This Week In Wrestling

ThisWeekInWrestling

Backlash

Winners: Ruby Riott, Seth Rollins, Nia Jax, Jeff Hardy, Daniel Bryan, Carmella, AJ Styles, Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley, Roman Reigns.

The kick-off show saw Bayley taking on Ruby Riott in a decent enough contest; Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan were at ringside and started getting involved once Bayley built up some momentum. In the end, despite Bayley’s best efforts to fend all three off at once, she fell to the Riott Kick. I get the story, that Bayley and Sasha Bank need a united front against the Riott Squad, but I’m honestly more excited to see Ruby winning the match and building some momentum towards challenging Nia Jax later down the line. If it’s one thing both women’s divisions need, its some variety with the top tier competitors and the last thing I want to see is Sasha challenging for the Raw Women’s Championship again; sure, it’d be nice to see Bayley on top again but it seems like the WWE would rather continue to dilute her natural appeal and turn her into a female Dolph Ziggler.

Seth Rollins put the Intercontinental Championship on the line against the Miz in what was, by all accounts, one of (if not the) best matches of the night. Similar to the WrestleMania triple threat match, these guys opened the show and really had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Miz decided early on that he couldn’t out-wrestle Rollins, so it took it to him with strikes and kicks, and every time Rollins tried to build up some momentum he would get shut down by Miz as he tried to slow things down and control the pace of the match. Mid-match, Rollins hit the post going for The KNEE~!! and Miz tied him up into the Figure Four in a great spot, then planted him with the Skull-Crushing Finale that almost stole him the match. Rollins was hobbled but went for his Suplex-into-Falcon Arrow spot and got caught in another Skull Crushing Finale but managed to kick out again so Miz set him up for a Super Skull Crushing Finale off the top rope. Rollins fought out of it and they traded cradle attempts, before Rollins landed the Blackout Stomp and successfully retained. Miz has really improved his in-ring work lately and worked a really smart, old school style of match, while Rollins continues to look great at every turn. I hope that Miz gets some kind of run towards the main event on SmackDown! Live as a reward for all his hard work; he doesn’t have to win the WWE Championship but he could at least challenge for it.

Nia Jax took on Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship in a match that should have been a total squash to put an end to this but, sadly, was not, as Alexa tried to work the knee (poor planning, considering the excellent knee work in the previous match) and use cheap tactics to wear Nia down. Eventually, Nia caught Alexa on a Twisting Bliss attempt and pinned her with the Samoan Drop. Afterwards, Nia went off on one about how girls should be proud of who they are and what they look like and stand up to bullies and shit. I don’t really like that they’ve focused so much on Nia’s appearance and weight in this feud; I’d rather other competitors feared her for her power and ability than made fun of her for being “fat” as it just makes her look a bit of a joke (a similar thing happened with the Big Show a while back; if you draw attention to them being “fat” then it takes something away from them, like they’re held back by it when they’re clearly not as they squash the competition at every turn).

Jeff Hardy went head-to-head with Randy Orton over the United States Championship in an attempt to win back the crowd, which was mostly successful but not exactly a world-ending match. Orton worked his usual plodding style and kept Jeff grounded, for the most part; Jeff’s ability to match him was as questionable as always. Jeff’s always been better at the high-flying, risk-taking manoeuvres than throwing strikes or answering grounded offense; the only issue with that is Jeff’s tendency to slip off the ropes, botch, and that age is slowing him down. Nevertheless, Orton seemed to have the matching one after his Vintage~!! DDT and setting up for the RKO, but Jeff rolled him up for a great near fall, and then took the match with the Twist of Fate-Swanton Bomb combination. I was kind of expecting to see Orton turn heel here, and maybe we will see that later down the line, but he seems to work quite well as a give-no-fucks tweener who RKOs everyone regardless of alignment and soaks up in the cheers but isn’t bothered if the crowd boos him. At the same time, though, I’d rather see Jeff take on some of SmackDown! Live’s young, new competitors than spin his wheels fighting Orton.

Daniel Bryan took on Test Big Cass in a relatively decent match; Bryan worked the leg with the kicks and used his speed to out match Cass’ power. He also bounced around pretty well and really sold Cass’ power moves, which is a little scary seeing as Cass is still young and learning how to best use his power, and Bryan is so fragile. Anyway, Cass took control with a couple of Short-Arm Clotheslines and set him up for the Big Boot but Bryan countered him and tied him up into the Yes! Lock, which was enough to make Cass tap. After the match, Cass got his heat back by beating Bryan up at ringside and then laying him out with the Big Boot in the ring while the crowd chanted “You tapped out!” at him. I’m not massively sure that this was the best outcome, to be honest; Cass looks like a loser and will have to endure the ridicule of tapping out for a while, which may hurt him, but if he continues to attack Bryan and wins the next match he could benefit from the heat that would generate.

The SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship was up for grabs next as Carmella defended against Charlotte Flair in a match that was largely comprised of Carmella yelling at Charlotte before, during, and after her offense and Charlotte trying to power her way to victory. In the end, despite Charlotte’s numerous attempts to put her down, Carmella took it after dodging a Moonsault and cradling Charlotte for the win.

Moving on, but continuing the disappointment, AJ Styles took on Shinsuke Nakamura in a No Disqualification match for the WWE Championship. This was disappointing for two reasons: first, why the hell was this, the WWE Championship match, not the main event? It’s not like Brock Lesnar was there defending the Universal Championship so why not put the company’s top belt at the close of the show? The second reason was the finish. But first, it was all about Styles getting some payback by attacking Nakamura around the ringside area. Once the action spilling back into the ring, Nakamura took control, trying to choke Styles out, and eventually trying to attack him with a steel chair (landing a brutal Reverse Exploder Suplex onto it in a spot that had too suck for AJ). Styles throw the chair at Nakamura as he went for the Kinshasa (accidentally busting himself open when it bounced into his face), and tried to take advantage with the Calf Crusher, but Nakamura fought out and briefly turned it into a Triangle. Styles began to build momentum with a Sliding Forearm and the Ushigoroshi and trying to his the Styles Clash but, after Nakamura slips out, the land stereo low blows and both get counted out. Now, this kind of sucks because this just feels like a repeat, or a do-over, of their Greatest Royal Rumble match; the longer this feud goes on, the more it looks as though Nakamura will not be taking the belt any time soon. Honestly, I would have preferred to see Nakamura win the belt with a low blow and subsequent heel turn at WrestleMania and then cheat to win/use the low blow to retain it in the next few matches, and then have Styles triumphantly regain the belt in a blow off match. At least that way you’ve had your Royal Rumble winner win the belt, as traditionally happens, capitalised on Nakamura’s heel turn, given Nakamura a run with the belt, and got a big babyface pop for when Styles regains the title (only to lose it to Samoa Joe later down the line and kickstart a long, dominant run for him). Instead? Nope, cock shots!

And speaking of do-over matches, it’s the WrestleMania tag team we never got (Braun Strowman and Bobby Lashley) taking on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in a match that, largely, was about Owens and Zayn getting their asses absolutely handed to them. oh, sure, they took control midway through the match after double teaming Lashley but, all too soon, Strowman made the tag and started murdering fools. Sami wisely tried to run away but Owens stopped him and they argued, teasing another break up and series of matches, I’m sure, which eventually led to Lashley pinning Owens with that lame-ass Delayed Suplex they’re pushing as his “finisher”. I really don’t want to see Owens and Zayn going at it again; couldn’t they have just been split up during the Superstar Shake-Up?

Yep, you guessed it, that means that Roman Reigns gets to main event the card over the WWE Champion, taking on Samoa Joe in a match that, to the delight of the crowd, saw Reigns getting the absolutely piss beaten out of him before the bell even rang. Joe slammed him through an announce table, worked over his arm, and beat Reigns senseless. Once they made it to the ring, Joe then switched gears and cut off Roman’s attempts to take control by slapping on locks and keeping things grounded. Reigns finally managed to mount some offense, though, so Joe decided to continuously go for the Coquina Clutch. Reigns, of course, had an answer for that: Superman Punch after Superman Punch, a Spear (that Joe obviously kicked out of), and another Spear that finally put this match to rest. Christ, when is it going to end? Why does Roman’s Spear never put his opponent away the first time? How ineffectual, weak, and lazy does Reigns look? He has so much potential and yet they squander it with these cookie-cutter matches and spam-fest offense. I guess Joe will have to get his heat back by feuding with some fool, probably Rusev, while Styles and Nakamura finish off their feud but, no doubt, Reigns will use this win to justify challenging Lesnar again.

Raw

Kurt Angle is here to hype up that this year’s Money in the Bank will go back to have a Money in the Bank ladder match for each brand again…but this time, there’ll be co-branded ladder matches for the men and women (but not the cruiserweights…or the mid-card guys….or the tag teams…or the UK division…) and we’ll be getting a series of qualifying matches…starting tonight! And the first of these matches is our first match of the night, Braun Strowman vs. Kevin Owens. This was the fun, aggressive match you’d expect from these two; Strowman dominated in the early going, but Owens took control with a Tornado DDT and continued the momentum by dodged a Strowman charge and causing him to hit the ring post. Owens scrambled out of Strowman’s big moves and tries to steal the win with his awesome Frog Splash, but Strowman kicks out, runs through Owens with a series of increasingly-over-the-top Shoulder Barges, and then pins him with the Running Powerslam to be the first entrant in the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match. It’s going to be weird seeing Strowman in that sort of match; I guess he would be number two pick to win but my number one is coming up later in the night.

Baron Corbin and the Revival took on No Way Jose, Titus O’Neil, and Apollo Crews to help extend a whole bunch of feuds for Corbin but doesn’t really do a lot for the Revival. The heels got the win after Corbin slammed Jose with the End of Days. Afterwards, Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, and Sasha Banks had a bit of a three way to decide the first women in their Money in the Bank ladder match. Interestingly, despite Ruby’s big win last week and Sasha being…well…Sasha, Ember took the win. It’s a bit surprising that Sasha won’t be in the match but she’ll probably be challenging for the belt anyway so…

Jinder Mahal got some payback against Chad Gable in a rematch from the other week, this time emerging victorious and beating Gable up after the match to keep that 50/50 booking alive and ticking. Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler then made short work of Heath Slater and Rhyno, which is great for this emerging new team but not so great for the former Tag Team Champions; what happened to all that natural support for Slater and Rhyno? Oh, yes, the WWE squandered it and buried them away until we forgot to care.

The saga of Bobby Roode and Elias continued next, with Elias attacking Roode before the bell and kicking things off with a brawl. The match was actually surprisingly competitive and back-and-forth, which is odd as I would have expected Roode to work a power game and Elias to be a slimy heel; instead, they traded offense pretty evenly but, in the end, Rood countered the Drift Away into the Glorious DDT to take the win and announce that he wants to get a shot at the Money in the Bank briefcase.

Seth Rollins popped out to announce his desire to make the Intercontinental Championship the top Raw belt; his declaration of being a fighting champion is answered by, of all people, Mojo Rawley and leads to a match between the two. Now, this is the kind of high-profile stuff I expect to see the WWE do with their young heels and Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale winners. It’s too bad that they took so long to do anything with Mojo and he therefore doesn’t have much in the way of heat behind him and hasn’t had much of a chance to work on his in-ring game. Rollins, however, did his best to make Mojo look like a threat, which was a decent effort, and took the win following a whole barrage of his finishers. I like the idea of Rollins doing a John Cena and openly allowing for weekly high quality matches against fresh, new heels and unexpected challengers.

Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt squashed Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel in less than three minutes as a precursor to the main event: Finn Balor vs. Sami Zayn vs. Roman Reigns for a spot in the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match. Surprisingly, Balor and Zayn largely worked together to ensure that we got the traditional Reigns beat down before the also-traditional Reigns comeback. Probably the best parts of this match where when Zayn and Balor went head-to-head; Zayn really needs to course correct towards the Intercontinental Championship and start making an impact as a singles guy. In the end, just as Reigns looked to have it all won, Jinder Mahal of all people distracted him and allowed Balor to pin Zayn. This was also surprising but, similar to Elimination Chamber, I’m sure that Reigns will bullshit his way back into the match as it’s not like Brock Lesnar is showing up to Money in the Bank. The best part is that Balor won and will be in the match; he is my number one pick and I really feel like holding the briefcase could be his moment to get back into the main event scene.

SmackDownLive

Remember the ladder match qualifiers? It’s a good job I do as Paige came out to remind us and I was a little distracted and missed every word she said…

Anyway, the first match from the Blue Brand side pitted the Miz against Jeff Hardy in a super energetic match. Miz tried too work over Jeff’s arm, putting him on the defensive; Miz also scrambled away from the Twist of Fate and dodged Jeff’s attempts to mount a comeback and kept the pressure on the entire time. After a series of counters, Jeff finally landed the Twist of Fate and the Swanton Bomb but, somehow, just as Jeff landed the move, Miz cradled him and stole the win. That was a really, really surprising finish as I was sure that Jeff had it won. It’s great to see Miz getting a sniff at the main event; now we just need to get a challenger for Jeff’s United States Championship.

Dodging the multitude of backstage segments, Charlotte Flair and Peyton Royce fought for a place in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, which saw Charlotte win after a plodding, dull match. My thoughts about this are kind of the reverse of my thought son Sasha not winning her qualifying match; it’s a bit contrived to put Charlotte in the match when she’s held the women’s championships so often.

Cesaro and Sheamus got pissed off earlier because the New Day put pancakes in their bags, so Cesaro took his frustrations out on Xavier Woods. As always, I am shocked to see Xavier in a singles match; this was all about Cesaro’s power and Sheamus getting in the cheap shots, despite the presence of Big E and Kofi Kingston. The finish was as spectacular a counter by Cesaro as you could ask for: Xavier went up top and flew right into a massive uppercut, got busted open, and lost the match.

Mandy Rose defeated Becky Lynch to establish herself as a singles competitor now that Absolution have been broken up, which was the prelude to the Money in the Bank qualifier between Rusev and Daniel Bryan. I do like that the WWE are putting Bryan into dream matches and not wasting him on prolonged feuds against one or two guys; may as well try and make the most of him just in case he does end up breaking. Luckily, as well, the WWE saw more sense than to allow Bryan to win and end up in a position where he could seriously aggravate his former injuries, and, even better, Rusev took the win after landing the Machka Kick.

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