This Week in Wrestling

ThisWeekInWrestling

No Mercy

Winners: Elias, The Miz, Finn Balor, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, Alexa Bliss, Roman Reigns, Enzo Amore, Brock Lesnar.

At the last second, No Mercy opened with a kick-off match between Elias and Apollo Crews, which saw Elias emerge victorious. See, this is the conundrum with the whole “kick-off show” concept; you want to have exciting matches with guys the crowd are into so you can get the crowd pumped up for the show proper, but then if you stick championship matches or super popular guys on the kick-off show then they’re not on the live broadcast so they don’t get the proper face time or visible momentum. Yet, if you just run lower-card guys against each other, it’s not exactly exciting enough for the crowd to be that pumped up for the main show. In this case, we’ve all seen how Apollo Crews has kind of tanked since his main roster debut and, having been largely absent over the last few weeks, it’s difficult to really give two shits about him. Elias, however, had that mini feud with Finn Balor a while back and seemed to have a degree of traction with his singer gimmick so I guess the win is good for him but, as an opening match, it might’ve been better to put on a ten minute, high-flying cruiserweight match or something.

After weeks of getting side-tracked with back-to-back losses to Roman Reigns and John Cena, Jason Jordan finally got his Intercontinental Championship match against the Miz and ultimately lost when, just as he seemed to have it in the bag, the Miz-tourage caused the distraction. As you might expect from WWE crowds in 2017, the Miz got the bulk of the face pops and cheers during this match, which isn’t too great if they’re serious about pushing Jordan as this white-meat babyface but I feel that maybe we could be on the verge of some kind of double-turn later down the road. The Miz has been winning people over with his commitment to his character and venting a lot of people’s thoughts at the WWE’s top guys and Jordan, as the “son” of the ultimate smug heel Kurt Angle, could have a decent shit-eating heel turn in him. I say have Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas turn on the Miz later down the align, align themselves with Jordan, and have those three form a new Team Angle of sorts and dominate the mid-card with the Intercontinental Championship and Raw Tag Team Championships.

Next up, despite having nothing to prove, Finn Balor took on Bray Wyatt one more time, this time without his body paint. The plus side was this was actually a decent match; Wyatt was probably never going to win, if only because Finn is hopefully ear-marked for a big push soon, and he got a good outing here but this feud is on life support at this point. I’m all for long blood feuds between guys; look at the Mankind/Undertaker and Rock/Stone Cold Steve Austin legacies, but in the modern WWE there’s just not enough variation. It’s just mindless promo after mindless promo and matches after matches with the stink of 50/50 booking. It also doesn’t help that Wyatt really, and I mean really needs to get back on track with a new Wyatt Family stable and towards the Universal Championship; if this feud were revolving around something like that, leading to Balor teaming up with the Club or something, then maybe but it isn’t and it can’t ever be with Brock Lesnar positioned as the Universal Champion.

Despite the fact that I wanted to see the Club added in to make it a three-way tag team match, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins’s successfully title defence against Sheamus and Cesaro was one hell of a match in the end. There was a scary spot where Ambrose smacked Cesaro right into the ring post and legitimately knocked out some of his teeth, but he continued the match like a true professional. Honestly, Cesaro is such a massive missed opportunity by the WWE; everything he’s been given he makes golden, he’s made the best of every situation he’s been put in and yet they never get behind him for a serious push (Vince McMahon even described him as boring once; I mean what the hell is that? He has a vocal fanbase every single night). Although he’s really adding to Raw’s fledgling tag team division right now, I still hope that he gets a switch to SmackDown! Live and a proper main event push along the lines of Chris Benoit’s; you know, where he was a super reliable and talented in-ring mechanic for years and finally got the big Royal Rumble win and WrestleMania main event? Obviously without all the extracurricular stuff, though.

Surprisingly, Alexa Bliss came out on top of her fatal-five way title defence against Bayley, Nia jax, Emma, and Sasha Banks. Also surprisingly, this wasn’t that bad of a match, despite how weird and awkward the fatal-five way concept seems to me. As much as I’d like to see Nia get a dominating run as champion, I’m glad to see Alexa still holding the belt; she’s super cute, after all, and I cannot stomach another run with Sasha right now.

WrestleMania comes early in what many are actually speculating might be John Cena’s last match. Somehow I doubt it but, in any case, the bout between Cena and Roman Reigns was as obvious a passing-of-the-torch moment as you could get; Reigns took everything Cena had to give, countering the STF, kicking out of the Attitude Adjustment about five times, and even powering out of the Super Attitude Adjustment. He then landed the Superman Punch and the Spear and it was over. Honestly, the fact that Cena went down so easily (although he did take a Spear through an announce table in a sick looking spot) tells the whole story; we’re used to seeing everyone and their mother kick out of the Attitude Adjustment at this point, it’s about as useful a finisher as the Angle Slam ended up being, but Cena still sells it like a big moment as he’s put away some of the best with that move. Yet, in the end, the same repertoire he’s thrown at the Rock, Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, and Brock Lesnar was absorbed by Reigns like a sponge. After the match, Cena raised Reigns’s hand and they hugged it out; the crowd even started a “thank you, Cena” chant because we’re all a bunch of hypocrites and can’t just admit to liking Cena. I am sure that Cena is just taking time out for his other projects before another big match, either with or against Reigns, but right now the visual is clear: Cena is out and Reigns is in, whether you fucking like it or not.

In a last-ditch effort to inject some life and interest into the cruiserweight division, Neville, who has done wonders as the WWE Cruiserweight Champion despite the fact that he would’ve been a great Intercontinental Champion, lost the belt to Enzo Amore. For a guy that is apparently in such hot water backstage and who constantly gets criticised for his lack of skill in the ring and being unprofessional, Enzo sure is getting one hell of a push lately. Obviously he sells a lot of merchandise and has the charisma to lay off of but putting the Cruiserweight Championship on him is not really the way I expected his never-ending feud with Big Cass to go.

If you expected a knock-down, smash-mouth slug-fest of a main event between Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman then you got it: Braun totally no-selled Lesnar’s German Suplexes in the early going and came back with his powerful, methodical offense. However, after landing two Running Powerslams, the very move that has left Lesnar lying these past few weeks, Lesnar popped up and decided he had had enough, landed one F5 and retained the belt with little to no fanfare. I mean, seriously? The guy that topples ambulances and has been getting the better of Lesnar for weeks loses to one F5? Even Dean Ambrose needed to by F5’d onto a stack of chairs before he would go down. This was such a disappointment as a finish, and a main event; I was really hoping that the WWE would capitalise on the lightning in the bottle they have with Strowman but, instead, we’re stick with the unstoppable super-boss Lesnar as the champion, probably right through to WrestleMania for Lesnar/Reigns II.

Raw

As is the norm for the most part, the Miz opened the show to chew the fat with Roman Reigns. Reigns eventually has enough of Miz’s bullshit and challenges him to a fight, only for Miz to back down and Kurt Angle to book the Miz-tourage against Mat Hardy and Jason Jordan. On the plus side, Reigns is still carrying that smug, laid back, cocky self-entitlement well; if only they would stop booking him as a face then we might be getting somewhere.

Anyway, as Jeff Hardy is injured (serious a bad time for tag teams lately) and the WWE wants to keep Jordan front and centre, Matt and Jordan got a decent win over Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. I guess this keeps Jordan’s feud with the Miz alive, gives Matt something to do, and keeps tag team wrestling from being completely killed off, if nothing else.

It’s one night later and the rematches are already happening as Elias once again defeated Apollo Crews. At least it didn’t fall victim to 5/50 booking. Also, Titus O’Neil was the source of the loss, as he accidentally distracted Crews; I guess we’re back to that weird storyline? I never got the idea behind that; is Titus too enthusiastic and too involved as a manager that he costs his guys matches? Why would they stay aligned with him if that was the case? Just make him and Crews an official tag team and have them bolster that division if you have nothing else for them to do as no one cares if people ditch Titus O’Neil at this point.

Braun Strowman goes on a rampage; first he kicks seven kinds of crap out of Curt Hawkins, powerslamming him through the LED screens, then he has an actual match against Dean Ambrose, which he comes out on top of, and afterwards Seth Rollins vows to avenge the loss next week. I actually would have preferred Braun to have interfered in every match tonight, or attacked everyone backstage after matches, similar to Kane’s night of destruction back in the day; if you want to sell him as legitimately pissed off and regain some of that heat he lost then the best way is to have him do as much damage as possible to as many people and things as possible.

Mickie James gets into a verbal spat with Alexa Bliss and becomes the number one contender as a result; at least it’s someone new. Seth Rollins then continues his feud with Cesaro and Sheamus by having another singles match with Sheamus; despite needing serious dental work, Cesaro was at ringside proving that he really is the best superstar of the modern era. The win here, over a larger opponent, lends credibility to Rollins’s earlier challenge to Strowman and, potentially, puts this feud to rest? In this day and age, who even knows anymore.

After getting into it at the start of the show, Reigns and the Miz then had a non-title match that, despite interference from the Miz-tourage, obviously saw Reigns get the win. Yet, after the match, Miz, Dallas, and Axel all lay a beating on Reigns and even do the old Shield fist-bump over his prone corpse. There’s something very disconcerting about the idea that Reigns was able to easily and efficiently fend of the League of Nations (Sheamus, Rusev, Alberto Del Rio, and Wade Barrett) back in the day but cannot overcome these three clowns. I know the Miz is doing great work in the ring and on the mic but nobody takes Dallas and Axel seriously so to see them play credible threats to Reigns, and even tease a proper Shield reunion, out of the blue like this is very jarring. Now, if they were the Raw Tag team Champions and had been booked strongly over the last six to eight weeks then maybe, sure, but as it is? Surely this is like when Miz and R-Truth faced the super-team of the Rock and John Cena? Did anyone really think Miz and R-Truth (R-fucking-Truth, for Gods sake!) were going to win that match?

Next up, despite being a bit more of a face in the last couple of weeks in his issues with Bray Wyatt, Goldust rediscovers his dark side and sets out to prove he’s not a victim by facing Finn Balor. Obviously, Balor came out on top here but this was a great match; I don’t know where Goldust gets it from but he is seriously under-rated in his modern incarnation. He can’t have much left in him but he’s putting on pretty good matches and giving a decent rub to younger guys, which is exactly what he should be doing. After the match, though, little kids sing “he’s got the whole world…” at Finn, indicating that his issues with Wyatt are still not over.

Sasha Banks and Bayley then beat Nia Jax and Emma, I guess in a bid to still tease that Sasha may be turning heel at some point. Whatever. Slightly more important is that, for the first time since the division returned and long after anybody gave up trying to care, Raw ended with the focus purely on the cruiserweight division. Enzo Amore came out to celebrate, bragging about how he is the champion despite the haters and, when the 205 Live roster appeared on stage, running each and every one of them down with some snarky comments. Neville then got in the ring and, despite a written notification stating that he can never touch Enzo again, kicks the snot out of Enzo, Superkicks him, and lands the Red Arrow. I think what we saw here was a double turn; Enzo was clearly cutting a bitter, self-entitled heel promo and seeing himself up as being a cocky heel but the crowd still seems into his shtick. Neville turning face right after such a long run of proclaiming himself above the other cruiserweights, and especially against a character like Enzo, also seems a bit forced and rushed so I guess this will play out more over the coming weeks and on 205 Live though we may, possibly, be seeing Neville step back onto the main roster and away from the cruiserweight division once again.

SmackDownLive

Kevin Owens pops out to kick things off and continue this completely ill-advised feud with Shane McMahon. However, to make things even worse, Sami Zayn interjects to confront his former friend and rival and end sup being booked to face Owens later in the night. Again. remember how these two were never supposed to face each other again? I mean, I never believed that but they literally fought, like, two weeks after that stipulation and this will be, what? The third or fifth time since? Honestly, they should have been kept separated for a year or so to build anticipation for a massive semi-, or even main-, event feud. Instead, the WWE is going to the well again in an attempt to boost ratings. I remember another company that had a similar tactic. It was called WCW. Remember them? Christ, how I wish they were still around sometimes.

Tye Dillinger continues to be a presence onscreen, facing off against Baron Corbin in a losing effort. However, Tye lost due to count out when Corbin tossed him into AJ Styles (who was on commentary) and, afterwards, Baron challenges Styles to a United States Championship match at Hell in a Cell. I like how Tye has been inserted into this United States Championship feud between AJ and Corbin, and that Corbin legitimately wants to not only beat AJ but be the champion; this keeps all three men strong and in focus and allows the belt to appear to be important.

After weeks of Jinder Mahal running his mouth with racist comments, Shinsuke Nakamara interrupts this week’s repetitious rant from the World Champion and sees Nakamura take out both Singh brothers and lay out Mahal with the Kinshasa. Although their feud has had a bit more time to develop since Summerslam, I can’t help but notice how few matches both men have had since then. Nakamura hasn’t really had to run the gauntlet and face the Singhs in a handicap match or anything and Jinder does a lot of talking but doesn’t do much wrestling; he really should be squashing jobbers before he cuts his promos, just to spice things up and emphasise his physique.

Despite vowing last week to change their misfortunes as of last, the Hype Bros lost in a little over two minutes to the Usos after Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley had a disagreement in the ring. I’m now confused as, last week, it seems as though the two of them were on the same page about wanting to turn things around but now we’re back to them teasing a split? Turn them into bitter heels and have them form a stable with Dolph Ziggler and then have six-man matches with the New Day, or something. Speaking of which, the New Day then came out and challenged the Usos to a SmackDown! Live Tag team Championship match inside Hell in a Cell at Hell in a Cell. I really hope that’s the end of that feud as I am so sick of seeing it every single week.

Rusev recruits Aiden English to assist in him being named the pride of Bulgaria and to vow that he, Rusev, is now the apex predator of the WWE. Obviously this results in Randy Orton appearing out of nowhere and laying Rusev out with an RKO; I didn’t realise that these two were still feuding. I feel bad for Rusev; he really is just endlessly spinning his wheels at this point.

Afterwards, Charlotte pinned Carmella, which makes sense as she’s the number one contender and I guess gives Carmella a reason to cash in on her if she wins the belt at Hell in a Cell. Dolph Ziggler then came out, mocking the Undertaker’s entrance and again trashing the fans for cheering things they like; this prompted the return of Bobby Roode, who challenged Ziggler to shut up and fight at Hell in a Cell. I slightly dislike that Ziggler is always the go-to guy for newcomers to be tested against but I actually have a good feeling about this match; maybe it won’t become a feud either, maybe they’ll team up as a narcissistic tag team for a while? That’s be pretty cool, actually.

Finally, our main event is the usual tried-and-tested entertaining clash between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. These two gel so well together and know exactly what they’re capable of and all about, it’s just a shame that the WWE is running it into the ground. This time around, Zayn lost when Owens, fed up with Zayn’s bullshit, hit the powerbomb onto the apron and got him stretchered out. When Owens then attacked Zayn on the stretcher, Shane McMahon attempted to intervene, reminding everyone that the real story isn’t the never-ending rivalry between Zayn and Owens or the fact that Zayn was hurt in a competitive match, but the spectacle of Shane McMahon jumping off something big at Hell in a Cell.

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