Posts tagged World Wrestling Entertainment
First Black Champ podcast - Black inclusion is underrated

Hulk Hogan has been reinstated and some of the black wrestlers feel a way about it. JR Bang & Cam Quotes talk about the statements, the layers and how all of that qualifies with the need for more black inclusion in the world of professional wrestling. Then J.R Bang names his Top 4 most overrated wrestlers of all time, and Cam gives his most overrated tag team ever. If you're a fan of black excellence and black progression, you're going to love this episode of the #FirstBlackChamp podcast.

Follow Cam: @ImCamQuotes
Follow JR Bang: @JRBang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: That sentence is very 2018 pro wrestling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: Ellsworth issssss gonna die.

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

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

Chris Novak: TEAM HELL NO!!!

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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Ricochet v. Velveteen Dream

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Velveteen Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Undisputed Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Aleister Black

Chicago Street Fight - Johnny Gargano v. Tommaso Ciampa

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Markus Howell: Ahem. Click here
Prediction: Samoa Joe

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

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

Daniel Bryan v. Big Cass

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Big Cass

Roman Reigns v. Jinder Mahal

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Jinder Mahal

Bobby Lashley v. Sami Zayn

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

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

Markus Howell: #FreeElGenerico
Prediction: Sami Zayn

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

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

Prediction: Bobby Lashley

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Ronda Rousey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Carmella

Intercontinental Championship - Seth Rollins (c) v. Elias

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Elias

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Ranking the best Money in the Bank cash-ins
Courtesy: WWE.com

Courtesy: WWE.com

We are just days away from one of my personal favorite WWE events of the year, and it couldn't come at a better time. WWE has been dragging their feet through the mud creatively since WrestleMania, but things look to pick up at Money in the Bank this Sunday in Chicago.

Introduced back in 2005, winners of the Money in the Bank briefcase have experienced many ups (and a few downs) when it comes time to cashing in their title shot. Here's a ranking of all of the MITB cash-in's so far, from worst to best. I'll also be ranking the significance of each cash-in as well as the quality of the match.

19. Baron Corbin (Smackdown Live, 2017)

Courtesy: WWE Network

Courtesy: WWE Network

Significance of Moment: Meh.
Match Quality: Meh.

Not only was this the worst match, Baron Corbin just might be the worst Mr. Money in the Bank of all time. His one-month run with the briefcase was lackluster, and it's almost like there was no intention of having him win the belt to begin with.

Having interfered in a match John Cena and then-WWE Champion Jinder Mahal on the go-home episode of Smackdown before SummerSlam, Corbin felt that there was no better opportunity to cash in while the champ was still in a daze. However, Cena gained his revenge and interfered shortly after the match began, causing Mahal to roll Corbin up and retain his championship after only 5 seconds.

18. Damien Sandow (Monday Night Raw, 2013)

Significance of Moment: 1/10
Match Quality: 5/10

It never felt as if WWE had a plan with Damien Sandow from the get go, as was evident by his time spent holding the briefcase.

After attacking World Heavyweight Champion John Cena, Sandow announced that he would be cashing in his briefcase. While the match itself was pretty good, Sandow eventually was defeated by Cena and became the first superstar to lose his Money in the Bank cash in match.

17. Jack Swagger (Smackdown, 2010)

Significance of Moment: 3/10
Match Quality: 1/10

Jack Swagger never was able to catch on in WWE despite multiple attempts to get over, and this cash-in was perhaps the peak moment of his career.

After having defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Edge at WrestleMania with some illegal assistance, Chris Jericho came out to gloat on his victory. Having felt cheated, Edge would come out to attack his former partner once again. Out of nowhere, Jack Swagger laid Edge out and announced that he would be “cathing in my Money in the Bank contract”. One Gutwrench Powerbomb later, Swagger would then become the new World Heavyweight Champ.

16. Alberto Del Rio (SummerSlam 2011)

Significance of Moment: 0/10
Match Quality: 1/10

After not having the chance to cash in on CM Punk at Money in the Bank a month prior, WWE decided to permanently put an end to one of the best angles they’ve had in years by having Alberto Del Rio win the WWE title from Punk following an attack from Kevin Nash. The moment itself seemed flat, and the audience never really accepted him as champion in the months following.

15. Kane (Money in the Bank 2010)

Significance of Moment: 5/10
Match Quality: 1/10

Let's recap the beginning of Kane's summer 2010, shall we?: After defeating Rey Mysterio to qualify for a World title shot, The Undertaker was found in a vegetative state, with his brother Kane hell bent on finding out who was to blame. Two of the top suspects on his list just so happened to be Rey Mysterio and Jack Swagger. 

Fast forward a few weeks later at the inaugural Money in the Bank PPV, Mysterio retained his World Heavyweight Championship in a battle with Swagger. Swagger attacked Mysterio after the match in frustration only to be ran off by Kane, who was still on the lookout for who attacked his brother. Mysterio would continue his celebration for a few more seconds, only to be interrupted again by Kane, who pretty much went backstage for one final (and legitimate) deserved reign as world champion. Kane holds the distinction of being the first superstar to win the Money in the Bank ladder match at a non-WrestleMania event, and is also the first to cash in within an hour of winning the briefcase (and on the first Money in the Bank PPV no less).

14. CM Punk (Monday Night Raw, 2008)

Significance of Moment: 5/10
Match Quality: 0/10

Although Punk was merely a transitional champion called upon to bring the World Heavyweight title back to Raw, this was still a cool moment. Edge retained the World Heavyweight title against Batista the night before at Night of Champions (with some outside assistance), meaning the belt would remain Smackdown property. Edge showed up the next night on Raw to gloat about Raw not having a world champion to call their own, only to be attacked by a vengeful Batista. Having twice cashed in on fallen foes, Edge got a taste of his own medicine as CM Punk cashed in for his first world title in WWE. Punk’s underwhelming title reign would last about three months.

13. Sheamus (Survivor Series 2015)

Significance of Moment: 3/10
Match Quality: 0/10

After chasing the WWE Championship for the majority of a controversial year, Roman Reigns finally reached the top of the mountaintop after winning the vacant title at Survivor Series. Reigns’ celebration was short-lived however, as Sheamus would hit him with a Brogue Kick out of nowhere. He would then put Reigns away for good with another Brogue Kick, as the crowd erupted due to clear disdain for ‘The Big Dog’. The cash-in, and the timing, was perfect, even if Sheamus' reign as champion wasn't.

12. John Cena (Raw 1000, 2012)

Significance of Moment: 4/10
Match Quality: 6/10

After having won the briefcase at Money in the Bank a week prior, John Cena announced that he would be cashing in on CM Punk at the 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw. What was a decent back and forth battle was ended prematurely following interference from Big Show, who caused Cena to win by disqualification, and ultimately become the first superstar to unsuccessfully cash in their briefcase.

11. Carmella (Smackdown Live, 2018)

Courtesy: WWE.com

Courtesy: WWE.com

Significance of Moment: 6/10
Match Quality: 0/10

"Are you sure?!" - Mike Chioda.

Although Carmella's reign as Ms. Money in the Bank was considerably lackluster, you'd have to figure that they wouldn't have their first Women's Money in the Bank winner lose her cash-in match (especially after the first Women's Royal Rumble winner lost her mandated championship match).

After celebrating her win over the previously undefeated Asuka two nights earlier at WrestleMania, Charlotte Flair would be attacked by the debuting Iconic Duo. After multiple pumpfakes over the previous nine months, Carmella finally waited for the right time to cash in and become Smackdown Women's Champion.

10. Edge (Smackdown 2007)

Significance of Moment: 5/10
Match Quality: 1/10

In what is probably a testament to how great of a worker Adam Copeland was, he was called upon during one of the most injury-ridden weeks in WWE. Edge attacked Mr. Kennedy (...KENNEDY!) prior to their match on RAW for the briefcase and ended up becoming the first multi-time Mr. Money in the Bank.

Later that week, The Undertaker retained his World Heavyweight Championship after drawing Batista in a steel cage. Beaten, bloodied and battered, Undertaker would be laid out and attacked by a returning Mark Henry. Always one to live up to the Ultimate Opportunist label, Edge showed up on Smackdown, made his way down to the ring and successfully cashed in for a second time.

9. CM Punk (Extreme Rules 2009)

Significance of Moment: 6/10
Match Quality: 1/10

As mentioned earlier, Punk's first go with the World title a year prior is seemingly a footnote in history. This time around, he was more of a central figure in the title scene and less than a transitional champion.

Following a grueling ladder match with Edge to claim his second overall world championship in WWE, Jeff Hardy's celebration was cut short immediately as CM Punk would go to cash in again on another debilitated opponent, leading into a more well-deserved championship reign(s) for Punk.

8. The Miz (Monday Night Raw, 2010)

Significance of Moment: 7/10
Match Quality: 4/10

One of my favorite Money in the Bank moments saw The Miz cash in on Randy Orton.

This might be the best match quality wise to occur when blindsiding a fallen champion. Following a successful defense against Wade Barrett in the main event on Raw, Orton's moment was cut short as The Miz took the opportunity to take advantage of an exhausted RKO and won his first WWE Championship (shout out to #AngryMizGirl).

Courtesy: WWE Network

Courtesy: WWE Network

 

7. Daniel Bryan (TLC: Tables, Ladders, Chairs 2011)

Significance of Moment: 6/10
Match Quality: 0/10

After grinding around the industry for 12 long years, Daniel Bryan finally reached the mountain top in WWE.

At TLC in 2011, Big Show retained his World Heavyweight title against Mark Henry in a Chairs match that was by far one of the worst matches of that year. In typical sore loser Mark Henry fashion, he retaliated against Big Show and DDT'd him onto a pile of steel chairs. In what was a slight shocker, Bryan would simply pin his fallen "friend", and walk away with his championship. Daniel Bryan would be the first NXT star to win a World title in WWE.

6. Randy Orton (SummerSlam 2013)

Courtesy: WWE Network

Courtesy: WWE Network

Significance of Moment: 8/10
Match Quality: 0/10

If you're a Daniel Bryan fan like me, the following eight-month period may have been one of the most frustrating time periods. Making his WrestleMania main card debut the previous year, Bryan's first World title reign ended in 18 FUCKING SECONDS in the opening match. Fans clamored for him to receive another go with a top title for over a year, and seemed to finally get one when John Cena handpicked Bryan as his Summerslam opponent (much to the chagrin of Vince McMahon), with Triple H serving as the guest referee. 

Bryan would go on to defeat John Cena and win his first WWE Championship, making up for how the World Heavyweight title reign ended a year earlier...or so we thought. Following the victory, Mr. Money in the Bank, Randy Orton would tease a cash-in, only to turn around and start walking back to the locker room. However, Bryan was hit by a Pedigree from Triple H, who would count Randy Orton for the victory.

5. Dean Ambrose (Money in the Bank 2016)

Courtesy: WWE.com

Courtesy: WWE.com

Significance of Moment: 8/10
Match Quality: 0/10

This moment was special in its own right, as it saw all three members of The Shield hold the WWE Championship within 5 minutes of each other. Shortly after defeating former champion Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins was attacked from behind by Ambrose, who cashed in his briefcase and celebrated in front of the Sin City crowd. Another former Mr. Money in the Bank getting hit with some well deserved karma.

4. Dolph Ziggler (Monday Night Raw, 2013)

Significance of Moment: 8/10
Match Quality: 3/10

Shout out to Jersey for a moment, as this night was basically the OG "Night After WrestleMania" episode of Raw. After successfully defending the World Heavyweight Championship the night before at 'Mania, Alberto Del Rio faced off against Jack Swagger and his manager Zeb Colter. Swagger worked on Del Rio's injured knee throughout the match, but failed to achieve victory for the second night in a row. While having his knee tended to by officials and medical staff inside the ring, Dolph Ziggler made his way to the ring and successfully cashed with one of the loudest ovations in the last five years to follow.

3. Rob Van Dam (ECW One Night Stand 2006)

Significance of Moment: 10/10

Match Quality: 9/10

As of 2018, RVD is still the only Money in the Bank briefcase holder to challenge for a championship ahead of time AND walk out with the championship. With the impending ECW brand being launched after One Night Stand, Van Dam challenged John Cena for the WWE Championship and announced his intentions to rechristen the title as the ECW Championship. In what was easily the best cash-in match ever, the decidedly pro-ECW crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom gave RVD the homefield advantage, as he would defeat Cena following some interference from Edge to win his first and only WWE Championship.

2. Edge (New Year’s Resolution 2006)

Significance of Moment: 10/10
Match Quality: 1/10

Edge still is the longest-running Mr. Money in the Bank (Carmella surpassed him overall by a whole week in 2018), and he waited until the best possible moment to make the first cash-in.

After defending the WWE Championship in a brutal war inside the Elimination Chamber, John Cena’s celebration was cut short by the boss man Vince McMahon, who came out to let everybody that Edge would be cashing in his briefcase. After losing an Intercontinental title match to Ric Flair earlier in the night, Edge made sure to live up to his Ultimate Opportunist moniker and head for greener pastures: the WWE Championship.

1. Seth Rollins (WrestleMania 31)

Courtesy: WWE.com

Courtesy: WWE.com

Significance of Moment: 10/10
Match Quality: 7/10*
*Factoring in the match that was already taking place at the time of the cash-in.

I struggled with the top two here, as you could make a case for both being #1. However, there were a few things considered that put this over the top.

First, it was the first (and so far only) cash-in to take place at WrestleMania. Having failed to defeat Randy Orton earlier in the night, Seth Rollins' music crashed Suplex City and became the first Mr. Money in the Bank to cash-in DURING a championship match. After Curb Stomps to first Brock Lesnar and then Roman Reigns, Rollins left Mania as the champion. There are only so many original moments you can create with the briefcase at this point, and this was the first one in nine years.

First Black Champ podcast - I need my heel turns with injury

JR and Cam have an impromptu conversation about Samoa Joe and how the New Day have an opportunity to have a "Nuclear Heel Turn" at the Money In The Bank PPV.

Then we have another great nostalgia moment when we talk some of our favorite wrestling angles on this week's #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

Follow JR: @jrbang
Follow Cam: @ImCamQuotes

WWE Strikes Gold With New TV Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

wwe_network_logo.jpg

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

Nathan Congleton/NBC

Nathan Congleton/NBC

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

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

What to make of Nia Jax vs. Ronda Rousey at Money in the Bank

Money in the Bank is five weeks away, and entering Monday, we were certain of a few things. We knew that half of the Men’s MITB field was set, so is a quarter of the Women’s MITB field. Now, as Monday afternoon proceeds, we know something else that’s happening at the upcoming event in the suburbs of Chicago.

At the NBC Upfronts on Monday in New York City, we learned who RAW Women’s Champion Nia Jax would face at MITB. That woman, to the surprise of just about everyone, is none other than Ronda Rousey. Rousey, who has competed in just one match so far in her WWE career, in which she and Kurt Angle defeated Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, was challenged by Jax while the Upfronts event was going on, according to WWE.com.

From WWE.com’s article:

The Irresistible Force revealed she wants to put her title on the line against Rousey at WWE Money in the Bank, much to the surprise of The Baddest Woman on the Planet. Never one to back down from either a challenge or an opportunity, a bewildered Rousey agreed to the match.”

If this sounds like it’s out of nowhere, well, that’s because it is. Let’s digest a few quick reactions, which may or may not turn into overreactions, about this match.

  • First and foremost… putting Ronda Rousey in a Women’s championship match a hearty four months into her WWE career is quite the bold take. Even bolder is that this is the second match of her entire career.
  • Ronda proved a lot of doubters wrong in her WrestleMania match, as it pertains to her in-ring skills and how far along she is. That being said, I do wonder about this match with Nia Jax. While she’s obviously a terrific athlete, she’s still green at this point. That can’t be doubted. There are ways that they can protect her and not expose her, but none of those ideas don’t involve completely nerfing Nia.
  • On the flip side, while Nia is good in some aspects, she’s not an experienced worker or a ring general. Her best matches have involved someone else to carry her (Asuka, Bayley, Sasha Banks). Expecting Ronda to do that at this point in her career would be foolhardy. Nia’s feud with Alexa, from an in-ring standpoint, exposed her a little bit, as the two never quite clicked.
  • From an in-ring standpoint, this match could suffer greatly if they decide to drag it out. If they make it short, and have Ronda win within a few minutes, that would nerf Nia into oblivion and make it look like they completely gave up on her. Based on past proceedings, that would unfortunately not be too surprising.
  • That’s another thing here: They’ve invested a great deal in Nia, but they’ve also invested a great deal in Ronda. Could you really have Ronda lose her second match? Do you want to really sink Nia further down? There’s no real good that comes out of this match for either party that would have it look good.
  • Now, there’s the possibility of Natalya, Ronda’s first “ally” in her WWE career, turning on her and costing her the match. This would set up Ronda vs. Natalya as a feud, likely happening at SummerSlam. This would protect both parties in the match and put the heat back on Nattie. But if you were going to do this match anyway… why have this title match be the thing to set it up?
  • Would there be a fan revolt if Ronda shows up and wins the Women’s Title in her second match? Charlotte’s nonsense, “go over everyone and get everything” booking that’s been going on for three years hasn’t affected her, so I’m not sure it really affects Ronda, to be honest. Unless they go completely overboard with it. I’m not leaving it out of the realm of possibility.

The pros of this match are simply that Nia gets a high-profile opponent, Ronda gets on a PPV card again, and WWE probably makes a great deal of money and exposure from it (though MITB tickets were, already, by and large sold out at Allstate Arena and she wasn’t announced for a match before Monday).

There are quite a few negatives that come from this match as well. So, the quick reaction is simply this: This feels like a match that shouldn’t be happening at this stage of the game and could hurt both parties in the short and long run.

Ruthless Aggression ep. 17 - the Evolution of Evolution

WWE gets the F out this week on Ruthless Aggression as Pierce (@HennyOmega) Rob (@RobertONeill31) and Chris (@ChrisMNovak) recap RAW 467 & Smackdown 142, including the debut of Dave Bautista & the roots of one of the most iconic factions in wrestling history: Evolution. We also get a Ric Flair heel turn on RAW. Plus our thoughts on the current day product & the build to Money in the Bank.

#FreeRomanReigns #ScrewVince

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

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

Everything.

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

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

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just wonder, is it too late for him?

WWE Backlash recap

Robert O’Neill: For the third time in four weeks, we have a WWE PPV to write about! Welcome to Backlash!

Chris Novak: After 45 minutes of preshow talk, it’s time to get to action. Bayley gets a big pop on her way to the ring. Thank you, New Jersey, for proving to me that you’re still a great state. Ruby Riott comes on out next with the rest of the Riott Squad. So, we’re doing the 3-on-1 deal. Bayley tried to get Sasha to come out with her earlier, extend an olive branch and be the better person. But Banks was having nothing of it. Typical.

So, Bayley and Ruby have what was a… decent match. Bayley looked a little off her game, and I hope she’s alright. She was grabbing her head and neck area a bit and while it could be selling, it definitely looked like it took her out of it. Ruby wins with the Riott Kick. She’s now beaten both Bayley and Sasha Banks in the last six days. Guessing that after Nia takes care of Alexa tonight, she and the Riott Squad will pursue Nia’s title while Bayley and Banks and others pursue MITB.

Robert O’Neill: That was a fine match. Bayley looked out of it. Ruby has wins over Sasha and Bayley this week, so they’re certainly using her correctly.

Chris Novak: And away… we… go!

WWE

WWE

Robert O’Neill: The Miz and Seth Rollins are opening the show. This should be awesome.

Chris Novak: Both Miz AND Seth get great reactions right out of the gate. This New Jersey crowd is going to be hot tonight. Oh dear Lord, that match was amazing. Seth’s knee selling after hitting a high knee on the ringpost was excellent. His knee gave out, which led to a Skull-Crushing Finale near fall. Then he went for his Superplex→Falcon Arrow combo, but Miz countered THAT and hit a Skull-Crushing Finale AGAIN. But AGAIN, Seth kicked out. Seth went for the Stomp off the second rope, which led to another exchange, but Seth hit the Stomp on Miz after a reversal of a roll-up to retain. What a way to start the show.

Robert O’Neill: Holy crap that was awesome. I’ll keep saying it, Rollins needs to be the guy to beat Brock Lesnar.

Chris Novak: Seth is on a heater right now. He’s the best in the company at the moment and I don’t think there’s any arguing that right now.

Robert O’Neill: Alexa and Nia are next up. This match should be shorter than their Mania match, I would imagine.

Well. It hasn’t been.

Chris Novak: I have no clue what this matchwasis to be honest. I was sour on their WM match being long, but it was better than this. They just don’t seem to blend well this time around. Nia will move on to probably work with Ruby and the Riott Squad while Alexa likely barrels towards MITB. Probably best for both parties here. But this didn’t work for me.

Woof. And then Nia got booed afterwards for cutting what was a corny, PR-type promo. That was a bad sequence for both ladies, which stinks. But it’s not surprising that they booed it either. They’ll always boo that stuff, right or wrong.

Robert O’Neill: I think they need to move Alexa away from the title. Nia/Ruby would be fine.

Chris Novak: Alright, so here we are for the US Title Match. Jeff won with a Swanton Bomb. This was about what you’d expect from these two at this point. Nothing offensive about it, but a match that was good, not great. Curious to see what’s next for thee two. They’ll be prime contenders for the MITB match. I figure since they’ve been involving him, Shelton Benjamin may be next in line for a title shot with Jeff, which would be fun. OR Andrade Almas, which would be even more fun.

Robert O’Neill: Randy Orton is bad, so this match was good to me.

Chris Novak: Here comes Elias, the greatest performer of our lifetime. He says he’s talked to NJ icon Bruce Springsteen, and wants to perform a song for him. He goes to, but then says he wants to leave then. He has a few indecisive moments before going down to play again. “Bruce needs to hear this!”

And here comes… The New Day! They say they want to have a dual-brand concert and walk with Elias. Elias says he’s a solo act, however. New Day starts playing with their instruments (cymbals, Francesca, and a big ol’ drum). Elias says there’s something there and maybe they can open for Elias. Then he goes to perform and… MY GOD, THAT’S THE SOUND OF AIDEN ENGLISH’S HARMONIC VOICE! Rusev says there’s only one person who can celebrate a day in their honor. Not “Bootleg Bob Dylan” or “The Booty Boys.” It’s him! Elias again goes to perform… and HERE COMES NO WAY JOSE!! New Jersey let out a big pop for Jose, and him and his conga line went on down to the ring. Elias wants NO MORE interruptions… and goes to perform again…

And here comes Bobby Roode! Roode hits the Glorious DDT and drops Elias to another big pop. Hilarious and fun segment here.

Robert O’Neill: I’m pretty sure Elias and The New Day are the two most entertaining acts in all of WWE, so when you put them together and add Rusev Day and BOB ROODE, you’re in for some fun. This show has been mostly entertaining so far. I can’t complain.

Chris Novak: Time now for Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass. So, Bryan bumped like crazy for Cass and made him tap out rather emphatically. Surprising way of going about things, but the ends justify the means. Cass gets in a very good beatdown of Bryan after the match and got “YOU TAPPED OUT!” and “ASSHOLE!” chants. When that happens, you can’t really call any of this a failure. So, this worked and was effective.

Robert O’Neill: I don’t like the finish, because Cass needed a win more than Bryan, but I think the post match stuff makes up for it.

Chris Novak: On to Charlotte-Carmella, which I was not high on going into. And as it turns out, unfortunately, my preconceived notions were on the money. Carmella still has a lot to work on, but Charlotte did not help that match at all, either. Charlotte went for a Moonsault at the end of it, and landed on her feet after Carmella moved out of the way. She ‘tweaked’ her knee, Carmella kicked her in the leg and pinned her. That was definitely a wrestling match.

WWE

WWE

Styles-Nakamura III time. If AJ isn’t wearing a cup, he deserves what he gets. Welp, these two fought for a while. And then they punched each other in the nuts. And then they kicked each other in the nuts. And the match went to a double countout. Welp.

Robert O’Neill: It was a really good match up until then! I guess I get it, but I would have rather seen Nakamura win given the stipulation.

Chris Novak: Alright, it’s on to a tag match that we’ve seen… multiple times these past few weeks.

WWE

WWE

Robert O’Neill: Owens/Zayn vs. Braun/Lashley was weird because the faces won and they also kind of did the exact finish they did when this match was on Raw two weeks ago, but I guess there’s tension between Owens and Zayn now?

Chris Novak: I don’t know what to make of any of this. Even Braun couldn’t rescue this crowd at this point.

Robert O’Neill: Well, Roman Reigns beat Samoa Joe after eating a ton of Joe’s moves but ultimately got the upper hand with a spear. Sound familiar? Yup. They keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result which is an interesting strategy.

Chris Novak: Yuck, that was bad.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Backlash was always going to be a bit of a throwaway PPV, and that’s pretty much what it was. With the exception of Miz/Rollins, which was a match of the year candidate, and the Elias segment, this felt like an episode of Raw at best. Nothing that happened really matter, and despite the best Styles/Nakamura match we’ve seen so far, the ending soured me. Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe was one of the worst matches of the year, all things considered. I’m glad this Mania-Shakeup-GRR-Backlash stretch is over and there isn’t another show for six weeks. It gives them a much-needed chance to hit the reset button. C-

Chris Novak: This wasn’t the worst show ever. That being said, it was still a bad show. Even with the epic Rollins-Miz match in mind. The women’s matches were nothing special at all, with Carmella-Charlotte being positively awful. The WWE Title Match was fine, with an ending that assures this feud will continue… even though we’re nearing ad nauseum with it at this point. And they haven’t had the hit match that everyone expected them to have. The main event sucked, and they’re still doing this Roman thing in the worst possible way. This stretch from Mania to now has been dreadful, and hopefully they dig themselves out of the hole they created for themselves. C- for me as well.

WWE Backlash Predictions

Ruby Riott vs. Bayley

Rob: It’s cool that they’re continuing this feud between the Riott Squad and Bayley and Sasha. I still have fairly high hopes for the Riott Squad, but I really think WWE needs to pull the trigger on a full-blown Bayley/Sasha feud. Prediction: Ruby Riott

Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz

TC: There’s been a lot of clusterfuck booking over the past month, hopefully this signals the end of it. As much of a fan of Mr. Mizanin that I am, it’s kind of a given that he’ll lose his single’s rematch. Prediction: Seth Rollins

Robert: This is where we run into problems with this show. This match is for the Intercontinental Title, a Raw championship. Miz is on Smackdown. The United States title is the midcard title on Smackdown. The United States title match features two Smackdown wrestlers. Prediction: Seth Rollins

United States Championship: Jeff Hardy(c) vs. Randy Orton

TC: These two had a really good program about 10.5 years ago on Raw. While I don’t expect this one to equal up to that, I’m sure they can get a decent match going to hype the crowd up (I’m sure it will be the opener). Going out on a limb here and I’ll say that Jeff Hardy retains by DQ after an Orton heel turn. Prediction: Jeff Hardy by DQ

Robert: It would be really dumb for Randy Orton to win given the fact that Hardy just won the title a couple weeks ago. Prediction: Jeff Hardy

RAW Women's Championship: Nia Jax (c) vs. Alexa Bliss

TC: Not much I look forward to on Monday nights other than Alexa Bliss segments, she’s been really amazing since losing her championship at WrestleMania. Surprisingly, they had a really good match at WrestleMania, and here’s to another “clinic” this weekend. Prediction: Nia Jax

Robert: It would be really dumb for Alexa to win given how they’ve booked Nia the past couple months. Prediction: Nia Jax

Smackdown Women's Championship: Carmella (c) vs. Charlotte Flair

TC: Charlotte held the Raw Women’s title four separate times in the first 8 months of that championship’s existence, with each gap being less than four weeks long. It’ll be just under four weeks since losing to Carmella after WrestleMania, so they have to do something different here. Since it’s not Sasha Banks, it’s almost a given that Charlotte will lose here, with some assistance from The IIconics. Prediction: Carmella

Robert: It would be really dumb for Charlotte to win given how they’ve booked everything since Carmella’s cash-in. Prediction: Carmella

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass

TC: There’s literally no reason to burn a Daniel Bryan vs. Miz matchup this early on, so I don’t understand the bickering fans on the internet (I never do). They’ll be complaining again after Sunday when Big Cass goes over Daniel Bryan, which is necessary for his character to build some momentum going into the summer. Prediction: Big Cass

Robert: See, this is actually kind of intriguing! I think the smart thing to do would be to give Cass the win cause Bryan is a top guy who has been made to look awesome since Wrestlemania, and Cass never really got the full push they were looking for before his injury last year. Prediction: Big Cass

Braun Strowman & Bobby Lashley vs Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

TC: Bobby Lashley couldn’t be any less interesting right now upon his return to WWE. A partnership (hopefully turned rivalry) with Braun Strowman is a good way to build him up going forward. Apparently, Lashley was gold as a heel in iMPACT, and they’d be smart to let him do his thing against the most popular guy on the Raw roster at the moment. For the time being though, they’ll get a win here to lead up to that. Prediction: Braun and Lashley

Robert: I’m really trying hard to be optimistic about this PPV but… we literally saw this match two weeks ago on Raw! Why are they running it again?!? I would really like to see miscommunication between Strowman and Lashley lead to a KO/Zayn win and a mini-feud between the big guys. Let’s go with that. Prediction: Owens/Zayn

Roman Reigns vs. Samoa Joe

TC: Joe’s been on one with pulling Roman’s card for the last few weeks (all facts btw). Roman on the other hand has been on a bit of a losing streak since WrestleMania. Roman gets the win here which leads to a frustrated Joe getting himself involved in the main event. Prediction: Roman Reigns

Robert: WWE wants Reigns to be the guy but never wants him to actually win, so I’ll take Samoa Joe. Prediction: Samoa Joe

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

TC: With SmackDown Live GM Paige announcing this past week that this is now a No DQ match, I suspect we’ll get some funky outcome in this match. Look for ol’ Joey Samoey to get involved here and assert himself into the WWE title picture going forward.

Robert: This is the most intriguing match of the night. If logic prevails (which is rare in WWE), Nakamura should win. It’s a no-DQ match and Nak’s big thing has been the low blow, which Styles hasn’t shown any ability to stop. Plus, having Nakamura lose for a third time in a month would kind of ruin this feud. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

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

Chris Novak: Welp… one last stop before Backlash for the Raw brand. We’re in Montreal, and apparently, we’re really adding another wrinkle to the Lesnar-Reigns feud. As this Chad Patton tweet shows, they’re doing the “Ref made a wrong decision/Roman got ‘screwed over’” angle. Because of course they are. And OF COURSE we’re in Montreal for this. Super amped that this is happening.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah this is dumb. They need to move Roman away from the title. But this segment ended up being kind cool! Jinder came out (whatever) and then hometown boys Kev Owens and Sam Zayn came out and spoke French to the crowd and then everyone beat up Roman but Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman came in for the save leading to a six-man tag match later!

Chris Novak: Here comes Elias! I’m miffed they had him perform tonight and not last week while we were there in St. Louis.

Robert O’Neill: We had another Elias and Bob Roode match. It was good but unmemorable, like most of Roode’s matches. It’s kind of weird to do this two straight weeks.

Chris Novak: Say what you will about that, Rob, but this is some strong booking for Elias. They had him win last week, had a strong showing at the GRR and now just won after basically injuring Roode and his throat.

Robert O’Neill: I should clarify, the match was unmemorable. The finish was good and strong.

Chris Novak: Hey, it’s AOP. We didn’t see them last week, either. Miffed? Perhaps. Looks like they’ll be facing two scrubs. Oh, they aren’t scrubs actually. They’ll be treated as such, but they’re facing 3.0 of CHIKARA fame. Cool! They even got an entrance AND a promo. But AOP squashed them within about two minutes. Now, see, that’s how you book AOP. Stay on this train, and you’ll see what happens.

Robert O’Neill: Pain was Authored.

Chris Novak: Seth Rollins here now. Montreal is largely in favor of him, unsurprisingly. ,

Robert O’Neill: As someone who is tired of Roman Reigns and thinks putting the belt on Braun Strowman presents too many obstacles, I think I’m ready for another Seth Rollins title reign.

Chris Novak: So, Seth says he wants to be the opposite of Lesnar and a fighting champion, instead. Here comes Finn Balor, who wants a title shot tonight. Seth leaves it up to the fans to decide, and they oblige to it as well! So we’re getting Seth-Finn tonight. But here comes The Miztourage! Last week, they wanted to do a better Shield, and a different Balor Club. Now they want to recreate the Four Horsemen. That was actually hilarious. Bo and Axel are two great comedy heels right now. Seth and Finn reject the offer, and a brawl breaks out. But Seth and Finn emerge and stand tall. Oh! And there’s Finn who drops Seth. Good segment there.

Robert O’Neill: And now we’re getting a Sasha Banks and Ruby Riott match! Sure! That should be fun. I’m still not sure what they’re doing with the Riott Squad, but whatever.

It was a really fun match, with Ruby busting out a bunch of weird moves we’ve never seen before. She got the win, too! No sign of Bayley to help Sasha with the numbers game.

Chris Novak: That’s because Sasha’s a bad friend and doesn’t deserve her help. That match was real good. Sasha and Ruby have some pretty good chemistry together, I will say that much. Good stuff. Alexa Bliss is back with another Moment of Bliss!

Robert O’Neill: My God. Alexa was describing a trip to Disney World with Nia in which Nia asked if Alexa was tall enough to ride the rides and gave her a kids menu at the restaurant. This was incredible.

Chris Novak: Titus does an interview with Renee about his hilarious trip. Baron Corbin interrupted him, for some reason, and said it would’ve been more inspirational if he didn’t fall in the first place. Don’t be a dick, Corbin. TItus is just trying to turn a negative into a positive. Let him live.

Robert O’Neill: Baron Corbin might be my least favorite wrestler in the company.

Chris Novak: Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy cut a previously taped promo, in which they inserted themselves into several moments in history. This was kind of funny again. They’re managing to make these two entertaining.

Chris Novak: Six-man tag team action is up next!

Robert O’Neill: The six-man tag was a lot of fun. All six guys are obviously pretty good, Owens and Zayn bumped like crazy, Roman got his stuff in, and Braun got the pin.

Chris Novak: Hopefully things clear up a lot after this, though.

Robert O’Neill: No Way Jose vs. Baron Corbin was fine. NWJ won by a rollup after Titus Worldwide distracted Corbin. That’s what you get for being a dick.

Chris Novak: My question is how long are they going to continue with this bit for Titus. Whatever the case, it’s hilarious.

Robert O’Neill: We close the show with a Finn Balor/Seth Rollins match for the IC title, and once again, this was a banger. Rollins retained to keep his match with The Miz at Backlash, and with Roman Reigns being in a bit of a flux, I’m not entirely sure that Rollins/Lesnar shouldn’t be the Summerslam main event.

 

Chris Novak: Seth is now one of the best workers in the entire world. If he’s not in your Top 5, I don’t know what to tell you. Balor meanwhile is on the best stretch of his entire WWE career, NXT included. What a torrid run. I love watching these two face each other. Could watch for hours.

Final Thoughts

Chris Novak: Another, uh, shall we say “weird” RAW. I didn’t think it wasn’t offensive or bad or anything like that. But it’s clear that the GRR muddied a lot of things up for them. Especially with it coming only a week after the Shakeup. Poor timing has also muddied the build for Backlash up big time, as it just feels like it’s… there. After this weekend, things should clear up. For now, this was worthy of a B. Nothing bad, we got two really good matches (Ruby/Sasha, Finn/Seth) but the direction of the overarching storyline needs to be resolved and other things need to, too.

Robert O’Neill: Like last week’s episode, this was always going to be a weird Raw. My advice is to not have a “major event” on the other side of the world three days before Raw and nine days before a PPV you want to make feel important. Does Backlash even matter at this point? No. Regardless of that, this was an entertaining three hours of TV. I’m into what they’re doing with Elias, the Strowman/Lashley tag team is fun for however long it’ll last, and Finn and Seth should fight forever. They still don’t know what to do with Roman Reigns, but they’ll figure it out. Maybe. Probably not. B

Smackdown.png

Robert O’Neill: PAIGE HERE… to open Smackdown Live! Shane isn’t there tonight cause Braun murdered him in Saudi Arabia.

Miz opened the show, then Jeff Hardy came out, then Randy Orton, then Shelton Benjamin. Surely you see where this is going. The four of them had a tag match (Miz/Shelton vs. Orton/Hardy)

Chris Novak: Thought MizTV was enjoyable, per usual. The tag match was, as well. Benjamin is still such a reliable hand to have around. I wonder if he gets added to the US Title Match for Sunday. Would probably be a pretty smart play. Match ended after Orton hit an RKO on Shelton, who was then hit with a Swanton… and then Orton dropped Hardy with an RKO! Naturally.

Robert O’Neill: It’s pretty wild that the IIconics are already the best female mic workers not named Alexa Bliss in the company. That’ll get you places.

Chris Novak: They constantly have me in hysterics. They’re SO good already. Amazing that they never had a title run in NXT. Have to imagine that doesn’t last on the main roster. Hopefully, at least.

Robert O’Neill: Cass came out and cut a promo about Daniel Bryan, complete with a little person, because Bryan is short. It’s actually quite good, because Cass is a dick and people are gonna love Bryan even more than they already do.

Chris Novak: If Bryan wasn’t going to be around, this was a good way for him to get heat. Apparently they were fearful of a chest infection. I mean, Lord, did you SEE his chest? I’m not surprised.

Robert O’Neill: Samoa Joe wants to face AJ Styles at some point, but has a match with Roman Reigns at Backlash. Shinsuke Nakamura hit AJ with a low blow. Their match at Backlash is no DQ.  Again, I hope WWE learns from their mistakes and doesn’t do this Mania-Shakeup-GRR-PPV month again next year.

Chris Novak: Joe vs. Styles in a WWE ring will be one of the most mind-bending things I think we’ll see in a year where we’ve seen quite a lot of mind-bending things!

Robert O’Neill: Lana implied Aiden English is holding Rusev back. Rude.

Chris Novak: Extremely. Hopefully Rusev doesn’t take the bait.

Robert O’Neill: Sheamus and Xavier Woods had a solid match. It’s pretty crazy how good Woods is at this point. He was always good (he’s been wrestling longer than anyone else in the New Day) but WWE never really made him a focal point of things.

Chris Novak: He is the most improved in that group, by far. He will constantly go unnoticed because of his mic work, but he deserves praise.

Robert O’Neill: We close with a six-woman tag, as Carmella and the IIconics fell to Becky/Charlotte/Asuka. It’s kind of weird how they’ve booked the IIconics so far. And by weird, I mean not very smart. I hope they don’t go the way of certain other female tag teams we’ve seen come up in the past year.

Chris Novak: I think the difference to me with the IIconics and Absolution and Riott Squad is, and no offense to those two groups, but Billie and Peyton are ready for prime time. They can work in the ring AND they can talk. The other groups have at least two superstars who are green (Ruby being the only true outlier here). Their performances will pay off, although it’s annoying that they’ve taken two losses in the last three weeks. Maybe don’t have two people (Charlotte and Asuka) in a tag match who can’t take that many falls? Just throwing that out there. SDL’s women’s division has some good talent, but they gotta sort the booking out somehow. This is why I thought they’d add more depth in the Shakeup, but that never came to fruition.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: If you were looking for a show to make you excited for the upcoming PPV, this likely wasn’t it. No Daniel Bryan. No Rusev. No Bludgeon Brothers or Usos. It all just felt kind of inconsequential and pointless and like a hard reset is needed. Luckily, after Backlash, they’ll get to do that. C-

Chris Novak: A perfectly fine show with a great main event. All the angles progressed very well and all the right notes were hit. Nothing to really hit home about, but there was nothing offensive. B for me. But I’m an easy grader and easily amused.

Ruthless Aggression ep. 16 - the Plane Ride from Hell

It's a special episode of Ruthless Aggression as Pierce (@HennyOmega) Rob (@RobertONeill31) and Chris (@ChrisMNovak) recap RAW 466, Smackdown 141 and the Insurrextion PPV from 2002, which led to the infamous Plane Ride from Hell! You won't want to miss this trip down memory lane. Plus, WWE Backlash predictions.

Braun wins the Greatest Royal Rumble, Roman watches his push die this week in WWE

Robert O’Neill: Time for Raw! Well, Raw was last night. And we were at the Scottrade Center! So this part of the recap will actually be a lot of fun and different than other ones in that we’re talking about Raw from a live in the building perspective instead of a TV perspective.

Chris Novak: Yeah, a change from the usual here. Honestly, this was a really fun Raw to describe from inside the building.

Robert O’Neill: Oh man, that Bruno Sammartino tribute was beautiful. Say what you want about WWE, but whenever one of their legends passes away, they go all-out with excellent video tributes.

Chris Novak: This was one of the better montages they’ve shown in a long time. Unfortunate circumstances, obviously. But they knocked it out of the park. An incredible look at an incredible wrestler.

Robert O’Neill: Having never seen Brock Lesnar before, I was pretty hyped when he came out to open the show. Obviously, he’s kind of an… enigma (sure, let’s use enigma) at this point, but I still like him. Also, it may have just been because I was in the building, but this was the most I’ve enjoyed a Paul Heyman promo in a long time. He brought the heat. Roman’s promo was kind of weird to me. It was like two sentences and one mentioned “St. Louis” which… seemed ad-libbed for a cheap pop. I don’t want to nitpick because I really don’t mind Roman, but I found it kind of odd.

Chris Novak: I have not heard heat like this for Lesnar in a long, long time. This was a pretty decent segment, not their best. But the crowd definitely brought it here and made for a fun atmosphere.

Robert O’Neill: I’m gonna be honest here, I’ll never forgive Bob Roode for depriving us of an Elias performance. I am furious, still. The match between Roode and Elias was fun, though. A lot of people forget that Elias is very solid in the ring in addition to being an excellent character. This is a breath of fresh air for Roode, too, compared to his past year feuding with other plodding slow-paced guys like Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton.

Chris Novak: Yeah, I completely agree, Rob. Seeing Elias perform live was one of the reasons I wanted to be at the event! Alas, it was not to be. Fun match here, agree there too. Good win for Elias. Hopefully this allows for a change of direction for.

Robert O’Neill: I still can’t believe I’m saying it, but I find myself pretty entertained and captivated by Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy. Nice to see The Ascension get some work, too!

Chris Novak: They’re, like, making Bray useful? As a babyface, he’s done quite well. There was some thought that it’d work well that one time he did that tag match with Roman (You know the one. You’ve seen the GIF). And it seems to be working out. Heh. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Robert O’Neill: While it probably won’t last long, and they’ll eventually need something else to do, I loved Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel going to Seth Rollins and asking if they could form a new Shield. The Miztourage was entertaing as all hell, and Daniel Bryan’s WWE return ruined it for all of us. Who says that was a good thing, again?!? I kid.

Chris Novak: I found the two to be absolutely hilarious, too. They’ve really found their stride. As always, Miz did a great job elevating people.

Robert O’Neill: Speaking of things that were awesome, how about the Kevin and Sami Show? As cool as it was for me to see Kurt Angle live for the first time in 13 years, it was equally as cool to see him alongside these two, who desperately need a breath of fresh air after their Shane McMahon feud.

While a lot of people are put off by this because they’re feuding with another authority figure, it’s a bit different because Angle will use guys like Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley to take on Owens and Zayn instead of doing it on his own like Shane did, so that’s refreshing. Heck, even if Angle *does* insert himself into the action and take on one of these two, he’s a better wrestler than Shane McMahon. He’s also a believable face, unlike Shane.

Anyways, back to this segment. I loved it. Kevin and Sami are great shitheads and the Jason Jordan bit was hilarious, as was giving Angle a lawn chair to sit in. It’s the little things. The match between Owens/Zayn and Lashley/Strowman went about as you’d expect. Lashley was in first, the heels isolated him from Strowman, hot tag, Strowman destroys everyone, Owens and Zayn bump and sell like crazy, Strowman wins, crowd goes wild. He’s awesome.

HOWEVER, and I don’t want to ramble here, so maybe I’ll make this a standalone article. I don’t think Strowman should be WWE Champion at any point in the near future. There are far too many roadblocks and hurdles for that.

Chris Novak: I am not too crazy about another authority angle for these two. But, I won’t deny that this segment was entertaining. Zayn is such a great heel, and it’s hilarious that we’re saying that, right? We all thought he should be a babyface for life. And yet… he’s such a great smug POS.

Robert O’Neill: Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler have a new mashup theme. It’s alright, I guess. They got a win over Titus Worldwide and both cut a promo after. Ziggler’s was alright. McIntyre’s was excellent. I don’t think they’re gonna screw him up again. I mean, if he’s making DOLPH ZIGGLER entertaining, the sky's the limit.

Chris Novak: Concur. I was walking around a bit during this segment, so I missed it.

Robert O’Neill: Let’s talk about CHAD GABLE, SINGLES WRESTLER. As I wrote last week (or said on the podcast, it all runs together) Gable is awesome and I hope he gets more opportunities to show it. He was really good in his showing over Jinder Mahal and got a win out of it.

Chris Novak: I recall someone pointing out that he was going to be good in this role. OK, so that’s not much of a hot take, obviously. But he played the underdog babyface role SO well here. I’m already enjoying this.

Robert O’Neill: I’m going to defer to Chris for the Baron Corbin segment, because I went to use the restroom because Baron Corbin sucks.

Chris Novak: Pretty much, No Way Jose came out. Baron came out, said he wasn’t gonna fight while the conga line was out. He leaves. Jose and the conga line go up to the stage. The conga line disappears, and Corbin came out and attacked him. Basic stuff. Not really much of an impact here.

Robert O’Neill: Look, I’m biased, but that PSA may have put Alexa Bliss into best female heel in WWE history territory for me. Incredible.

Chris Novak: Alexa does a great job of being disingenuous. She makes everyone look worse in comparison to her, which has its pros and cons. But she’s so brilliant.

Robert O’Neill: The 10-woman tag was a pretty cool main event. Despite being teammates, there were some fairly subtle Bayley and Sasha interactions that made it clear that there’s still plenty of ill will between the two. Also, it was fairly evident that Ronda Rousey was going to get involved, especially when Natalya went down with an “injury”. When “Bad Reputation” hit, Scottrade Center went nuts. Remember the concerns about how live crowds would react to her? That was fun. Anyways, she killed Mickie James to end the show.

Chris Novak: Yeah, a couple people were mad about how this was structured. I get it in some ways, but this was always going to lead to Ronda coming out. Just solely based on how everything was done leading up to it. So, it is what it is. Seeing Ronda live was cool.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: Top to bottom, this was one of the weirdest Raw's I can remember. I mean that in the best way possible, too. I didn’t really know what exactly to expect from this show, given that the roster was coming back from South Africa and most of them were going to Saudi Arabia. What we got was a lot of tag team matches, and I was perfectly fine with it. I think my big concern is the fact that they scheduled the Greatest Royal Rumble a week before Backlash, so Backlash seems super inconsequential now, but I guess that’s a problem for the future. This pushed all the right buttons and got everything in place for Friday’s show. A

Chris Novak: Have to agree with my colleague here. Weird show, but everything still managed to work well and make a lot of sense. As fun an atmosphere as I’ve been around in a while. The STL crowd was excellent all night, and I had a lot of fun at the event. I’ll give it an A as well.

Robert O’Neill: Welp! We’re starting with Miz TV featuring Daniel Bryan. I’m here for it.

Chris Novak: Off and running. Might as well get going. Miz says that something’s missing, and it’s a title. The Intercontinental Title, of course, which he says he’ll win at the GRR for a record-tying ninth time. Whether that happens is yet to be seen.

Robert O’Neill: That’s not Daniel Bryan! That’s Big Cass!

Chris Novak: Cass comes out and cuts what was a pretty great promo about how Bryan reminds him of himself when he was young. He also points out that he was cleared on the same day that Bryan was cleared, but everyone paid attention to Bryan instead of him. Honestly, he nailed this promo. Straight down to the motivation as for why he targeted him. A great start for Cass on SDLive.

Robert O’Neill: They cut to the back and Bryan was down and in a heap! Intrigue.

Chris Novak: Here comes The IIconics, who proceed to mock Becky and Asuka. They take a trip through logical loopholes and claim they’re better than Asuka. I think they may rue the day that they said that…

Robert O’Neill: Solid match here. IIconics needed a win and they got it using underhanded tactics. Good heeling.

Chris Novak: Looks like we’ll get AJ Styles and The Club vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev Day later in the main event. How fun!

Robert O’Neill: An Uso faced Erick Rowan… and won! Naomi came out and did her full entrance to distract Rowan and allow the win via the distraction. It was cool.

Chris Novak: Jimmy took some hard bumps in the match but came out on top. Solid match, although I’m sure some will complain that some badasses in Bludgeon Brothers got distracted by dancing.

Chris Novak: We’re off and running for this contract signing for the Women’s Championship Match. Carmella comes out first, and points out how it’s “disrespectful” for the champ to come out before the challenger. She also wondered what world is that acceptable. Well, Carmella… anyways she plays the video package from last week. This is totally hilarious.

Robert O’Neill: Carmella is an absolute joy. Charlotte… is not.

Chris Novak: Charlotte pushed the desk over on ‘Mella. Rude behavior. Aiden English then told Dasha that there were “no interviews” after she came up to Shinsuke’s locker room.

Chris Novak: Shelton Benjamin is out to wrestle. US Champ Jeff Hardy first comes out but… then, here comes Randy Orton! So after last week’s ‘08 SD flashback, we now get an ‘04 Raw flashback. Cool!

Robert O’Neill: Oh, good. A Randy Orton match! Time to tune out for 10-12 minutes.

Chris Novak: Shelton wins! Sunil Singh came out of the crowd wearing a luchador mask and chop blocked Hardy, who, of course, Jinder is facing at the Greatest Royal Rumble. Then he tried to get away from security and ate an RKO for his troubles. Shelton then took him down with Paydirt. That was pretty fun!

Robert O’Neill: Alright! Let’s do Nak and Rusev Day vs. Styles Club. I’m ready for it. WAIT A MINUTE, Shinsuke’s theme is changed! It has words now. This is strange.

Chris Novak: Very impressed so far with Nakamura as a heel. The theme bangs. This was a good six-man tag team main event, one that Nak won for his team after hitting a Kinshasa to the back of Gallows’ head. Nak then went after Karl Anderson and hit him with a knee to the face.

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: All the big post-Shakeup talk about Smackdown being the A-show may have been a bit premature. Don’t get me wrong, this was a good show, but nothing really blew me away. I guess they had the same “issues” as Raw, where they have a PPV coming up on the other side of the world that they’re getting paid a trillion dollars for and they can’t risk anything going wrong, but this Smackdown was just kind of there. I *will* say, it’s pretty cool that Smackdown has three different stories involving women right now. Naomi and the Usos, Becky and Asuka against the IIconics, and Charlotte and Carmella. That division certainly got the jolt it needed. Not having Samoa Joe or Daniel Bryan wrestle was annoying to me, but I guess they’re not gonna be in action every single week. It was a perfectly acceptable show. B

Chris Novak: There’s a lot going on with SmackDown in the post-Shakeup world, and I think a lot of it is good. While there were no must-see matches here, everything delivered pretty well here. I’m pleased with how everything’s crafted, and like Rob said, it’s neat that there’s three different stories involving the women. We’ll see how things shake out in the future. For now, they’ve earned a B+ for me for this week’s show.

Pierce Roberson: We kick things off in Saudi Arabia with Triple H one on one with John Cena in this "dream match" from Jeddah. Kinda weird to see Cena and Trips open a show with a one-on-one match but the crowd is so hot it doesn't matter. This was your standard house show main event. Cena got the win with the AA and said no matter what's going on in his universe (OH HEY NIKKI HOW YA DOIN?!) it was an honor and privilege to be there for the event.

The crowd died down for the Cruiserweight championship match between Cedric Alexander and Kalisto, understandable after they just lost their minds to Cena-Trips but unfortunate because this was a really good match. These two hit a lot of high spots, including a nasty springboard spanish fly ff the top rope by Kalisto. In the end Cedric hit the Lumbar Check (one of the best finishers in WWE mind you) for the W.

Next up the Raw tag team division just got a little BROKEN. Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt - the Woken Warriors, as I like to call em - beat The Bar is a pretty short match to capture the vacant Raw tag team titles. Nothing really to say about this mach. Sheamus and Cesaro now head off to Smackdown where fresh matchups await them, and now we'll see where Hardy & Wyatt go as a tag team.

Oh Jeff Hardy and Jinder Mahal... This match fucking sucked. The highlight of this match was when Jeff Hardy missed a Whisper in the Wind badly while Mahal was getting up... but Jinder sold it anyway. Ugh... I don't know who botched what but this was horrendous. Hardy won with the Swanton Bomb to retain the US Title.

The Bludgeon Brothers continued to squash the Smackdown roster as they demolished the Usos to keep the Smackdown tag titles. Without Naomi to further the story, this match never had legs. It was much of the same of what we've seen from the Brothers since they made their re-debut on the blue brand. Anyway, I feel like we're only here for GIFs of Naomi.

After a few duds in a row, we got a treat in the form of a Fatal 4 Way Ladder Match for the IC strap. Everyone in this match did great work, from Joe's double powerbomb on Balor and Rollins, to an incredible ending where Rollins stole the win from Balor at the last second, pulling down the strap before Finn could get his hands on it. Fun match and furthers the feud between Rollins and Balor.

Then we got a segment with a few Saudis who trained with Triple H and WWE. Ariya Daivari, flanked by his older brown Shawn, made their way down to the ring... and if you think Vince wasn't going to do a highly controversial angle involving Saudis and Iranians - two countries currently at odds - LOL you're sorely fucking mistaken. the trainees beat up on the Daivari's and crowd pops ensued.

Isn't it funny how both championship matches in Jeddah were better than their Wrestlemania counterparts? AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura wasn't the bore it was in New Orleans, which started slow but built into a fast-paced, hard-hitting affair. The two exchanged blows and finishers until the action spilled outside of the ring, ending in a double countout. Styles walked away in the end, driving Nak ino the barricade and hitting a Phenomenal Forearm onto the floor.

IT'S RUSEV DAY! and he gets to job out to the Undertaker! IT was No DQ because of the Casket match stipulation so we got a lot of Aiden English in this one, and in the end he got thrown on top of Rusev in the casket before Taker shut the lid. This was a solid house show match, nothing more. Good for Rusev and Aiden English to be featured in a high spot on the card with the legend.

Right before the Undisputed Title match I had the feeling that WWE was swerving everyone who believed Roman Reigns would finally get his coronation in Saudi Arabia. And he didn't! Hilarious how that works. Brock and Roman fought inside a steel cage, and it was the physical, fast-paced battle we wanted three weeks ago. Brock hit a flurry of Garman's and F-5's, Reigns countered with Superman punches and spears of his own, the last sending himself and Brock through the cage. Roman's feet hit the floor first, but Brock was awarded the win. Almost surely this means Reigns will get another title shot, but what's the point? He got usurped by Seth at Wrestlemania 31, had a lackluster run with the belt in 2016, lost to Brock at Mania and now at GRR. Has Vince soured on him? Maybe, but Reigns being the top face in the company can never be now. Ever.

And now, the Greatest Royal Rumble. We got Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler entering at number one and two, respectively, and both (especially Bryan) put on one hell of a show in this Rumble. Bryan broke the record for longest time in the Rumble at 76 minutes and 10 seconds, a great way to put him over in his return. This was a 50-man Rumble and it showed as they really used the entire locker room in this one, plus a few surprises like Hornswoggle, Rey Mysterio and NXT's Roddy Strong & Tucker Knight.

The best spot of the Rumble wasn't in the ring. Much love to Titus O'Neill. Anybody else would be embarrassed by stumbling on their way to the ring and sliding under the ring, but not Titus! This man's brand doesn't know how to lose. Go ahead and make all the Benny Hill videos you want; Titus Worldwide is the real winner of the Rumble.

In the end, Braun was the last man standing. He wins a trophy and an unnamed green belt. Not sure if that's gonna transition into an actual belt for the company, but it's green and it's nice so there. Braun also holds the record for most eliminations in a Rumble now, so this makes up for that ridiculous angle at Wrestlemania. Braun goes home the victor. Everyone goes home happy.

Ruthless Aggression ep. 15 - Backlash
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.