassed Bayley enough times. Liv will be fine. Maybe."
- The qualm I do have with this match was its length. Giving the women 25 minutes for this kind of match was a foolhardy decision. Especially after the men's gauntlet match a couple months ago got so many rave reviews. I'm not saying, "Give the women 106 minutes" like the men got. But at least give them more than 25, for goodness sake. This was the only blemish on this match though.
NOT A ROUSING START
So, after we had the contract signing last week, the Nia Jax-Ronda Rousey contract signing hit its next stage. And, um, a lot was left to be desired here.
First things first: You have to love the fact that the narrative around Nia Jax inexplicably did a 180º turn out of nowhere. So, for the last two months, she spent time being "anti-bully" in her feud against Alexa Bliss. Now, in her feud with Ronda Rousey for the Women's Title, she's... become the bully, as she chastised Ronda and her jobber opponent. With this and the fact that Nia, last week, didn't try to rebutt anything that Stephanie McMahon was saying, I'm not sure what exactly they're doing here.
As for Rousey, she was on commentary while Nia was using a mic throughout her match. Whoever decided that should happen... well, let's just say it was ill-advised. Ronda didn't do much here, although she appears to be back to her smiling-and-waving phase, even though it's so obvious that she's so much better when she's just an ass-kicking badass. Not the first time they've missed the mark in that regard, though. Won't be the last, I reckon.
I'm not sure what this means going forward, but this was a step backward. Adding onto the fact that next week, we have a match between Nia Jax and Natalya, Ronda's "friend" and "ally," I'm not sure what to think here. Will Jax try to take out Nattie? And if that's the case, is Nattie going to be out of MITB? Will they put her in anyway, and go forward with the program they've been teasing between the two of them? I'm not entirely sure here, but I do know that this program hasn't been it so far. Which is something, since it probably shouldn't be happening in the first place.
So, we got two matches this week featuring the four competitors in the MITB Ladder Match on RAW's side. Bobby Roode faced Kevin Owens, while Finn Bálor faced Braun Strowman in a rematch of last week's epic.
Finn looked pretty strong in his match against Strowman, and nearly defeated The Monster Among Men. However, Owens came out and caused a DQ to end the match. He wasn't particularly liked by either Bálor OR Strowman, as evident by the fact that Strowman nearly hit him with a ladder he tossed from the ring.
Owens got the last laugh of sorts later on, when he defeated Bobby Roode to pick up a huge win going into MITB. Quietly, KO has been gaining a lot of momentum on the RAW side of things. I'm not saying he's going to win the MITB Ladder Match. But right now, of the RAW competitors... he kind of looks like the strongest choice right now.
ALL THE REST
- Seth Rollins defeated Jinder Mahal to retain his Intercontinental Title. Honestly thought we'd get some kind of interaction with Roman Reigns here, but it never wound up happening. This was a pretty fun match, and continued Rollins' strong run. He was promptly hit with a guitar by Elias afterward. Later on in the week, we learned Elias vs. Seth for the IC Title will be happening at MITB. Sounds good to me.
- Sami Zayn issued an "apology" for last week's gutter-trash segment. That brought Lashley out, and the two made themselves a match for MITB. I guess this will be fine, although I will give Sami credit: He did TREMENDOUSLY here and he continues to be a tremendous heel. Remember when everyone thought he should just be a babyface for life? We didn't know you had this in you, Sami.
- I continue to have absolutely no clue what they're doing with the RAW tag team division. But next week's battle royal should clear things up. It seems telegraphed that The B-Team will win, and all credit to Bo and Curtis: They're making the most of this and then some and have provided some extremely entertaining bits and interactions. That being said, Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt vs. Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, from a name-brand standpoint is low on the bar, and you could probably do better. Meanwhile, hearing that AoP are being put on milk cartons and we need everyone's help in trying to find them.
Grade: A C+ for me here. There wasn't anything standout about this RAW, but nothing was terrible. It was just very average. The women's gauntlet had a lot more promise than what was delivered, and if they gave that match more time, I very well could have pushed this up to a B- or even a B or B+ if it really carried through. But its abbreviated form did no one good, the Women's Title segment bombed, and everything else was just... okay.
Chris Novak: Away we go here for SDLive. Samoa Joe begins the night with a mic in his hand, as well as the MITB briefcase, and a ladder in the ring.
Robert O’Neill: And now Bryan is here because Joe was talking about Brie and Birdie, and they’re ready to fight RIGHT NOW, but instead Big Cass is out here in a suit and on crutches. Cass says he talked to Paige and Joe won’t be facing Bryan tonight, but instead Joe will face Cass!
Chris Novak: Paige is backstage after the break. She talks with Absolution, who say there’s more deserving people out there than Asuka to contend for the title. So,Paige makes a match between Mandy and Asuka. Then, after the chaos that happened before the break, she tells Renee Young that Big Cass vs. Samoa Joe vs. Daniel Bryan for the final MITB spot is the main event. Completely fine with this, to be honest.
Robert O’Neill: Shinsuke Nakamura is facing Tye Dillinger, which I actually really like. Obviously a lot of it comes from Dillinger’s 10 gimmick and Nak being in a last man standing match, and that’s a story they told in the match. Nakamura would try to keep Dillinger down for a 10 count and Tye kept getting up and looked good in getting some offense in. Nakamura obviously won with a Kinshasa (and a 1-2-3, instead of going for 10 that time), but it was a solid match.
Chris Novak: This was a perfect use of Tye Dillinger, to be honest. You have Shinsuke face a guy who’s impressive enough to look good but also take the fall.
Robert O’Neill: Lana and Naomi had a dance off, which is a pretty insulting way to promote women’s wrestling in 2018. I get it, they both have dancing gimmicks, but come on.
Chris Novak: Yeah. Hard pass on that. It sets up a mixed tag next week, featuring Aiden English instead of Rusev. Methinks that means English gets pinned, and Lana uses that as a way to pit Rusev against him. But… we’ll see.
Robert O’Neill: The Bludgeon Brothers said they were going to “liquify” Gallows and Anderson. Gross.
Chris Novak: Yeah, that’s one word for it!
Robert O’Neill: This will shock you (it will not shock you), but The New Day vs. The Bar and Miz was absolutely excellent. When you have six guys who are really good, you’ll get a really good match. We still don’t know which member of the New Day will be in the MITB match, but that’s fine.
Chris Novak: It feels like we’re not going to know until the night of the event. Which is completely fine with me.
Robert O’Neill: Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose beat up Asuka before Mandy’s match with her. Asuka still prevailed, but Mandy looked solid and Carmella was excellent on commentary.
Chris Novak: People were impressed with Mandy, I’m just sitting here, meanwhile, remembering that I’ve been on the bandwagon since late 2016.
Robert O’Neill: Speaking of the women’s division. Becky Lynch (remember her?) was talking to Charlotte backstage and things got a little heated about who was going to win the MITB match and Paige came and set up Becky vs. Charlotte for next week. I’m entirely here for that.
Chris Novak: It’s about damn time. Would be great if Becky showed off her ‘desperation’ in that match somehow, someway. Then we got a backstage segment between Andrade "Cien" Almas and Sin Cara. Allow me to be the one to say it: HERE. FOR. THIS. Sin Cara and Andrade Almas will shoot fight the hell out of each other for about 10-12 minutes at MITB, it looks like. And it will be a thrill.
Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event. I have a problem with saying you’re going to give us Joe vs. Bryan, a match that hasn’t been seen in a decade, and then adding Cass. I get it, they didn’t know if he was hurt, but that’s pretty much exactly what WCW used to do in terms of false advertising. It was a very good match that Joe won with the Coquina Clutch on Bryan, who passed out instead of submitting, but I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened had it been a singles match instead.
Chris Novak: I enjoyed that match for what it was. The right guy won and we’ll get Bryan-Cass II at MITB, likely.
Robert O’Neill: Since I missed Raw and have nothing to compare Smackdown to, I guess my grade is a tad harsher than it would normally be. I liked the matches and the content of the show, but not getting the promised main event was a bummer. Regardless this was a solid B.
Chris Novak: SmackDown Live continues to be the better show and brand since WrestleMania, and it gained momentum quite a bit heading into the big show, as well. The matches were all pretty great. Despite the fact that we had that nonsense dance off, the show didn't suffer too greatly from it at all. Going to give this a strong B here, as well. But make no mistake: This is the A-Show.
Vinny Mac is laughing straight to the bank! This week on Ruthless Aggression we chat about Smackdown's new TV deal on FOX, along with the current news on Raw and SDL! Plus RAW 469 and Smackdown 144, including Undertaker vs. RVD for the Undisputed Title & Hollywood Hulk Hogan's farewell address to the WWE!
Chris Novak: We’ve begun a big episode of RAW on a big day for WWE! We’re getting a contract signing between Nia & Ronda and, apparently, Sami Zayn interviewing Bobby Lashley’s sisters. One of those things sounds more appealing than the other. Can you guess which one it is? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not the second of the two. Here’s Kurt Angle, who teased “big announcements” for the start of RAW on Twitter. He says Ronda is in the house (duh, that was just announced no less than two minutes ago.) so it sounds like he’s just parroting those announcements.
There’s gonna be a F4W qualifier between… oh, no. That’s Stephanie McMahon’s music. Steph is back. Steph says that everything that happened at WM is now “water under the bridge” and she’ll always do “what’s best for business.” She responds to the “You Tapped Out!” chants by saying she, in fact, did, and she’s forgiving everything. Steph says he’s done a phenomenal job and she wants to see growth. Steph says that instead of Kurt presiding over the contract signing, it will be her. That certainly won’t spur any narratives about what THAT match could turn out to be. And… now here’s Roman Reigns for… um, some reason. Roman says that he wants Steph to say whatever he wants to him to his face. Steph says she doesn’t understand his temper or his attitude lately, and says that if he can’t help it, then he should find a new line of work. Roman responds by saying he’ll just go out and destroy “her favorite superstars.”
So then, Roman says that he thinks they don’t want him near the Universal Title. Steph responds by saying he lost his qualifying match and that he should take it up with Jinder. Roman snarkily responds that he did… and here comes Kevin Owens. Owens says he’s indebted to Roman now after he took out Mahal last week. He says he actually really likes Roman. He tries to get a “Thank You Roman!” chant up but it doesn’t work TOO well in Albany tonight. KO says that Steph doesn’t play favorites, bringing up his history with her brother and her father. Really funny moment with Owens leaning on Steph’s shoulder as he said, “She knows talent when she sees it.” Steph then makes a match pitting Roman against Owens. I get the sense that this will be quite good!
Robert O’Neill: It was a fantastic match (Roman is good. The in-ring stuff is hardly the problem). Jinder Mahal interfered and he and Owens beat Roman down before Seth Rollins came out to even the odds and set up a *extreme teddy long voice* TAG TEAM MATCH. That match was good too! Rollins got the win over Jinder because he is The Guy.
Chris Novak: On to… the Bobby Lashley/Sami Zayn segment.
Robert O’Neill: What the fuck is this? I’m not gonna talk about the Lashley segment. Watch the video. It’s bad.
Chris Novak: We’re going to spend exactly that amount of time talking about this. Okay! Onto Ember Moon vs. Alexa Bliss! Bliss gets interviewed by Renee Young, and is asked if she’s worried after what happened in Ember’s debut. Bliss brings up what happened with the Romans back in 410 AD. I’m actually laughing. That was hysterical. Anyways, onto the match. It was really fun! Alexa held her own in the ring and Ember did her thing as well. It ended after Ember hit the Eclipse on Bliss, getting the 1-2-3 after Mickie was thrown out of the ringside area.
Robert O’Neill: Alexa/Ember is a fresh-feeling matchup. I would really like to see more of that from the women’s division instead of recycling the same matches over and over.
Robert O’Neill: The B-Team faced Breezango and won. At some point WWE will have to go away from comedy tag teams and get us back to good tag team wrestling, right?
*checks RAW Tag Team Champions*
Oh. I see. Never mind then.
It’s not that I DISLIKE Breezango or Axel and Dallas, it’s just that they aren’t as good as Authors of Pain or Revival.
Chris Novak: My counterpoint to that, Rob, is that they just had The Shield (Seth & Dean) and The Bar trade victories and tag titles for much of the year. I get what you’re saying, but the B-Team is working. Let’s calm down a peg.
Chris Novak: Onto our “final” qualifying match (we’ll probably get a Last Chance Match next week) between Natalya, Dana, Liv and Sarah. I’m not certain what the thought process was while they were constructing these matches but the end result is this, and woof. Naturally, Natalya won and seemed to tease the idea of her and Ronda, her “training partner” being champ and MITB holder. This is going to result into a feud and it’s going to be insufferable.
Robert O’Neill: Hey, another Chad Gable singles match! Neat. Sure, it’s against Dolph Ziggler, but I still appreciate any and all Gable singles matches. Ziggler got the victory in pretty quick time and then Drew McIntyre hit the ring to double team Gable. Hmmmmmm. If only there were someone returning soon that could help Gable even the odds.
Chris Novak: Are you suggesting that Gable needs an… “Alpha” at his side? No. No. Not THAT Alpha. He’s facing Naito in New Japan. The other one. An American Alpha.
Robert O’Neill: Elias came out and took credit for the TV deals and stock price and then beat Bob Roode (again). What a night!
Chris Novak: They really need to do a double-turn here because it’s obvious that 1) Elias is over as hell and 2) Roode needs some kind of switch flipped.
Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! Finn Balor and Braun Strowman are gonna duke it out in the ring after their tag team experiment last week. Unsurprisingly, it was an excellent match. It’s pretty clear where both of these guys stand in the company, and eventually they’ll both have title runs. Braun won with the powerslam and then picked Balor up after instead of hitting him with more powerslams, which I thought was a nice touch.
Chris Novak: That was a really excellent match. They did a lot considering the fact that both Balor and Strowman are, obviously, different sizes. They made it work though. And made it work REALLY well. Came away very impressed with this match and these two.
Robert O’Neill: I think all good things on this Raw were overshadowed by that Bobby Lashley segment. And I think that segment has added importance on the day that it gets out that you have billion-dollar TV deals in the works. There’s a non-zero chance that people heard that news, decided to tune in, and saw… that. There’s not a great time for an all-time bad segment, but even if they did it on Memorial Day it probably would have been less of a lead balloon.
And it sucks, because there was a lot of good on this Raw (Alexa/Ember, Nia/Ronda, Strowman/Balor), but I think everyone was left with a sour taste in their mouth at best after that segment that lingered throughout the night. D
Chris Novak: I don’t know if I’m going to be as harsh as Rob here is. This RAW was pretty good. It featured an all-time bad segment, but with some great matches here, I’m going to give this a B-. I don’t think we’ve differed this much here, but to me, one REALLY REALLY bad segment doesn’t kill the whole show for me. RAW needs some obvious enhancements, but for this week, they did well.
Robert O’Neill: MizTV is opening the billion dollar program. All Hail.
Chris Novak: And already, this segment between Miz and New Day has been outstanding.
Robert O’Neill: Miz still looks ridiculous though.
Chris Novak: Of course he does. That’s the thing about him though. Anyways, Miz tries to get an answer out of The New Day and seemingly tried to pit them against each other. But, The New Day don’t give Miz the answer he wanted for the interview. Miz says that he could beat any of them any day of the week, and so they say that Big E is “the guy.” But… not the guy for MITB, but instead the guy to face Miz. He tries getting out of it, so New Day pelts him with pancakes. Miz then sprints away, but runs into Paige, who says that the match must proceed.
Robert O’Neill: And the match was pretty good! It was the first time Miz and Big E ever faced off, so that was cool. The high point of the match was how it spiraled into chaos at the end when The Bar came down to mess with New Day and Kofi JUMPED OFF CESARO INTO SHEAMUS. Meanwhile in the ring, Miz took advantage of the distraction and hit Big E with the Skull Crushing Finale for the win.
Chris Novak: Daniel Bryan is interviewed by Dasha Fuentes. Bryan talks about getting second chances, which fits his bill pretty well, to say the least. He then talks about how surreal it is that he’s facing Jeff Hardy in 2018. He calls him a legend and an innovator and a very tough hill to climb. But, he also says he loves a good challenge and intends on making a legend tap out.
Lana then faced Billie Kay and won within about 2 minutes. Please send The IIconics back to NXT. What is the point, at this point?
Robert O’Neill: This is so stupid. The Women’s MITB match is going to be trash.
Chris Novak: Finishing your sentence… again. Because it’s not like the two editions last year were good. Anyways, Andrade “Cien” Almas kicked a dude’s ass and won. That was academic.
Robert O’Neill: You know who should win Money in the Bank? Zelina Vega.
Chris Novak: And so should Almas.
Robert O’Neill: Well! We know the stipulation of the AJ Styles/Shinsuke Nakamura match at Money in the Bank. It’ll be a Last Man Standing match, so that’s neat.
Chris Novak: That’s one way to call it “Roshambo.”
Robert O’Neill: Up next, The Usos face The Club for the right to face The Bludgeon Brothers at Money in the Bank. I think the best part of this match was it made me remember how much I enjoy The Club. They’re quite good in the ring, and after picking up the win, I’m pretty interested in how they’ll fare against the Bludgeon Brothers.
Chris Novak: I’m fine with it, as it allows for some fresh blood here. Anyways, Naomi then went and defeated Sonya Deville in a MITB qualifier. It was a very good match. Naomi has improved tenfold, but we all already know that.
Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! It’s kind of wild that Daniel Bryan and Jeff Hardy have a combined 20 years of WWE experience between them and this was the first time they’ve ever squared off, but it’s also pretty awesome. This was always the big dream for a potential Bryan return. He can now have matches with guys he’s never faced (Hardy), or guys he had previously faced in non-WWE promotions (Samoa Joe, AJ Styles). It opens up new and fresh matchups. Bryan beat Hardy to advance to face Joe next week for Smackdown’s final MITB spot, in a match that will surely whip ass.
Robert O’Neill: While Smackdown didn’t have an all-time bad segment, they DID have Lana qualify for the MITB match. Unlike the Lashley thing, I guess I can look past it. Pretty much every match on this show worked for me and felt important, which is the major benefit of a two hour show. The main event was great, and Miz/Big E set up a Miz & The Bar vs. The New Day six-man tag that will be absolutely awesome next week. B.
Chris Novak: A B+ show for me. This featured an awesome Bryan-Hardy match, a very good Miz-Big E match and a really good Sonya-Naomi match. SDLive keeps hitting ALLLLL the right notes since ‘Mania. It’s back to being tops and it’s looking like it will stay that way too.
Don’t let anyone tell you Vince McMahon isn’t an absolute genius.
After what seemed like years of rumors and discussions, McMahon and WWE appear to have new TV deals in place for both Raw and Smackdown Live, and the deals are a bit staggering.
Last week, The Hollywood Reporter reported that NBCUniversal and WWE had reached an extension to keep Raw on USA Network for the foreseeable future at “three times its current value”, which was estimated to be around $240 million a year. As a result of NBCUniversal pulling out all the stops for Raw, they chose to pass on Smackdown Live, which made the blue brand a lucrative free agent.
On Monday, the other shoe dropped. After reportedly entertaining offers from Facebook and Amazon, WWE reached an agreement with Fox to air Smackdown for five years at $205 million a year, starting in October 2019. That’s a billion-plus dollar deal.
The Wrap reports that Smackdown will likely be moved back to Friday nights, so it will be interesting to see how the WWE schedule is affected.
Looking past the sheer volume of the numbers, let’s take a look at how we got to this point. It’s fairly simple, but there are a few big keys to WWE’s massive growth and success over the past five years.
First, the rise of the WWE Network has to be accounted for. Between the on-demand library of classic content, original programming, and live PPVs, there’s something for everyone, and it’s evident why it’s on the rise. Getting into WWE programming has never been easier, and being able to watch a PPV for $10 a month instead of $40 a month is a huge deal for key audiences.
Second, the mainstream success of people like Ronda Rousey, John Cena, and Brock Lesnar has to be considered. There are other examples, but these are the three most prevalent, as even the most casual of fan has heard of these three. Obviously, Rousey and Lesnar made their names in UFC, but Cena’s crossover stardom in movies and on the Today Show has made him a commodity in the industry, and Vince McMahon realizes that. Cena’s likely a significant reason why WWE didn’t move entirely to Fox, keeping Raw with NBCUniversal.
With all of this in mind, it’s pretty awesome as a lifelong fan to see the growth and mainstream success of WWE. I’m excited to see what these deals mean for the future of WWE.
Robert O’Neill: Time for another edition of Monday Night Raw! This week we have a taped show (which I've never liked, but I obviously understand it since they're in London) and I have bronchitis so we should have ourselves an interesting show!
Chris Novak: Get better, Rob. Anyways, we’re set to “find out” what happened between Nia and Rousey later! ...Just go here, folks. Anyways, now that I’m done plugging my article, here comes Roman Reigns. The reaction seems subdued. Gee, I wonder why. Roman says that if Jinder wants to be “more relevant than he has in his entire career,” then he should come out to his yard right now. Counterpoint: Jinder was WWE Champion more recently than Roman was a champ. Anyhow, Kurt Angle comes out instead.
Robert O'Neill: We really don't need to relive the summer of Jinder and Randy though!
Chris Novak: So we’re doing this Roman vs. Management thing. And, it’s bad! And now Kurt says he got a phone call, and he was essentially reprimanded by “management” (aka Stephanie, it sure sounds). He says tonight, Jinder will be in a match against Elias and Bobby Lashley in a MITB qualifier. Roman wants in, but Kurt says management said no. I mean, yeah. He lost last week. Why would it make sense to give him an opportunity again? So Roman says he gets it, and now he’s going to do what he has to do. Reigns goes in the back, looks around, wants to know where Jinder’s at. And he finds him and a brawl ensues. Jinder getting cheers for this is hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. Reigns hits him with a Superman Punch on the stage and then walks away. So, there’s your opening segment.
Robert O’Neill: It’s still pretty wild that the way WWE is going to endear Roman to the crowd finally is to have him feud with Jinder. Like… That’s not gonna work.
Chris Novak: Time for Seth Rollins vs. Kevin Owens for the IC Title. Seth issued another open challenge over the weekend, and Owens responded via social media. So, off we go. Let’s see if Rollins’ heater can continue. So far, so good. Rollins hit a crazy Falcon Arrow onto the apron (#HardestPartOfTheRing) and then hit back-to-back suicide dives on Owens. So, he’s still on his A-game. Later, Owens hits a Fisherman-buster suplex, but then Rollins goes out of the ring. Owens gets him back in, but Seth hits the Stomp! 1-2-3, and Seth retains. Another terrific match for Seth, and another great IC Title Match. They are doing their damnedest to make that title important, and they’re sure succeeding.
Robert O’Neill: All the “fighting champion” stuff with regards to Rollins can’t be a coincidence, right? They’re planning to have him face Lesnar, right?
Chris Novak: You have to hope. Anyways, they showed the Nia-Ronda setup. Is it just me or could Charlotte have come off any lamer in that bit? Also that was very much the friendliest challenge ever.
Robert O’Neill: I’m a big Rousey fan AND have Money in the Bank tickets and even I’m not excited about this match.
Chris Novak: I mean, why should you be? On to the next MITB qualifier, between Bobby Roode, Baron Corbin and No Way Jose. That is certainly a trio.
Robert O’Neill: I talked about this on the Ruthless Aggression Podcast this week, but they’re handling these MITB qualifiers in the stupidest possible way. Like, after this match Raw will have one spot left. There’s a full month until the pay-per-view. What are they gonna do for that time?
Chris Novak: And that spot’s being decided later tonight! Anyways, Bob Roode won a pretty fun match here, I’ll say. Corbin was solid in a multi-man match again, and NWJ was good as well. We go backstage now. Kevin Owens wants a rematch. He seems desperate. Kurt won’t give in, so Owens pulls the “I’m going to call Stephanie” card. I guess this has to be used against him constantly after what happened at WrestleMania. Then Kurt goes in and Jinder is hurt. He wants the match postponed, but when Angle says it won’t be, Jinder says he’ll fight through whatever. Awfully sympathetic of them here.
Chris Novak: So the B-Team faces Breezango here next. After a not-so-lengthy match and some decent tag action, they win after a back suplex/neckbreaker combo. Honestly, good for them. They’ve both raised their games recently and they’re both not too bad either! And most of all, they’ve both been hilariously entertaining.
Robert O’Neill: I don’t mind them at all. The Raw tag division is a giant mess anyway, so what does it matter?
Chris Novak: Next up, six-woman tag match. The Riott Squad faces off with Ember, Natalya and Sasha Banks. There wasn’t much to this match, other than it being pretty solid. Nattie won after making Liv Morgan tap out to the Sharpshooter. They’re heating her up here, so I won’t be surprised when she wins her qualifier next week to get into MITB.
Chris Novak: Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt beat The Revival in a non-title tag team match. It was what it was. Not much else to say about the tag division except, “Hey, at least they’re getting reps.”
Robert O’Neill: TOP GUYS WATCH!!!! At least they were on Raw? I guess? Sure?
Chris Novak: More than they can say about AOP.
Robert O’Neill: So, Sami Zayn is gonna face Bobby Lashley at some point soon I guess? That’s… fine.
Chris Novak: Somehow I don’t think this ends well.
Robert O’Neill: Alexa Bliss and Mickie James and Bayley are here for their triple threat MITB qualifier, and after a pretty good match, Bliss wins. That makes sense, she’s looking to get the title back and they’ll either have Bayley and Sasha in some last chance thing to continue their underlying feud or they’ll do something else at the event.
Chris Novak: Because God forbid they have Alexa pin Mickie James, who draws the same reactions that you or I would on any given night, right? They just HAD to have Alexa pin Bayley AGAIN, right? Okay, but anyways, Alexa winning is fine. People are complaining about it, but it’s fine. Will be humorous to see how she takes a bump though. I have NO IDEA what they’re doing with Bayley or Sasha at this point. And to be honest, it’s looking likely that neither will be in the MITB match. The next qualifier is going to be Natalya vs. Liv vs. Sarah (who the hell thought that was a good idea to have the same type of match two weeks in a row, with two people as ‘allies’ -- Alexa/Mickie one week, Liv/Sarah another -- against a babyface) and I reckon they’re going to have Nattie win that. Then there’ll be some kind of last chance match, and with two babyfaces accounted for (Ember, Natalya) they’ll pick a heel (likely Ruby). So, I don’t know what either of those two will be doing. I do know that there’ll probably be some complaining about that though. Justified? Perhaps.
Robert O’Neill: Braun Strowman and Finn Balor lost to Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler in a tag match as they continue to make Ziggler actually seem entertaining and captivating. Balor ate the pin as Braun was distracted on the outside. It’s kind of interesting how they’ve had him in so many tag matches of late.
Chris Novak: Apparently them going through the trophy outside wasn’t planned. The more you know.
Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! Another triple threat as Elias, Lashley, and Owens are battling for Raw’s last MITB spot. After a good back and forth match, Elias stopped to deliver a concert, which was excellent. After that ended, Zayn came down and took out Lashley, allowing Owens to pin Elias for the win!
Chris Novak: Totally fine with this result, to be honest. Not much else to really add. Sami costing Lashley the match was fine. Bummed that Elias has nothing to do again though.
Robert O’Neill: Raw was fine. Like I said, it was taped and I was under the weather, so my interest was always going to be a bit skewed, but I enjoyed the show overall, despite the fact that I’m not pleased that all four men’s MITB spots are already claimed. Regardless. C+
Chris Novak: Yeah, this was a perfectly inoffensive show, but didn’t really do much for me. C+ for me as well.
Robert O’Neill: Well, Raw was… something. Time for Smackdown!
Chris Novak: London is the site again for SD as the European tour is winding down.
Robert O’Neill: Shinsuke and Styles are in the main event in a non-title match to decide the MITB stipulation. That’s fine.
Chris Novak: Totally fine with that.
Robert O’Neill: Daniel Bryan is opening the show. The fans like him. Big surprise!
Chris Novak: And here comes Big Cass. Cass says that he disagrees with Renee that Rusev was his first setback, and that he was instead. That he was the reason he lost to Rusev, and that he’s the reason he keeps losing and will ensure he won’t achieve his dreams and aspirations. Cass says some stuff about how Bryan should’ve stayed retired and how he should be a stay at home dad. Bryan responds by beating the crap out of Cass and putting him in a heel hook. So, Bryan comes off like a badass here. Cass kind of deserves these beatings he’s getting for being that much of a jackass, I suppose.
Robert O’Neill: The Bar and New Day are in the first match here, with a member of the winning team competing in the Money in the Bank match. It was a good match, unsurprisingly. New Day won, and i have to imagine it’ll be Big E going into the ladder match
Chris Novak: That would be my bet and would definitely be the best bet.
Robert O’Neill: We get a Bludgeon Brothers vignette, which, hey, nice to see them! Followed by Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville mouthing off to Paige and getting a MITB qualifying match out of it. A triple-threat match against Becky Lynch!
Chris Novak: I have my reservations. OK, time to shut up. Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega have arrived on SmackDown Live.
Robert O’Neill: He beat a local wrestler and she cut a scathing promo after. Heroes.
Chris Novak: I will be irrationally angry if these two don’t succeed on the main roster.
Robert O’Neill: Alright. The Royal Mellabration was INCREDIBLE.
Chris Novak: She got a proper introduction, moonwalked in heels and shot on the Royal Family. Is there anything Mella won’t touch on? She continues to excel in these spots. Paige then comes out to a very nice home country pop. She then announces that Carmella will face Asuka at MITB. Well, I guess that will certainly be a match to watch.
Robert O’Neill: The Royal Family is actually bad, so I don’t really blame her for taking that route. Anyways, Becky Lynch won that aforementioned triple threat match which was probably for the best, no disrespect to Sonya or Mandy.
Chris Novak: I can’t believe she actually won. It’s about time that she wins something. Maybe she’l win Money in the… I’m not getting ahead of myself.
Robert O’Neill: Time for the main event! AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura are facing off to determine their Money in the Bank stipulation, and this was probably their best match yet! So that’s promising, each match gets better and better. Nakamura gets the victory after faking a low blow, and then hitting a Kinshasa. He didn’t announce the stipulation.
Chris Novak: This was the best Nakamura-Styles match of this series so far. A legit banger. Really enjoyed this one a lot. Thought Nak was going to low blow Styles but they structured that end sequence very well. Wonder what Nak will pick for the stip. Leading candidate is Roshambo.
Robert O’Neill: Much like Raw, Smackdown was fine. At least they aren’t all out of MITB spots yet. Excited for them to get back stateside. B-
Chris Novak: SmackDown Live was considerably better than Raw again. That’s been the theme since Mania, and it’ll probably continue that way next week, too. B for SDLive, boosted by the legit great Nak-Styles match, and no real low points.
What if I told you that the “chair shot heard ‘round the world” would ruin a superstar before they even get the chance to succeed? What if I told you that a billion dollar company has all the tools to help a superstar succeed but refuses to do so because they can’t just stop and listen? Would you believe me?
Look, let’s get this out of the way right now: I like Roman Reigns. I don’t hate the guy. He’s a damn good worker and is a great person as evidenced by his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. But cut the nonsense; his character sucks.
Yes, everything about the man Joe Anoa’I portrays stinks, and it’s because of the infamous “Plan B” that Triple H had the night after Wrestlemania XXX.
Seth Rollins’ betrayal has led Roman on a path of never ending success because Roman wasn’t ready, but what has come with that path is overwhelming hatred from the WWE Universe. And it’s not his fault. If you want someone to point the finger at, blame Vince McMahon. Yes, the man CM Punk once told us “is a millionaire, but should be a billionaire” is behind the failed Roman Reigns experiment.
For the last four years following WM XXX, Reigns has main evented 22 PPVs out of a possible 49 (excluding Smackdown branded shows), won the 2015 Royal Rumble, won the WWE Championship three separate times, and became a grand slam champ in 2017. That should mean that folks like the guy right?
When Roman comes out, what is the first thing you hear……? Don’t worry, I’m sure you can hear them in your head right now without even HEARING the music. That’s how goddamn bad it is. Roman has retained everything from the glory days of the Shield. While his Shield brethren have gone on and made themselves known for something outside of that, Roman has stuck with everything that made the Shield famous.
Roman is a corporate shell. Vince wants us to now have us believe that management and the machine is against him. L O FUCKING L.
Vince has pushed Roman so far down our throats, the ONLY thing he is reluctant to do is turn Roman heel (which he needs bad). Roman is the ANTI-Cena. He’s been put through so many storylines it’s hard to keep up with them all.
I mean when The goddamn Rock can’t get you cheered, that says a lot.
Roman has been fumbled so many times in the years since the Shield dissolved, which is crazy to say considering he’s main-evented four straight Mania’s. (The shit show that the Taker match was his fault). Now they are even taking the “Daniel Bryan” underdog approach in an attempt to get him liked, which will inevitably fail because the clowns who make the decisions behind the curtain don’t have common sense.
Even when Roman gets his ass beat by Brock at Mania and loses to him again (in an unwarranted title rematch), WWE gives him a damn win against a superstar who is arguably more popular and liked than him, just to make sure Roman doesn’t fall down the totem pole.
WWE is in a prime position to get what they want from Roman. Let Roman grow his full beard out (yes, that will help rehabilitate his image), get him new music, get him new gear, and let him be a badass. It worked for Rikishi. It worked for The Usos. It worked for The Rock. It worked for Triple H. It worked for Stone Cold. I mean the list goes on and on.
I just wonder, is it too late for him?
Robert O’Neill: We’re off and rolling with the post-Mania Raw! Stephanie McMahon is out putting herself over and has invited Ronda Rousey to the ring. Business is about to pick up.
Chris Novak: Andddddd Steph’s arm was ripped off again! This crowd chanting “You Deserve It!” and the “Na Na Na Na (Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye)” sing-songing is just outrageous. Away we go!
Robert O’Neill: Nia is in a tag match with… someone! Facing Alexa and Mickie. I think I know what’s coming here.
Chris Novak: EMBERRRRRRR! Ember Moon is on RAW! Heck of an addition to the division. Good little showcase here. She dropped Alexa Bliss with the Eclipse and pinned the former RAW Women’s Champ. Nice debut for her. A very nice debut.
Robert O’Neill: We now cut to Kurt Angle who… is on the phone. That’s new and refreshing. Anyway, Braun and NICHOLAS are here and they’re giving up the tag titles, because NICHOLAS has a scheduling conflict. Because he’s a child. And still in school.
Chris Novak: That’s No Way Jose! A good squash to debut him with. So, Cesaro and Sheamus are facing the winner of the “Tag Team Eliminator” in Saudi Arabia. Two matches tonight, one next week. Hmmm…
Robert O’Neill: Ahem. TOP GUYS WATCH! They’re facing The Club, which will be a hoot. They’ve had a lot of fun matches this year.
Chris Novak: The Top Guys *won* the match, no less, with a Shatter Machine on Karl Anderson. Solid win for them. Alignment of this match though says their luck might run out next week. Alas. Anyways, here’s the new Intercontinental Champion, Seth Rollins!
Robert O’Neill: BURN IT DOOOOOWWWWWWWNNNNNN. Remember how dumb that was?
Chris Novak: And now everyone loves it!
Robert O’Neill: So after like 10 minutes of great back and forth banter between Seth and Miz, Miz challenged Balor and Rollins to a 3 on 2 match against the Miztourage and Jeff Hardy came out to defend Balor and Rollins! Miztourage retreated, but I’m here for this.
Chris Novak: It’s always great to see Jeff Hardy. I’m glad he’s back. The Raw midcard is pretty awesome.
Robert O’Neill: Alright we’re gonna just keep rolling right along. Mandy vs. Sasha. Mandy’s out with Absolution. Sasha is out alone. Here we go… oh. Bayley’s coming out. Alright then.
Chris Novak: And then Bayley knocks Sasha down!
Robert O’Neill: Have we considered that Bayley is the bad friend?
Chris Novak: I’m not getting into this.
Robert O’Neill: After the match, Paige got on the mic and announced her retirement. These promos are always gut-wrenching to watch. That one was right up there with Edge’s. I hope WWE finds something for Paige in another role.
Chris Novak: Just tragic for her. She started four years ago in NOLA and now has to retire in NOLA. What a sad story, man.
Robert O’Neill: Elias performed a nice song for the fans and got interrupted by BOBBY LASHLEY! That was certainly unexpected.
Chris Novak: Lashley looks like an absolute tank. My goodness. Hopefully this turns out to be pretty great.
Robert O’Neill: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were in Kurt Angle’s office posturing for a job. Kurt told them TNA was hiring. I’m not even making that up. It was amazing. Anyways, they’re facing each other later and the winner gets a Raw contract!
Chris Novak: That TNA rib was the hardest I’ve ever laughed about anything in wrestling in a long time. Maybe ever. It was just so out of nowhere and delivered so well that it was freaking incredible.
Robert O’Neill: Heath Slater and Rhyno are out for a tag match and MY GOD. THAT’S THE AUTHORS OF PAIN. AOP wins it fairly easily and symbolically dump Paul Ellering. This was the right move. Paul wasn’t going to go on the road with them, and he did more than anyone could have ever dreamed for them. They’re in good hands now.
Chris Novak: It’s great that the big boys are finally on the main roster.
Robert O’Neill: Roman’s out to cut a promo. It’s kind of the same promo he’s been cutting the past few weeks about how Brock Lesnar isn’t there, because he wasn’t there. A short time later, SAMOA JOE comes out, and this is apparently going to be your feud of the spring, and I’m here for it. Joe is excellent on the mic and I can’t wait to see him get back in the ring.
Chris Novak: Samoa Joe cut an absolutely money promo. As always.
Robert O’Neill: Titus Worldwide has a tag team eliminator match against… Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt! That’s new and exciting, I guess. Hardy and Wyatt win and will face The Revival next week.
Chris Novak: I’m willing to give Hardy and Bray a chance here. So far, so good, honestly.
Robert O’Neill: Time for Owens vs. Zayn. The winner gets a Raw contract! They had a good match, as the previous five hundred matches between them have been, and it ended in a double countout, so neither one gets a contract!
Chris Novak: Kind of a silly and expected way to do it. I imagine we’ll keep seeing these types of matches happen as time progresses. We’ll see, though.
Robert O’Neill: We cut backstage to see Seth and Finn and Jeff Hardy coming to the ring, and they come across Matt and Bray, which leads to a very entertaining segment. My god. Am I gonna get sucked back into Bray Wyatt?
Chris Novak: That was an extremely entertaining segment! I might be getting sucked back in too...
Robert O’Neill: The faces pick up the victory in the main event, and it seems safe to say that Miz is either going to Smackdown or taking some time off to spend time with his new daughter given the amount of finishers he and the Miztourage ate following the match.
Chris Novak: My guess is paternity leave. But we’ll see! Fun Raw.
Ember Moon and Nia Jax d. Alexa Bliss and Mickie James
No Way Jose d. John Skyler
The Revival d. Balor Club
Mandy Rose d. Sasha Banks
Authors of Pain d. Heath Slater and Rhyno
Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt d. Titus Worldwide
Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and Jeff Hardy d. Miztourage
Robert O’Neill: The Raw after Wrestlemania seldom disappoints, and this was no different. I really enjoyed everything they did, and the call-ups and returns mixed with next week’s shakeup are going to make for even more new and exciting matchups. Rollins will continue making the mid-card title feel important, and I have to imagine Reigns wins the title and brings it back to the fold at some point in the near future, right? A-
Chris Novak: God, what you said. That was a fun episode of Raw. Wegot call-ups, returns, surprises, etc. Some really good wrestling, too. Owens-Zayn was, as always, quite good. The six-man was entertaining. Looking forward to seeing what the Raw brand has dished out going forward. A-
Chris Novak: Time for the fallout of WrestleMania, SmackDown! Live edition! Daniel Bryan’s now a full-time superstar, per the Commissioner, Shane McMahon. He reveals the new GM and it’s… PAIGE!!! Outstanding. Very glad that she’s gonna be sticking around here. Her talking skills can’t really be denied, and she definitely has a very strong presence on the mic. This is a home run choice.
Robert O’Neill: Yeah this is awesome. Everyone was expecting Hogan or Jarrett, so this was kind of out of nowhere. It’s awesome to see her still being utilized.
Chris Novak: Paige says she wants to give the fans a night they won’t ever forget. So she announces that Daniel Bryan will compete for the first time on TV in three years… AGAINST AJ STYLES! Oh my God, I need a cigarette already.
Robert O’Neill: New Day/Usos #234728937 is a go! I’m not complaining, either. These two should fight forever. They’re two of the 10 best tag teams in WWE history.
Chris Novak: Two things could happen here… a call-up interferes, or The New Day win and essentially write The Usos off of SDL. Time will tell to see how this plays out. Anyhow, The Usos wound up winning. Them and New Day delivered yet again, as if that’s a surprise. Bludgeon Brothers came out and pointed their mallets at The Usos. INTIMIDATION~!!!!~!~!
Chris Novak: Nattie and Naomi had a verbal spat backstage earlier today, so now they’re going to be in a match. Hoping this is more than passable.
Robert O’Neill: It won’t be. Natalya sucks.
Chris Novak: Hahahahahaha, that Nakamura interview was just TREMENDOUS!
Robert O’Neill: Anyways, here’s Charlotte! She’s talkin’ about her match and what not and OH MY GOD IT’S THE ICONIC DUO
Chris Novak: Peyton and Billie cut a promo, running Charlotte down. They knocked that out of the park and then some. Then they proceed to beat the absolute hell out of Charlotte and leave her laying in the ring… AND THAT’S CARMELLA’S MUSIC!! She cashed in and kicked Charlotte in the head, and got the pin fall! Carmella’s the new SmackDown Live Women’s Champion!
Robert O’Neill: For as much shit as they got for seemingly not having a plan for Carmella’s eventual cash-in, that was excellent.
Chris Novak: Extremely happy for Carmella, who seems like a genuinely good person.
Robert O’Neill: Wow, Smackdown is taking place on Rusev Day. What are the odds?
Chris Novak: So, Rusev, Bobby Roode and Randy Orton are facing off to see who faces Jinder Mahal at Backlash for the United States Championship. This match is, pretty much, going as expected. And Randy Orton wins. They’ve managed to bungle this not once, but twice in three days!
Robert O’Neill: I generally don’t criticize booking, but yeah they’re being really stupid with Rusev.
Chris Novak: AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan are, really, for real, wrestling on TV. In 2018. First-run. This is incredible stuff.
Robert O’Neill: Good lord that was awesome to watch. And Nakamura interfering to make it a no-contest was awesome. I’m gonna like heel Nak,
Chris Novak: Heel Nakamura already looks awesome. This is exciting stuff!
Usos d. New Day
Naomi d. Natalya
Carmella d. Charlotte to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Randy Orton d. Bob Roode and Rusev
Daniel Bryan d. AJ Styles (DQ)
Robert O’Neill: I’ll be honest, I thought I wasn’t going to like Smackdown this week. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. I had just watched like 25 hours of wrestling content in the past week and was worried about burnout. It didn’t come though. Smackdown delivered and then some. Sure, Natalya having a match was stupid, and I’m not at all looking forward to Jinder/Orton #238579, but there was more good than bad here. Heel Nak, Iconic Duo, Paige as GM, Bryan/Styles, it all worked for me. I’m interested in seeing what happens next week in the shakeup. A-
Chris Novak: SmackDown Live hit it out of the park, besides the whole Jinder/Orton screwup. Everything about this show hit the right notes. The Iconic Duo look like absolute STARS on their first night and Carmella’s moment was fun. Bryan/Styles was better than Nakamura/Styles from the weekend, and even after three years, Bryan looks like the best wrestler in the world again. What a time to be alive. A-
This week The crew discuss RAW 457 and Smackdown 131, the completely irrelevant Undisputed title reign of Chris Jericho and the Undertaker's love for watching his own asswhoopings.