This Week In Wrestling

ThisWeekInWrestling

Royal Rumble

Winners: Chad Gable and Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura, Buddy Murphy, Asuka, The Miz and Shane McMahon, Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch, Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins.

A non-title match kicked off the show, pitting Bobby Roode and Chad Gable against Scott Dawson and…Rezar…did I miss something? Are Dash Wilder and Akam injured? This is the weirdest pairing ever. Anyway, Dawson wanted to do most of the work in this match, which makes sense given the Revival’s recent issues with the champions, but was forced by the nature of the match tot ag in Rezar, who went a bit ape-shit and gave the faces someone to rally against. After neutralising Rezar’s strengths, Gable got the win after hitting Dawson with a Neckbreaker/Moonsault combination.

The United States Championship remained in pre-show limbo as Rusev put the belt on the line against Shinsuke Nakamura in a match that has had little to no build or screentime for either men, which is just depressing. However, they more than made up for it here and just went at each other without holding back; Rusev took Nakamura to the outside but got caught with a big kick off the steel steps. They ended up trading blows in the ring before Rusev took back control with a Fallaway Slam; Nakamura escaped the Accolade, dodged the Machka Kick when going for the Kinshasa, and ended up tying Rusev up in a Guillotine Choke. Rusev powered out but, when Nakamura got in Lana’s face, ended up knocking Lana down and fell to a Kinshasa to give the belt back to Nakamura. I guess the WWE are still continuing with the idea of splitting Rusev and Lana up; they did it once with that horrendous Dolph Ziggler feud, teased it again with Aiden English (remember him?), and now it’s cost Rusev his back championship comeback,

The kickoff show ended with the fatal-four-way match for the Cruiserweight Championship; Hideo Itami took the champion, Buddy Murphy, to the outside for a bit of a brawl while Kalisto and Akira Tozawa tried to roll each other up in the right. Buddy countered Tozawa’s Octopus Stretch into a Backbreaker but got taken out by a Hurricanrana from Kalisto as everyone spilled to the outside. Murphy and Itami ended up back in the ring, where Hideo took control until Kalisto took him down with the Mexico City Twister. Everyone made it back into the ring as Itami tried to land the GTS, but Tozawa countered into a Hurricanrana and then took him out with a Suicide Dive. After wiping everyone out with a d vie of his own, Buddy isolated Kalisto in the ring but, again, got interrupted by Tozawa. Kalisto almost got the win with a Salida Del Sol on Itami, but Murphy interrupted the count,, however, although hit with a Double Superkick from Kalisto and Tozawa, Murphy managed to counter the GTS into a big knee strike, hit Murphy’s Law, and retained the championship.

Things finally started for real with the SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship; again, this was a hard-hitting bout right from the start as Becky Lynch answered each of Asuka’s hard strikes with some of her own. Becky tried for the Dis-Arm-Her in the early going but Asuka broke free and started working over Lynch’s legs. Becky dropped her and the fight went to the outside, where Becky slammed Asuka’s face into the apron and hit a big Bexploder into the barricade. Asuka ended up tied up in the ropes and got worked over by Becky, even ending up locked in the Dis-Arm-Her between the turnbuckles, but Asuka regained control after countering Becky’s dive from the top rope with a knee and a German Suplex. Asuka tried to the Asuka Lock but Becky made the ropes and, after blocking a German Suplex attempt by Asuka, tried for a Bexploder off the apron and got planted with some weird Cradle Neckbreaker that looked like it nearly killed her. Both women beat the ten count and started throwing punches until Becky nearly got the win following an Avalanche Bexploder off the top rope; Asuka then put Becky in the Dis-Arm-Her but Lynch countered into the Asuka Lock. Asuka rolled through, locked in the Asuka Lock and applied a bridge for additional leverage, which was enough to get the win.

The SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championship was on the line next; Sheamus got punked out Shane McMahon right away, which set the tempo for this match. Miz tried to the Skull-Crushing Finale right away but Cesaro countered and took control; Sheamus tagged in and they both worked Miz over for a long stretch until Shane saved Miz from being put through the announce table. Shane tried to land his Diving Elbow onto Cesaro and through the announce table but adjusted to take out Sheamus when Cesaro was moved; it’s too bad other, active in-ring performers don’t get spots like that. Cesaro went back to work on the Miz, using frequent tags to keep him isolated, but Miz finally got the hot tag after a Back Body Drop to Cesaro. Somehow, Shane managed to get Sheamus into position for a Coast-To-Coast and even got Cesaro in front of him but, luckily, Cesaro caught him in mid-air and hit the Giant Swing. However, Shane managed to lock Cesaro up in a Triangle Choke until Sheamus made the save; he hit the White Noise but Miz shoved Cesaro in front of Shane to save him from the Brogue Kick. Miz the hit the Skull-Crushing Finale and Shane got the win following a Shooting Star Press, because of course only Shane-Fuckin’-McMahon is signed off to do one of the most banned moves in the WWE. The miscommunication in the ending makes me think we might be looking at a potential split for the Bar at some point, and all so Shane McMahon can hog the spotlight once again.

Ronda Rousey, Sasha Banks, and the Raw Women’s Championship were up next, kicking things off with a bit of an Arm Drag competition; Ronda appeared to get the upper hand with the Three Amigos but Sasha countered the third into a Banks Statement. Rousey countered into the Arm Bar and, in a theme for the night, the match tumbled to the outside; Sasha started targeting the arm, forcing Ronda into more of a desperate position as the match progressed. In the final stretch, Sasha tried for the Banks Statement and a Fujiwara Arm Bar but ended up getting planted with a Gutwrench Powerbomb, that shitty, weird, twisting Death Valley Driver thing Ronda does (I believe it’s called the Piper’s Pit), and finally put away after a three count. I don’t believe I’ve seen Ronda win a match with a pin fall, so that was interesting, and this was definitely a better match for her than facing Nia Jax or Tamina or Alexa Bliss but I’d rather not see Sasha get pushed towards the belt for a while.

The women’s Royal Rumble followed, with Lacey Evans and Natalya kicking things off; Natalya just managed to drop Lacey with a Hurricanrana when Mandy Rose came out and went right for her. Natalya managed to get the both into a Sharpshooter but, again, got targeted by the next entrant, Liv Morgan; Natalya easily dumped her and then Mandy and Lacey turned on each other, giving Nattie a bit of a breather.

Mickie James was out next, followed by Ember Moon and Billie Kay soon after. Natalya struggled to get rid of Lacey the entire time; Nikki Cross was out next and took everyone out, almost getting rid of Lacey. Peyton Royce was next, allowing the Iiconics to double team Ember. Tamina then came out and took out everyone, including chucking out Mickie; Xia Lia was next to enter, immediately going after Tamina, followed by Sarah Logan as the ring really started to pile up with bodies.

The Iiconics changed that by eliminating Nikki and Charlotte Flair quickly filled her spot and then threw everyone out of the ring except for Billie and Peyton, because Charlotte is clearly the greatest female competitor of all time. Kari Sane entered for a face-off with Charlotte; she ended up helping Nattie to dump Logan and then ended up brawling with her as Maria Kanellis finally returned to the ring.

Maria got unfairly ganged up on by all the women until Naomi entered the ring and attacked Mandy Rose and dumped her; when Rose tried to get her eliminated, Naomi did a handstand to the barricade and managed to get back to the ring in a great spot. Charlotte finally got rid of Lacey as Candice LeRae and Alicia Fox entered the fray; Fox and Maria briefly teamed up before turning on each other, which ended up with Maria eliminating Alicia.

Kacy Cantanzaro was out next, quickly followed by Zelina Vega, who was appropriately dressed as Vega from Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991). Vega and LeRae rekindled their NXT rivalry as Ruby Riott came to the ring, immediately attacking Charlotte with the rest of the Riott Squad. Ruby got rid of Alicia and Candice just as Dana Brooke made her entrance, targeting Catanzario right away as Ruby dumped Kari in a tough-looking spot. Io Shirari saved Kari from being attacked by the Riott Squad on the outside and then got into a brawl with Ruby.

Rhea Ripley was next but was overshadowed by Catanzaro doing some crazy gymnastics to avoid getting eliminated, only to be dumped by Ripley regardless. Sonya Deville threw her hat in the ring and got decked by Dana almost immediately; Ripley chucked out Dana soon after. Hornswoggle chased Zelina into the ring, causing her to also be dumped by Ripley. Alexa Bliss was next, taking out Sonya, followed by Bayley, who got rid of Ruby and Ripley before settling into a bit of a brawl with Natalya.

Lana hobbled her way out next, quickly overtaken by Nia Jax, who attacked Lana on the ramp and then threw out Shirai and Natalya. Carmella came out next and, as she entered the ring, Becky Lynch took Lana’s place. Lynch went right for Nia and Charlotte as Ember and Alexa fought on the apron; Alexa eventually knocked Ember out of the ring but was soon eliminated herself by Bayley and Carmella.

Once Charlotte got rid of Carmella, it came down to Charlotte, Nia, Bayley, and Becky; Nia quickly tossed Bayley and started working over the other three women with ease. Charlotte eventually muscled Nia onto the ring apron, which allowed Lynch to knock her out, bringing it down to Charlotte and Becky. Charlotte worked over Becky’s leg but Becky managed to duck a Big Boot and tumbled Charlotte over the top rope to win the match. in the end, this was a decent Royal Rumble, potentially better than last years as there was less stalling and hesitation but the ring sure was full a lot of the time, making the match drag and not be as exciting as it could have been save for a few notable spots and the finale.

Daniel Bryan put the WWE Championship on the line against AJ Styles next; this started off with holds, transitions, and takedowns, the way a classic technical bout ought to. Bryan wisely retreated to the outside to regroup when AJ seemed to get the upper hand, which only served to frustrate Styles and annoy the audience; soon, Bryan began working over AJ’s arm, whipping him into the ring post and stomping away like a madman. Styles struggled to mount a comeback as Bryan continued to target the arm and landed a sweet Dragon Suplex for a near fall; AJ’s Avalanche Style Clash got blocked but he finally regained some momentum following a picture-perfect Moonsault-Reverse DDT off the barricade. Bryan blocked the Springboard 450 and went for the Yes! Lock, only to end up in the Calf Crusher. Bryan made the ropes but eventually ended up back in the Calf Crusher; they traded backslides and Bryan countered the Phenomenal Forearm and, just as Styles seemed to be regaining control, Erick Rowan, of all people, came to the ring in new attire and planted AJ with a Chokeslam when the referee was down, allowing Bryan to steal the victory.

Finn Balor finally got his Universal Championship match next, taking on Brock Lesnar as regular old Finn rather than the Demon King, which was a bit of a disappointment. Anyway, Finn attacked right away, working Lesnar over in the corner until Brock launched him out of the ring with a Belly-To-Belly Suplex. On the outside (again, this was a common trait for this event), Lesnar tried to Powerslam Balor through the announce table, only to have Finn counter and shove him gut-first into the table corner. Balor began targeting Lesnar’s ribs and midsection. Once they got back in the ring, though, Lesnar briefly regained control but his ribs gave out on a gutwrench attempt; Balor also slipped out of the F5 and into a DDT for a near fall. Balor eventually landed the Coup de Grâce for a two count and ended up in the Kimura Lock. Balor tapped and then got decimated with three German Suplexes and an F5 after the match was over, which I guess was to show how close he came to toppling the monster but, potentially, could also be interpreted as Balor being destroyed as an inferior competitor compared to Lesnar.

The men’s Royal Rumble got the main event this year; Elias was out first along with Jeff Jarrett. Wow, I really did not need to see Double J in a match again anytime soon and this only served to highlight how lame and outdated Elias’ guitar shtick really is. Elias hit Jarrett with a cheap shot, smashed his guitar over his back, and dumped the former WCW and NWA Champion relatively quickly. Shinsuke Nakamura was out next, followed by Kurt Angle, who had a German Suplex for everyone! Angle couldn’t quite get rid of Elias, though, and began tossing everyone with Belly-To-Belly Suplexes as Big E entered the ring.

Angle immediately planted him with an Angle Slam and was then chucked out by Nakamura; Johnny Gargano was out next, dropping Big E with a Tornado DDT and getting into it with Elias. Jinder Mahal joined the fray, only to get chucked out by Gargano. Samoa Joe was next, taking down everyone and eliminating Big E. Curt Hawkins made his way out and ended up in the Coquina Clutch as Seth Rollins joined the match, dumping Elias as Titus O’Neil joined the party.

Hawkins managed to eliminate Titus by giving him the run around and got unceremoniously dumped by Joe immediately afterwards; Kofi Kingston was out next and right after Joe as Seth and Nakamura went at each other. Mustafa Ali was next, also targeting Joe right away. Ali then turned his attention to Nakamura and hit a big Dropkick to knock last year’s winner out of the match; Dean Ambrose came out next and continued his rivalry with Rollins. Seth managed to knock Kofi out but he landed on his back and kept his feet on the apron to save himself and get back in the ring as Gargano was eliminated; No Way Jose came out next and was immediately chucked out by Joe.

Drew McIntyre fared slightly better, decked Jose with the Glasgow Kiss and a Claymore on his way to the ring and laying out Rollins and Ambrose. Xavier Woods entered next and saved Kofi from being eliminated, only for them both to get dumped by McIntyre. Pete Dunne came out next and attacked everyone; he ended up squaring off with Andrade, who was out next, before Apollo Crews joined the fun.

Aleister Black cleaned house soon after, decking Mustafa and taking out Ambrose with the Black Mass. Shelton Benjamin was next, taking down Apollo and Dunne as Mustafa dumped Joe. Baron Corbin entered the fray next, planting Mustafa with the Deep Six but couldn’t quite get him out of the ring. He tossed out Apollo instead as Jeff Hardy came to the ring; he drops Aleister but ended up on the losing side when he tried to take on Corbin; Dunne tried to rip off Aleister’s fingers and, while he was distracted, Corbin dumped Black as McIntyre got rid of Dunne.

Rey Mysterio was next but was caught by Corbin mid-air and planted with a Backbreaker, which Andrade followed up with a Sit-Out Powerbomb. Bobby Lashley came down next and was immediately dumped by Rollins (way to make the Intercontinental Champion look like a massive chump!). Lashley pulled Seth under the ropes tossed him through an announce table in retribution as Braun Strowman joined the party.

Strowman tossed Corbin and Shelton as Drew got rid of Jeff; Dolph Ziggler made his return and walloped McIntyre over the top rope with a Superkick. Randy Orton was next to the ring; the RKO was blocked and then a massive Tower of Doom spot nearly killed Mustafa and laid everyone out. R-Truth looked to take advantage but he was jumped by Nia Jax, who took his place and started attacking everyone…and they hit her back! Intergender, men-on-women wrestling is back, baby!!

Nia chucked out Mustafa with a Samoan Drop, dodged the RKO, and then got planted with a Superkick, the 619, the RKO, and finally dumped by Mysterio and Orton. Orton them immediately ended Rey with an RKO and an elimination, only to get chucked by Andrade leaving the final four as Andrade, Strowman, Ziggler, and Rollins. While everyone tried ganging up on Strowman, he got rid of Andrade and Ziggler, and ended up facing off with Rollins on the ring apron; Seth managed to hit the Stomp on the apron and won the match to finally get back in the Universal Championship scene.

Raw

Seth Rollins opened the show to a massive ovation and a hero’s welcome; he teased going to SmackDown! Live to challenge Daniel Bryan but Triple H interrupted him and told him he had to decide his WrestleMania path on that night. Dean Ambrose showed up and belittled Seth, leading to Triple H booked one last match between the two right then and there.  Seth kicked the match off by, you guessed it, tossing Dean to the outside, though Dean stole back momentum back in the ring by countering the Slingblade. Dean rolled outside to safety after Seth got the upper hand, leading to Rollins taking him out with a Suicide Dive. Rollins crashed and burned on a Frog Splash attempt, countered the Dirty Deeds, hit the Buckle Bomb, and won with a massively oversold Stomp.

Dean threw a hissy fit afterwards and was still in the ring when Nia Jax and Tamina came out for their match against Mickie James and Alexa Bliss; does this, coupled with the pop Alexa got for her return at Royal Rumble, make Alexa a face now? This was all Nia and Tamina, who used their sloppy and dangerous offense to splatter Alexa and Mickie over the mat; the Samoan girls got the win after hitting a Samoan Drop on both Alexa and Mickie, kinda making you question why she even has a tag team partner and, I guess, in an attempt to establish the big girls as potential winners of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship.

Kurt Angle was back in action, finally going face-to-face with Baron Corbin; Corbin started off strong, grounding and pounding Angle in the early portion of the match, but Kurt made a comeback with the German Suplexes. Corbin slipped free of the Angle Slam, though, landed a Big Boot, fought out of the Ankle Lock, and won with the Deep Six. Interesting that Corbin won with his signature rather than his finisher but this was a relatively decent match for trying to rebuild Corbin as some kind of threat.

Finn Balor hobbled out to the ring next; he claimed to have made Brock, and everybody else, a believer, even in defeat, but Bobby Lashley disagreed; he ran down Finn and the pounded the hell out of him with Spinebusters. On the plus side, though, this could be the start of Finn’s WrestleMania journey towards an Intercontinental Championship reign. Afterwards, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder officially team up for the first time in about ten years for a match against the Revival; surprisingly enough, despite a decent effort by the faces, the Revival actually got the win. I assume this is part of the “big push” the Revival are supposed to be getting since they requested their release from their contracts, though I’d hardly call this a “big win”.

Elias had another run-in with Jeff Jarrett afterwards; Road Dogg also got involved but Elias still ended up smashing his guitar over Jarrett’s back. Great. Anyway, Dana Brooke (who is apparently a face now?) then teamed up with Natalya to take on Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan; the Riott Squad got the win after Ruby Riott distracted Nattie, which pissed Little Miss Neidhart off quite a bit, to say the least.

Ronda Rousey was out next to put over her match against Sasha Banks and the crowd absolutely tore her to pieces with boos, jeers, and “We want Becky!” chants; this was not a great look for Ronda and really made me laugh as the WWE treat Rousey like this hot shit with this untouchable cross-over/mainstream appeal, who can be the face of the division, but the crowd wants Becky and nobody else! Instead of Becky, we get Bayley, who magically gets a championship match right then and there; Ronda took Bayley down right away but Bayley managed to weather the storm and go to work on Ronda’s leg. The crowd loved them some Bayley on this night, which makes a change, but I think it was mainly because she was a proxy for Becky Lynch; anyway, Bayley managed to get Ronda into an Ankle Lock (who knew she was so technically proficient?) and slam her into the barricade with a Bayley-To-Belly; she hit a big Diving Elbow Drop and even got Ronda in the Banks Statement but Ronda managed to fight through it all, get the Arm Bar, and put Bayley away. Just as Bayley and Ronda seem to shake hands, Becky interrupted and got into a verbal slanging match with Ronda; I guess we all know what the Raw Women’s Championship match will be at WrestleMania then…

Braun Strowman faced off with Drew McIntyre in the main event; honestly, this should have been the main event of the last few pay-per-views, with Braun challenging Drew for the Universal Championship. Instead, this was a taste of what I truly hope we’ll see later in the year once Lesnar finally loses that damn belt; Drew started off strong, with chops and kicks, and slamming Braun into the barricade (because of course this went to the outside!) but Braun soon took back control and started working over Drew’s back. Just as Braun looked to end McIntyre. Baron Corbin attacked Strowman with a chair for the disqualification; Strowman snatched the chair away, though, and smashed him into the steel steps. The heels ended up on top, however, as Drew laid Braun out with the Claymore and then hit a Double Chokeslam onto the steel steps.

Paul Heyman ended the show by warning off Rollins but Seth attacked Lesnar anyway; he ended up getting brutalised by a whole mess of F5s but he still screamed defiantly back at Brock, which pretty much locked that WrestleMania match in as well (as if there was any doubt…)

SmackDownLive

Becky Lynch kicked things off this week (she sure has been busy this week!), still selling her injured leg; she vowed to end Ronda Rousey’s reign at WrestleMania and, of course, got interrupted by Charlotte Flair. As you might expect, this ended in a big old brawl that the referees and officials had to break up and I continue to not be a fan of adding Charlotte to the Raw Women’s Championship match.

Newly crowned United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura put the belt on the line against R-Truth afterwards, because…R…Truth? Anyway, you might think that the so-called King of Strong Style would make short work of the former NWA Champion, mainly based on the fact that I believe he has before and R-Truth’s position on the card but, no, R-Truth won the title on a fluke roll-up. Rusev immediately demanded a rematch for the belt, and was granted it, but R-Truth managed to upset him as well! Afterwards, Rusev and Nakamura united in their desire for the belt and the fact that they are sore losers and beat the crap out of R-Truth…iIreally, really hope this leads more towards Rusev, Nakamura, and R-Truth fighting over the United States Championship and not some lame team-up between Rusev and Nakamura as we’ve waited a long time to see Rusev get a singles push again.

Rey Mysterio came down for a match but ended up getting jumped by Andrade, so I guess that’s still a thing; afterwards, the new SmackDown! Live Tag Team Champions had a bit of a celebration over their Godforsaken victory and announced that they would defend the belts against the winners of a fatal-four-way match between the Usos (obviously), the New Day (even more obviously), the Bar (also obviously), and…Heavy Machinery (not the Club, as they’ll be busy fighting Rusev and Nakamura, apparently (and are now faces) and not SAnitY because they’re not allowed on television…)…anyway, rather than build towards a rematch with the Bar to help Sheamus and Cesaro regain some credibility or build Heavy Machinery as a fresh, new team in the division, the match was won by the Usos and they get to face the Miz and Shane McMahon at Elimination Chamber. Hooray.

Daniel Bryan was out next to talk some more about being environmentally friendly and explain his alliance with Rowan, which basically came down to him…also being environmentally friendly. Who knew? Bryan also debuted a brand new championship belt apparently made out of wood but actually made out of hemp! Fantastic! AJ Styles, Randy Orton, Mustafa Ali, Jeff Hardy, and Samoa Joe all interrupted to throw their names into the hat as potential challengers (why Orton feels he has a right I have no idea) and Triple H confirmed that they will all compete for the WWE Championship inside the Elimination Chamber…at Elimination Chamber

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