This Week in Wrestling

ThisWeekInWrestling

TLC

Winners: Sasha Banks, Asuka, Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann, Alexa Bliss, Enzo Amore, Finn Balor, Jason Jordan, and Kurt Angle, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose.

Of course Sasha Banks won this match because it would be criminal for audiences to forget just how prominent and important Sasha is to women’s wrestling everywhere. There wasn’t much to say about this; Sasha won, moving on. The women’s match that followed it, Asuka’s big main roster debut match against Emma, wasn’t exactly the one-sided squash we all anticipated. Instead, Emma got in some decent hits of her own, going toe-to-toe with Asuka rather than simply being rolled over. I’m slightly in favour of this, to a degree, as it’s a better way to showcase all of Asuka’s repertoire and it helps keep Emma relatively strong as a heel in the Raw women’s division.

Cedric Alexander and Rich Swann then padded out the pay-per-view a bit more, taking out Jack Gallagher and The Brian Kendrick. It’s not that this was offensive in any way; it’s just difficult to see it, and the cruiserweights, as anything other than something to distract and keep the run-time going. What will any of these four men do after this? It’s difficult to tell; as long as the WWE keeps the cruiserweights separate in a bubble, where all they do is wait for a shot at the belt, it’s difficult to really be too invested as no-one is given any spotlight but the champion and his next challengers.

Afterwards, the super-cute Alexa Bliss retained her title against Mickie James; this was pretty much exactly what I expected, with Alexa weathering the storm and the veteran and picking up a successful defence without any interference or shenanigans, outside of a cheeky slam into the turnbuckle. This was followed by the WWE Cruiserweight Championship match; I appreciate that the WWE got all of the crap, less interesting matches out of the way early on. The WWE completely blows a hole in their own head by enforcing 50/50 booking, as I suspected, and having Enzo sneak in an eye poke, hit the Soul Food, and regain the belt. As we all saw with the constant flip-flopping of the Raw Women’s Championship, this back-and-forth with the belt isn’t exactly ideal; it kind of works to show how badly both guys want to get and keep the belt but it really makes you ask why they bothered taking the belt off Enzo to begin with except to be “unpredictable”.

The action finally picked up with, undoubtedly, one of the two biggest matches of the night as Bullet Club exploded with the once-in-a-lifetime, WrestleMania-worthy match between Finn Balor and AJ Styles. Finally, we saw a side of Balor arguably not seen since his ill-fated Universal Championship match what feels like years ago as he and AJ instantly clicked; trading take-downs, high-flying moves, and all their signature attacks with the crowd totally buying ever near-fall and exchange. In the end, Style missed the Springboard 450o Splash, got nailed with a lariat, the Shotgun Dropkick, and Balor’s Coup de Grâce for a big win. Without a doubt, this was every bit as good as people expected it to be and, surely, much better than the match it replaced. Finn finally got to showcase his entire repertoire against an opponent who can draw the best out of anyone and AJ remains crisp and scarily good between the ropes; if the WWE ever got their heads out of the asses an gave these two a decent feud, preferably for a World Championship, we could finally see a brief reprieve, if nothing else, from the usual dull, uninspired matches we see more often than not these days.

Two guys who, arguably, could have been slotted into the previous match or the main event if only to not have to randomly ignore the brand split or risk a guy’s health then found themselves on that card as Jason Jordan defeated Elias in what was nothing but a dead spot for the crowd to catch their breath after AJ/Balor and before the main event. Honestly, it’s a shame as both guys deserve more time and more respect than that given that, for me, they represent the future stars of the WWE mid-card. I can’t say too much positive stuff about this, though, as neither man is in a great position to be losing at this point but, if Jordan is ever going to get back to his feud with the Miz, at least he didn’t end up on his back again.

Finally, Kurt Angle returns to the ring alongside Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins; he not only came out to the Shield’s music and through the crowd but also garbed in Shield attire. Angle looked absolutely stoked to be back in the ring and alongside Ambrose and Rollins and, honestly, it was a real rush to see him back in action. Immediately, Ambrose, Rollins, and Angle dominated, taking the fight primarily to Braun Strowman and Kane, attacking them with chairs and ladders and putting them both through tables in the early going. Cesaro and Sheamus evened the odds, scarily attacking Angle with ladder shots; Braun then rose from the dead and Powerslammed Angle through a table, causing him to get stretchered out. The Miz and his guys then took control until Kane accidentally hits Braun with a chair; they stay on the same page long enough to help kick the crap out of Ambrose and Rollins and tease crushing them in a garbage truck. However, as they fight off their attackers, Kane snaps and attacks Braun, Chokelsaming him off the stage, burying him underneath a bunch of chairs, and, when Braun comes back again, tosses him into the garbage truck and activates the crusher. So, once again, Kane is a murderer. Just as Miz, Cesaro, Sheamus, and Kane look to end it, Kurt makes a dramatic comeback and lays everyone out with Angle Slams and German Suplexes. Angle crashes Cesaro through a table, Rollins and Ambrose take Kane out with a Spear through the barricade, and then all three hit their finishers and a triple powerbomb on Miz to bring the chaos to an end. While the match dragged a bit in the middle, it more than made up for it not just with Angle’s massively-impressive in-ring return, Braun’s unstoppablility, and the anarchy of all the weapons and gimmicks being used by everyone and on everyone. I am glad to see that Kurt emerged unscathed and didn’t kill himself and that they seem to be setting up a feud between Kane and Braun, hopefully for Kane to retire and pass the torch on to the new monster in town, and, while I’m not a fan of seeing the Intercontinental Champion get punked out, Miz looked wily and relatively strong throughout. Hopefully, though, he gets away from these distractions and back to dropping barbs and defending his belt.

Raw

Kurt Angle comes out to talk about how great it was for him to be back in the ring at TLC. He decides not to address the fate of Braun Strowman, or that Kane straight up murdered a man, and instead sets the stage for the Raw vs. SmackDown! Live theme for Survivor Series. The Miz, Sheamus, Cesaro, and Curtis Axel come out to have a go at Angle for stealing their spotlight, so Angle books them into a six-man tag team match against Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and, back for one more night, AJ Styles. Considering all six men went through hell just one night prior, this was an extremely entertaining match; Styles and Cesaro went at each other, which, in another world, is a dream main event that will probably never happen in the WWE we have, and really added to the show with his showmanship and unique offense, which really helped spice up what would otherwise have been a groan-inducing, if spectacular, TLC rematch.

AJ, Dean, and Seth won after Styles caught Cesaro with the Springboard Forearm and, afterwards, Kane stormed the ring to help the heels beat up the faces some more and, after an awkwardly long in-ring pause, demanded competition to prove that he, not Strowman, is the true monster among men. Surprisingly, the challenge was answered by Finn Balor who, despite using his speed to land kicks and strikes and getting Kane in position for the Coup de Grâce, got caught by the throat and hit with three Chokeslams to take an unexpected and, frankly, insulting loss. Look, I love Kane; I’m a massive fan but, coming off of Finn’s show-stealing performance at TLC, this move made very little sense. I get that they want to build Kane up to face off with Strowman and that he has to beat big opponents to do that but, come on, it’s Kane. His reputation is threat enough, even though he loses a lot, and Finn really didn’t need to be taken out like this. He didn’t get squashed but where does he go from here? Again, it’s a case of the WWE presenting their new and/or future stars as capable of beating each other but utterly helpless against their stars of yesteryear and reminds me of a comment I saw somewhere once which was, basically, imagine if, during the Attitude Era, Stone Cold Steve Austin took a loss to Hulk Hogan despite being on track to face Shaw Michaels for the WWF Championship. Seriously, Kane could have beaten anyone else (Heath Slater, Rhyno, Slater and Rhyno, Curt Hawkins, Titus O’Neil, the list goes on) and spared Finn the unnecessary loss but it’s happened now and all we can hope is that the WWE puts a rocket on Finn to make up for it.

The rematches continue as Asuka then defeated Emma once again. Although they didn’t enforce their nonsensical 50/50 booking, the WWE have squandered all the build up they put behind Asuka’s debut; her two main roster matches weren’t exactly much to write about and, now, instead of some variety we just get two less-than-stellar matches two nights in a row. I don’t need to see a third next week, if you’re listening Vince! Jason Jordan then beat Elias but, unlike Asuka/Emma, this ended when Elias smashed his guitar over Jordan’s head; I guess we’re going to be seeing a bit of a feud between these two after all, then. As long as it spills into the Intercontinental Championship scene I’m behind it; let’s toss in, I don’t know, Apollo Crews or, even better, Finn Balor and really kick things up a notch.

In a complete twist, Paul Heyman then brings out Brock Lesnar to run down Jinder Mahal and his challenge to Lesnar for Survivor Series. Normally, Heyman does everything but give head to Lesnar’s challengers; here, though, he totally calls out Mahal on his bullshit and runs him down as a champion and for not being worth Lesnar’s time. I guess calling it straight is going to be the thrust of the build for this match, which I can only assume will end with Mahal being destroyed six ways to Sunday. Afterwards, Alexa Fox randomly won a triple threat match against Sasha Banks and Bayley; sucks to be Bayley but at least they put the spotlight on a different woman for a change.

I guess to help set the stage for the multi-man matches to come, Kalisto, Rich Swann, Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, and Gran Metalik beat Enzo Amore, Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese, Noam Dar, and Drew Gulak after Kalisto hit the Salida Del Sol on Enzo to keep their feud alive. This was nothing too offensive but it only lasted ten minutes; plus, I suspect we’ll see some kind of multi-men cruiserweight match at Survivor Series but who gives a damn as all the cruiserweights ever do is fight in multi-man matches with no stake sand no rhyme or reason!

Raw concluded with Kurt Angle coming back out and getting into a big of a pickle with Shane McMahon; Shane instantly makes #undersiege old but this trigger word is enough for most of the SmackDown! Live roster, heels and faces, to storm the ring, chase Angle off, and plough through the Raw locker room like a tornado. As this goes on, Shane vows to do it all over again, and more, at Survivor Series to prove that SmackDown! Live is the superior brand. So…all of SmackDown! Live just came off as massive heels; they tossed out continuity and logic for spectacle which, good as it was, is just not what they want it to be. It wasn’t back in the days of the original brand split and it sure as hell isn’t now, with guys jumped all over the place between brands and “Superstar Shake-Ups” at the drop of a hat, and “free agents” able to do as they like. It’s hard to believe any superstar feels enough of a sense of brand loyalty to be this committed to “invading” Raw; maybe if the WWE actually bothered to make both brands distinct and different and stop favouring Raw but that’ll never happen.

SmackDownLive

Still, not to worry, as it’s business as usual on SmackDown! Live as everyone goes back to being heels and faces so…what was the damn point again? Ugh, well, Shane opens the show to continue his vendetta against Raw only to be interrupted by cocky, sarcy-bastard-heel Sami Zayn. Zayn offers himself and Kevin Owens as mercenaries in Shane’s mission to dominate over Raw but, far from convinced and still remembering Hell in a Cell, Shane decides to put Zayn in a match against Randy Orton in the main event, with the winner being added to the SmackDown! Live Survivor Series team.

The end of days occurred next as the New Day lost a match to Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin seemingly, officially, ending their time hogging the spotlight and allowing Gable and Benjamin a clear patch towards the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Champions. Unfortunately, Baron Corbin didn’t really get to avenge his stupid (stupid!) loss to Sin Cara last week as, this week, he gets disqualified in the rematch because he won’t stop kicking Cara’s ass. I guess this helps to remind people that Corbin is an ass-kicking machine who doesn’t care and just wants to hurt people but, sadly, this seems to be setting up an underdog feud between Corbin and Sin Cara, which I am not excited to see. Corbin needs decent opponents to help him improve in the ring; guys like Sin Cara should be cannon fodder to him and, therefore, I would have rathered seen Corbin beat the hell out of Sin Cara to a no contest last week and again this week.

The Singh Brothers and Jinder Mahal answer Heyman’s jibes and putting over Jinder’s accomplishments (he was a jobber, he’s now the champion, he’s beaten Orton, and he somehow got past Shinsuke Nakamura. Great resume there). However, there’s still a number one contender floating around so AJ Styles then made Sunil Singh tap out in just over thirty seconds; I’m glad that, unlike with Nakamura, AJ looks to be running the gauntlet on his path towards Mahal but I would’ve liked to see Mahal attack and beat down AJ after this match to look a little dominant.

Becky Lynch then, surprisingly, beat Charlotte Flair, Tamina, Carmella, and Naomi to become the captain of the women’s team at Survivor Series; great to see Becky win but she did make Carmella tap out. Remember how she ha the briefcase? I’m sure she’ll instantly regain all her lost credibility when she cashes in.

Despite a strong showing and really showcasing his ability not only in the ring but as a slimy heel, Sami Zayn lost in the main event after Orton hits a low blow and the RKO to win the spot on the men’s Survivor Series team. I would have preferred to see Sami and Owens as co-captains; Sami may have won last week but it’s almost as detrimental to his newest push as Finn Losing to Kane to have him lose to Orton the very next week. I am assuming that Owens and Zayn will end up on the team anyway but, the question is, will Shane take a backseat this time or will he piss me off again but being on his own team? I can already guess the answer now.

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