Dean Ambrose made his way to the ring alone this week; he addressed the fact that he didn’t really need the Shield’s help to become a champion and that he has, in past, considered turning on them because he’s always cleaning up their mess, but emphasised that he continues to fight alongside his buddies so that should answer all the questions. Baron Corbin interrupted because he read Stephanie McMahon’s book on how authority figures should always interrupt promos and make themselves the stars of the show; strangely, he offered Ambrose the chance to face either Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Championship, Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship, or…Braun Strowman for the nothing championship and, even more strangely, Dean wanted to pick option D and fight Corbin…but got Strowman instead. I guess we should just assume that Corbin would not have granted those other matches if Dean had picked one?
Anyway, Dean jumped Strowman immediately but, in a change of pace, Braun ground him down and dominated Dean in the early going. Dean countered the Chokeslam and tried to work over the knee but Braun was having none of that. Ambrose racked the eyes and managed to hit the Dirty Deeds, but Strowman kicked out at two; he then beat Dean’s ass all over ringside, hit two Running Powerslams, and got clobbered by Reigns with a Superman Punch before we could get a definitive end. Seth turned up as well, which led to Corbin booking a match between him (as in Seth) and Drew McIntyre later on, and Dean was a bit pissed off at the Shield interfering in his business. Honestly, I’m not surprised; it wasn’t like Strowman got disqualified for kicking too much ass or breaking the rules; Reigns caused the disqualification when Braun was about to legitimately pin Dean in the ring. You’d think he, of all people, would understand not to screw up a finish, no matter what that finish is, especially after Brock Lesnar’s interference at Hell in a Cell.
Speaking of Roman, he was up next and against Dolph Ziggler…but not for the belt because Corbin ruled that out. Not sure why, exactly? That could’ve been a good excuse to add the pressure on to Reigns and try and dick him over. Either way, you know how this went: Dolph weathered an early storm, took control and Reigns got grounded, pounded, and worked over for a long middle stretch. Then, and you’ll never guess this, Reigns powered up, hit a Superman Punch, survived a quick roll-up attempt, and landed the Spear to win. To my surprise, Roman actually got a decent amount of cheers during this match, especially when he won, and Ziggler looked super motivated, which is great, but I don’t really buy him being able to physically dominate Reigns in the way he did; he should he used a bit more quickness and technique to run circles around Roman’s power game.
Ronda Rousey was also in non-title action as she took on Ruby Riott, with what appeared to be the majority of the Raw women’s roster at ringside. Ruby went after Ronda’s rubs (because that’s still a thing, apparently…), which allowed her to dominate and get some heat. Ronda, though, has obviously been taking lessons from Reigns as she fought through the pain and strife, locked in the Arm Bar, and got the win. While a good match, this bugged me as I thought the WWE were trying to push Ruby towards the belt or a title shot; now, she’s been defeated by the champion quite handily so any claims she could have about deserved a shot are pretty much mute.
Bobby Roode and Konnor were up next, with Chad Gable and Viktor at ringside, to continue this weird feud where the Ascension have lost a lot but keep coming back for more. The crowd completely check out of this one, and who can blame them? I remember Roode being so much more vital, dynamic, and interesting in TNA/Impact Wrestling; since he’s come up to the main roster, he’s been dull as dishwater and reminds me of a slower, older Randy Orton. Anyway, Viktor attacked Gable at ringside, which was enough to distract Roode (who should have better ring awareness…) and allow Konnor to steal a victory.
The B-Team were back in action (which was not something I needed to see again any time soon), taking on the Revival. Once again, the Revival got no entrances. Oh, and they lost in less than five minutes to that crappy Super Collider finisher the AOP use; I guess we’re resetting things back to the B-Team getting fluke victories then? The Authors of Pain turned up afterwards and destroyed the B-Team, though, which would be good as it might mean they’re written out for a while to sell the beating but it raises a very good question of why the hell did they just beat the Revival…who weren’t beaten up!?
Seth Rollins and Drew McIntyre were up next in a non-title match to give us a glimpse at what should be part of Raw’s exciting main event scene but is, instead, another of the WWE’s attempts to make us care about the Intercontinental Championship…which is fine, don’t get me wrong, but they’re so fickle about that belt that, at any moment, they could just not care again. Drew worked a power game, which put Seth on the defensive and, for my money, Seth works a lot better on the defensive as he throws everything at his opponent to build momentum. This was no exception and, eventually, Rollins hit the Buckle Bomb and looked set to win until he got distracted by Ziggler and felled by the Claymore. A beat down followed after the match, with Reigns, Strowman, and Ambrose all getting in on the action; however, this time around, it was Braun, Dolph, and Drew who came out on top.
Elias and Kevin Owens are, apparently, good buddies now; Owens and Elias drew nuclear heat from the crowd by insulting some local sports team, which was amusing. Owens then faced Bobby Lashley because they’re going to team up against Bobby and Cena on Saturday? I don’t know. Anyway, Owens and Lashley had a bit of trouble clicking; it wasn’t too believable to see Owens getting more in on Lashley and Bobby looked pretty stupid when he ran into the ring post and lost control of the match. In the end, though, it took Elias attacking Lio Rush to distract Lashley enough for Owens to cradle him. Is it just me or have all of this week’s matches been very similar?
Bayley and Alicia Fox went head-to-head next, with Finn Balor and Jinder Mahal at ringside to help build towards their mixed tag match. So now the first-ever Universal Champion is relegated to standing in Bayley’s corner and wasting time in Facebook-exclusive matches? Fantastic! I hear there’s a spot open in Bullet Club, Finn! Oh, Bayley won, despite Alicia having no clue how to work a basic singles match.
Raw’s hottest stars closed out the show this week. You know who I mean, four young, up-and-coming guys who totally deserve the main event spotlight…Shawn Michaels (who is bald now…), the Undertaker, Kane, and Triple H. I mean, I love all four of these guys but to close the show with this segment is a bit weak. You want people to care about your stupid red belt and the dumbass carrying it? Maybe don’t overshadow it/him with stars from your heyday! Anyway, Shawn came out to hype up the “last ever” match between ‘Taker and Triple H at Super Show-Down and ended up getting attacked by Kane. Undertaker teleported to the ring to join in, so Triple H tried to even the odds; instead, both Hunter and HBK got nailed with double Chokeslams before ‘Taker hit the Tombstone Pildedriver on to Triple H. Exciting? Sure. Nostalgic? You bet! But Raw cashes in on these legends way too often; when we the last time HBK or Mick Foley or Steve Austin showed up on SmackDown! Live? These were massive stars back in the day and they have their place but making today’s wrestlers stand in their shadow is a terrible idea. Can you imagine if, during the build up to WrestleMania XX, the WWE had overshadowed the build to the World Championship match Raw with, I dunno, Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter? That might be a poor comparison but you get what I mean.
Paige graced us with her alluring presence this week to address Samoa Joe taking my advice and invading AJ Styles’ house last week. Well, it turns out that Joe needed to scroll down a bit more as the police arrived just in time to arrest him before he could enter the house.
Anyway, apparently AJ talked her out of firing Joe so he could punish him personally; AJ also popped up on the TitanTron to explain that he’s staying at home until Joe is safely on Australia. Again, this would probably be a great personal feud but it’s not really got much to do with that big piece of gold AJ carries around, which is always annoying because it makes me question why they’re fighting at all. The over-riding motivation should always be the belt the other guy is carrying, in my opinion.
Carmella and R-Truth got a bit of mixed tag team action against Andrade “Cien” Almas and Zelina Vega; what is this, Facebook? I mean,w hy bother having the Mixed Match Challenge if you’re going to do intergender matches on regular WWE programming? Carmella and R-Truth played the wacky, zany faces, which was apparently enough to override the push Almas has been getting and the rumoured good will he has amassed backstage as Carmella won the match. Kind of sends a mixed message when Almas can go toe-to-toe with AJ and Daniel Bryan but can’t beat R-Truth.
The New Day started frying up some pancakes to hype up their match at Super Show-Down. The Bar got riled up by the insinuation that they won’t be winning said match and a big brawl ensued that resulted in the New Day getting beaten up and covered in flour and pancake mix. Again, this doesn’t seem to have much to do with the belts and seems more like an obligatory title match just to sell more crappy New Day merchandise.
My God, it’s Tye Tyme!! Two weeks in a row Tye Dillinger has made it onto television and into an actual match! This week he went up against Randy Orton to try and get some payback from last week. Tye attacked with a lot of fire and gusto at the start but Orton easily weathered that onslaught, hit the Draping DDT, and then *cough* broke Tye’s finger *cough* using the exposed turnbuckle. This match was all about emphasising that Orton is not a nice guy, which I think we already got from his issues with Jeff Hardy, but at least Tye was on TV and came across as a fiery, sympathetic underdog.
Aiden English, Lana, and Rusev were up next. Rusev wanted answers from Aiden (despite effectively getting them last week…) and Aiden showed a bit of footage from Milwaukee: in it, Lana approaches him backstage and says she’s been thinking about him and wants him but then it was cut off before we could see any more. This was enough for Rusev and Lana to argue a bit and for Rusev to chase off Aiden but far from enough to make me give a damn.
Shelton Benjamin was back in action next, which is always a positive in my book, and against Daniel Bryan no less! Seizing the opportunity, Shelton attacked right from the start and quickly targeted Bryan’s ribs, forcing Bryan into the plucky underdog role he plays so well. Just as Bryan started to rally some momentum, the Miz distracted him from the commentary desk and allowed Shelton to hit the Pay Dirt and get a huge win. This was a great showcase of Shelton, who really should be doing more on SmackDown! Live; the WWE never really capitalised on his first singles run back in the day and they’ve let him go to waste since bringing him back. He, like Tye, could really be making some exciting television around the United States Championship if given the chance and matches like this really emphasise that. I also like that he didn’t just roll Bryan up; it is much better to see wrestlers hit a distracted opponent with a move or a finisher or something rather than just rolling their dumb-asses up all the time.
Asuka defeated Peyton Royce in a rushed, throwaway match before Becky Lynch closed out the show with a promo celebrating her ability to take the fight to Charlotte Flair and reclaim the championship. Becky talked shit about as many people as she could, from the crowd, to Triple H and the Undertaker, and was desperately trying to be this obnoxious, egotistical heel but the crowd were having none of it. Charlotte arrived for a brawl and was meant to be this conquering heroine but the crowd still chanted for Becky! It’s really weird in this case as I thought I heard that the WWE were going to course correct and blur the lines with these two but, instead, they keep following the Roman Reigns playbook and trying to force Becky to act as a heel. Why can’t they just listen to the consistent crowd reactions and ride that momentum? It’s so weird!
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: Cedric Alexander (c) vs. Buddy Murphy
I must have missed that this match was even happening on the card! I feel like it is maybe time for Cedric to drop the belt, and from what I gather Buddy has been doing quite well since jumping to 205 Live and challenging for the title, but this will probably be a hot opener to get the crowd pumped up so I’ll go with Cedric Alexander to retain.
Asuka and Naomi vs. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce
Isn’t this the same tag team match we see on SmackDown! Live every other week? I mean, who gives a damn about this match? Why is Asuka teaming up with other women when she’s supposed to be this ice cold assassin? I think this might’ve been better if they’d shoved in someone else and made it a fatal-four way, then Asuka could have overcome the odds and looked like a bad-ass. I mean, Asuka and Naomi are going to win either way but it’s a bit of a nothing match.
Brie Bella, Nikki Bella, and Ronda Rousey vs. The Riott Squad
I think even a five-year-old can see that this match exists solely to build towards the rumoured showdown between Ronda and Brie, either at Evolution or WrestleMania. I don’t like that the Bella’s randomly appeared back on television as though they’re legends of the women’s division and have conveniently been placed as Ronda’s buddies; every time I see the three of them together it’s like the Bella’s are trying to leech off of Ronda’s popularity. This match also sucks for Ruby Riott who, as I said, I thought was getting a bit of a push towards being a contender for the belt; instead, Brie, Nikki, and Ronda will win this match and I guess Ruby will go back to fighting Natalya in meaningless matches.
Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins vs. Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler, and Drew McIntyre
Seems like we may be getting a variant of this match later down the line at Survivor Series but it’s here now because, apparently, Australia doesn’t deserve to see a one-on-one match for the Universal Championship. The big story lately has been whether Dean will turn on his buddies; I don’t see that happening at what us, effectively, a glorified house show but I’m sure some kind of shenanigans will come into play that will mean Strowman, Ziggler, and McIntyre get the win here. That way they can keep teasing Dean’s turn, continue the Ziggler/Rollins feud, and continue the Strowman/Reigns feud.
John Cena and Bobby Lashley vs. Elias and Kevin Owens
OH MY GOD, IT’S JOHNNNNNNNNNNNN CEEEEEEEEEEENA!!!! I’m pretty sure this match has already happened in some other country as well recently, the one where Cena debuted his newest finisher that turned out to be a punch to the face. This one’s a foregone conclusion, really; Lashley and Cena will win and Elias and Owens will look like fools. However, I am kind of interested in seeing Cena and Lashley go at it later down the line if they can ever get Lashley back on track and Cena to regularly appear back on Raw.
SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Charlotte Flair
Oh, this feud! I really hope that the WWE books a cross-promotional intergender match pitting Becky and Strowman against Reigns and Charlotte sometime soon; the crowd would probably explode! The best part about the whole thing is that, even though Becky is spouting heel lines, she’s telling the truth! She is constantly overlooked and she was left off of the poster for this show despite holding the belt so what, exactly, are we booing? That she’s attacking Charlotte? Fuck Charlotte! And because of all that, Becky Lynch to retain please.
Number One Contenders Match: The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan
Seems kind of random that this match will determine the next challenger for the WWE Championship, and like the WWE haven’t done much to promote that fact, but it does play very nicely into my fantasy booking. The Miz has trumped Bryan at every opportunity so far so it seems to make sense that Bryan should get a win here; Miz could then cost Bryan his title match and set up another match between the two or even a triple threat/fatal-four way for the belt. At the same time, though, I could see Miz winning, defeating AJ, and then Bryan having to run a gauntlet to face him for the belt. This one is tough but I think I’ll go with the first scenario and pick Daniel Bryan to win.
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day (c) vs. The Bar
While I’m glad to see Sheamus and Cesaro back on television and back in the hunt for the belts, this match is way too cobbled together to really translate into a championship win. I’m torn, though; I want to see the Bar win the belts, dominate for a bit, and then get into a proper feud with the Club for the titles but I also would like to see SAnitY win the titles and it’d mean more if they defeated the super-popular New Day. Neither of those scenarios seems very likely at this point though and the WWE seems to have no clue how to book this division on the Blue Brand so I’ll just pick the New Day to retain because they = money!
WWE Championship No Countout, No Disqualification Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe
Ah, yes, the WWE Championship is on the line in this match. I think the important thing to remember here is that this is a glorified house show, so it’s extremely unlikely that the belt will change hands here. Instead, this will kind of be a non-canon clash between the two to set up for their next encounter. But, then again, whoever wins the Miz/Bryan match becomes the number one contender, which implies that this is the last Styles/Joe match. Anyway, Joe needed to do more in this feud and he didn’t, which disappoints me as he is capable of more, and my earlier pick means that AJ Styles has to retain here.
Last Time Ever: Triple H with Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker with Kane
I mean, this will be the main event, no? I’m still trying to understand why the WWE has put so much effort into building towards this match but put almost no effort into Undertaker and Triple H’s matches at the Greatest Royal Rumble or ‘Taker’s clash with Cena at WrestleMania. It also seems like they are straight-up trolling us with the “last time ever” tag line when this is clearly laying the seeds for a tag team match to occur later down the line, possible at WrestleMania. I’m kind of okay with that, and this match, as the new generation doesn’t need to be losing to any of these guys and, if they’re fighting each other, they’re not burying Finn Balor or Rusev or anyone like that but, at the same time, I’m not impressed that these guys get so much of Raw’s spotlight every week. I don’t like the idea of Triple H winning as it kind of tarnishes the Undertaker’s back-to-back WrestleMania victories and it seems to me that it’s easier to set up for that tag team match if Undertaker wins and Triple H and HBK become obsessed with getting payback, so I’ll go with that.