This Week in Wrestling

ThisWeekInWrestling

ExtremeRules

Winners: Kalisto, The Miz (new Intercontinental Champion), Rich Swann and Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, Cesaro and Sheamus (new Raw Tag Team Champions), Neville, and Samoa Joe.

Kalisto and Apollo Crews actually had a decent, engaging match; surprisingly, the crowd was actually into it enough to give both guys some noise, rather than crickets. Kalisto picked up the win after Crews and Titus O/Neil got into an argument; the saving grace here was that Kalisto nailed Apollo with the Salida Del Sol and didn’t just roll him up to win. I’m still annoyed at the whole Apollo/Titus angle, though; unless it leads to them actually getting on the same page and teaming up, I am pretty much against it as I don’t really want to see a bunch of boring matches between those two.

Not a bad match between the Miz and Dean Ambrose; in between the physical action, there were numerous teases that Ambrose was going to get disqualified (and thereby lose the Intercontinental Championship). Maryse even got involved right in front of the referee, who was smart enough to not call for a disqualification there, only for Miz to sneakily nail the Skull-Crushing Finale and win back the belt by legitimate pin fall. I liked that they played to the stipulation, which added to the drama and intensity of the match, but I’m not a great fan of Miz being the champion yet again. I’ve lost count of how many reigns he’s had at this point and it just seems very old; also, it raises the question of why even have him lose the belt to Ambrose in the first place? In either case, I’d really like these two to go their separate ways now or at least inject some new bodies into the championship picture to spice it up a bit.

Rich Swann and Sasha Banks defeated Noam Dar and Alicia Fox. It was a match. A mixed-tag team match. It existed. Even worse was the Raw Women’s Championship match, where Alexa Bliss decimated Bayley in a pretty pathetic match. I like Bayley; she’s cute and fun and energetic, but she was crucified by the crowd here. Not only that, but she looked weak and pathetic as she was completely unable to go extreme and teach Alexa a lesson. Instead, she got battered about by kendo stick shots and then DDT into a loss. Either the WWE has no idea what they’re doing with either of these matches/angles or…oh, no, wait, that’s probably it.

In a surprising move, Cesaro and Sheamus escaped from the cage to win the Raw Tag Team titles. I thought all of the WWE’s cage matches could be won by pin fall, submission, or escape from the cage? I don’t like it when people win these matches by essentially running away from a beaten opponent. In any case, this was an…okay match. Some good spots and hard-hitting moments; Jeff Hardy got out mid-way through, leaving Matt Hardy to suffer a beatdown until Jeff leapt from the top of the cage with a Whisper in the Wind. It’s actually amazing that Jeff is still able to pull that kind of stunt off not only at his age but also with his laundry list of botches and issues. However, the big spot wasn’t enough and Cesaro and Sheamus walked away with the belts. I’m not sure where they go from here, though; I guess they can still run a Hardys/Revival feud once the Revival is fully cleared to return but…I guess we’ll see a rematch between these two teams up until then (or, hopefully, a big TLC match at Summerslam).

Neville defeated Austin Aries to retain the Cruiserweight Championship in a Cruiserweight match that went for almost twenty minutes! I am shocked! I was certain that they would do a stupidly quick, forgettable match to make room for a long rambling promo or something. Instead, Neville and Aries made sure that if the crowd weren’t dead after the Alexa Bliss/Bayley match, they certainly were now. Although they tried for a bit of a technical clinic, both men seemed totally out of the moment and going through the motions; it was far from the high-flying, technical masterclass I was hoping for, that’s for sure. Laughingly, Neville repeatedly went for, and won with, the Rings of Saturn…despite attacking Aries’ leg leading up to and throughout the match. Although that made Neville look a bit dumb, he did get a strong win over a legitimate contender; hopefully they both move on to move exciting feuds now. I’d really like to see Aries dip his toe into other divisions, like the Intercontinental Championship scene, while they build up a strong face to dethrone Neville.

The crowd came back to life for a spectacular main event match between Samoa Joe, Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and Roman Reigns. Every one of these guys had something to do and made a massive impact; the pace of the match was fast and hard-hitting, with each man legitimately showcasing why they could win and go on to challenge Brock Lesnar. At times, it was almost difficult to keep track of the action as there were so many moving bodies and big spots. In the end, it looked as though Finn Balor was going to take the victory as he unleashed a flurry of offense and finishers, only for Samoa Joe, of all people, to slip in from behind and put Balor to sleep with the Coquina Clutch. Honestly, of all the people to win this match, Joe and Bray Wyatt were my two bottom picks; it just didn’t seem likely that the WWE would be able to tell the right story with either man challenging Lesnar right now. Joe vs. Lesnar is a legitimate dream match, however, and I’d love to see it be a hard-hitting, suplex-infested, smash-mouth match but…part of me is scared that Lesnar will just steamroller over Joe with little to no effort and that Joe just won’t look as threatening as he can, and should, be because of it. As the WWE seemed to be wanting to run a series of matches between Braun Strowman and Lesnar, but can’t because of Strowman’s injury, I guess Joe is the best replacement for that monster vs. monster, heel vs. heel feud they seem intent on going with. I still think it would’ve been better to have Reigns win though; he defeated the Undertaker at WrestleMania, so he has a legitimate claim to being the number one contender and then we’d have the showdown between the only two men to ever pin the Undertaker at WrestleMania at Summerslam. Still, the prospect of Joe facing Lesnar is, if nothing else, a fresh main event and helps propel Joe into the main event scene; I doubt he will win the belt, though…but here’s hoping! At least then we’d have an unstoppable, suplex-throwing bad-ass on Raw every week!

Raw

Bray Wyatt makes excuses about why he lost and claims he would have beaten Brock Lesnar if he won, which I think everyone knows isn’t true. Roman Reigns comes out to disagree and then they have yet another match, where Reigns picks up the win. This was a good look for Roman (more fight, less talk) but a pretty bad look for Wyatt; he claims he should have won and that he would have beaten Lesnar and yet cannot even beat Reigns? Weak, very weak.

After a bunch of backstage skits, Samoa Joe then gets in the ring and on the mic to talk about how he’s going to beat Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire. Heyman came out to do his usual hype for his client, and even repeats that he wanted to see Lesnar face Finn Balor. Although Joe looks to be making nice and being respectful, he ends the segment by choking Heyman out and yelling that he wants Lesnar. Strong showing for Joe, but I also would’ve liked to see him dominate some jobber in a match before or after this promo.

Cesaro and Sheamus squashed Heath Slater and Rhyno. Again, great look for the champions; they look dominant and legitimate, but not so great for Slater and Rhyno, who were the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Champions not that long ago. You can’t make everyone look good at once, though, and I’d rather have the champions looking dominant over a team that isn’t their challengers for a change.

TJP then defeated Mustafa Ali, before getting the snot beaten out of him by Neville, who nevertheless grants him his Cruiserweight Championship shot at this week’s 205 Live. So…is TJP a face again now? I’m so confused. Kalisto then continued his momentum by making short work of Titus O’Neil; I guess we can’t take either Titus or Apollo Crews seriously ever again after this. Maybe Kalisto should use that momentum to challenge Neville sometime…

Earlier, Dean Ambrose and Elias Sampson got into a scuffle because Amrbose wasn’t happy at having lost the Intercontinental Championship. This boiled over into Miz’s celebration at having regained the title, leading to Ambrose dressing up as a cameraman and laying Miz out with the Dirty Deeds. I’m glad to see the Drifter getting involved, however indirectly, with the Intercontinental Championship picture and I really hope it leads to him being inserted into contendership, or at least costing Ambrose his rematch and getting him away from the Miz for five minutes.

Because Big Cass was found laid out backstage, the Big Show teamed up with Enzo Amore to beat Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in a depressingly short amount of time. I am so glad the the WWE stole the Club away from Japan; they are treated so much better and given so much to do on Raw that it really makes the acquisition worthwhile. Obvious sarcasm aside, what the hell did this achieve except to show that the Club are less of a threat to anything and anyone than the Ascension? (And don’t get me started on the Ascension!)

Alexa Bliss retained the Raw Women’s Championship against Nia Jax after Mickie James and Dana Brooke got involved, which annoyed Nia so much that she kicked everyone’s asses while Alexa slinked away with the belt. At least Alexa looks good as a chickenshit heel and Nia looks like an ass-kicking machine again, but otherwise the Raw women’s division is quickly turning into the old squabbling mess of interchangeable matches and crazy women.

In a massively entertaining main event, Samoa Joe proved why he is a legitimate main event threat by choking Seth Rollins out with the Coquina Clutch after bray Wyatt screwed with the lights. I guess this may turn into Rollins feuding with Bray, which might actually prove entertaining, and would hopefully help keep Bray away from losing to Roman. However, I don’t like Bray’s chances in a feud with golden boy Rollins. This Raw, however, was all about establishing how much of a bad ass Samoa Joe is and they did this very effectively not just in his earlier promo with Heyman but also by putting him against Rollins, who consistently takes most matches up to a higher gear.

SmackDownLive

Shane McMahon opened the show to hype up the Women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, which includes unveiling the all-new, all-pink, all-female briefcase. All the participants came out to yell and squabble and stake their claim, including Lana, who made her SmackDown! Live. However, Shane tells her (rightfully so) that she needs to earn her place in the match, which upset her (again, rightfully so, as I’m sure she doubts her wrestling ability as much as I do). This led into a six-way tag team match where Tamina, Carmella, and Natalya defeated Naomi, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair in a match primarily designed to make Tamina look good and strong. I like that the women and this new match are getting focus, but I still have little-to-no interest in the women’s division or any of its participants.

AJ Styles then made up for this whole thing by beating Dolph Ziggler in a fantastically well-paced and hard-fought match. You know you’re getting gold with either man but, together, they took things up another level. There was nothing wrong with Ziggler taking the loss here as both guys looked great and like top-level contenders.

Jinder Mahal then beat Mojo Rawley, with minimal assistance, to pick up some momentum for his rematch.  He then cut a promo ragging on Randy Orton and the people and hyping himself up; it’s a good thing for Mojo to be hanging around the World Championship scene and to keep Jinder and Orton separated, so I quite liked most of this. I’m not completely sold on Mojo as a singles guy yet but SmackDown! Live is the brand of pushing guys who aren’t quite ready yet and they seem to be giving him the push they were going to give to Zack Ryder so…it keeps matches fresh, I guess.

The New Day then defeated the Colons, and then got punked out by the Usos. The Colons are decent enough jobber fodder, I guess, but SmackDown! Live‘s tag team division is hardly anything to shout about (to be fair, though, Raw‘s isn’t much better). Maybe I’m just sick of the New Day, their music and their gimmick, and have no interest in the Colons or the Usos though.

The main event was a solid match between Kevin Owens and Shinsuke Nakamura, which saw Nakamura pin Owens for another strong outing and another big win. Owens can take the loss, despite being the United States Champion, as he not only looked good in defeat but also had a decent showing against Nakamura, who is obviously getting the superstar treatment. With wins like this over Owens, the stage is nicely set for Nakamura to challenge for the United States title in the near future. Again, you can have this high-calibre, pay-per-view quality matches happen on the main events of weekly shows as long as they’re good, well-expected matches, and this was certainly that. With Baron Corbin attacking Nakamura after the win, the United States Championship picture is looking quite strong at the moment, which is a good look for the floundering belt even though the champion got pinned.

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