This Week In Wrestling

ThisWeekInWrestling

GreatestRoyalRumble 

Winners: John Cena, Cedric Alexander, Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt, Jeff Hardy, the Bludgeon Brothers, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, the Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, and Braun Strowman.

John Cena and Triple H opened the show; I suppose it’s supposed to emphasise how big and important this event is by having a former WrestleMania main event be the opening act. Given the amount of times these two have fought before, and Triple H’s character, Triple H had Cena well scouted in the early going and even stole the Five Knuckle Shuffle in a cool spot. Cena finally turned it around, fighting his way back into a dominant position, and then they started kicking out of each other’s finishers, which is par for the course with both of these guys by this point. Cena finally got the win after his new finisher….two Attitude Adjustments in rapid succession…to take an unnecessary step towards rebuilding from his decimation at WrestleMania. I can’t help but feel this match, good as it was, would have meant more if the WWE had started building to it after WrestleMania; have Triple H casually criticise Cena for losing to the Undertaker and get him riled up enough to fire back or attack him or something.

Cedric Alexander put the Cruiserweight Championship on the line against Kalisto in a match that struggled to inspire much of a crowd reaction, despite the faster pace of their in-ring antics. They threw everything they could at each other, from high-flying counters to big spots (including a very dangerous-looking Tornado DDT), and a finisher-reversal sequence that saw Cedric’s Lumbar Check countered into the Salida Del Sol, which was countered again into a massive Lumbar Check to score him the victory the only thing that let this down was the lackadaisical crowd and, again, the lack of build up towards it (oh, and, arguably, Kalisto challenging for the belt again. I mean, why not Grand Metalik or someone new?).

New Raw Tag Team Champions were crowned when Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt managed to win back some crowd participation with their goofball antics against Sheamus and Cesaro. Matt took the majority of the heat, being worked over by the Bar’s superior power game, before he made a luke-warm tag to Bray; again, seeing Bray as a face is just….weird. Bray ran wild, got worked over, and then did the spider-walk to Matt to tag him back in, land their double team version of the Twist of Fate, and take the belts. I do have to question the point of bringing back the Hardy Boyz if you’re not going to have them be a tag team; even after all of Jeff Hardy’s screw ups, the WWE apparently still view him as a top singles competitor. Ironically, despite Matt’s arguably superior character work with his Broken/Woken character, he’s still relegated to the tag team ranks. How much better would this have been if it was a full on Broken Matt and Brother Nero against the Wyatt family for the tag belts?

Speaking of Brother Nero, Jeff Hardy was up next, putting the United States Championship on the line against Jinder Mahal in what can only be described as a car crash of a match. Jeff was all over the place, botching and dropping spots, while Jinder, with his limited ability in the ring, did little to compensate or hide those issues. Sunil Singh almost helped Jinder steal the victory but, in the end, Mahal got caught with the Swanton Bomb and the belt stayed where it was. Again, I fail to see the point in putting the belt on Jinder only for him to immediately drop it to Jeff. Trade the guys over, sure, but why not keep the belt on Randy Orton (or, better yet, Bobby Roode) and have Jeff feud over the belt on SmackDown! Live. Or have Jinder drop the title here; as it is, he just looks like a chump and I’ve no doubt that he will get buried on Raw’s over stacked, main event heavy roster.

The Bludgeon Brothers continued their dominating ways, completely overwhelming the Usos for the most part in their defence of the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships. The Usos tried the fast game and their patented tag team manoeuvres but, when it was all said and done, the Bludgeon Brothers couldn’t be toppled and they successfully retained the belts in a noticeably rushed match.

Afterwards, Seth Rollins put the Intercontinental Championship on the line in a ladder match against Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, and the Miz. Again, it’s kind of weird to have two guys (Miz and Joe) who are now on SmackDown! Live challenging for a Raw title; I get that Miz deserves a rematch as the former champion but couldn’t they have done that on the Raw after WrestleMania and then made this a standard one on one ladder match between Balor and Rollins? Plus, Joe seems to be obsessed with calling out and challenging Roman reigns (and will, apparently, face him at Backlash no mater what) which is really weird as they on separate brands now! Anyway, Miz and Joe seemed to team up a bit but you can’t trust Joe and he summarily took him out while Rollins and Balor threw themselves around the ring as only they can. Miz hit the Skull-Crushing Finale onto Joe onto the edge of the ladder, which was pretty sick, and, in the closing stretch, it seemed as though Finn was about to win it only for Rollins to springboard himself onto the ladder and snatch the belt away at the very last second.

AJ Styles put the WWE Championship up for grabs against Shinsuke Nakamura next, which began with the two trading blows in a brawl for all of their signature offense. Now that Nakamura is a full-blown heel, the flow and pace of the match was noticeably more aggressive and engaging than their WrestleMania bout, as Nakamura brought the fight to AJ, forgoing all pretence of respect; he almost stole the victory after hitting his signature cock shot behind the referee’s back, but AJ managed to grab the ropes just in time. AJ then dodged the Kinshasa and took the fight to the outside and the two eventually got so caught up in brawling that the match went to a double count out. Okay, well, I didn’t think about that when I made my predictions but this actually works just as well; now that we’ve established that these two want to murder each other, their next/final match will probably have some kind of gimmick (no holds barred, ladder, falls count anywhere…) that will see Nakamura take the win then.

The Undertaker is randomly back in action and, even more randomly, has his sights set on Rusev. Couldn’t this have been a WrestleMania rematch between Undertaker and Cena? Seriously, what has Rusev done to piss off upper management to be literally buried this way? For me, it’s not enough that he gets to “share the ring” with the Undertaker because he can’t overcome a loss like this; it’s not like the Undertaker will be on SmackDown! Live this week for Rusev to get some payback and it doesn’t look like he’ll be getting any title shots soon. Anyway, surprisingly, this wasn’t a three minute squash as Rusev actually got to get in some offense (way more than Cena got in at WrestleMania, anyway). I mean, it was all for naught as both he and Aiden English (who took a scary looking Tombstone Piledriver right on his head) got unceremoniously thrown into the casket. I guess this made Rusev looked somewhat legitimate but I still don’t see why the WWE couldn’t have at least tried to build toward sit a little bit.

Roman Reigns got yet another shot at Brock Lesnar and the Universal Championship next, in a steel cage no less, and it went about as well as you might expect having seen their stinker of a WrestleMania match. Despite the fact that, apparently, Vince McMahon thought Roman would get a better in a different country, the crowd was totally against him as always. Lesnar, now massively overconfident in his ability to take care of Reigns, decided to simply beat him up in the early going; an interesting tactic considering his overconfidence led to him underestimating Goldberg a year or so ago. Unfortunately, Reigns is no Goldberg, so this predictably (and quickly) degraded into the trademark finisher spam-fest these two are known for. Reigns also beat the hell out of Lesnar with a steel chair for a bit but, when he went for another Spear, he sent himself and Lesnar crashing through the cage wall and, as Lesnar apparently landed first, cost himself the victory as Lesnar was declared the winner. Once again, I am left shaking my head; is Roman the guy or not? They want him to be the top guy and built everything up to his huge, awe-inspiring victory over the unbeatable champion and have completely pulled the u got from under him. Is it because they want Lesnar to beat CM Punk’s title reign? I assume so but, if so, why not course-correct the storylines to benefit that goal? Instead, they built the F5 up as this match-ending death of deaths, only for Reigns to completely neuter it with the amount of times he’s kicked out of it, and Reigns’ finisher look weaker than ever as he can never put Lesnar down no matter how many Superman Punches or Spears he hits, so if Reigns is to beat Lesnar it’s difficult to believe anyone is going to give a shit. Honestly, Reigns should have won at WrestleMania and the dominated Lesnar here to send him packing; at least then the plaster would have been ripped off and we’d be spared all this will-they-won’t-they.

The “Greatest Royal Rumble” fittingly main evented the show, with Daniel Bryan at number one and lasting an unprecedented seventy-six minutes, and Dolph Ziggler at number two. Sin Cara came out next, taking both men out with a Moonsault and running wild before Ziggler dumped him. Curtis Axel tried his luck next, followed by Mark Henry; Henry eliminated Ziggler, so Bryan and Ziggler teamed up against him. Mike Kanellis made a surprise appearance next (seriously, he hasn’t been on television for, like, six months!) and was immediately and unceremoniously eliminated by Henry. Hiroki Sumi (…who I am not familiar with) came out next for a bit of a face off with Mark Henry, which ended badly for the sumo, and then Ziggler and Bryan finally got rid of Henry.

Viktor was out next, but he was gone within seconds, followed by Kofi Kingston and Tony Nese, leading to al all-out brawl between the four men. Dash Wilder joined the fray, followed by Hornswoggle (wait, I thought he was on Impact Wrestling now?); Hornswoggle had a bit of a moment before Nese took him out and Primo entered the match, nearly killing himself when he slipped off the ropes. Xavier Woods was next, catching Kofi on his shoulders so that Kofi could avoid being eliminated, before the two of them toss out Nese. Bo Dallas came out next and the match became a random, dull brawl before Kurt-freaking-Angle entered the match! Angle tossed everyone around with German Suplexes, threw out Dallas, primo, and Ziggler, and then got double-teamed by the New Day until Bryan helped him out. Scott Dawson came out next, followed by Goldust, Konnor, and Elias as the brawling resumed.

Elias finally enters the ring and gets rid of Xavier, Konnor, and Kofi all at once. Nobody cared that Luke Gallows was out next because Angle and Bryan were finally going at it, with Bryan countering a German Suplex into his signature kicks and being planted by the Angle Slam despite avoiding the Ankle Lock. Elias takes advantage to eliminate Angle, then Rhyno and Drew Gulak enter the fray to resume the wild brawling. Tucker Knight was out next, tossing Gulak, before Bobby Roode brought some energy back to the match and dumped Goldust and Dawson. Fandango and Chad Gable were next as the boredom returned, before who’s that jumpin’ out the sky? R-E-Y Mysterio! came to the ring and took out Gallows.

Mojo Rawley is next, immediately taking out Fandango, followed by Tyler Breeze, who also fell to Mojo. Big E was next, trying to buy favour with those God-forsaken pancakes, dumping Tucker before Karl Anderson came out, followed by Apollo Crews, taking out Gable in short order. NXT’s Roderick Strong was next and the ring really started to get crowded at this point; Strong took out everyone and eliminated Rhyno but then Randy Orton came out, landed a bunch of RKOs, and tossed Anderson, Mojo, and Apollo. Heath Slater tried his luck next before NXT’s Babatunde came out to really slow things down. Baron Corbin was next, tossing Roode and Roderick. Titus O’Neil falls over making his way out, instantly destroying his credibility and forever cementing him as an Internet meme, I’m sure, before NXT’s Dan Matha joins the fight.

Things finally get interesting as Braun Strowman comes out and begins setting his own record of thirteen Royal Rumble eliminations; he tosses Babatunde, Matha, Big E, and Skater so everyone jumps him. Tye Dillinger (remember him?) is out next, but Strowman dumps him and Titus. Orton and Rey hit their finishers on Strowman to slow him down before Orton and Corbin are tossed out. Curt Hawkins is next, wisely trying to run away from Strowman but to no avail; Braun chucks him out and then gets posted by Elias. Bobby Lashley is next, tossing Elias and then getting into it with Strowman. Bryan tries to take it to both men but the Great Khali lumbers to the ring and hits those God-awful chops to everyone before Lashley and Braun toss his dead-weight out of the ring.

Kevin Owens enters the fight, squashing Lashley and Strowman with the Cannonball, before Bryan tries to take him out; Owens plants him with the Pop-Up Powerbomb but thank the Lord because here comes SmackDown! Live’s top face, Shane McMahon, to even the odds. Shane throws those rubbish punches at Owens and he and Bryan lay they kicks in before Shelton Benjamin makes his way out. Everyone finds common ground and takes the fight to Strowman as Big Cass enters the fray. Shane seems to injure himself hitting the Coast-To-Coast on Strowman (maybe that will keep him out of the fucking ring!) before Chris Jericho comes out and immediately gets into it with Owens. Shelton gets dumped, then Jericho locks Owens into the Walls of Jericho. Cass breaks it up, gets suplexed by Lashley, and the Bryan brings the kicks to Owens. Braun Chokeslams Shane’s bitch-ass off the apron and through an announce table, finally taking his ass out of the match, then tosses out Lashley, Jericho, and Owens.

Bryan almost managed to get Strowman out but Cass took him out with a Big Boot, leaving Cass and Strowman as the final two; I get the idea, that Cass eliminating Bryan so close to victory and a complete iron man achievement will bring massive heat to Cass and fire up his feud with Bryan, but, arguably, it would have been better to have the final two be Bryan and Strowman, in either case, Strowman eliminates Cass in short order and wins the match; he is awarded a shitty trophy and a really shitty-looking championship belt (seriously, it’s all lime-green and looks like that God-awful design for the X-Division Championship; also, what’s the belt called? The Greatest Royal Rumble Championship? Is Strowman going to defend it?)

Raw

And here comes Roman Reigns and his half-assed excuses. Apparently, the WWE is deciding the take the stance that the finish to the cage match was controversial and that Reigns got screwed by a referee’s poor decision. Roman, who appears to have gone mental and thinks he won the belt and that there’s this big conspiracy against him, gets interrupted by…Samoa Joe…? So we’re still continuing this storyline, even though Joe is on SmackDown! Live and it makes absolutely no sense? Okay, fair enough. Then Jinder Mahal comes out to challenge Reigns for a later date and Sami Zayn comes out to challenge him tonight but then Kevin Owens comes out to challenge Reigns as well (Christ, it’s almost as if they all think that Reigns did win the belt!) and this leads to a massive brawl. Braun Strowman, of all people, makes the save and sets up, what else, but a six-man tag team match for later in the evening.

Bobby Roode takes Elias again to try and even the score from last week, which actually resulted in some that resembled a match this week, but ultimately led to very little. Elias  escaped from the Glorious DDT, tries to roll Roode up and then posts him so badly that he has to roll to the outside and cannot compete. Man, Roode must have a week sternum; that was like getting legitimately hurt from simply crossing the ring to make a tag!…

The Authors of Pain decimated some jobbers in less than a minute, then (after a bit of a scuffle between Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Curtis Axel, and Bo Dallas) Sasha Banks actually lost a match to Ruby Riott. Obviously, Sasha got a bit distracted by Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan but actually having the Riott Squad win matches over former champions or women painted as a big deal goes  along way to give them at least a sense of legitimacy.

Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, and Bobby Lashley took on Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Jinder Mahal next; once again I have to marvel at how Lashley and Strowman can only apparently team up after Strowman was in need of a tag team partner and at the WWE’s never-fail strategy of moving guys from one brand to another and yet still having those guys butt heads or be closely involved with each other. Honestly, how did you expect this match to go? the faces take the win in a fun match with a crowd that was actually into it; it also never fails to amuse me how people only cheer Reigns consistently when he’s paired up with super over guys and the idea that Reigns and Strowman are cool now, after all the shit they put each other through, just because they’re both faces is still a ludicrous concept.

Baron Corbin tried his luck against No Way Jose but gets distracted when Titus O’Neil slips on the apron and distracts him, causing him to lose in hilariously terrible fashion. If Titus’ gimmick from now on is going to be “guy who barks and falls over” then maybe he should just pack his bags and get out of dodge because that, ladies and gentleman, is not a future world champion.

Natalya got a win over Mickie James after Ronda Rousey evened the odds and took out Alexa Bliss at ringside, which was all part of keeping Ronda’s storyline going on, and then the real shit happened when, after that earlier scuffle, Finn Balor tried to win the Intercontinental Championship from Seth Rollins. If you ever had any lingering doubt about how good these two are and how deserving they are of being in the main event, this will quash those doubts (though, most likely, not those of Vince McMahon). Every time they face each other, they mix it up a bit and really act like two guys who have fought numerous times and are aware of what the other is capable of. In the end, Rollins landed a Superkick after nearly falling to Balor’s Sling Blade and got the win after hitting the Blackout Stomp.

SmackDownLive

So, after Paige announces that the AJ Styles/Shinsuke Nakamura WWE Championship match at Backlash will be no disqualification, the Miz once again opens the show with Miz TV. This time, it’s all about the United States Championship as Miz tries to sow dissension between Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, and Shelton Benjamin. I’m happy to see Shelton remaining a fixture in this division as he’s much better as a singles guy. However, the spirit of Teddy Long lives on, and this kerfuffle leads to a tag team match. Although Orton lands the RKO, tags in Jeff, and the faces win the match after Jeff pins Shelton with the Swanton Bomb, Orton plants Jeff with an RKO just to remind everyone that he’s still around.

Lots of talking this week: first, Big Cass comes out to mock Daniel Bryan with a midget lookalike, then Nakamura demands an apology from AJ and they get into it. Samoa Joe interrupts to say that after he’s finished with Roman Reigns, he’s planning on challenging whoever is the WWE Champion after Backlash; nice to know that Joe has some plans for his future on SmackDown! Live. Anyway, Nakamura’s music distracts Joe and he lands yet another low blow on AJ; you’d think that he’d wear a cup or something by this point.

An actual match follows next after a bit of a run-in between the two teams earlier results in Sheamus taking on Xavier Woods, which is interesting because we hardly ever see Xavier in singles matches. In the end, Cesaro, Kofi Kingston, and Big E all get involved in the action to level the playing field and Woods steals the win by rolling up Sheamus.

After Paige splits up Absolution, we get the main event of the evening and, you guessed it, it’s a six-man tag team match pitting Charlotte, Asuka, and Becky Lynch against Carmella, Peyton Royce, and Billie Kay. The faces get the win to close out the last SmackDown! Live before Backlash in pretty decent fashion but, seriously, what was up with all the talking and the lack of matches this week? Literally nothing happened; what a waste of time.

Backlash
Predictions:

Daniel Bryan vs. Big Cass
So this is a big break for Big Cass as it’s his return match from his injury and what better opponent could he ask for than to face Daniel Bryan? Cass has really stepped up his promo game since coming back and I really believe he could be a top-level guy with just a few tweaks (I’ve mentioned it before; new music, drop the “Big”, maybe some new ring gear) but it all depends on how well he does in this match because if Bryan can’t make him look like a top guy then no one can. In either case, I’m giving the win to Big Cass here.

Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns
The Superstar Shake-Up fallout continues with this last match. This one is a bit of a conundrum as Joe has been out of action for ages and not won any matches for a while, while Reigns has been bitched out by Brock Lesnar over the last month or so. If you ask me, Joe needs the win here more than Reigns as he needs to be pushed towards the WWE Championship but Reigns can’t really take the loss. I imagine it’ll probably be some kind of no contest but I prefer to pick a winner so fuck Roman, let’s pick Samoa Joe.

Raw Women’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax (c)
Hopefully the end of this feud, to be honest, as I want to see Nia move towards diversifying herself and dominating the division. I love cute little Alexa but I’m sticking with Nia Jax to retain.

WWE United States Championship Match: Jeff Hardy (c) vs. Randy Orton
So it looks like Randy Orton has firmly entered into his mid-life crisis as he is constantly and perpetually spinning his wheels. He meanders around in the main event, randomly pins up-and-coming stars, and then gets wedged uncomfortably into the mid-card scene at the cost of some of SmackDown! Live’s best and brightest. Why include Tye Dillinger or Rusev when you can have Orton; I know he lends some real credibility but he really seems out of place these days. I’d much rather see him and John Cena form a super team and bring some credibility and focus on one of the tag team divisions. Anyway, yeah, big win for Jeff Hardy I’m sure, though whether he can stay reliable and focused is another thing entirely.

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: Seth Rollins (c) vs. The Miz
This should be the last time we see Miz involved with this belt for a while too, hopefully; time to move on to other things on SmackDown! Live (the inevitable feud with Daniel Bryan springs to mind). I’m again expecting this to be a highlight match and a competitive affair that sees Seth Rollins put Miz away and the WWE put all their eggs into an extended Rollins/Balor feud (I also half expect Balor to urn heel during that).

WWE Championship No Disqualification Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
This time’s the charm for these two, I’m sure. The WWE is definitely playing the long game with these two; at least Shane McMahon and crooked finishes and referees haven’t been screwing this series up like with Kevin Owens. I was pretty sure that Nakamura would win at the Greatest Royal Rumble but the double count out helped to push Nakamura’s heel turn to the forefront; not sure his love of cocks is a great way for him to get over but it’s definitely put some spice into their feud. In order for it to really mean something, though, I still think that they should properly pull the trigger so, once again, I’m putting my eggs into Captain Cock-Shot’s basket.

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