WWE Raw was live from Cleveland, Ohio last night. The main event featured Kane vs. Braun Strowman in a Universal title #1 contender’s match. Samoa Joe, Cesaro & Sheamus were all in singles action against members of The Shield while WWE had to pull a 180 with the cruiserweight division due to Rich Swann’s arrest. As usual, I’ll be spotlighting the five best things from last night’s show.
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And now, the five stars from the 12/11/17 edition of WWE Raw.
5. Samoa Joe
Joe vs. Ambrose was my least favorite of the three Shield matches, but I’d be a stupid idiot if I didn’t give Joe the praise he deserves. Raw opened with Joe in the ring berating Roman Reigns and talking about how he’s beaten and/or injured each member of The Shield. Joe always talks with a purpose and shy’s away from the cookie cutter language that a lot of other guys use. When Joe speaks, it sounds like something he would say rather than something that was written for him. That’s as high of a compliment you can give a WWE promo nowadays. I also love the pairing of Joe and The Bar, and the 6 man with The Shield sometime down the line is going to be off the charts.
The Joe/Ambrose match was OK, but fell short compared to Rollins/Sheamus & Reigns/Cesaro. Jason Jordan continuing to stick his nose in everyone’s business is a nice addition to the story, and gives the crowd an actual reason to boo him. I could’ve went without the ref distraction being the reason Ambrose lost, because his top rope offense couldn’t do maximum damage to a newborn baby. I will take the Joe choke out win though, because Samoa Joe should always win.
4. Finn Balor
Finn Balor picked up another win against the Miz-tourage, this time defeating folk hero Curtis Axel. It’s far from the best use of Balor, but I’ll take this over losing clean to Kane any day. It’s a little mind boggling that WWE doesn’t know how to use Balor, especially since he debuted and immediately won the Universal title. If these matches against Dallas & Axel lead to a Balor/Miz feud, I will be very happy. The Miz is WWE’s miracle worker and it’d be as pure of a baby face/heel matchup WWE has had in a while.
3. Seth Rollins vs. Sheamus
My second favorite Shield match last night was Rollins vs. Sheamus. These two have great chemistry whether it’s a singles or tag match, and I loved Sheamus’ strategy. Rollins is quicker and can take Sheamus out with high flying moves. How does Sheamus counter that? Brutalize Rollins knee, which is the same body part Seth uses for his finisher. It’s a simple story but it works, and Rollins is always better when he’s fighting from underneath as a fan favorite. His move set caters to the live crowd, specifically the top rope Suplex into the falcon arrow, which should be a finisher. Fun, competitive match with a clean finish. You can’t ask for much more than that.
2. Cesaro vs. Roman Reigns
Speaking of fun, competitive matches with a clean ending, Cesaro vs. Reigns was the best match of the night. Every time Cesaro is given time he shines, and I can’t explain why he’s not consistently in a main event spot. Similar to Sheamus working Rollins’ knee, Cesaro worked Reigns right arm, which is the key to his Superman punch and almost all of his offense. Once again Reigns was stellar as well, and his run as IC champ has been successful so far. You know he’s not losing the title on a random Raw, but his title defenses have all been great, and he’s elevating everyone he’s in the ring with.
I don’t know how long The Bar will be a thing, but WWE could do a lot worse than to make Cesaro IC champ. His physicality in this match was great, which always brings out the best in Roman. Cesaro deserved to win the match, but the time isn’t right for a title change. Hopefully he’s in the conversation when it’s time for Roman to move on to the Universal title again.
1. Cedric Alexander (and the rest of the cruiserweights)
So. A few weeks Kurt Angle set up a multi week storyline to find a new #1 contender for Enzo Amore. It consisted of two fatal 4 way matches, with the winner from each match facing each other. The winner of that match would be the new #1 contender. Rich Swann won one fatal 4 way and Drew Gulak won the other, so they would be one of two guys to fight for the cruiserweight title. The only problem with that is Rich Swann was arrested over the weekend for kidnapping and false imprisonment. Slight hiccup. Swann has been indefinitely suspended, so a second chance fatal 4 way took place on last night’s show with the winner of that match moving on to face Gulak. Got it?
The match was once again a standout moment for the cruiserweight division. They’ve proved for three weeks in a row that if you give them time, they will shine™. While Mustafa Ali is a personal favorite of mine, it’s hard to argue that Cedric Alexander doesn’t deserve to be a star in the cruiserweight division. He’s so dynamic and every move he executes has a beautiful crispness to it. I think he and Gulak will be put on a good match as well, and I like that they’re teasing some dissension within the Zo Train. It’s also nice to have the cruiserweights be an important part of Raw. There is way too much talent for them to be an afterthought.
In case you missed it, I wrote about the potential the Matt Hardy/Bray Wyatt feud has. Hopefully they move beyond dueling backstage promos soon, because both guys are too good to be boring.
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Samoa Joe Is The #1 Contender To Brock Lesnar’s Universal Title & Their Feud Is Off To A Great Start #WWE
Samoa Joe won the Fatal Five Way at Extreme Rules, and it was the best possible outcome coming out of that match. I was hoping Joe would win because he vs. Lesnar was the most intriguing match up, and I got my wish. Monday night on RAW, Samoa Joe wasted no time in putting Brock Lesnar on notice. After a great promo by Joe, Paul Heyman came out as he always does to advocate for Brock Lesnar, hype up Lesnar’s opponent while also explaining why that opponent has no chance against his Beast. Joe took everything in stride until Heyman tried to leave the ring. That’s when Joe calmly and sadistically explained to Paul what was about to happen to him and that he wants Paul to explain to Brock how it feels to get choked out. I loved that Joe did this without the use of a microphone, as this was something intimate he only wanted Heyman to hear.
Later in the episode Heyman is getting checked on by trainers when Brock Lesnar calls, and we find out that Brock will be at RAW next week to meet Joe head on. Joe knew what he was doing when he choked out Heyman, but it takes a special type of man to willingly call out Brock Lesnar like that. We haven’t seen Brock since the RAW after Mania, and I hope he comes back next week and we get some fireworks before…Greats Balls of Fire. Still don’t understand how they landed on that name, but if it’s being headlined by a fresh, ready to murder Brock Lesnar versus Samoa Joe, I’m in.
— WWE (@WWE) May 17, 2016
My favorite thing NXT does is that they go above and beyond expectations. Samoa Joe is fighting Finn Balor for the NXT Title at the next TakeOver special on June 8th. I’m sold. These guys are amazing in the ring together, and you just know they’re going to put on a great main event. Per usual, HHH and NXT one up themselves and make the match a steel cage match, the first time any NXT superstars have faced off in a cage. The only question that remains is will The Demon show up, and if he does, will he win? I’m a firm believer that Finn should not lose as The Demon in NXT (or ever) but at the same time, how much longer can you keep him down there? He really should debut on the main roster this summer, so how do you work around this? I don’t know the answer, but I do know I’m somehow more excited for this special than I was when I woke up this morning.
NXT live events seem like such a magical place. If it’s not Finn Balor doing Bayley’s entrance or Bayley and Finn Balor recreating Dirty Dancing, it’s something like this. The best part is Finn Balor won the match before this video. Not only did he beat Samoa Joe, but he decided that post match was a perfect time to sing Happy Birthday to Joe along with the entire crowd. It’s wonderful. I’ll be attending the NXT live event in Kingston, RI on April 22nd, so I can only hope for something this great.
NXT “Takeover: Dallas” event during WrestleMania 32 weekend:
WWE NXT Title Match
Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor
WWE NXT Women’s Title Match
Asuka vs. Bayley
Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
My favorite thing about NXT is their ability to not only put down four matches like that on paper, but the trust fans have in the product to build up these matches to make them even better. NXT had their final tapings before WrestleMania weekend last night, and these are the four major matches for the April 1st event. The only surprise for me was that Joe and Balor will square off again, and that Zayn will take on Nakamura in his debut. I want to see Zayn vs. Balor badly, but if Balor isn’t turning heel between now and April, it makes sense to put him up against someone like Joe. From everything I’ve seen and read about Nakamura, he is a complete game changer, and I fully expect him and Zayn to tear the house down. Gable and Jordan are my favorite part of NXT, so seeing them get their tag title shot is going to be insane. Asuka vs. Bayley is so wonderful, as they’re two VERY different kind of baby faces, and this will be the ultimate test for Bayley. When you combine this card with the fact that more matches will be added with the likes of Apollo Crews, Corbin, Austin Aries, the women’s division and the tag team division, you have an event that will rival WrestleMania. What a weekend that will be.
Smackdown was live this week from Providence, RI, and whenever the WWE comes to town, you can be sure the Average Nobodies will be in attendance. Tuesday night was no different, and as usual, WWE put on a great live show. We got in there right about the start of Main Event, and even saw Finn Balor and Samoa Joe team up in some high quality NXT action. Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Smackdown!
1. The Wyatt Family
The Wyatt Family opened up Smackdown with a promo, which is par for the course for Smackdown. But if you think I’m not going to give Bray, Luke Harper and their new Donald Gibb lookalike a star then you’re high. Having Wyatt influence people enough to join his family is such a long overdo character trait that it makes me furious it didn’t happen sooner. But it happened now, and although I’m 1000% sure that Braun is going to end up being just another obstacle Roman Reigns overcomes, my optimistic side says that this trio could finally get Bray into the title picture. It’s a goddamn shame that Wyatt has never held a belt in the WWE, especially when the IC belt is toiling away in obscurity with Ryback and Big Show punching each other for 7 minutes at a time. You’re telling me IC champion Wyatt wouldn’t have good to great matches and feuds with the Dean Ambrose/Kevin Owens/Cesaro’s of the WWE? It’d be money, and it would give the mid carders something to chase. Make it happen, WWE. Or just have Wyatt be the best character you’ve had in a decade lose every important match he wrestles.
2. Seth Rollins
Fresh off his US title win at Summerslam and beat down at the hands of Sting on Raw, Seth Rollins unfortunately didn’t wrestle on Smackdown, but he did cut one hell of a fiery promo. While most of his promos are long winded, my favorite part about the Seth Rollins character is that it comes from a very real place. Rollins does have a chip on his shoulder, he does think he’s underrated and he truly believes he’s ‘the man’. When he was in NXT, he felt that he should have been elevated to the main roster. When he was in The Shield, he felt like the spotlight should have been shined solely on him. Now that he’s WWE Champion, he believes people should bow at his feet and thank him for being in their presence. He’s sick of having his title reign questioned, and if he has to beat old man Sting to prove once again that he’s THE MAN, then that’s exactly what he’s going to do. Seth Rollins is at the top of his game right now, and if there’s one guy who can pull a main event match out of Sting at this phase of his career, it’s Seth Rollins.
3. The Dudley Boyz Make Their Smackdown Return
I’m not going to sit here and lie directly to your face and say I didn’t pee myself a little when the Dudleys showed up on RAW and decimated The New Day. It was probably in my top 3 as far as wrestlers returning to the WWE goes (other two that i’m still waiting for are Stone Cold and Mickie James [love me some Mickie]). So when I found out the Dudleys were going to be showing off those sweet camo pants on the Smackdown that I was attending, I got the sharpie out and made a “get the tables sign” (WHICH WAS SEEN ON SMACKDOWN). Was I a little disappointed they fought The Ascension? Yeah, sure I was. Did it matter? Hell no it did not, The Dudleys were going to put one, or both, of them through the table anyway. Bonus pee in my pants for The New Day coming out with hilarious signs protesting the Dudleys reappearance in the WWE. #GiveTablesAChance
4. Sheamus Working the Providence Crowd
The WWE loves Sheamus. At first I didn’t understand why, but after a few years of matches and character changes I see it clearly, the guy is pretty much the total package. He’s big, he’s got “the look”, he speaks decent on the mic, he makes his opponent look good, has a shit ton of moves in his repertoire and he can deal with a tough crowd. On Smackdown, he had to continually deal with a hostile crowd that were chanting “You look stupid”, and while I agree with the Providence crowd, this can’t be an easy thing to deal with as a backdrop to your match. In-between giving Ambrose the beating of a lifetime, he would often look to the crowd and scream “no i’m not!”, which, if you ask me, is the perfect childish response you want from a heel. Great match by Ambrose and Sheamus.
5. Finn Balor and Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe and Finn Balor teaming up in a tag team match against the Lucha Dragons was a nice added bonus for our night at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence. The match was great, and Balor and Joe are a formidable team going forward (more on that in a bit). Sin Cara probably isn’t going anywhere past the Lucha Dragons, but if the WWE ever lets Kalisto let loose and become another Rey Mysterio, he’s going to blow people away more than he’s already doing now. The reason I mentioned Joe and Balor going forward, and the reason why this match was especially special (new phrase) is because this ended up being one of the matches that decided what teams would participate in the Dusty Rhodes Memorial Tag Team Tournament that is going to be dominating NXT TV over the next few months. The tag team division is probably the weakest part of NXT, and that’s not a knock on the tag division, but rather it shows you how strong the rest of their show is. If you want to see the difference between NXT and WWE, just look at this move by Regal, HHH and whoever else had a hand in creating this tournament. WWE’s answer to a subpar tag division is to just run fatal four way after fatal four way tag team matches with the same teams. The only reason people are talking about the division at all is because of the wonderfulness of New Day and the PTP. Instead of doing that, NXT creates this memorial tournament, which gives EVERY NXT wrestler, including their champion Finn Balor, a chance to enter with a teammate and try to win it. Dusty Rhodes was the heart and soul of NXT, so from a real life and storyline standpoint, every wrestler on the roster has motivation to want to win this thing. We’re probably not there yet, but how awesome would it be to have a few women team up and get a couple victories? If you don’t want to see Charlotte tap out Mojo Rawley you might not have a soul.
-The Average Nobodies
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) August 6, 2015
As if NXT Takeover wasn’t already going to be amazing, the NXT title match main event is now going to be a ladder match. The Brooklyn crowd is going to be insane all night, and why wouldn’t it be? In addition to the NXT title match, you have Sasha Banks vs. Bayley for the NXT Women’s title, The Vaudevillians vs. Blake & Murphy for the NXT Tag titles, Samoa Joe vs. Baron Corbin, Tyler Breeze vs. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger and probably at least one or two more matches. According to HHH, the Women’s title match will be the co main event, which means the Brooklyn crowd is in for the best 45 minutes-1 hour of wrestling that they’ve ever seen in their life. I’m infinitely more hyped for Takeover than I am for Summerslam, and that’s not a slight on the WWE main roster. NXT has just built pretty much the perfect show.