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Five Stars From #WWE #RAW (2/19/18): Next Stop, Elimination Chamber

WWE Raw was live last night for their final stop before Sunday’s Elimination Chamber pay per view. Two hours of the three hour show featured a 7 man gauntlet match with the members of the men’s Elimination Chamber match. Hour three consisted of poor Asuka trying to cut a WWE style promo, The Bar vs. Titus Worldwide AGAIN and a 6 women tag match. Needless to say, hours one and two were much better than hour three. Let’s get to the five stars, including a historic night for Seth Rollins.

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5-2 The Gauntlet Match

Seth Rollins

Raw started off with Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns in the first of six consecutive matches. Over an hour later, Rollins was still wrestling. His performance went from enjoyable to engrossing to record setting. Rollins is one of the best wrestlers/athletes on either roster, so watching him shine last night was wonderful. You know you’re having a great night when you pin both Reigns and Cena and that’s the last thing people are talking about. Rollins and Reigns have great chemistry, and they set the pace with last night’s show opener.

Cena/Rollins started a little bit slower, but once the near falls started popping up the crowd was super into it. I loved the roll through AA spot from Rollins, and this was one of the most human performances from Cena in a long time. John tends to still try to wrestle like super human Cena, but he’s much more enjoyable when he’s wrestling vulnerable.

The night belonged to Rollins though, who showed the best character work of his career. Imagine if THIS was the Seth Rollins we got when he was the champion instead of relying on J & J Security and Kane to win matches? I wasn’t sure if he could pull off the gutsy baby face role, but if you have doubts after last night you’re a crazy person. He gets compared to HBK from time to time, but this is the first time I saw some similarities in their character and in ring work. Fantastic stuff from Rollins.

Finn Balor & Miz

After Rollins was finally eliminated by Elias, Finn Balor entered the gauntlet. Balor and Elias are two of the best mid card guys in WWE, so it wasn’t a surprise that they had a solid match. Balor picked up the win, as he should have, and then was sneak attacked by Miz. I’m glad that Elias and Miz solidified themselves as the heels in the gauntlet match. After Rollins beat Cena, Elias rushed the ring and immediately attacked Rollins. It was a heel move, but also a logical one, because by that point Rollins was running on fumes. After Balor won a hard fought match against Elias,

Miz had Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel distract Balor while Miz attacked him from behind. Miz and Balor would be my dream IC title match at WM, and I was a little surprised Gallows and Anderson weren’t out there to help Balor. If they do fight again at Mania, Balor Club vs. Miz-Tourage would be a fun secondary story.

Once the match got going it was a lot of fun, and Balor fires up better than most guys. I loved the spot when he took out Dallas and Axel with a flip to the outside, and he was seconds away from beating Miz. Ultimately the numbers game was too much, as Axel and Dallas stopped Finn from hitting the Coup De Grace. That allowed Miz to recover and hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the win. I liked that decision for two reasons. 1. Miz won, but needed the help of the Miz-Tourage to do it. That could/should lead to Balor getting a shot at the IC title after the Elimination Chamber. 2. It set up Miz vs. Strowman, with everyone in the universe wanting to see Strowman destroy some human beings. It also produced this great GIF of Miz realizing his fate:

BRAUNNNNN

The final gauntlet match of Strowman vs. Miz was another great showcase for Braun. It began with Braun chasing down the Miz in a legitimately disturbing feat of quickness and ended with numerous power slams. If that’s the way every Strowman match ended from now until the end of time, I’d be OK with that. I thought having Braun enter the gauntlet last was perfect, as it allowed Rollins, Elias, Balor and Miz to do their thing without compromising the monster among men. Plus, the crowd knew he was coming eventually, and when he finally did appear, they were hot as hell for it. Braun also got to cut a quick, precise promo on the Elimination Chamber and Lesnar. It was perfect, and he followed it up with a few more power slams to the delight of the crowd.

If you needed more proof that Braun is ready for the title, watch his segment last night. There is no one even close to him right now, and if WWE pulls the trigger and puts him vs. Lesnar at Mania, they’re going to have a lot of happy fans. Unfortunately, I think having Reigns and Cena be the only two to not win a match in the gauntlet was done by design. I’ll get into this more in my Elimination Chamber preview, but I’ll be shocked if the final two in the chamber aren’t Roman and Cena.

1. Main Event

The 6 women tag main event featuring the participants in the first ever women’s Elimination Chamber was a good prequel for Sunday’s match. I thought Sasha, Bayley, Mandy and Sonya looked the best, and I’m glad there are multiple story lines that will exist within the chamber match. Everyone knows the chamber is every women for themselves, but it’s good to have to friendships and alliances that exist between the competitors. Sonya and Mandy are apart of Absolution; Bayley and Sasha are long time friends; Mickie and Alexa have struck up an unlikely friendship over the past few weeks.

That’s three different storylines within the match. I don’t foresee Mandy and Sonya having a chance to turn on each other, but I cant’ say for same for the other two alliances. Bayley and Sasha are friends now, but they were heated rivals in NXT. Mickie and Alexa are new found friends, but it’s clear Alexa is using Mickie so she has some type of backup in the chamber. Plus, Mickie has a history of ulterior motives, especially when it comes to winning championship gold.

The women didn’t have a ton of time with the men’s gauntlet match going two hours, but I enjoyed the tag match as a build towards the chamber match.

-Ryan

 

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Your Average WWE Summerslam Preview & Predictions

Photo: WWE

Photo: WWE

The biggest party of the summer is once again emanating from Brooklyn, New York, as the WWE holds their annual Summerslam pay per view this Sunday night. This year’s card is pretty incredible, and that shouldn’t surprise WWE fans, as more times than not in the recent past, Summerslam has been a very good show. Summerslam 2013 featured Daniel Bryan winning the WWE Championship, only to have special guest referee HHH take him out and allow Randy Orton to cash in his MITB briefcase. That kicked off one of the more memorable Road to WrestleMania’s, which culminated in Daniel Bryan putting on the best one man show in WM history and winning back the WWE Championship in the main event. Summerslam 2014 featured one of my favorite matches, as Brock Lesnar surprisingly decimated John Cena on his way to winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. While last year’s Undertaker/Lesnar main event fell flat, the overall card was solid, and it officially brought Seth Rollins to the big boys table after he defeated John Cena. What will this year’s event bring? Let’s get to the preview and predictions!

Eva Marie, Natalya and Alexa Bliss vs. Carmella, Naomi and Becky Lynch

Photo: WWE

Photo: WWE

So Sami Zayn doesn’t have a match at Summerslam but Eva Marie does. Nothing against Eva Marie, but that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Anyway, this match was made after last night’s Smackdown, and it’s should serve as a nice showcase for the six women who will eventually be fighting for the Smackdown’s Women’s title (if that ever becomes a thing). The positive side of not having a bunch of titles on each show is that it forces the creative team to come up with storylines that don’t revolve around two people vying for a championship. This should create more personal feuds, and whether it does or not will depend on the Smackdown writing team. As far as this match goes, it will be Carmella and Alexa Bliss’s first WWE pay per view, so it’d be cool to see them involved in the finish in some way. With Ms. All Red Everything involved though, I can see Alexa or Natalya landing a knockout blow during a fracas and Eva Marie sneaking in for a pin to claim the victory.

Prediction: Eva Marie, Natalya & Alexa Bliss

Enzo Amore & Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens

Photo: WWE

Photo: WWE

These four guys have been given the opening segment for the two out of three Raw’s, and have given us a thoroughly entertaining feud. 2016 Jericho continues to be great, and somehow gets better when you pair him with Kevin Owens. I love that Owens has hated Enzo and Cass since NXT, and that hatred has only gotten stronger now that they’re all on the main roster. The dynamic of Enzo and Cass works well too, as Enzo runs his mouth and clearly isn’t afraid of anybody, but doesn’t pose much of a physical threat until Big Cass gets involved. While I’d like Enzo & Cass to be in the tag title hunt, I’m perfectly OK with them mixing it up with two guys who know how to bring out the best in them. I have to assume that this Jericho/Owens tag team won’t last long, but I’m ok with it either way. Jericho is a tag team chameleon, so if they do stay together, why not let them make a run at the titles? If they don’t stay together, I’m all in for a Jericho/Owens feud, especially in the promo department.

Prediction: Enzo & Cass pick up a big win at a marque pay per view, continuing their rise to the top of the tag team division

IC Title Match: The Miz (C) vs. Apollo Crews

Photo: WWE

Photo: WWE

Now that the Miz’s fantastic feud with Darren Young is over, it’s time to give Apollo Crews something to work with. He came into NXT as a big new signee, but was never given much of a character and stalled out. He came onto the main roster as a fresh new thing, but was never given a character and is starting to stall out again. I’m a huge fan of the Miz, and he’s one of the best characters WWE has (especially with Maryse), but it’s time to get Crews going. He’s got a million dollar smile and for his build, he does some pretty amazing things. I have complete confidence that Miz can bring out the best in Crews, and put him over big time for what is hopefully a semi long title run.

Prediction: Apollo Crews

US Championship Match: Rusev (C) vs. Roman Reigns

This is a classic heart vs. brain match for me. My heart is, and will forever always be, with Rusev. He’s the most underrated guy on the roster and every time they’ve given him something to work with he’s knocked it out of the park. HE RODE A TANK TO THE RING AT WRESTLEMANIA. While I understand having Cena beat Rusev for the US title, they backed themselves into a corner by giving Rusev a long undefeated streak. Undefeated streaks in pro wrestling are the worst thing in the world because there is no good way to end them. The best example of this is Goldberg. The guy was the hottest thing in wrestling, held both the US and Heavyweight titles at the same time, and eventually lost because Scott Hall tazored him. Now Rusev finally has some momentum again and I have that feeling I had before WrestleMania 31 where WWE is going to have the hero come in and defeat the evil Russian, even though Rusev has been the good guy during every single moment of this feud. Remember last week when Rusev and Lana were innocently reenacting their wedding and Roman Reigns came out, unprovoked, and called Lana a mail order bride and made fun of Rusev because he couldn’t please his wife sexually on their wedding night? Remember when Roman Reigns complained and was just handed another title match? How does that make Reigns the hero in this feud? Add in the fact that Reigns is so goddamn boring, and I see no reason why Rusev should lose. Which brings me to my prediction…

Prediction: Roman Reigns. Let’s just move on.

Cesaro vs. Sheamus: Best of 7 Series Kickoff Match

Photo: WWE

Photo: WWE

While I love this move by GM Mick Foley, I do wish this had been set up prior to Cesaro and Sheamus already fighting twice on Raw. If Cesaro loses this series, shouldn’t he be furious that Foley basically ignored two hard fought, clean victories? I understand you can’t start a best of 7 series 2-0, but why not start this up a few weeks ago when Foley said he wanted to see who the better man was? If you make the best of 7 series then, you could make the Summerslam match number 3 or 4 in the series, and possibly continue it through the fall. Instead, WWE hits the reset button and we’re just supposed to forget that Cesaro has already beaten Sheamus twice. With that said, we should get a great match at Summerslam with a decent story behind it, so I’m all for it. While Sheamus is very good in the ring, his character is so bland it’s tough to care about him either way. Cesaro has all the talent in the world, but WWE just won’t let him get any continued momentum, so it’s tough for the casual fan to root for him. Hopefully this is the start of an extended showcase for both wrestlers with Cesaro eventually coming out on top.

Prediction: Cesaro

John Cena vs. AJ Styles

Since coming to the WWE, AJ Styles has been one of their best performers. He had a great feud with Jericho, then slid into the #1 contenders spot and put on a few classic matches with Roman Reigns. Now he’s going up against Mr. Superman and even though he’s already beat him once (CLEAN) they’re having a rematch. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen here. It’s almost the same thing as Rusev/Reigns, except on a much bigger scale. Styles has a chance to be one of if not THE top guy in WWE, but he has to go through John Cena to get there. Kevin Owens tried, and failed. Rusev tried, and failed. Bray Wyatt tried, and failed. Why would Styles be any different? A classic John Cena feud has him lose at a B pay per view, then get his win back at a bigger show. Guess what? AJ Styles beat John Cena at MITB, and now they’re fighting at Summerslam, a much bigger show. History tells us John Cena is going to win, and there’s a reason I use that picture above for every Cena match I preview. While I’d love to happily be proved wrong, I’m going with Superman.

Prediction: John Cena

Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton

If you held this match before UFC 200, Brock Lesnar would eat Randy Orton for lunch. Lesnar was as unstoppable as anyone in recent memory until he decided to go back to the UFC and fail a few drug tests. While WWE doesn’t have the power to suspend him, they have to be embarrassed and upset at Brock to act as carelessly as he did, especially given the circumstances of WWE suspending Reigns shortly afterwards. Regardless of UFC fights and drug test failures, Lesnar steps back into the ring for the first time since WrestleMania as he takes on Randy Orton at Summerslam. While Lesnar hasn’t fought since WM, Orton is coming off of an almost year long hiatus due to injury, and although he’s fought a few matches on Smackdown since coming back, nothing can really prepare you for The Beast Incarnate. As much as I’d love to see Brock destroy Orton a la John Cena at Summerslam 2014, I just don’t see it happening. The WWE loves that ‘RKO Outta Nowhere’ talking point, and it really fits into this storyline perfectly. Whether Lesnar wins or loses, he should dominate the match, until an RKO Outta Nowhere surprises him and gives Orton the win. As I said before, I bet the original plan for this match was for Brock to return and destroy a worthy competitor in Orton, but now I’m not so sure. Vince McMahon was kind enough to let Lesnar fight in the UFC while under contract with the WWE, and Lesnar basically spit in his face. The Beast is going to have to pay for that.

Prediction: Randy Orton

Tag Team Championship Match: New Day (Kofi & Xavier) vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows

Photo: WWE

Photo: WWE

This is an interesting match, and it has rematch written all over it. As much I love Xavier Woods, the best in-ring version of New Day is Kofi & Big E. Now that Big E has suffered a ‘contusion to his groin area’ at the hands of Anderson & Gallows, New Day is forced to defend the tag titles with the team of Xavier and Kofi. Does Big E make a surprise comeback and help New Day retain? Or do Gallows and Anderson take advantage of the weakened unit and win tag team gold? New Day has done a lot of good as tag team champions, but they are way overdue for a loss. Similar to having Styles beat Cena, having Gallows and Anderson go over the longest reigning tag team champions of the modern era at Summerslam would be huge for them. Why bring these guys in from Japan if you’re not going to do something with them? Plus, you have a built in excuse for a rematch with the Big E injury, so why not give your new tag team a big win at a major event? Give Karl Anderson and his hot Asian wife a reason to celebrate.

Prediction: Gallows & Anderson

Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks (C) vs. Charlotte

‘Women’s Championship’ has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? After suffering through the Diva’s division for so long, its nice to see the women slowly but surely making headway on the main roster. If there’s any two women the WWE Universe can thank for that, it’s Sasha Banks & Charlotte. They (along with Bayley and Becky Lynch) tore it up in NXT and forced WWE to start recognizing women for their in ring talent and not just because they looked good in a bikini. Sasha & Charlotte had the best one on one main roster women’s singles match on Raw a few weeks back, so if this match is anything close to that, it’ll be fantastic. Dana Brooke being banned from ringside is an interesting twist, and I can see either Ric Flair coming out or Dana dressed as Ric to try and cause some interference. Regardless of outside interference, the title has to stay on The Boss here. Sasha is not only the best in the ring, but she has a strong connection with the fans which goes back to her time in NXT and her look and personality give her a strong mainstream appeal. If the rumors of Charlotte taking time off are true, that’s just another reason to keep Sasha as the champion and to develop a new round of challengers for The Boss to dispatch. Don’t be surprised if Nia Jax makes a post match appearance as well to set up the next Women’s championship feud.

Prediction: Sasha Banks

WWE World Championship Match: Dean Ambrose (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler

This has been one of the more enjoyable feuds on the card, and it’s safe to say no one is enjoying the brand split more than Dolph Ziggler. He’s looked like a star since the first Smackdown Live and hasn’t looked back. I really like Ambrose as the figure head for Smackdown as well, because he’s a great talker and while he might not be the greatest threat in the ring, he figures out a way to get the job done. When Ziggler became #1 contender, it was an interesting dynamic because both wrestlers were baby faces, but Ambrose has slowly been turning heel over the last few weeks. While I doubt he goes full heel, it does give this match a little more suspense than before. Will Ambrose cheat to win? Ziggler is a good guy based on fan reactions, but is he above cheating to finally stand alone at the top? I expect this to be an expertly wrestled match, and as much as I’ll be rooting for Ziggler, I think Ambrose deserves a longer title reign.

Prediction: Dean Ambrose

WWE Universal Championship Match: Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor

While I’m pretty sure Orton/Lesnar will go on last, I think that’s a mistake. Seth Rollins vs. Finn Balor to crown the first ever Universal Champion should absolutely be the main event, and the WWE is crazy if they do anything else. Balor is the MAN. He’s got the entrance, the charisma, the look, the in ring skills; whatever you’re looking for, Finn Balor has it. He’s made every promotion he’s ever worked for better just by being in it, whether it be NJPW or NXT. If WWE gives him a real shot, he’ll do the same thing for Monday Night Raw. Balor had one of the best in ring debuts ever a few weeks ago, and he can’t ask for a better dance partner than Rollins at Summerslam. Since separating from The Shield and cashing in his MITB briefcase at WrestleMania 31, Rollins has been the standard bearer for the WWE. While they wasted his talent by turning him into a cry baby champion, Rollins still made the best of it and turned into a heel who was impossible to boo. His injury came at an inopportune time, but he busted his butt to get back, and now finds himself right back where he belongs: fighting for a title. If this was Rollins vs. Balor, I’d give the edge to Rollins and have him be the first Universal Champion. Unfortunately for Seth, Finn Balor is bringing The Demon with him to Summerslam. While The Demon has lost in NXT, it’d be a mistake to have him lose his first appearance at a major pay per view. The fact that Rollins is focusing so heavily on The Demon gives me hope that Rollins will unleash a demon side of his own at Summerslam, but either way, I’m going with Finn.

Prediction: Finn Balor

-Ryan

WWE Came Through In A Big Way With One Of The Best Raw’s In Years Last Night

WWE had to deliver on the first night of the ‘new era Raw’, and that’s exactly what they did. The two big stories coming out of last night’s show were of course Finn Balor becoming the #1 contender for the new Universal title (on his first night on Raw) and Sasha Banks finally winning the Women’s Title in probably the best 1 on 1 main roster women’s match ever. If you thought Trish Stratus and Lita were studs in the ring, go back and watch Sasha and Charlotte blow away any of those matches, including the one that main evented a Raw. Beyond those two matches, we had two fatal four way matches, a new contender step up to New Day, Nia Jax and Braun Strowman assert their dominance and for the first time in a long time, a fresh feeling to a Monday Night Raw. The set was different, the announce table was put up towards the entrance ramp and announcers were in the ring before and after matches getting competitors reactions. I loved everything about last night’s show, and this should only be the beginning.

A couple random thoughts:

Finn Balor might’ve had the best wrestling debut in WWE history. Guys have had more memorable debuts, but as far as showing what you can do in the ring, I can’t remember a guy looking better. On the same night he turned 35, he made his Raw debut and beat Cesaro, Rusev, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns. The last win against Reigns put him in the (Raw) main event at Summerslam where he’ll fight Seth Rollins for the brand new Universal Title. It just doesn’t get better than that. I hope that Stephanie sides with Rollins and HHH returns to side with Balor, and that Balor wins the title and HHH and Rollins go on to duke it out to see who is the true master of the pedigree.

While Balor had an incredible debut, my favorite moment was Banks winning the title. Her and Charlotte had the match of the night, and it’s so much fun watching these women get a chance to pull out all the stops and really deliver. Sasha is ‘the boss’ in every way possible, and Bayley needs to get up here ASAP so they can tear every single arena down.

My new favorite tweet:

-Ryan

Roman Reigns Is The New #1 Contender For The WWE Championship After Last Night’s Excellent Fatal Four Way #RAW Main Event #WWE

I don’t know who wrote and decided the creative direction for last night’s Raw, but it was one of the better Raw’s in recent memory. For the first time in a long time, it felt fresh, and that storylines were finally heading in a new direction. Even the rehashing of the Paige heel turn felt different because there was actually some action to it, not just Paige verbally bashing everyone within earshot. The biggest development was the #1 contenders tournament, which showcased five awesome matches, concluding with the fatal four way main event. The best kind of triple threat or fatal four ways are the ones in which all of the competitors come off looking like stars, and that’s exactly what happened here. All four guys won clean to get into the main event, and all four had their own unique moments in the match where it looked like they were going to win. People might complain that Reigns won and looked ‘strong’, but the fact is he has the best motivation to be #1 contender over anyone not named Brock Lesnar. Rollins screwed him over by betraying The Shield and then screwed him over again at WrestleMania. Reigns/Rollins should tear down the house whenever they decide to book it, and I hope this momentum rolls over to the secondary and Divas divisions as well.

-Ryan

ESPN Will Now Run A Weekly WWE Recap Segment On Sportscenter & I Guess I’m Watching Sportscenter Again

chris pratt animated GIF

I’m sure sports fans/assholes around the world will be OUTRAGED that ESPN is going to start airing WWE recaps on Sportscenter, but as a wrestling fan, I am overjoyed. Jonathan Coachman is our man on the inside and he’s been pushing for a collaboration between ESPN and the WWE for awhile now, so I’m glad it’s finally happening. WWE being ‘PG TV’ helps in situations like this, as you know young kids aren’t going to be tuning in and watching Val Venis get his penis chopped off or Sable with black hand paint as a bra. WrestleMania 31 was a huge success and WM 32 taking place in Dallas has a chance to be the biggest WrestleMania ever, so I’m glad this partnership is starting now. Now, if the main roster writers and Vince can get their heads out their asses and start writing good TV shows we’ll be golden.

-Ryan

5 Stars From Last Night’s #RAW

Monday Night Raw hung around in Texas last night after Sunday’s NOC show in Houston. A few titles changed hands, including Charlotte winning her first ever Diva’s championship on the main roster. Last night’s Raw saw Cesaro lose to the Big Show (BOO), John Cena pin the WWE champ clean again (BOOOOO) & New Day tagged with Rusev (*insert heart eyes here*). Let’s get to the 5 stars from last night’s Raw.

This Wyatt’s vs. Reigns, Ambrose & Everyone Else Feud

99% of the time, Raw kicks off with a promo. Out of that 99%, I’d say 98% of the time it’s either Rollins, The Authority or John Cena doing the promo-ing. So when someone else comes out, whether it be Paul Heyman & Lesnar or in this case, the Wyatt Family, it’s a breath of fresh air. Bray kicks things off with a promo about how stupid it is for Roman Reigns to keep fighting this losing battle, and that brings out Reigns, who I have to point out has been pretty awesome throughout this entire thing. Roman is the total package, and he’s a good promo when he’s allowed to just speak his mind instead of the over scripted bullshit WWE feeds to him. Also, he’s a badass. With Reigns and Ambrose holding up their end of the feud, it allows the Wyatt’s to be strong, menacing villains. The John Cena era of the WWE has basically made it impossible for a villain to last. If I gave you five seconds, name me a good villain that was created between 2005 and now. You can’t think of any, because any time a guy got some momentum, Cena squashed him. Pro wrestling 101 is you build up a villain so when the good guy triumphs, it means something. With Cena, the villain builds up, wins a match, and then Cena wins until he’s ready to move onto someone else. When you build a villain like they’re doing with Strowman and the Wyatt Family, it suspends that belief that the good guy is automatically going to win. I’m not saying the villain has to always win, but throw them a bone once in awhile. Also, a supplemental best for Strowman’s promo later in the night where he casually mentions skinning a snake alive and drinking it’s blood.

Paige

Charlotte won the Diva’s championship from Nikki Bella at NOC and as a reward got her own little championship ceremony on Raw. It was a little much, and if the WWE wants us to take this Diva’s Revolution seriously, having your top NXT Diva win a title should be business as usual. I understand it’s Charlotte’s first title on the main roster, but I’m glad Paige ruined it. Paige got her own version of a ‘pipe bomb’ and pretty much ripped apart the entire ‘Diva’s Revolution’, and it was a necessary occurrence. The WWE is obsessed with trying to go from point A to point B without doing any of the leg work. You can’t go from what the Diva’s were with the Bella’s on top to ‘NXT Women’s Division’ just by calling something a revolution. The reason the women’s division in NXT is so great is because the writers, performers and HHH are all invested in it, and they do the leg work. They create characters, put thought into the storylines and trust the performers to fill in the gaps. On Raw, yes you have Sasha and Becky and Charlotte, but you just threw them into groups of three and extended the matches by 10 minutes and hoped for the best. Nikki Bella is still going months in between title defenses and wins and losses don’t matter. This Paige promo was a step in the right direction, and I hope that there’s more storylines besides ‘everyone wants to win the Diva’s title’.

The New Day & Rusev

I don’t know who’s idea it was to pair New Day and Rusev, but that person deserves a gold fucking star. New Day & Rusev are the most entertaining parts of Raw, and seeing them interact was a thing of beauty. I loved everything about this, mostly the beginning when Big E was trying to imitate Rusev’s pre match ritual and Xavier Woods playing Rusev’s theme on the trombone while he’s kicking Dolph Ziggler’s ass. Give me Rusev and The New Day for 3 hours every week and I’m a happy man. The match was solid too, and Rusev won with a secondary move, which I love so much. WWE’s new favorite thing is to have guys kick out of finishers, and while it adds suspense to the match, it’s so dumb for the long run. As much as I loved watching Cesaro kicking out of Cena’s AA, it takes away the move’s effectiveness. Kicking out of a guys finisher should be a rare occurrence so you can maximize the effect of it. It shouldn’t happen every match. On the flip side, beating someone with a secondary move, like Rusev’s super kick, is great. It legitimizes the move and now Rusev doesn’t have to slap on the Accolade to beat you. He can also kick you as hard as he can in the face. Entertaining, smart match.

Big Show’s Promo

As foolish as it was for the Big Show to squash Cesaro (what, was Heath Slater busy?), his post match promo was really good. There’s a negative infinity chance that Big Show beats Lesnar, but you might as well give him some momentum heading into the show. Big Show did an interview a few weeks back and talked about how everyone who wrestles today is overexposed, and he couldn’t be more right. The reason a guy like Andre the Giant was so special was because he was never overexposed in a certain territory. They’d bring him in for a few shows, and then he wouldn’t be back for awhile, so when he did come back, it was special again. It’s the same thing WWE is doing with Brock Lesnar. I don’t care how great you are, if you’re on TV every week people are eventually going to get tired of you. Big Show definitely suffers from that, as he’s been a fixture on TV for almost 20 years. Even if you’re a giant, the act still gets stale. It’s nice to see Show get a chance to talk, as he’s a very underrated promo, and we should enjoy Big Show while he lasts, because after MSG, he’s going to be a shell of a man.

John Cena vs. Seth Rollins (minus the finish)

Cena & Rollins work so well together, and 2015 continues to be the best in ring year of Cena’s career. You can say it’s because of guys like Cesaro, Owens, Neville and Rollins, but any really good match takes two guys working together, and that’s exactly what Cena’s done. The match was good, and I’m glad Cena’s US Champ again. Rollins holding both belts was fine from a storyline point of view, and he can always bring up how he held both, but whenever one guy holds both belts, one of them is going to suffer. Obviously the WWE championship was going to get more of the spotlight, so the longer Rollins had the US belt, the less prestigious it would have been. Now Cena can bring back his US open title challenge and drop the belt to someone who can use it to elevate themselves and the division. As much as I liked the match and that Cena is champ again, does he really need to pin the world champ clean on back to back nights? If I’m an agent or anyone else backstage in the WWE, I’m telling any guy young guy who has to work with Cena to just lose right away. Winning once only to lose four times is not the way to go.

-Ryan

Your Average WWE Night of Champions Preview & Predictions

Night of Champions is this Sunday on the WWE Network, and every title must be defended. Night of Champions is always a sneaky good pay per view, and if the WWE invested more in certain mid card title storylines, it could eventually be one of the best shows of the year. Seth Rollins is pulling double duty and defending both the WWE and US titles, Charlotte looks to win gold for the first team and the New Day is going to be there. Oh, and Cesaro doesn’t have a match :(.

Pre Show – The Cosmic Wasteland vs. Neville & The Lucha Dragons

When it comes to pure character work, there are few better than Stardust. Then you remember he’s the son of Dusty Rhodes and he’s athletic as hell, and you wonder why the hell is he on the pre show. That’s an argument for another time, but for now, I’m glad The Ascension are paired with Stardust. They are the longest reigning tag champs in NXT history, and they deserved a better shot than they got when they debuted on Raw. The announce team immediately shit on them, and then they got beat up by the league of extraordinary grandpas. Why would we take them seriously after that? A pre show match isn’t exactly main eventing WrestleMania, but it’s something, and pairing them with a veteran who takes his character seriously like Stardust can only help them. You have a couple built in feuds with this match, as Stardust and Neville have been battling since before Summerslam, and Lucha Dragons and The Ascension have been rivals since NXT. Should be a fun way to get things started.

Prediction: I’m throwing a bone to Stardust and The Ascension. Cosmic Wasteland FTW.

Dolph Ziggler vs. Rusev

I shouldn’t hate a Dolph Ziggler/Rusev feud, but when it’s centered around who’s having sex with which blonde and has been done as poorly as this feuds been done, I’m going to hate it. Wrestling wise, this could be the match of the night, but this storyline is so terrible and dumb it’s going to be tough to enjoy. Plus, Lana is legitimately injured and won’t be at NOC, so I’m guessing Summer is going to flirt with both Rusev and Ziggler because WOMEN. The less said about this the better, but at least you know if they’re given enough time, this is going to be enjoyable from a wrestling aspect. I think Summer Rae eventually double crosses my poor sweet Rusev, but it won’t be while Lana’s on the shelf.

Prediction: Rusev. Bring back the Rusev face Bulgarian flag!

IC Title Match: Ryback (C) vs. Kevin Owens

I’m a little biased on this one, but with no real back story to this feud besides differing opinions on a self help book, I’m leaning heavily on Kevin Owens. You can’t put the entire blame on Ryback, but his IC title run has been terrible. Yes he’s feuded with Big Show and Miz and yes he’ been injured, but your IC champ should ideally be your workhorse. This isn’t a rant about how much better things were back in the day, but the IC title used to be something people got excited over. Who is going to be excited about Ryback vs. Big Show? HBK, Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, HHH, The Rock; all those guys held the IC title and set the bar for in ring work and the psychology of their feuds. I know the writing team is shitty, but if you put the belt on a character as strong as Kevin Owens, great things will happen. Give me NXT champion Kevin Owens with the IC belt and have him feud with Neville, Stardust, Rusev, Cesaro and you have an immediate mid card resurgence. The Ryback IC title experiment didn’t work. It’s time to cut your losses.

Prediction: KO

Divas Championship Match: Nikki Bella (C) vs. Charlotte

This should be the ‘Shane Douglas’ dropping the NWA title belt moment of the Diva’s division. Charlotte beats Nikki Bella, drops the Divas Championship and proclaims that this is the Women’s division. It probably won’t happen, so I’ll take Charlotte winning the belt as a substitute. There’s really no reason to have Nikki Bella win here besides ‘she’s John Cena’s girlfriend’. She’s the longest reigning Diva’s champion; she’s the star of a reality show and she can take credit for the Diva’s Revolution. It’s time to move on to Charlotte and Sasha and Becky and whoever else wants to throw their hat in the ring. Get the belt on a legitimate athlete who can dominate opponents and have everyone try and take the title away from her. Get rid of the factions and let some of these ladies sink or swim on their own. Similar to the IC title, you need a champion who can defend against all different styles of wrestlers. While it’s not her fault, Nikki Bella has rarely been defending the title, which just makes things that much worse. It’s one thing to win a bunch of title matches and be the longest reigning Diva’s champion. It’s another to go months between title matches and then brag about how you’re the best. If the Raw before NOC is the season premiere, make NOC an event where title changes happen and it feels like a new season is beginning.

Prediction: Charlotte

Tag Team Championship Match: New Day (C) vs. Dudley Boyz

Disregard everything I just said about NOC being a place where things change, because I want this version of the New Day to last forever and ever. They’ve been the best part of WWE TV for a few months now, and the only reason they should ever lose the tag belts is to win them back again so they can announce themselves as the ‘3x tag champs’ during their entrance. There’s honestly just so much to love about this group. When’s the last time you saw guys enjoy themselves THIS much? I know it’s an act and they’re playing characters, but they’re having some genuine fun out there. Big E dancing, Xavier on the trombone, and the severely underrated in ring skills of both Big E and Kofi make them so much fun to watch. The Dudleyz are great, and they’ve never been the most athletic guys in the ring, so even though they’re older, their in ring style has matured like a fine wine. The Dudleyz are on a multi year deal, so it’s a possibility they win the titles here, as they haven’t lost since coming back. While I’ll be in a deep depression if that happens, WWE knows New Day is the best thing going right now and they wouldn’t dare take them out of the title picture.

Prediction: Dudleyz. A lot of trees are going to be sad Sunday night.

Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns & ? vs. The Wyatt Family

There’s two storylines going into this match. One is Braun Strowman being this unbeatable monster, and two is who will Ambrose & Reigns find to even the odds. If Seth Rollins pulls triple duty and reunites The Shield for one night I’m going to lose my mind (there’s a negative 1,000% chance of that happening, but whenever it’s a possibility you have to mention it). I hope hope hope hope hope it’s someone new, but my money is on Kane. It wouldn’t make much sense besides digging up the old storyline where Bray beat Kane and dragged him to the back in his debut match, and the WWE loves bringing back old guys instead of using the spot to elevate a young guy. It would have to be a guy who can match power with Strowman, and I can’t think of anyone in NXT who would fit that bill. Baron Corbin’s picture was thrown in a fake graphic by fans, but I don’t think this spot works for him. While I don’t want it to be Kane, I also don’t have a great pick for anyone else. If you go back and look at Wyatt’s feuds besides Kane, you have Jericho, Daniel Bryan, The Undertaker, John Cena, Ambrose and Reigns. Two of those guys are already in the match, and the other four are impossible. Jericho has the best chance, but that’s basically the same thing as bringing Kane back. Does Jericho need to add a notch in his belt by helping Reigns and Ambrose beat the monstrous Strowman? No matter who they bring back, I hope the Wyatt Family wins here. It’s ok if Strowman shows a little weakness or gets knocked down a few times, but he shouldn’t be conquered yet. If the WWE is really going to make Reigns the new Cena, he’ll probably be the guy to eventually take out Strowman, but for now, let me enjoy Bray Wyatt winning matches.

Prediction: Wyatts

US & WWE Championship Matches: John Cena vs. Seth Rollins (C) & Sting vs. Seth Rollins (C)

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I’m lumping these two together because I already know what’s going to happen. If you don’t think Cena is beating Rollins and Rollins is beating Sting so Cena can challenge and win both belts from Rollins I don’t know what to tell ya. You obviously haven’t been paying attention the last decade. Rule #1 about facing John Cena is that if you lose, it’s over, but if you win, you’re only setting yourself up for a loss down the road. Rollins won at Summerslam AND took the US belt off Cena, so Cena is going to get his revenge in grand fashion. He’s going to beat Rollins Sunday night. It will probably be clean, hell he might even make him tap out. Then Rollins will beat Sting in the main event, and the next night on Raw Cena will cut a promo about how he beat the WWE Champion and deserves to fight him again, this time with belts on the line (again). Rollins will come out and say no, but The Authority, who let me remind you, are on Seth Rollins’ side, will grant the match anyway. My only hope is that the match is at Hell in a Cell or any other smaller pay per view so when Rollins loses it’s not that bad. I could be completely wrong, or just like every other time, John Cena will come out on top and I’ll cry myself to sleep.

Prediction: Rollins loses to THE CHAMP and beats Sting.

-Ryan

 

5 Stars From Last Night’s #RAW

The Raw after Summerslam was last night from Brooklyn, and it had a ‘Raw after WrestleMania’ feel to it. There were a few MAJOR surprises, and we even got our main event for next month’s Night of Champions pay per view. Let’s get to the five stars from last night’s Raw!

1. Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar

It’s kind of a given that these two were one of the best parts of Raw, but as much as I hate to see Lesnar lose, the night after promos by Heyman are a thing of beauty. To say Lesnar lost in controversial fashion at Summerslam would be an understatement, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen a match end like that in all my years of watching wrestling. Yes it protects both guys and yes it sets up some interesting scenarios in the future, but I do have a problem with that being your main event, especially when Seth Rollins beat John Cena to become the first ever WWE and US Champion earlier in the night. I would have rather Summerslam gone off the air with Rollins celebrating with both belts instead of Lesnar death staring a referee. With that said, Heyman’s promo here was great, and if they’re setting up a winner take all third match where Lesnar officially retires Taker in Dallas then I’m all in. Supplementary best to Bo Dallas, who I’m pretty sure is buried under the ring in Brooklyn right now. Those German suplexes looked brutal as hell.

2. New Day

Is New Day a real thing anymore or are the best parts of my brain coming together to make me hallucinate this wonderfulness?First we got this amazing dance after they won the tag titles at Summerslam:

Then they came to the ring last night to sing a cover version of ‘New York, New York’ with Xavier Woods on the trombone. I really don’t think they can get any more entertaining than they are now, but I know they’ll one up themselves. With Rusev wasting away in a stupid jealously angle with Ziggler, New Day are now far and away my favorite part of every wrestling show. The best part is they can also back up their shenanigans with solid tag team wrestling. Xavier Woods as the obnoxious, trombone playing mouth piece followed up by the speed and power of Kofi and Big E should be what the tag team division is built around. I can’t think of one team I wouldn’t want to see feud/fight with New Day, which brings me to my next point…

3. The Mother Fucking Dudley Boyz Are Back

After New Day disposed of the Lucha Dragons, they began celebrating in the ring again, which brought out BUBBA RAY & DEVON DUDLEY. If you told me I could somehow be happier while watching New Day celebrate a victory, I’d call you a liar, but then the Dudley Boyz came out and my heart and brain simultaneously exploded. The thing about tag team wrestling is that a team like the Dudley’s, who were never built around great technical wrestling, can realistically wrestle forever. They’re money on the microphone and they can put over any team in the tag team division because they’re legitimately the most decorated team of all time. Just listen to the pop from the crowd last night. It was deafening, and you know Bubba Ray has been dying to come in and reignite the tag team division, and you can have confidence that the Dudley Boyz will do it with no ego attached. They’re not the New Age Outlaws coming back to prove how much better their era was; they’re just a great tag team who wants to work with the young guys and put on some great matches. Awesome move by WWE bringing Bubba Ray and Devon back.

4. The Wyatt Family

Bray and Luke Harper lost clean as a whistle to Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose at Summerslam, so when they announced a rematch on Raw I was hoping for something different to happen. Braun Stowman was that something different. Stowman is a legitimate former tough man competitor, and even without seeing him wrestle, his size brings instant credibility and fear to the Wyatt Family. This is the Bray Wyatt I wanted all along. He didn’t have to be like the NWO and recruit every guy under the sun, but if you’re billing him as this cult leader who can persuade people with his words, shouldn’t he have some followers? Harper and Rowan were a good start, but then they disbanded them, and now it looks like the WWE is ready to take Wyatt seriously again. I don’t know if this means Reigns and Ambrose get a third guy as well or if Reigns just overcomes the odds Cena style, but I like where this is headed. Let Stowman wreak havoc on the WWE until Bray Wyatt get’s that long deserved WWE title shot.

5. Sting

The main event of Raw was Seth Rollins well deserved statue ceremony, and wrestling 101 tells you that anytime there is a structure in the ring that everyone tells you is going to be one thing, it will most certainly be something different. We already knew Rollins was going to be in the main event scene for the next decade, but his match against Cena just cemented that mindset. He was amazing, and hey, a heel cheated to win a match. What a peculiar concept. Out of that win came the statue ceremony last night, and instead of Rollins’ new bronze statue, he was greeted by Sting. Obviously there was a lot of online complaining about this, particularly about the fact that they used that big spot on Sting and not a young guy, but fans who complain about that don’t understand what’s happening. Say the WWE put Cesaro behind that curtain. From a story telling standpoint, would the reaction and subsequent match at Night of Champions have been better or worse? The answer is worse, and I’m saying that as a Cesaro fan. The WWE’s goal is to make Seth Rollins THE MAN, and you do that by beating established guys, not by beating guys who need a big push of their own. I have complete faith that Rollins and Sting will have a great match at Night of Champions, and the mind games leading up to it will be even better. Sometimes you just need to sit back and enjoy the show, and let a grown man in face paint beat the crap out of somebody.

-Ryan

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