Braun Strowman and his new cronies, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, kick things off this week followed by what appears to be the entirety of Raw’s heel roster; I never realised how united all of Raw’s heels were against the Shield, even some guys who’ve either never faced them as a unit or have hardly had any run-ins with them at all! Anyway, they all pat each other on the back and vow to a) destroy the Shield, b) dethrone Roma Reigns and c)…well, we don’t really get a c) as the Shield attacks. And when I say “attack” I mean they attack all the heels on the outside while Braun, Drew, and Dolph hit the bricks. So, rather than being able to one-up their actual opponents, three men dismantled most of Raw’s heels with little effort. Afterwards, Baron Corbin tells Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins to leave before they’re arrested and are stripped of their belts; I’m, sure that will stick.
Nikki Bella was back in the ring again, joy of joys, against Ruby Riott. Brie Bella, Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan were at ringside; this match was all about Nikki building momentum and then Ruby cutting it off at every turn, and the rest of the Riott Squad running interference. However, Brie evened the odds and Nikki was able to get the win after the Rack Attack, complete derailing and destroying all of the Riott Squad (and, more importantly, Ruby’s) momentum from the weeks before the Bellas made their unwelcome return.
The Authors of Pain, still randomly accompanied by Drake Maverick, destroyed some jobbers; remind me again why Strowman didn’t team up with these two? It’d give a new team a leg up the roster, their booking echoes the early days of his solo run, and then we wouldn’t have Maverick being an obnoxious heel on Raw but a benevolent general manager on 205 Live. Anyway, Triple H came out afterwards to hype up his upcoming match against the Undertaker; he vows to win, despite the odds (…no real odds, you understand, more than he’s lost to ‘Taker before and most people expect ‘Taker to win) and win. Triple H also calls out the Undertaker for apparently being too afraid, or whatever, to face him face-to-face before the match; I wouldn’t worry, Hunter, ‘Taker pretty much never affords any opponent that luxury.
Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre put the Raw Tag Team Championship on the line against the B-Team…again…although the B-Team fought a good fight and Bo Dallas even nearly had the match won, the Claymore/Zig-Zag combination put them away. This was a pretty decisive win so can we please move away from the B-Team now? It’s too bad that Rollins and Ambrose (who attack after the match) will probably be the ones to unseat Drew and Diolph, as it almost seemed like we were getting ready to see new tag teams in the fold but, hopefully, the Revival or the AOP will get to win the belts off of the Shield later down the line.
Kevin Owens beat the absolute crap out of Tyler Breeze prior to their match and then explained that, while he did quit the other week, Corbin begged him to return and that, as part of the agreement, he is not held accountable for what happens to his opponents. He then blames it on Bobby Lashley, because he hurt Sami Zayn, and I guess officially starts a feud with Bobby.
Aftwards, Raw’s newest slapped-together tag team, Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, further humiliate the Ascension in rematch from last week that goes pretty much the same way as last week, with Roode and Gable getting the win and more dirt being thrown on the Ascension’s grave, with the exception being that Roode had the match won but Gable tagged himself in to steal the victory. I’ve seen Bray Wyatt teasing a new stable, or something, on Twitter lately; can we get the Ascension off television until he’s ready to return and repackage them as his new converts and course correct all three?
Ronda Rousey and her bestest friend in the entire world, Natayla, teamed up against Alexa Bliss and Mickie James; is Ronda/Bliss really still a thing? I mean, I like Alexa but this is a bit beyond a joke at this point, especially considering we’ve seen Rousey decisively defeat her many times. And yes, this was no different, as Rousey got Mickie to tap to her devastating Arm Bar, with the one difference being that Rousey ended up getting the “damaged ribs” treatment after being slammed off the barricade; I hope she has that useless bandaging wrapped around her the next time she fights.
Elias continued to spin his wheels with a song mocking some local team of some sort, only to be interrupted by Mick Foley! They traded some insults and Mick announced that he will be the special guest referee for the Universal Championship match at Hell in a Cell; he also booked Elias to face Finn Balor, which happened right then and there. There wasn’t much to this match, which I’m pinning on Elias and his bland in-ring work and, possibly, the fact that he hasn’t wrestled in weeks, but it resulted in Balor getting a win and no bullshit from Corbin so that’s a plus.
Earlier in the night, Rollins used some good, old-fashioned blackmail to get the Shield back on the show so Braun ended the night by calling out Roman…again…when he doesn’t show, Braun called him a coward and vowed to win the belt (again, didn’t all of this happen at the start of the show?) Anyway, Roman finally appeared (on the announce table…) and attacked Braun to kick-off one of their trademark brawls, which ends with Roman tossing Braun off the stage with a Samoan Drop.
Jeff Hardy opened things up with a quick promo where he continued to walk a weird, blurred line between Brother Nero and the daredevil of old, before we launched right into a non-title match between the aforementioned Jeff and the United States Champion, Shinsuke Nakamura. Honestly, since all of the focus has been on Hardy and Randy Orton, I completely forgot that Nakamura was the champion! I know I said something a while back about how I was glad that Orton wouldn’t be involved with the championship but using the United States Champion as a pawn or bit-player in the Hardy/Orton feud is a bit of a slap in the face to Nakamura, who isn’t currently even on the Hell in a Cell card. Anyway, yeah, right when Jeff looked to have it all won, Orton flied in for an RKO and caused the disqualification and they had a brawl afterwards, which Jeff came out on top of.
AJ Styles was next to take to the mic, only this time it was a pre-taped promo in an empty arena. Again, he talked about how Samoa Joe has pissed all over their past and their friendship and how he (as in, AJ, not Joe) will win at Hell in a Cell. Nice change of pace but, again, this feud feels like it could be more intense; you’d think AJ is competing hurt or something with how little interaction/in-ring action there’s been between these two. I don’t mean they should have matches every week but some kind of physical altercation (like the home invasion I talked about last week) would be nice.
Charlotte was in non-title action against Sonya Deville next, which saw Deville put in a good effort but eventually crumble beneath the awesome might of Ric Flair’s daughter. After the match, though, Charlotte got her ass handed to her by Becky Lynch once again, which makes me happy.
Samoa Joe was next with the yap-yap, this time telling a bedtime story about AJ and his family. Intense stuff from Joe, and I like how creepy and sinister the undertones are, but, again, it’d be nice to see him choke some AJ-lookalike-jobber out in the ring, too.
The finals to decide who will challenge the New Day at Hell in a Cell for the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships came next, pitting Rusev and Aiden English against the Bar. How refreshing it is to see two new teams competing for a chance to be in the title picture; the Bar haven’t really done anything noteworthy since the Superstar Shake-Up and I’m happy to see Rusev working towards any kind of belt, and this was a great match that was pretty evenly matched for the most part. The finish came when English dove in front of Rusev and took a Brogue Kick, which allowed Rusev to land the Machka Kick and get the win for his tea.
Andrade “Cien” Almas course-corrected away from Daniel Bryan and into the weird new…thing…involving R-Truth and Carmella next, by facing R-Truth. Can you believe that R-Truth has been in matches on SmackDown! Live but Tye Dillinger hasn’t? This went pretty much exactly as you’d expect; R-Truth tried some stuff but Almas rolled him up to win after an altercation between Carmella and Zelina Vega distracted the former NWA World-Heavyweight Champion.
Brie Bella and Maryse got the main event…which is a pretty sad state of affairs all around, really. Daniel Bryan and the Miz got into a brawl, which caused a disqualification, and then Bryan and Brie beat up their opponents a bit.
Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse
On paper, this is a great way to continue the Miz/Bryan feud without having them face each other in singles matches, and having an intergender tag team match is a nice welcome change of pace, given how rare they are, but my God did they do a shit job of building up to this on SmackDown! Live this week. I actually am going to pick The Miz to win this one as well as I think we’re building up to one last match between these two, possibly involving a ladder, as the real blow-off to all this.
Raw Tag Team Championship Match: Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre (c) vs. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins
So, after weeks and weeks of building up the B-Team as this lucky, popular underdog team who stumbled onto the belts and a winning streak and were having their legitimacy and mettles tested by the Revival, the WWE randomly decided to cut them off at the knees, sweep the Revival under the carpet, and stick the belts onto Drew and Dolph (who, again, were supposed to have parted ways), turn Braun Strowman heel, and shoe-horn them into his issues with the Shield. This should have been the Revival winning the belts and going on a dominating run where they bring legitimacy back to the titles but, instead, we have to see this Shield reunion because it’s more important to get people to cheer Roman Reigns than turn Dean Ambrose heel. Anyway, given what I’m guessing will happen in the main event, I reckon Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre will retain here.
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day (c) vs. Rusev and Aiden English
I am so disappointed in how the Bludgeon Brothers’ reign turned out; I expected a dominating run where they destroy the top tag teams and appear unstoppable. Instead, they barely competed, did nothing, and then got hurt and had to randomly lose the belts to the New Day, who I’m sick of. I wanted to see a heel/heel stable vs. stable feud between them and SAnitY and build towards the Club dethroning them but, instead, we get this. Part of me feels like it’s too soon for super-popular merchandise-movers the New Day to lose the belts but I also feel like there’s a larger narrative in play for Rusev Day so I’m going to pick Rusev and Aiden English to win and for the WWE to continue towards this Mega Powers implode storyline they were hinting at between the two.
Raw Women’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss vs. Ronda Rousey (c)
And here we are again, hopefully the last time we see these two compete for a while. I like Alexa, I think she’s hot and cute, and she’s a safe opponent for the still-clearly-green-despite-what-everyone-thinks/says Ronda Rousey, but it’s time to move Ronda towards more credible opponents. This’ll be a foregone conclusion; Ronda Rousey to retain.
SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Match: Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair (c)
Oh, WWE, you and your insistence on forcing people to cheer and boo who you tell them to. Well, it’s fucking backfired in a big way here, hasn’t it? No matter what Becky does or says, the people love her (and why not? She’s a fucking goddess!) and this is her time…or at least, it should be but the WWE must have put the belt on Charlotte for a reason and I’m not sure that reason was to drop it a month after she’s won it so, as much as it pains me to say it, I think Charlotte Flair will retain and the WWE will probably pull some bullshit where they gain mutual respect for each other and start teaming up!
Hell in a Cell Match: Randy Orton vs. Jeff Hardy
Ah, yes, the match that Shinsuke Nakamura has been swept aside to make room for. Again, I’m happy to see these two fight away from any singles titles but it’s annoying to see Randy Orton take air time away from Nakamura, who should be given every opportunity to recover from his booking in the last year. Also, this match seems incredibly dangerous for Jeff to be involved in considering his track record and his recent spate of injuries but Orton works a plodding, safe style so it’ll…probably?…be okay? I imagine that Jeff Hardy will get the win (or, at least, I hope so because, if he doesn’t, Orton may use the win to interject himself into one of the title scenes and….please, no).
WWE Championship Match: Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles (c)
And here we go again, but not inside the Cell because…this blood feud is too personal? I dunno. Anyway, I do actually appreciate the WWE building the suspense towards this match by largely keeping AJ and Joe physically separate but I do feel things would be more intense if Joe delivered on some of his threats (*cough*homeinvasion*cough*). However, anticipation is high to see these two clash again, given their history, and I’m picking Samoa Joe again if only because we’d get a presumably even more intense rematch next month and then we can start building him as a dominant heel champion who needs to be dethroned at WrestleMania by, oh, let’s say…Daniel Bryan?
WWE Universal Championship Hell In a Cell Match (with Mick Foley as the special guest referee): Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns (c)
This is it; Braun has become only the second man to name his cash-in date and it’s inside what is billed as the WWE’s most dangerous match with one of their craziest legends as the referee. I mean, you can see the game the WWE is playing, can’t you? Braun stupidly turns heel, which will only make people cheer him more because he’ll cause more destruction that way, and a large majority of people still want to boo Reigns so how do you combat that? You stick him inside a gimmick (in this case, one of the most hyped-up matches the WWE has) and distract people with that and with Foley, who I am sure will get cheered more than reigns. Remember WrestleMania XX? I imagine a similar crowd reaction here but, the point is, that all of these distractions are there so that the crowd won’t be as upset when Roman Reigns wins…because that is what is going to happen. It’s so obvious that everything about this match has been designed to try and soften that blow, but it won’t. Reigns will win, and will probably defeat Strowman again in another match later one (maybe a Survivor Series match with his Shield buddies) and will probably hold the belt until WrestleMania. No idea who will beat him for it but there’s no way the WWE will put the belt on Braun in this match; it should have happened last month at SummerSlam, so it just won’t happen here.