Posts tagged Wrestling
First Black Champ - Two Fawking Years of First Black Champ Pod

It's officially two years of the First Black Champ Podcast and we are just beginning! Special thanks for Barber's Chair Digital, Jonathan Hood and YOU the listener for rocking with us through trash audio and light streaming numbers! We appreciate you!

In the midst of our celebration we talk WWE Extreme Rules and give probably our best prediction and potential GuranDAMNTees to date! With the improvements of Raw and Smackdown, we ask the question, Did Vince only beat Heyman and Bischoff because of his budget? We want to know your answer!

And as promised we give you Every Black WWE Champion since July of 2017 on this milestone episode of the First Black Champ Podcast! Use the hashtag #ImFawkingWithFBCPod

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Extreme Rules 2019: Results, recap, analysis, ratings

What a night in Philadelphia it was. Let’s get down to business.

Finn Balor vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - Intercontinental Championship

Chris Novak: Shock championship change! Shinsuke Nakamura has won the Intercontinental Championship away from Finn Balor. This was a fun little match, although I think their match on SmackDown was better. That being said, hey, this is cool! I suspect they’re gonna run this back in some way shape or form at SummerSlam in Toronto. Which is OK by me! ***¼ for me. 

Robert O’Neill: That was fun! Wasn’t expecting a title switch. I also liked the match on Smackdown more but I’ll go ***. It was fun for what it was and the title change was cool.

Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese - Cruiserweight Championship

Chris Novak: Okay, this was pretty good. Gulak retained his Cruiserweight Championship, as expected. I think these two went a little bit lightly all things considered. Maybe it was a time crunch, maybe not. But I definitely expected a bit more here. That being said, it was still pretty good. ***½ for me here. Good start to the show with these Kickoff matches.

Robert O’Neill: Going to be interested to see where Tony Nese goes next and who Gulak’s next opponent is. I think this match was good but their match at Stomping Grounds was better. ***¼ 

Drew McIntyre and Shane McMahon vs. Roman Reigns and The Undertaker

Chris Novak: That… was… really fun? That was really fun! The Undertaker pinned Shane McMahon after hitting him with a Tombstone Piledriver. That superseded my expectations in a large way. Elias had a nice run-in and there was some good action and plunder here. Great sequence at the end, as Drew Mac went for a Claymore, but Reigns came in to spear him. ***¾ here. Super fun opener! 

Robert O’Neill: That was more fun than it had the right to be. That’s the perfect way to use Shane McMahon, Undertaker looked good, and the right team won. The passing of the torch sort of thing they did at the end between Taker and Roman was awesome, too. ***¾ 

The Revival vs. The Usos - Raw Tag Team Championships

Chris Novak: I had high expectations for this match. They were not met. It wasn’t outright bad, and still pretty good. But there was some sloppiness and awkwardness abound here. Thought these two teams definitely have better in them and it’s a little disappointing that it didn’t really go down that way. ***¼ for me.

Robert O’Neill: I like The Revival and The Usos a lot but yeah this match was just kinda there for me. A rare miss from these teams. **½ 

Aleister Black vs. Cesaro

Chris Novak: Big surprise… this was really good. Black won via the Black Mass. This match got a good amount of time and both were able to showcase their stuff. **** for me here. I’m not the high man though evidently. But this was kick ass and is, so far, the MOTN. 

Robert O’Neill: I loved this match! Both guys got to show just how good they are, and Aleister looks great with the victory. ****½ 

Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross - SmackDown Live Women’s Championship

Chris Novak: Bayley wins. Seven stars. In all seriousness, this was super fun. Handicap matches tend to be weird, but they absolutely made this work and then some. Bayley won with an Elbow Drop off the top rope. Everyone got some good moments and spots. ***¾ for me here.

Robert O’Neill: Yeah this was quite good. Sometimes these handicap matches are bad, but this one definitely worked for me. Like the other matches, I’m excited to see what comes next for these three. ***½

Bobby Lashley vs. Braun Strowman - Last Man Standing

Chris Novak: This match absolutely ruled. Braun Strowman won after busting through a wall (yes) and beat the 10 count in the process. Strowman and Bob Lashley beat the absolute shit out of each other all over the arena. That is exactly how those matches should go and this one did not spare any bones. There was a great spot that brought them into an enclosed platform or whatever, which is where Strowman broke free from. I’m going ****½ on this. This is not only one of the best matches of the entire year, but one of the best Last Man Standing Matches ever, too.

Robert O’Neill: Chris pretty much nailed it. This match was everything a LMS match should be. ****

Daniel Bryan and Rowan vs. Heavy Machinery vs. The New Day - SmackDown Live Tag Team Championships 

Chris Novak: The New Day are six-time Tag Team Champions! This was a fantastic match. Everybody got their licks in here and looked great. There were some great sequences here with a very nice payoff between Big E and Daniel Bryan. I’m going ****¼ here. This was fan-freaking-tastic.

Robert O’Neill: Wow, the New Day has all the gold! For now, at least… Great match. ****¼ 

Ricochet vs. AJ Styles - United States Championship

Chris Novak: AJ Styles won the United States Championship after hitting a REVERSE Styles Clash OFF THE MIDDLE ROPE! A sick spot ended what was a really awesome match. A bit slower than I expected it to be, but that’s okay. These two still had a lot of great spots here and the finish ruled. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows’ involvement helped add yet another layer. ****¼ for me. 

Robert O’Neill: I liked their Raw match more, but I also liked the ending there. That reverse Styles Clash was NASTY. ***¾ here. Think they can run it back at Summerslam. 

Dolph Ziggler vs. Kevin Owens

Chris Novak: Kevin Owens won after one (1) Stunner within a couple of seconds. Seven stars.

Robert O’Neill: This is the greatest night in the history of our sport. 

Kofi Kingston vs. Samoa Joe - WWE Championship

Chris Novak: Kofi Kingston retained yet again! Kofi’s heater continues with yet another really good match against Samoa Joe. Joe had plenty of great offense in here and got in some good beat downs. But, Kingston survives yet again and the beat goes on. ***¾ for me here.

Robert O’Neill: I didn’t think it was Joe’s time to win because they didn’t do a great job on the build to this, but the match was good for what it was! Joe will win the title eventually and Kofi still has all-time great face champion booking. ***¾ 

Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch vs. Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans - Universal/Raw Women’s Championship

Chris Novak: This match, like the opener, had no business being as good and as fun as it was. And yet, it was! Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch retained their titles after Rollins hit Corbin with three Stomps. THAT came after Corbin hit Becky with the End of Days! This match was filled with great spots and action. This was very well put together and super fun. ***½ for me. 

Robert O’Neill: You said on the preview that if they leaned into the stipulation and let this be a mess, it would be good. They did! Becky taking the End Of Days was an amazing spot, and Seth showing a whole new level of intensity after that was a side of him we haven’t seen much of. ***½ 

But…

Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar - Universal Championship

Chris Novak: Paul Heyman wasn’t lying. Brock Lesnar cashed in his MITB contract, and defeated Seth Rollins to win the Universal Championship! 

Robert O’Neill: We’re not star rating this one because it was too short obviously but what a great ending to the show. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: What a fun show. Top to bottom, the most consistent show of the entire year. There wasn’t a single cooldown match here, which really worked to their benefits. I think there’ve been “better” shows in terms of compellingness and drama. But this one was one of the very best this year. A- for me. 

Robert O’Neill: You nailed it. I loved this show start to finish and they had no down periods. While there likely wasn’t an all-time great match on this show, everything was very good and fun. That’s all we can ask for. Can’t wait for Raw and Smackdown. A

First Black Champ - The Oral History Of Bill Goldberg

Since the card for Stomping Grounds is 100% official, we got another prediction run! We also speak on the the Super Over R-Truth and what it truly means to turn "Shit into Gold". It's been a minute since you got an oral history from us, so here you go! The Oral History of Bill Goldberg! #FirstBlackChampPod

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

First Black Champ - Lars Is Karma

Happy Father's Day! We take time out today to salute all the Father's in the world as well as each other, Then we talk our Top 5 father/son tandems in wrestling!

Stomping Grounds is Next Sunday and we give our predictions and we talk Lars Sullivan's latest injury which could be more severe than expected and what is truly next for him with this latest obstacle.

And we wouldn't be the #FirstBlackChampPod if we didn't celebrate and commemorate the 20-year anniversary of Master P's WCW run with his "No Limit Solider faction! It's another unconventional episode of Black Guys Talking Wrestling. Enjoy!

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Ruthless Aggression - Backlash '03

Pierce is out, so Chris and Rob go back to Backlash ‘03 and review the WWE debut of Goldberg vs. The Rock! Plus the Shake-up continues, KO does the inevitable, and so much more.

Ruthless Aggression recap:
RAW 517
Smackdown 193
Backlash 2003

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisMNovak
Follow Rob on Twitter: @RobertONeill31

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

WrestleMania might be over but you can still rep Becky Two Belts with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
teespring.com/freetheman

Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
patreon.com/barberschairnet

The 2019 WWE Top 25: January

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first official edition of the WWE Top 25!

January has come and gone, and what a month it was in the World Wrestling Federation. There was action aplenty all over, and now that WWE TV has wrapped up for the month, it’s time to take a look at who made the cut for the first set of rankings for the year 2019.

In case you need a refresher on what the WWE Top 25 is, the grading system, and what my projections were for the entire year, here’s a handy link.

As an aside, each month, in addition to the WWE Top 25, I will be unveiling my Top 10 matches for the month as well as my Top 10 TV matches for the month, as well. Given that I am watching each TV show each week, and I am grading what I’m seeing, I think it’s important to showcase the matches that are worthy of praise and recognition. So with that said, before we unveil the rankings, let’s take a look at the matches of the month.

TOP 10 TV MATCHES

1. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/15) — ****¾
2. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (2/3 Falls, SmackDown Live, 1/22) — ****¼
3. Andrade/Samoa Joe vs. Mustafa Ali/Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/8) — ****
4. Cedric Alexander vs. Hideo Itami (205 Live, 1/9) — ****
5. Bobby Lashley vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (Raw, 1/14) — ****
6. Baron Corbin vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Finn Balor vs. John Cena (Raw, 1/14) — ****
7. The Usos vs. The Bar (SmackDown Live, 1/8) — ***¾
8. Balor/Cena/Rollins vs. Lashley/Ambrose/McIntyre (Raw, 1/7) — ***¾
9. Drew McIntyre vs. Seth Rollins (Raw, 1/21) — ***¾
10. Danny Burch/Oney Lorcan vs. Fabian Aichner/Marcel Barthel (NXT, 1/23) — ***¾

JUST MISSED THE CUT

Ronda Rousey vs. Bayley (Raw, 1/28)
Adam Cole vs. EC3 (NXT, 1/9)
Bianca Belair vs. Nikki Cross (NXT, 1/9)
Finn Balor vs. Jinder Mahal (Raw, 1/14)
Jordan Devlin vs. Travis Banks (NXT UK, 1/23)

TOP 10 MATCHES

1. Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano (TakeOver: Phoenix) — ****¾
2. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/15) — ****¾
3. Asuka vs. Becky Lynch (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****½
4. Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****½
5. Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****½
6. Moustache Mountain vs. James Drake/Zach Gibson (TakeOver: Blackpool) — ****½
7. Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders (TakeOver: Phoenix) — ****¼
8. Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (2/3 Falls, SmackDown Live, 1/22) — ****
9. Women’s Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****
10. Men’s Royal Rumble Match (Royal Rumble, 1/27) — ****

JUST MISSED THE CUT

Mustafa Ali/Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade/Samoa Joe (SmackDown Live, 1/8)
Cedric Alexander vs. Hideo Itami (205 Live, 1/8)
Dean Ambrose vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Seth Rollins (Raw, 1/14)
Finn Balor vs. John Cena vs. Baron Corbin vs. Drew McIntyre (Raw, 1/14)

Okay, so we’ve gotten that out of the way. Let’s dive through some quick numbers:

  • There were 92 total matches this month on WWE TV and WWE Network specials

  • There were 70 total matches this month on WWE TV

  • Of the 92 total matches, 40 of them received grades of at least ***½

  • Of the 92 total matches, 17 of them received grades of at least ****

  • Of the 92 total matches, six of them received grades of at least ****½

  • Of those three, two were given ****¾

  • There were no matches given five stars this month

  • 146 wrestlers partook in matches this month

  • Finn Balor and Seth Rollins were the workhorses of the month. Finn and Seth each competed in six matches, the most of anyone in the entire company. Finn had the distinction of competing on Raw, TakeOver: Blackpool AND the Royal Rumble.

I’d like to start by giving some honorable mentions. So, here those are.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

PETE DUNNE, RHEA RIPLEY — 8 points

KALISTO — 8.5 points

BROCK LESNAR, JAMES DRAKE, ZACK GIBSON — 9 points

ASUKA — 9.25 points

BARON CORBIN, JINDER MAHAL — 9.5 points

AKIRA TOZAWA — 10.25 points

And now…

Presenting: The WWE Top 25 for January!


T23. FABIAN AICHNER, MARCEL BARTHEL, NATALYA
Score:
11
Most Notable Match:
Women’s Royal Rumble Match (Natalya, Royal Rumble, 1/27);
vs. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch (Aichner and Barthel, NXT, 1/23)

We had a three-way tie here to ‘start’ the Top 25.

We’ll start by talking about the tag team of Marcel Barthel and Fabian Aichner. Those who may not be in the know were likely in the know now after watching these two compete with each other this month. Barthel and Aichner have been prominent faces in the NXT UK brand and have also made stops in NXT as well.

That proved to be the case this month, and these two studs showed out. They had three very fun and good tag matches both across the pond and here in the states. Their best effort was against Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch on the final NXT before TakeOver: Phoenix. If you haven’t seen that match, I highly recommend it. The two teams went full throttle, and Aichner and Barthel showed a lot of promise.

This could definitely be a sign of things to come if they get more screen time like I think that they will. Be on the look out for these two, as they could very well be a contender for Tag Team of the Year at this rate.

Meanwhile, squeezing her way into the Top 25 in January’s Top 25 is Natalya.

Nattie was certainly aided by the fact that she partook in some very solid tag team matches this month. She was part of two terrific ones in fact, as she and Ronda Rousey battled The Boss & Hug Connection on the go-home Raw before the Royal Rumble. Nattie also partook in a six-woman tag featuring Bayley and Nikki Cross, as she and those two clashed with The Riott Squad back on January 14.

It also certainly helped that Nattie was part of the Royal Rumble match, a match that she was the ‘Ironwoman’ of, in fact. Nattie lasted 56:01, which proved to be longer than any other competitor could last in the entire match.

Given that she was on the fringe, and won’t be competing at Elimination Chamber as of now, it’s a wonder if she’s going to make it into February’s Top 25. Particularly because her feud with Dana Brooke likely will not be up to snuff with some of the other women superstars on the roster. That being said, she certainly had her good moments this month, and finessed her way into the Top 25 as a result.

T21. CESARO, NIKKI CROSS
Score:
11.25
Most Notable Match:
w/ Sheamus vs. The Usos (Cesaro, SmackDown Live, 1/8)
vs. Bianca Belair (Nikki Cross, NXT, 1/9)

Next up, a high-quality European duo who find themselves tied up at 21st.

Cesaro had himself yet another high-quality month alongside his buddy Sheamus. The Bar performed well in all three tag team matches that they competed in. Their highmark was at the start, as they faced off with The Usos in an excellent back-and-forth affair on the second SmackDown of the year 2019. Cesaro then went on to compete in a fun tag with Sheamus against The Miz and Shane McMahon at the Royal Rumble.

His month was capped off with a strong showing in the Fatal 4-Way tag that went down this past Tuesday on SmackDown. You’ll notice that Sheamus is not here alongside him. Like his tag partner, Cesaro faced off with The Miz on SmackDown. The difference? I preferred the Sheamus-Miz match to the Cesaro-Miz match, and you’ll see where Sheamus landed on this rankings list later on. But there’s no shame in being here, and I think we’ll continue to see him hang around.

Meanwhile, we have Nikki Cross here alongside The Swiss Cyborg. Cross finished up her run in NXT with a banger against Bianca Belair back on January 9. That match was one of my favorites of the month, even though it didn’t crack the Top 10. Cross then partook in a super fun match on Raw the ensuing Monday. She, along with Bayley and Natalya faced off with The Riott Squad in a match that showcased Nikki for the first time to the WWE main roster audience.

She wrapped up her January with a fine display in the Women’s Royal Rumble. For Nikki, the thing to watch will be her usage rate as well as what brand they decide to keep her on. She’ll be in a match against Boss and Hug on Monday, and that could give her a great start to the month of February.

T19. MUSTAFA ALI, SAMOA JOE
Score:
11.5
Most Notable Match: Ali-Mysterio/Joe-Andrade (SmackDown Live, 1/8)

Yet another tie here, as two fixtures on SmackDown Live made their way into the Top 20.

Mustafa Ali and Samoa Joe might as well be written about together. They were in three matches this month, and they were on opposite sides in each. The first came in an awesome tag team match to start off the month. Ali teamed up with Rey Mysterio, while Joe was in a tandem with Andrade. That match was the 3rd-best TV match of the month, and Ali and Joe were certainly big reasons why.

Later on, these two faced off in a fun singles match before the Rumble. Joe choked Ali out, and based on what would happen next at the Rumble and on SmackDown this past week, it doesn’t seem like this feud will end anytime soon. They both were in the Royal Rumble match, and Ali was able to eliminate Joe from the match.

It looked like Joe was going to break the tie on Tuesday. He was scheduled to face off with Rey, but Andrade attacked Rey before the match could even happen. Now these two will be on opposite ends again in the Elimination Chamber next month. So, it looks like these two will remain tied at the hip. Given what’s transpired already, it won’t be a surprise if we see them near each other again at the end of February.

18. RICOCHET
Score:
11.875
Most Notable Match: vs. Johnny Gargano (TakeOver: Phoenix)

Feast your eyes on the man who got into the Top 25 with only ONE match.

Ricochet holds that distinction this month, and it’s pretty hard to dispute. His match with Johnny Gargano at TakeOver: Phoenix was just outstanding. Both he and Gargano brought out ridiculous tricks and maneuvers, and wowed the PHX crowd with what was, in my opinion, the match of the month in January.

It will be fascinating to see what happens going forward for Ricochet. His workload will probably have to increase for him to stay into the Top 25, but NXT can only provide him so much. That being said, if he can deliver (and the man has YET to not) in the minimal spots that he has, then he has a very steady chance of maintaining his spot in the Top 25 going forward. But he certainly deserves plenty of recognition here.

T15. BOBBY LASHLEY, TRENT SEVEN, TYLER BATE
Score:
12.25
Most Notable Match:
vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins (Lashley, Raw, 1/14);
vs. James Drake and Zack Gibson (Seven/Bate, TakeOver: Blackpool, 1/12)

A three-way tie comes up next, as a dynamite tag team is evened up with an ‘allmighty’ force on Monday Night Raw.

Bobby Lashley had himself a very good month. It started in a six-man tag on the first Raw of 2019. Lashley teamed up with Drew McIntyre and Dean Ambrose, as the three faced off with John Cena, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins. Then, Lashley won the IC Title in a banger triple threat with the aforementioned Ambrose and Rollins. That title victory was Lashley’s first in over a decade in WWE, obviously, and certainly helped cement his status in this Top 25 as a result.

Bobby spent just a couple of seconds in the Royal Rumble. But, since I awarded points to everyone in the Rumble, and TRUST ME, that will come up again here shortly, he was able to launch his way up to 15th as a result.

Given that Lashley is the current IC Champion, he’ll likely remain a fixture here for some time. He’ll be defending that belt pretty regularly, and considering who he’s feuding with now, those matches should be good enough to keep him in the mix.

Meanwhile, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate got into the Top 25 despite working only two matches. I can tell you that they were on the outside looking in going into Wednesday. But, their match with the aforementioned Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel on NXT UK was good enough for them to get back into the mix. And it certainly would’ve been a shame had they missed out.

They had one of the best matches of the entire month at TakeOver: Blackpool. They came up short to Zack Gibson and James Drake in the match that crowned the first-ever NXT UK Tag Team Champions. But, that effort was strong enough to have them vying for contention. And unlike Gibson and Drake, they were able to get one more match this month to finesse their way up to 15th.

For them, like others in the NXT brands, workload will be what has to keep them vying for contention. Time will tell to see what happens for them, but for now, they have more than earned their spot in this month’s Top 25.

14. SHEAMUS
Score:
13.75
Most Notable Match: w/ Cesaro vs. The Usos (SmackDown, 1/9)

Sheamus has always been one of WWE’s most consistent performers. So it should come as no surprise that The Celtic Warrior finds himself in a very good spot on these rankings after the month of January.

Sheamus participated in four matches this month. Three of them were tag efforts, the best coming on the second SmackDown of the new year. He and Cesaro faced off with The Usos in a dynamite tag match that was one of the better matches on TV this month. Sheamus would later go on to face The Miz in a pretty fun singles match the next week, and then he and Cesaro took Miz and Shane McMahon on at the Royal Rumble. That one proved to be a fun one, and while Sheamus and Cesaro took the loss, it was still a solid enough effort to help him move up.

Sheamus capped off the month with a very solid showing in the Fatal 4-Way tag on SmackDown this past Tuesday. That match was won by the aforementioned Usos, but The Bar lasted until the final two and the match was entertaining enough for Sheamus to stick himself in this spot. He’s nearly two full points ahead of 15th, so there’s still a pretty sizable gap between he and everyone else.

While he won’t be participating at Elimination Chamber as of now, expect Sheamus to still get enough opportunities on SmackDown so that he can maintain his status as one of the most consistent performers in WWE.

13. HIDEO ITAMI
Score:
14.25
Most Notable Match: vs. Cedric Alexander (205 Live, 1/9)

Well, this is a bit ironic, eh?

Hideo Itami will finish January and his WWE career 13th in the first WWE Top 25.

Hideo participated in four matches, all in the realm of 205 Live, and frankly a lot of them were pretty good. His first match was his best effort, as he and Cedric Alexander had a doozy that saw Itami prove victorious. Then it was on to a triple threat with Akira Tozawa and Kalisto a few days before the Royal Rumble. That one, also, was a solid showing for all three, really.

Itami then performed well enough at the Royal Rumble in an intense Fatal 4-Way for the Cruiserweight Championship. Buddy Murphy proved victorious of course, but Hideo, like the others in the match, were rewarded for the performance. Finally, Itami’s WWE career wrapped up with another solid showing against the aforementioned Tozawa on Tuesday night’s episode of 205 Live.

Hideo Itami’s career in WWE will always be a what if, but make no mistake: Itami went out with a very consistent and legitimately good January.

T11. BAYLEY, NIA JAX
Score:
14.5
Most Notable Match: vs. Ronda Rousey (Bayley, Raw, 1/28);
Women’s Royal Rumble (Nia Jax, Royal Rumble, 1/27)

Not expecting this one? Well, we’re gonna dig on in. Cause there’s lots to chew on.

Let’s start with Bayley. Perception is a mother, and the perception around Bayley has seemed to be all over the place since that ill-fated night at Extreme Rules 2017 (I’m not discussing this further, you know what happened). Some have lost faith. Others have kept up optimism. Bayley’s been able to repay those folks who’ve stuck by her with a very solid effort in January.

As the Women’s Tag Team Championships loom, the truth of the matter is that Bayley’s turning herself into a pretty good tag team wrestler. Those “pointless” tag team matches on Raw only appear to be making her stronger in the department, and she helped herself out with a great showing against The Riott Squad in a legitimately fun six-woman tag. Then, the following week, she along with Sasha Banks battled Natalya and Ronda Rousey. Again, she showed out, and performed well in a big spot.

Then came the Women’s Royal Rumble, and Bayley had one of the best performances of the match. She came in with ferocity, eliminating Ruby Riott and Rhea Ripley, before later tossing Alexa Bliss out with the help her of pal Carmella. She nearly eliminated Charlotte Flair in a hell of a tease, but eventually lost. Still, she was in the Final Four, and looked great in doing so.

Her final showing in January was a brilliant solo effort against the aforementioned Rousey. While Ronda appeared to be a bit shaken and stirred by the crowd reactions in the promo beforehand, Bayley helped carry Ronda to a more than respectable match. She brought out a ton of new, innovative stuff and even used the Bank Statement. In case ANYBODY forgot how good Bayley was, I think she proved that she was still among the best, and did so in spades this month.

Now, let’s move on to Nia Jax. This one’s a little… more controversial. Perception on Nia has certainly been low, but the truth of the matter is that in her spots this month, she did rather well. She played her role against Sasha in a #1 contender’s match well, did fine enough in a match with Tamina against Sasha and Rousey, and ended the month with a solid showing in a tag against Alexa and Mickie James that helped catapult her and Tamina into the Elimination Chamber.

Now, why is she so high here? She was featured both the Men’s and Women’s Royal Rumble matches. She was among the final three in the Women’s Rumble before eventually being eliminated. Then, she showed up in the Men’s Rumble after attacking R-Truth, and ate finishers from Dolph Ziggler, Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton, but did rack up some eliminations beforehand.

Now, here’s the thing. Had Nia Jax just been featured in the Women’s match, she would’ve likely found herself closer to the fringe of the Top 25 instead of where she currently stands: Tied for 11th with a more consistent performer. I did give everyone who participated in the Rumbles four points, since I gave the matches four stars.

So, I couldn’t exclude Nia from that, since she appeared in both Rumbles. I gave Becky Lynch multiple points for appearing in two matches on the show, so fair has to be fair. This is not a situation that will arise again I don’t think, so eventually, there will be some course correction. However, this is where we stand based on the math and the way that the formula has to work.

Debate away, and feel free to bag on it if you want, but Bayley and Nia find themselves JUST on the outside of the Top 10.

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10. SASHA BANKS
Score:
15.75
Most Notable Match: vs. Ronda Rousey (Royal Rumble, 1/27)

The Boss… is back… to the level of greatness that we knew she was capable of.

Sasha Banks is in the Top 10 for the month of January. Banks partook in four matches his month, and almost all of them were absolute hits. Banks’ first match was a singles contest against Nia Jax, which helped Banks get a Raw Women’s Championship opportunity against Ronda Rousey at the Royal Rumble.

Sasha then moved on to team with Ronda against Nia and Tamina. That match was a little rough around the edges, but fear not: Banks still marched on. She partook in a match with her aforementioned pal Bayley against Rousey and Natalya on the go-home show before the Rumble, and it was certainly a sparkling affair.

But The Boss saved her best for last. Banks’ match against Ronda for the Women’s Championship was outstanding. She had been in the middle of the pack beforehand, but despite that, her showing and the grade that match got helped shoot her up into the 10 spot. Even while not competing on Raw the next night, she still did herself enough to be recognized in this fashion. And frankly? I’d expect to get used to that if what’s on the horizon is any indication.

If you forgot just how good Sasha Banks is? Well, January reminded you.

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9. DREW MCINTYRE
Score:
16
Most Notable Match: vs. Baron Corbin, Finn Balor and John Cena (Raw, 1/14)

His stock may not be as high as it was a few months ago, but Drew McIntyre did himself enough to squeak into the Top 10 this month.

McIntyre participated in a bundle of TV matches this month and not once did he miss a beat. Mac’s best showing may have been in the #1 Contender’s Fatal 4-Way, a match that he, Baron Corbin and John Cena lost to Finn Balor. But, McIntyre was certainly good enough to help make that match one of the best TV matches of the month.

McIntyre also partook in matches against Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins, each of which did their job and then some. The match against Seth really stood out, as it helped set the table for the Royal Rumble. Mac’s participation in that match gave him enough points to ascend into the Top 10 and his showing against Braun kept him stable.

I am interested in seeing what happens from here. He may be facing Cena at WrestleMania, but for now appears to be locked in a feud with Strowman, still. Will he stay within range? We’ll have to see. For now, Mac gets to belong in the Top 10.

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8. RONDA ROUSEY
Score:
16.5
Most Notable Match: vs. Sasha Banks (Royal Rumble, 1/27)

Ronda Rousey safely splashed into the Top 10 after a pretty wonderful January.

It didn’t get off to the ‘best’ of starts, as she and Sasha Banks were tasked with facing Nia Jax and Tamina on Raw. That tag match was just okay, and Ronda needed to partake in some… better matches going forward. Luckily, that’s exactly what happened.

It started the following week. Rousey, along with Natalya, took on The Boss and Hug Connection in the main event of Raw. The match was very good, as one might expect, and Rousey had her moments where she flourished.

Then came the Royal Rumble. Rousey and Banks collided in a match for the Raw Women’s Championship. And what a match it was. It certainly helped remind fans how good Sasha is, but it also definitely added to Ronda’s great cache that she’s built up in the last 10 months. It was yet another big time performance on a big time stage, and there’ll be plenty more chances for her to do exactly that again coming.

Rousey capped off her month against Bayley. This match was certainly carried by The Hugger, as Rousey looked… a bit shaken, perhaps by the debacle that happened beforehand where the crowd may, or may not, have shook her up. But points are points, and she was rewarded enough to maintain her spot in the Top 10.

Rousey’s standing will depend on what happens going forward. Will she fight at Elimination Chamber? It’s not looking likely. That could send her down the rankings next month and send others up the ladder. What will happen is yet to be seen, but there’s certainly no doubt that Rousey was among the best in-ring workers in January.

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7. DEAN AMBROSE
Score:
18.5
Most Notable Match: vs. Bobby Lashley and Seth Rollins (Raw, 1/14)

Hello, controversy. How are you?

Dean Ambrose? The Top 10?

Yup.

Ambrose’s stock may be down (and he’s also leaving WWE in April) but he still participated in more good matches than bad ones this month, which is sort of ironic in a way, I guess. He’s certainly a beneficiary of quantity, as he posted five matches on Raw and at the Royal Rumble. He’s also certainly a beneficiary of having those valuable points from the Men’s Royal Rumble match, as well.

But, that being said, he also had some quality showings against Seth Rollins on Raw, was in a very good six-man tag, and partook in a banger of a Triple Threat IC Championship Match on January 14.

This is no doubt one of the more controversial parts of this Top 25, I will admit that. But the formula doesn’t lie. And it says that Ambrose had himself a Top 10 month.

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6. JOHNNY GARGANO
Score:
19.125
Most Notable Match: vs. Ricochet (TakeOver: Phoenix, 1/26)

While opinions may have soured on him in the last couple of months, there’s no doubt that Johnny Gargano is one of the best in-ring workers in the game. And he proved exactly that at the start of the year 2019.

Gargano posted just THREE matches that made tape, and still managed to wriggle into the Top 10. He started off with a solid effort against newcomer Humberto Carrillo on NXT TV. Then, he had an absolutely spectacular match with Ricochet at TakeOver: Phoenix. Certainly, Gargano took himself to another level in this one, showcasing why he’s got the ‘Johnny TakeOver’ designation that he has.

Much like a few others, he was ‘rewarded’ with points for partaking in the Royal Rumble Match. Much like a few others, that sort of thing probably won’t happen again for a while, if ever again this year. But, in fairness, that effort against Ricochet would’ve gotten him into the Top 10 based on how things shook out.

Debate away, but Gargano’s standing shouldn’t come as a surprise.

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NXTop10

The ten greatest matches in Takeover history

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5. BECKY LYNCH
Score:
19.5
Most Notable Match: vs. Asuka (Royal Rumble, 1/27)

The Man is in the Top 5. Who could argue against that?

Becky Lynch came into 2019 white hot, and that’s not stopping any time soon. Lynch competed in four matches this month and hit on every single one of them. She had a really good showing in a triple threat on SmackDown, a solid effort against Peyton Royce, and then had her big night at the Royal Rumble.

She competed in an absolutely awesome match against Asuka to open the show. The match was a killer, with stiffness, high-impact maneuvers and hard hits galore. Lynch may have succumbed to Asuka’s own version of Cattle Mutilation, but that only set the stage for her big moment in the Royal Rumble match. Lynch was victorious, and was outstanding in doing so.

I do suspect that we’ll see Lynch a lot in the Top 10 going forward. She is putting in incredible work at this point in time. There’s no denying her place in WWE, and there’s no denying her place in these rankings either.

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4. SETH ROLLINS
Score:
22.25
Most Notable Match: Men’s Royal Rumble Match

The winner of the 2019 Royal Rumble has landed himself in the Top 5. And who could possibly be surprised? Seth Rollins went on a tear last year and that momentum seems to be rolling into 2019.

Rollins performed at a high level in TV matches this month. He never was given a grade below ***1/4, and shined brightly in some multi-man matches on Raw. Rollins was part of an awesome Triple Threat Intercontinental Championship Match that saw Bobby Lashley prove victorious (and featured Dean Ambrose), as well as a great six-man tag team match on the first Raw of 2019.

Rollins definitely had his moments this month, but I think he definitely shined the brightest in the Royal Rumble Match. He ‘overcame’ the odds and won after coming in at #10. I will say that I am looking forward to some more singles matches for Rollins this month. He had three of them, two against Ambrose, one against Drew McIntyre on the Raw go-home show. Given that now it’s in stone that he’ll face Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, I imagine he’ll get plenty of burn going forward. Time to see what he can do.

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T2. ANDRADE, REY MYSTERIO
Scores:
24.125
Most Notable Match: Andrade vs. Rey Mysterio (SmackDown Live, 1/15)

It’s almost ironic that these two find themselves paired together, given how the month played itself out. But, Andrade and Rey Mysterio find themselves here tied for second place in the first edition of the WWE Top 25.

Many fans were longing for Andrade to finally be able to showcase his touted talents on the main roster. For a while, he was kind of stuck in purgatory due to timing issues, among other things. But anybody who has watched him, dating back to his AAA days in Mexico, knows that he’s a prodigy and an incredible talent. Well, Andrade absolutely got his shine on in January, alright. He lasted all the way until the Final Four in the Royal Rumble Match, a possible sign of things to come for him this year if all goes well.

But Andrade really shined against the man he’s tied up with here. Rey Mysterio was his dance partner three times on the three SmackDowns on the way to the Royal Rumble. Once in a tag team match, and twice in singles matches, one being a 2/3 falls match. And the first encounter they have may have been the best match to ever air on SmackDown.

Both Rey and Andrade brought out the best in each other, using innovative offense as well as high-flying and high-impact maneuvers. They took fans’ breaths away on more than one occasion, and each seem poised for bigger and better things. And frankly, we’ll all be better for it if that’s indeed the case.

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1. FINN BALOR
Score:
27.5
Most Notable Match: vs. Brock Lesnar (Royal Rumble, 1/27)

What a start to 2019 for Finn Balor. 2018 saw the beloved Balor try to find his footing again after spending time on the shelf from 2016-2017. While Balor definitely got plenty of work in, there was a sense that there was still plenty left to be desired. Well, Finn and WWE capitalized on that for sure.

Balor was arguably the biggest workhorse of the month. He worked six matches in total and even worked on two different continents. He was part of the first NXT UK TakeOver in Blackpool, having put on a dazzling display against Jordan Devlin, a superstar that Finn actually had a hand in training out in Ireland.

Finn was consistently great on TV. He took part in four TV matches this month, two in one night back on January 14. I gave TV matches that Finn participated in no worse than ***3/4, including two four-star showings in a six-man tag on January 7 and a Number One Contender’s Fatal 4-Way on January 14. Finn absolutely shined in both of those showings, winning the right to face Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble.

And no match displayed the type of abilities that Balor possesses more than that encounter against Lesnar. The match was a full-on sprint and Finn showed tremendous heart, offense and ability. It was, in my opinion, Finn’s best WWE match ever, even dating back to his days in NXT.

Simply put, Finn Balor was one of the best around in January. If he can keep up this kind of effort with this type of workload? Look out, because he could very well stay atop the rankings for a very long time at this current rate.


WWE Royal Rumble 2019: Recap, results, analysis, grades
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The Royal Rumble is officially in the books! Rob and Chris recap a wild, historic and memorable night in Phoenix, as the road to WrestleMania is in full effect!

Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs. Rezar and Scott Dawson

Robert O’Neill: I don’t mind the ragtag tag team of Rezar and Dawson since Akam and Dash Wilder are both apparently hurt but I feel like not having them win in a non-title match is kind of a weird decision. The Raw tag division is so weird and dumb. This match also wasn’t very good, for whatever reason. And I say that as someone who is very high on the majority of the participants. **

Chris Novak: Concur here. The match absolutely did not hit at all and hopefully this is the worst match we see all night. I too will give this **.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev — United States Championship

Chris Novak: Nothing like a shock title change on the preshow! Once again they go with the incidental contact on Lana that leads to Rusev’s demise. Nakamura wins the US Championship for the second time. Interesting. I really liked this match though. I’ll give this ***¼.

Robert O’Neill: This was a good match! I like Nakamura and Rusev’s chemistry and I look forward to them continuing it. It could have been a tad longer. ***

Buddy Murphy vs. Kalisto vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Hideo Itami

Chris Novak: No title change here! This match absolutely banged. Everybody brought out something new and inventive. There was so much innovation in this match and it wasn’t your atypical, choreographed WWE F4W match. Quite the opposite in fact. Really, REALLY liked this match a lot. ***¾ for it, and will wind up as one of the best matches of the entire month. These 205 guys absolutely kill their opportunities now and it’s great to see.

Robert O’Neill: That was awesome. I don’t watch 205 Live religiously, but I think I should start, because these guys brought it. The preshow matches progressively got better and I’m ready for the main show. ***½

Asuka vs. Becky Lynch — SmackDown Women’s Championship

Robert O’Neill: Holy crap what a match. It should come as no surprise that two of the best workers in the world had a banger of a match, but this was an amazing way to open the show. Asuka needing the super Asuka Lock in order to stand tall was great, the move thieving throughout was great, and it’s just another great step for the women. Now we wait and see if Becky Lynch makes another appearance tonight… ****½

Chris Novak: What a phenomenal opener. Becky and Asuka worked stiff as hell and it worked so damn effectively for me. So did the move thieving and just about everything else. As always, these matches come off like fights more than anything else, and that freaking rules, honestly. ****½ for me. A fantastic opener, and among the best in Rumble history.

The Bar vs. Miz/Shane McMahon — SmackDown Tag Team Championships

Robert O’Neill: Shane didn’t get a chance to do the elbow through the table but he also hit a Shooting Star Press to win the match, which is pretty nuts since he’s 49 years old. I think this was the only path to take because you eventually now have Miz turn on Shane and we get a Wrestlemania match with them. The Bar will be fine, because they’re a top 10 tag team in WWE history. This will probably be the worst main card match of the night, but it was still fine. ***

Chris Novak: Shane is a complete and total crazyperson. That is all. ***½ for me, as I really dug the stuff they did here and enjoyed the title change for what it was.

Ronda Rousey vs. Sasha Banks — Raw Women’s Championship

Robert O’Neill: Whew. This turned into a hell of a match after a bit of a slow start. Sasha Banks being a great improviser and using Ronda’s gear against her, along with stomping the hand like the did in the NXT matches with Bayley was a nice touch. Ronda obviously prevailed, but for a while it seemed like maybe she wouldn’t. Bring on whatever’s next for both. ****

Chris Novak: Absolutely loved this match. Sasha and Ronda were both at the top of their games and boy did this match jump off the damn page. Ronda won with “Piper’s Pit” which was a new way for her to win matches without making Sasha tap out. These two showed the hell out and matched the efforts of their contemporaries to me. ****½

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Chris Novak: BECKY LYNCH IS GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA!! What an unreal showing. This match was paced obscurely for the first 20 entrants or so but ABSOLUTELY picked up at the end. Highlights were Alexa Bliss getting a damn Stone Cold pop and picking up an elimination of Ember Moon, Bayley getting a huge pop as well and then eliminating Bliss with the help of Carmella. She also NEARLY eliminated Charlotte and I absolutely lost my shit at that point. In the end, Charlotte was the last woman to be eliminated by Becky, as Lynch stands tall and is going to WrestleMania. **** for me, and what an UNBELIEVABLE moment they just created.

Robert O’Neill: I have mixed thoughts on this match because the first half or so was largely not great, but business picked up and we got a nice mix of surprises (Kairi Sane! Kacy Catanzaro! Io Shirai! Rhea Ripley!) and people already on the roster. While I could have done without Natalya and Lacey Evans being in for so long, the last third of the match saved it for me with Bayley, Alexa Bliss, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch all looking like absolute stars. I think I enjoyed it more than last year just because there weren’t a ton of legends. It was all currently-signed people. ****½

Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles — WWE Championship

Robert O’Neill: It feels like that match was fine but not their best match in the past few weeks/months. It was a cooldown after the Women’s Rumble, which is fine, AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan are the two guys you don’t need the crowd to be invested in because they’re bulletproof. Erick Rowan coming down and helping Bryan win is certainly interesting, though. This could definitely be going places. ***¼

Chris Novak: Yeah, that was definitely a good match in a cooldown spot is all. I love the usage of Erick Rowan as one of Bryan’s henchmen and am looking forward to seeing how this transpires. It might be over? It might not be? I don’t know for sure, but whatever the case, good match, cooldown spot. ***¾

Brock Lesnar vs. Finn Balor — Universal Championship

Robert O’Neill: Wow. What a match. That was the best Brock Lesnar match since Goldberg at Wrestlemania 33. It was short, but incredibly effective. Balor got a ton of offense in, working Brock’s midsection a whole bunch to set up for the Coup de Grace, which Balor hit! But Brock kicked out then locked in a Kimura which ultimately got him the win. It’s really amazing how, when he tries, Brock Lesnar is still a top 10 professional wrestler on the planet. ****½

Chris Novak: A dynamite sprint. And let it be known: BROCK GOT LUCKY! FINN WAS NEVER F-5’ED (until after the match was over). They made everyone in Chase Field believe, and baby, that was the endgame. ****½ for me too.

Men’s Royal Rumble

Chris Novak: SETH WINS!! This was a very crisp Royal Rumble. While it didn’t have the WOW/surprise factor of others in the past, it was still a really well put together match. The Nia spot was confounding but wound up working for her and… credit where credit is due: She took those finishers like a champ. All the NXT people (Gargano, Black, Dunne) felt like super big deals. Andrade looked awesome and got into the Final 4. What more could you really ask for at this point? Oh, and of course, the way that it started was SO GOOD! Love Jeff Jarrett and Elias. **** for me.

Robert O’Neill: It was a blast of a Royal Rumble match. Jeff Jarrett showing up was a legitmate surprise, and the NXT people looking awesome was another great thing, as was the Nia Jax stuff. I could have done without Dolph Ziggler, but the right man won in Seth Rollins and I can’t wait to see what comes next, likely his pursuit of Brock Lesnar. ****

FINAL THOUGHTS

Chris Novak: An all-time great show, just as we expected it to be. Mopped the floor off of TakeOver and then some. A+ for everything here. Can’t say it enough.

Robert O’Neill: It was nearly seven hours from the start of the preshow till the end of the Men’s Royal Rumble. I watched every second of it. I enjoyed every second of it. That means it’s an A+ from me, as well.

First Black Champ - Shinsuke vs. Big E please

Happy Birthday Vince! We salute you even though Summer Slam was a disappointment. We talk briefly on that that and who had the pop of the night at the pay per view. We also talk what makes sense now for Ronda Rousey and we are short on answers.

It might be like 2012 all over again so we deep dive on The Shield and give two different GuaranDAMNTee perspectives on this weeks #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

Follow Cam: @ImCamQuotes
Follow Jr Bang: @JrBang

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

First Black Champ podcast - Why I Miss WCW

This week on First Black Champ, JR Bang & Cam Quotes take time to pay homage to the great wrestling federation known as WCW: our first time watching, the moments we love, if the company truly could have been saved, and which two moments turned us off of WCW, one almost forever. Listen to that and a whole lot more on this weeks #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

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.

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.

Ruthless Aggression ep. 15 - Backlash
My Favorite 'Mania: Wrestlemania XXX

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

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

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


Three Kings

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

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

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


From B-plus player to World Champion

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

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

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


The end of the streak

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

The Streak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Novak: “Ronda Rowdy.” Oh, Kurt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Robert O’Neill: Away we go! Final show before Wrestlemania, and Daniel Bryan is here to open the fun.

Chris Novak: Makes a bunch’a sense to open with this. Bridgestone Arena looks sold out and they’re going bananas.

Robert O’Neill: Bryan and Shane being friends makes me most uneasy.

Chris Novak: Yuck… it’s Charlotte-Nattie again.

Robert O’Neill; Well, they pretty much did the same thing as last week with Charlotte and Natalya, complete with a tease from Carmella. It was a bad match because Natalya is awful, but the Charlotte/Asuka stuff afterwards was solid.

Chris Novak: Hey, Happy Rusev Day, Rob.

Robert O’Neill: Can we talk about Aiden English rapping?

Chris Novak: We should. He had bars. Rusev getting the win here has me intrigued. They don’t USUALLY do that if the guy is going to win at Mania but… they have to belt him right? Oh, there’s Orton with an RKO outta nowhere again. Once again, they have to belt Rusev right? Right???

Robert O’Neill: Yes. WWE has done dumb stuff in the past, but if they don’t let Rusev win on Sunday they may lose the crowd *very* early in the night.

Chris Novak: Not gonna lie, pretty fun 8-man tag featuring the Andre Battle Royal guys. Solid stuff all around here. Corbin getting the win was a nice touch, I suppose. They’re doing the best they can with the Andre buildup, and to their credit, a lot of guys are getting work from it.

Robert O’Neill: Primo was in this match! That was wild. The Andre will be fine I guess. It is what it is. Back in the day they had a 30-man battle royal before Mania started and it was a dark match. Thanks to the Network, they don’t have dark matches anymore.

Robert O’Neill: Kevin Steen and Sa- El Generico are in the arena! They weren’t invited to this show!

Chris Novak: Nice touch to have them show up before Mania. Sami cut a promo like an effective heel. Who would’ve thought THAT would happen? They’ve done a good job in the last 2-3 weeks in building up this feud after it dragged on and on.

Robert O’Neill:My biggest post-Wrestlemania wish is that they continue to use Benjamin and Gable correctly like they did the past few weeks. They can be in higher card Smackdown matches to get guys over. They’re very good in the ring. Styles and Nakamura are going to blow the roof off the Superdome and I’m here for it.

Chris Novak: Hell of a main event, hell of a way to send us off. They built up Nak-Styles entirely through mannerisms, and it worked well. I, for one, can’t wait for this match on Sunday.

Quick Results
Charlotte Flair def. Natalya
Rusev def. Jinder Mahal
Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley & Primo def. Tye Dillinger, Zack Ryder & Breezango
AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura def. Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable

Final Thoughts

Robert O’Neill: In my opinion, Smackdown had less work to do than Raw. I mean, Nak/AJ, New Day/Usos, and Charlotte/Asuka practically build themselves. Not to mention the fact that Smackdown’s build benefits from having Daniel Bryan’s first match in three years. As a result, this show focused on building the “lesser” stuff like the US Title fatal four-way (RUSEV DAY), and the Andre Battle Royal. It was successful. B+

Chris Novak: It’s a B+ for me, as well. Like Rob said, a lot less work to do. But they still succeeded in it. I think more Tag Team Title stuff would’ve been helpful, but they already did enough in the past few weeks to get me excited and amped up for that. WWE’s hitting all the right notes right now. Hopefully that leads to an awesome show on Sunday.

Re-booking the Wrestlemania card

WrestleMania is the WWE’s equivalent of the Super Bowl. What is seen as the technical “season finale” of the WWE, the spectacle has been known to reel back in the most casual of fans, who sometimes only truly bother with the product that one Sunday night every spring.

Let’s be honest here... the WWE could do so much better with booking their product. Things that SHOULD happen logically rarely ever do, and we end up with something completely different. Here, I’ll take a look at how WWE should book the upcoming WrestleMania show in contrast to what will most likely happen.

Due to a limited amount of announced participants in the two battle royals, I won’t be covering them in this piece.

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship

With any avenue of entertainment such as movies and television, it’s unlikely that every viewer will be on the same page as far as a storyline goes. The art of professional wrestling is no different in this sense, as evident of fans’ disdain for the push that “The Big Dog” Roman Reigns has received the last four years. Ever since The Shield’s initial breakup in 2014, Reigns has practically been in the main event scene of Monday Night Raw, In a rematch from WrestleMania 31 that was thwarted when Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase mid-match, Reigns looks to get back to the top of the mountain and win his first ever Universal Championship.

What Should Happen: The build for this match has been decent, but does anyone really care about the match. In a perfect world, to add a bit of surprise factor it would be in the WWE’s best interest to let Lesnar go over in this match. The next night on Raw, Reigns could challenge Lesnar to one last match, to prove that he can beat The Beast. If Brock was willing, you can have him drop the title a week later in what would be Lesnar’s first match on Raw since 2002.

What Will Likely Happen: Since winning the Universal Championship at last year’s WrestleMania event, Brock Lesnar has defended the championship an outstanding four times, including a pinfall victory over the challenger at last year’s Summerslam event in a Fatal 4 Way. At this point, the writing was pretty much on the wall with a Reigns vs. Lesnar rematch at the big event. It is expected that Reigns will finally defeat Lesnar, and Lesnar will take some time off presumably to train for a return to UFC.

AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship

I think we all expected this one to happen once Nakamura was called up from NXT last year. The right call was made to have Nakamura win the 2018 Royal Rumble, and to keep the strap on AJ Styles leading up to the big event. While I think the internet’s criticism of Nak’s in-ring skill has been unfair, this should be match of the night in what will be the first battle between this two in a WWE ring.

What Should Happen: Although I wouldn’t be mad with whoever wins, it only makes sense to have the Royal Rumble winner go over at WrestleMania. With a Smackdown Live event coming up in Japan this summer, this makes the outcome even more likely, as they’ll want to market Nakamura returning to his home country with the WWE Championship.

What Will Likely Happen: Not only does this have match of the night written all over it, it is also a definite match of the year candidate. I fully expect WWE to go the route of Nakamura overcoming Styles in a bout that I’m hoping gets at least 20 minutes. However, I can also see them holding off on giving him the championship until it gets a big closer to that big show in Japan.

The Miz vs. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Bálor for the Intercontinental Championship

WWE

WWE

It’s no secret how big of a Miz stan that I am, and I fully believe he has potential to be a top 3 heel all-time in the business once it’s all said and done. He has been at odds with authority figures from both Raw and Smackdown Live since 2016, and that did not change after Kurt Angle placed him in a Triple Threat match for his championship at the Showcase of the Immortals.

What Should Happen: For the last few weeks, The Miz has been hyping up how he’ll hold the record for most combined days as Intercontinental Champion. And the higher ups honestly should allow him to reach that milestone during this current reign. If he loses at WrestleMania he’ll fall about 20 or so days short of that, so give him a few more weeks to hold that belt, and he can drop it to one of his two challengers in a rematch at Backlash.

What Will Likely Happen: If anyone remembers correctly, Finn Bálor still hasn’t received his rematch after he had to vacate the Universal Championship 24 hours after winning it at Summerslam 2016. A reign with the Intercontinental Championship would be a great way to jumpstart that push again, as Finn hasn’t seemed to have much direction as a character since returning from injury last spring.

Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal vs. Rusev for the United States Championship

At Fastlane, Randy Orton was finally crowned a Grand Slam champion after winning his first United States championship over Bobby Roode. Jinder Mahal was involved in this feud leading up to that match, and in turn was added to the rematch at WrestleMania.

What Should Happen: Prior to this match being made a Fatal 4-Way, I’m sure there wasn’t a soul out there who really cared about this this match. Now with the addition of Rusev, it’s time to take advantage of the hottest gimmick in the company. Better late than never, I guess.

What Will Likely Happen: Orton winning the United States title at Fastlane definitely seemed like it was meant for him to drop it quickly. On the 3/26 episode of Smackdown Live, seeds were planted for a Rusev vs. Jinder Mahal feud going forward, and it should be for the title over the next couple of months. This would allow Randy Orton and Bobby Roode to also continue their program separately.

Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax for the Raw Women’s Championship

I’ve been looking forward to this showdown ever since Bliss formed a “friendship” with Nia Jax last year. Kudos to the Raw creative team for giving this feud a slow burn, which climaxed in early March when Alexa Bliss was .

What Should Happen: It’s about time for Alexa Bliss to drop the title, and Nia Jax is the perfect one to reign over the women’s division on Raw for the time being. However, her doing so as a babyface doesn’t make much sense. Seems we’re at a crossroads here as SOMEONE has to walk out of the Superdome with the belt. If I were WWE I’d have Bliss cheat to win against Nia Jax, which sends Jax into a raging post-match attack on the champion. Cue the Women’s Money in the Bank owner Carmella, who runs down to successfully cash in her briefcase (it’s imperative that the first women’s briefcase holder to win their first cash-in), and make the switch over to Monday Night Raw.

What Will Likely Happen: Even if Carmella doesn’t get involved, I still can’t see Alexa Bliss walking out of WrestleMania with the championship. The whole Mickie James and Alexa Bliss friendship just seems too random for there to not be something up Mickie James’ sleeve. And it’s possible that Mickie will turn on Alexa, costing her the championship.

Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka for the Smackdown Women’s Championship

WWE

WWE

After making history and winning the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match, Asuka challenged Charlotte Flair for her championship at the Fastlane event in February. Another possible match of the night candidate, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that these two will have the best women’s match in WWE history at WrestleMania 34.

What Should Happen: Stop me if you haven’t heard this before, but Asuka hasn’t been defeated since arriving in WWE. And if they’re smart, they’ll keep it that way until at least later this summer. Especially with that Tokyo show coming up that I mentioned earlier.

What Will Likely Happen: Just how you can’t have the first ever Women’s Money in the Bank winner lose her cash-in match, the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble winner can NOT lose her championship match. I’m expecting Asuka to still go over, but Charlotte ending the streak at WrestleMania wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

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

New Day and The Usos engaged in one of the most exciting feuds in 2017, and I was thoroughly interested in seeing it start back up again (this time with the mutual respect angle) until the Bludgeon Brothers were implemented. Honestly, Harper and Rowan haven’t really mattered to audiences since the end of their run with Bray Wyatt, but they fit well into this feud at the moment.

What Should Happen: For the last several weeks, the story here has been how Jimmy and Jey Uso have never competed on the main WrestleMania card, which would mean that they’ve never had the chance to experience a WrestleMania moment since debuting in 2010. Not one competitor on the card this year deserves the honor more than these two, especially with how they’ve reinvented themselves the last couple of years. Time to let them have it here, they can drop the belts at a later date.

What Will Likely Happen: Every once in a while, WWE will slap the titles on a team that garners minimal reaction from audiences (hello Cade and Murdoch, Deuce and Domino, Primo & Epico). Surprisingly, Harper and Rowan have not held tag team gold on the main roster level. Also, they’ve been made to look like unstoppable forces since being repackaged, and there’s no need to kill that momentum at this time.

The Bar vs. Braun Strowman and TBD for the Raw Tag Team Championships

On the March 12 episode of Raw, Braun Strowman interjected himself into a #1 contenders tag team battle royal to determine who would face The Bar at WrestleMania. The story throughout the last 3 weeks has been about Braun finding a partner...who will that be?

What Should Happen: Daniel Bryan aside, Braun Strowman is by far the most over superstar on the roster, so naturally fans feel that he deserves better than this. But to be honest, it’s been a fun program so far. Logic hasn’t always been present when it comes to professional wrestling, so why start here? By letting Braun go over by himself, he can then be given an ultimatum by Kurt Angle to either find a partner by the next evening or risk being stripped of the championships.

What Will Likely Happen: Some rumored partners for Braun Strowman over the last few weeks have been Big Cass and Samoa Joe. However, if Braun is forced to decide on a partner prior to the start of the match, Elias is the only one who makes sense. Either way, Braun Strowman will be walking out of New Orleans with his first championship.

Cedric Alexander vs. Mustafa Ali for the Cruiserweight Championship

The Cruiserweight Championship has been vacant ever since former champion Enzo Amore was fired back in January. Shortly afterwards, a tournament was announced for the vacant championship that will end on the Grandest Stage of Them All. I honestly was expecting Drew Gulak to defeat Mustafa Ali in their match, as Cedric Alexander vs. Drew Gulak already had the seeds planted during the whole “Zo Train” angle. However, it’s understandable that the company would want to distance themselves from that whole debacle.

What Should Happen: I expect this one to be on the kickoff show, but hopefully these two competitors get more than enough time to show off their stuff. I was expecting Alexander to defeat Enzo Amore back at the Royal Rumble, but unfortunately he didn’t get his opportunity then. He should get it at WrestleMania.

What Will Likely Happen: I don’t see Mustafa Ali defeating Cedric Alexander in the finals, as Alexander’s push has been in motion since December. It’ll be smart to stay the course and allow that push to pay off.

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

WWE

WWE

Dissension between Kurt Angle and The Authority has been brewing ever since Angle was brought back as Raw general manager after WrestleMania 33, which had seemed to hit its peak when Triple H asserted himself into the 5-on-5 at Survivor Series, turning on Angle in the process. Insert Ronda Rousey - who had her own not so friendly encounter with The Authority at WrestleMania 31 - and you have an obvious showdown.

What Should Happen: With what is being touted as the biggest free agent signing in WWE history (and it’s hard to argue with that), the only logical thing to do is have the team of Rousey and Angle go over here. This is Kurt Angle’s first match at WrestleMania since he originally left in 2006, as well as Rousey’s first match ever. The sight of both Triple H and Stephanie McMahon tapping out simultaneously would be a joy to see, but realistically we’ll have to settle with Stephanie doing the honors.

What Will Likely Happen: There is literally no way that they’ll go any other route here with this match. If so, I’ll go on Instagram Live and eat one of my socks.

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

Salute to long-term booking with this one. This one has been in the making ever since Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were drafted to Smackdown after WrestleMania 33. Over the past few months, the inclusion of Daniel Bryan has been ambiguous, as he’d not been officially cleared to compete yet (although I believe they’ve known for a while, but kept it under wraps until recently). Now with Bryan back in the fold, we can finally get the payoff necessary, and one we’ve always dreamed of.

What Should Happen: While it would be a shocker to have Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens take the L here, I’d love the see the possibilities with these two trying to regain their jobs on Smackdown (as well as Raw), to no avail. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon haven’t been on the best of terms recently, and a feud between the two could be in the works. Would love to see how Owens and Zayn get involved with that down the line.

What Will Likely Happen: With the stipulation of Owens and Zayn being rehired if they win, you’d have to end this one with Shane McMahon eating the pinfall and the unruly duo getting their jobs back. Going forward, there’s still so much to touch base on as far as the rocky relationship between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon goes, and the two being on the losing end at WrestleMania is a good start.

Undertaker vs. John Cena

WWE

WWE

As of now, the match hasn’t been announced yet. The build has been VERY subpar, but for a match between two icons that hasn’t happened one on one in 12 years, you can rely on that more than anything. Will Undertaker be the Phenom or return as the American Bad Ass?

What Should Happen: Although John Cena has been on the losing end a LOT since returning from hiatus on Christmas, he can afford another one here, and it gives him a natural story for his next feud following WrestleMania. This SHOULD be the last match Undertaker has in his career, and what better way to ride off into the sunset with a victory....which brings me to my next point.

What Will Likely Happen: For one of the most old-school minded competitors on the roster, I can see Undertaker willing to do the honors here as it’s his last match. Undertaker’s record at WrestleMania doesn’t mean that much anymore after the streak, so it wouldn’t hurt at all, and it will still give John Cena a good rub going into his next program.