Winners: Trish Stratus and Lita, Nia Jax, Toni Storm, Natalya, Sasha Banks, and Bayley, Shaynza Baszler, Becky Lynch, and Ronda Rousey.
Things kicked off pretty strong with the tag team contest pitting Trist Stratus and Lita against Alicia Fox and Mickie James, which is nice because I was pretty sure that the battle royal would open the show. Anyway, Trish and Lita more than held their own despite being out of the ring for so long; it might be me but I could’ve sworn that Lita had one of those Edge-like injuries that meant she isn’t ever supposed to wrestle so I’m doubly impressed to see her in an actual match. Quite a good match in the end though, with the finish coming when Trish hit the Chick Kick on Mickie and got the win.
The battle royal was up next, with every participant getting an entrance (I guess to help pad out the run time of the show?). Similar to the women’s Royal Rumble from earlier this year, this was a bit of a mess, really. The women played things very safe (especially Alundra Blaze) and seemed hesitant, if not afraid, to tag the over-the-top-rope bump to the floor. After a bit of a face-off between Nia Jax and Tamina, it all came down to Nia, Ember Moon, and Zelina Vega…which is a really odd final three, to be honest. Nia tossed Vega out of the ring with a Military Press Slam, which had to be just awful for her, and then chucked out my pick (Ember) to take the win. I don’t really like Nia winning, to be honest; I was all for her a while ago but she was pretty unimpressive as the champion (due to weird booking, to be fair) and we’ve seen Nia face Ronda already and it wasn’t much cop then. This was a mistake and Ember should have one; the asshole in me also wonders if Nia would have won if Roman Reigns was healthy.
The 2018 Mae Young Classic came to a close as Toni Storm and Io Shirai faced off in the finals. They had a nice little handshake, because these tournaments are all about sportsmanship and getting dicked over by Vince McMahon. Honestly, I haven’t followed this tournament so I have no idea who these girls are or what’s going on but it seems like a pretty good, fast-paced match; Storm got the win and looked great in victory so I’m sure she’ll be jobbing to Lana in a few weeks’ time.
The Riott Squad went up against Natalya, Sasha Banks, and Bayley in a desperate attempt to recapture some of their momentum and appear relevant once more. Unfortunately, a couple of things got in the way of that; the first was the amount of botches and missed spots in the match and the second was that Sasha (of course) won the match with a Frog Splash. I mean, surely this is it for the Riott Squad? They can’t consistently win singles matches, they often lose tag team matches, and now they can’t even win in a six-woman tag team match where they, as the full-time six-woman unit, should have the advantage. I mean, they probably will limp along until Survivor Series or something but it’s pretty clear to me that the WWE have no interest in pushing Ruby Riott, despite her potential to take over where Paige left off.
The NXT Women’s Championship was on the line next as Kari Sane defended against Shayna Baszler. Again, I’ve not seen much of these two as I don’t really follow NXT but I have seen Shayna in matches before and, honestly, I wish Ronda was booked like her; a moody, no-nonsense, ass-kicking bad-ass who specifically goes out there to hurt people. Shayna worked over the arm, as is her usual style, but it was interference from Jessamyn Duke and Marina Safir which really tipped things in her favour, allowing Shayna to choke out Kari and win back the belt. Not really a fan of the idea that Shayna needed help to beat one woman, but apparently these three formed a Four Horsewoman stable in UFC with Ronda so I guess we’re maybe building towards something like that?
The undisputed match of the night and, perhaps, greatest women’s match in WWE history followed as Becky Lynch put the SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship on the line against Charlotte Flair in a last woman standing match. As is the norm, the crowd was massively behind Becky the entire time, despite commentary trying to sell her as the heel; just change the script, Vince! It really isn’t that hard! Anyway, they really threw everything they had at each other in this match, with some brutal spots; we got Suplexes out on the floor, an Uranage onto a pile of chairs, a Senton onto Becky through a table, a top-rope leg drop onto Charlotte through the announce table, and, finally, Becky caught Charlotte when she went for a Moonsault and Powerbombed her peroxide-ass through a table to retain the title. I mean, this has to be it for these two, right? They’ve done everything they possibly can and it’s time to move on, surely? I was be 100% sure of that if, say, Asuka or another SmackDown! Live woman had won the battle royal but, instead, I reckon we’ll get at least one more bout between these two.
And then, because the WWE cares more about popping mainstream media and appealing to the masses than about actual match quality or storylines, Ronda Rousey main evented the show by putting the Raw Women’s Championship up for grabs against Nikki Bella. Of all people, Nikki-fucking-Bella! I don’t care if you like her or not or what you think, there had to have been a better opponent for Ronda. Why not stick Nikki and Brie in the tag match against the Riott Squad and put your golden girl, Sasha, in this match? Ugh, whatever. Anyway, Ronda toyed with Nikki, which led to her downfall as Nikki and Brie worked her over and slammed her into the ring post so Nikki could take over. However, Ronda kicked out of the Rack Attack 2.0, forgot all of her selling, and then yanked Nikki off the top rope and into the Arm Bar to retain the belt. Hey, at least Stephanie McMahon didn’t steal the spotlight with a match, interfering, or coming out to brag in the ring.
Baron Corbin showed up to talk about how the Universal Championship will be up for grabs at Crown Jewel, which is enough to convince Brock Lesnar to show up to work. Paul Heyman cowed that Brock would win the belt and that was enough to bring out Braun Strowman, who proceeded to beat the hell out of Corbin and got an F5 for his troubles. I guess this indisputably made Braun a face once again but I was disappointed to not see Drew McIntyre spoil Braun’s fun and get himself added to the championship match.
Bobby Lashley and Finn Balor went at it in a rematch from last week, which saw Lashley using his strength to overpower Finn and forcing Finn to play hit-and-run. Again, like last week and all Finn’s matches with Corbin, and every match/feud Finn has had since the WWE decided he can’t be competitive and face guys like Seth Rollins and McIntyre. Anyway, Lio Rush pushed Finn off the cop rope and caused a disqualification, which was kind of a flat, annoying finished; after the match, Lashley beats up Balor and is awarded John Cena’s spot in the “world cup” by Corbin as a reward. Well, at least Lashley did something to get in the match.
Trish Stratus, Lita, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Natalya went up against Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Alicia Fox, and Mickie James in a match that just smashed together two other matches from Evolution; at least it cuts down on the amount of rematches we have to sit through, if nothing else. I just realised that we never got the much-rumoured announcement of a Women’s Tag Team Championship at Evolution, meaning I’m even more uninvested in all women’s tag team matches. Anyway, despite being a bit of a clusterfuck, things really picked up near the end; the faces won after Alicia tapped out to the Sharpshooter. After the match, Nia turned herself heel in an interview with Ember Moon…random…
Elias then cemented his face turn by causing Corbin some hassle, which got him booked into a match with Jinder Mahal; nothing says “face” like facing that poor bastard. I mean, honestly, look how far down the card Jinder has fallen from being the WWE Champion; he might not be that great but at least keep him somewhat strong. To emphasise that, Elias beat him with the Drift Away in less than five minutes, which I guess makes Elias better than Randy Orton as Orton often struggled to put Jinder away.
The WWE finally found a way to spice up Bobby Roode and Chad Gable’s issues with the Ascension by adding the Authors of Pain to the mix; this was nothing more than a massive brawl, really, which ended pretty quickly and surprisingly when Roode pinned Viktor. Afetr the match, the AOP kicked the hell out of everyone, potentially setting up a Survivor Series match of some kind.
Seth Rollins popped out to talk about his emotions and demand answers from Dean Ambrose; Ambrose appeared in the crowd bit did and said nothing, which allowed Rollins to put the entire thing over in fantastic fashion by accusing Dean of not only betraying the Shield and their friendship, but also being a cold, soulless lunatic. Nia Jax then emphasised her sudden and inexplicable heel turn by beating Ember Moon, completely destroying all of her momentum, and apparently setting up a feud between Nia and Tamina…which is weird because I thought Nia just became the number one contender?
The cruiserweights finally make a return to Raw in classic cruiserweight fashion…a tag team match! Kalisto and Lince Dorado took on and defeated the Revival because…I mean, I don’t know…the WWEE just really, really dislikes the Revival? Which is about the only conclusion you can make when they randomly lose to crusierweights, who the WWE have largely treated as being inferior on the main roster.
Dolph Ziggler went toe-to-toe with Apollo Crews next; wasn’t Apollo feuding with someone else not that long ago? Why can’t I remember who that was? I want to say…Lashley? Anyway, Dolph won the match in pretty quick fashion, kind of cutting the legs off of Apollo’s stop/start face push.
Raw limped to a close with the Undertaker and Kane coming out to threaten Triple H and Shawn Michaels some more. Undertaker vowed to end D-Generation X once and for all, which brought out Hunter himself. Shawn attacked from behind but, when ‘Taker did the old zombie sit-up, HBK and Triple H looked a bit spooked. I mean…great stuff, guys!
AJ Styles started the show this week by calling out Daniel Bryan to clear the air, which went pretty well, as Bryan is quite the nice chap, but it did result in things getting a little heated and them moving their championship match from Crown Jewel to…right then and there. This was because Daniel, like Cena, has decided not to attend the event, which is fine, but why the hell isn’t the championship match the main event of SmackDown! Live? This always seems to happen to AJ; this title defences never main event any shows and he’s never the central focus of the blue brand; it’s really bizarre considering he’s holding the company’s top belt. Anyway, this match happened and was, thankfully, a brilliant payoff to what has otherwise been another lacklustre Styles feud; Bryan was massively motivated, attacking the arm and throwing everything he had at AJ, who answered back in kind and targeted the knee. In the end, Bryan wrapped AJ up in an Arm Bar, then the Yes! Lock, then a Triangle Hold, but AJ countered into the Styles Clash, locked in the Calf Crusher, and retained the championship. Afterwards, they celebrated together like real men and Samoa Joe attacked them both, hopefully to set up the three-way between them that I wanted to see the other month.
Big E and Cesaro went at it in a “Trick or Street Fight” next; the New Day all dressed up as the Brood and mimicked their entrance, which was pretty cool. This was quite a decent match and a real snapshot at what should, arguably, be the upper-card if not main event scene of modern-day WWE; guys like Big E, Cesaro, and Rusev should be the focal point and chasing the top belt rather than languishing in the tag division and matches like this really prove that. The match ended when Big E spat mist into Cesaro’s face and hit the Big Ending to win.
Shinsuke Nakamura is alive and well and back on television; for a moment there I thought he was being Tye Dillinger-ed. Unfortunately, he didn’t face Tye this week…he got R-Truth instead, who continued his newfound push by putting on a pretty decent effort. Nakamura shut him down with the Kinshasa to get the win but no one really cared that match. Maybe, right…maybe it’s time to inject some excitement into the United States Championship by giving Nakamura a dynamic opponent to feud against?
Afterwards, Becky Lynch came out to hype up her inter-brand match against Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series; it was pretty simple but got the message across (basically: she wants to tear off Ronda’s arm and win). Then, the main event saw Rey Mysterio and Jeff Hardy team up against randy Orton and the Miz; remind me again why this couldn’t have been switched with AJ/Bryan? It’s like someone on top things Orton is more important than the WWE Champion. This mainly existed as one final push to make us care about this “World Cup” they keep hyping and ended with Jeff and Rey getting the win and Orton hitting everyone with RKOs after the match to really hammer home that anyone could win!!!
SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship Match: Sheamus and Cesaro (c) vs. The New Day
So the Bar have a new buddy, the Big Show, who has randomly decided to undo what would have been a fantastic final match, turn heel, and align himself with the new champions…for no real reason. It really feels like the Big Show is just leeching off of the Bar’s success and popularity, which is a bit sad for a guy that is usually treated as such a big deal. I don’t see the belts switching back this soon and, with the Big Show at ringside, I’m pretty sure that Sheamus and Cesaro will retain here.
WWE Championship Match: AJ Styles (c) vs. Samoa Joe
Because Daniel Bryan refused to work the show, Samoa Joe is back on the scene for one more shot at the title, which would be fine except that he disappeared from the title picture and has had no presence, so it’s a little weird to see him hot-shotted into a championship match just because he jumped AJ this week. I’m a little tired of picking Joe to win, especially after he was so resoundingly defeated time and time again before, but it can’t be denied that AJ’s time with the belt is starting to get a bit stale. At the same time, though, who could challenge Joe for the belt later down the line? I guess either AJ or Bryan, perhaps Jeff Hardy? Ugh, no thanks. AJ Styles should retain and maybe end up feuding and losing to the Miz.
World Cup to determine the Best in the World Featuring Bobby Lashley, Randy Orton, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Seth Rollins, Rey Mysterio, Dolph Ziggler, the Miz
I don’t actually know what this is going to be; is it a series of matches, like the King of the Ring, or just a big battle royal? Either way, with the announcement this week that the SmackDown! Live stars will be fired if they don’t win, and factoring in my above fantasy booking, my money is on the Miz to win. Think about it: he’ll gloat endlessly about being “the best in the world”, about how he beat Angle, Orton, and all these other top stars, he’ll work it into his issues with Bryan and use it to get a shot at AJ, and then he’ll become the WWE Champion. Who else needs the win more than the Miz? Ziggler, I guess, but I don’t see that happening any time soon; maybe Lashley, but good booking could get him into the main event scene pretty easily. So, yeah; the Miz, please/
Triple H and Shawn Michaels vs. Kane and the Undertaker
And here we are…this match. After the laughable effort from Super Show-Down, I think it’s safe to say that nobody is looking forward to this contest. It’s a little disappointing that this is HBK’s big comeback from his retirement, being stuck with a Kane that is far from his prime, a broken old man, and an egotistical, self-entitled fool who makes his matches too long and boring. I can only hope that the tag team format will allow the Undertaker to rest up a bit and not get so blown up this time around, and assume that D-generation X will win to get some retribution.
WWE Universal Championship Match: Brock Lesnar vs. Braun Strowman
As mentioned, I’m a little surprised that Drew McIntyre hasn’t been added to this match. After Roman Reigns was forced to vacate the belt, and considering Drew’s attacks against Strowman, I was convinced that Drew would be put in and then take the win and the belt so that we could get a hot, young star holding Raw’s top belt while Roman’s out. Now, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I am really, seriously scared that the WWE will hot-shot the belt back on to Lesnar but I am begging, praying that common sense prevails and Braun Strowman finally gets his big win. Honestly, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes to a count out or no contest because, y’know, drama!!