Paige made a welcome return to television this week (…on the wrong brand but still…) to help solidify the Kabuki Warriors’ heel turn, as she ate a face-full of Asuka’s Poison Mist. Becky Lynch showed up to take a bump or two on Paige’s behalf as she took on, and defeated, Kairi Sane, which, again, is not a great look for one half of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions no matter how good the match might have been.
Buddy Murphy also returned to television this week (remember when he was kind of, sort of, but not really getting a push?) to get a win over R-Truth, mainly thanks to the 24/7 jobbers interrupting things near the end.
Drew McIntyre and Ricochet were up next, with Jimmy Hart, Hulk Hogan, and Ric Flair all at ringside to witness this rematch (because, apparently, there’s not enough guys on ach team to mix things up a bit…) Things were just kicking into a higher gear after Ricochet countered the Claymore but missed the 630 Splash when Randy Orton flew in with an RKO for a disqualification finish.
After the Viking Raider decimated some nameless jobbers, Andrade, obviously finished with facing Rey Mysterio week after week after week, took on and defeated another luchadore, Sin Cara, who debuted Catalina to counter Zelina Vega’s interference…and lost anyway, which is the only result I needed to see from this match.
Natalya found a brand new best buddy and team mate in Charlotte Flair this week, which obviously led her to victory over the Iiconics; I guess this will be a nice distraction until one of the two turns on the other to once again recreate the Montreal screwjob (probably around Survivor Series, I shouldn’t wonder).
In order to warm up for his falls count anywhere match against the Fiend, Bray Wyatt, at Crown Jewel, Seth Rollins took on Erick Rowan in a falls count anywhere match. You might be wondering why Rowan, of all people, but I guess his character is regressing a bit to have some kind of association with Bray? In any case, Rollins got the win by recreating the spot from that Hal-Time Heat match between the Rock and Mankind and trapping Rowan beneath a forklifted pallet. One thing about this I kind of like is that Rowan is being injected with the same over-the-top craziness that makes Braun Strowman’s best matches so enjoyable but he still doesn’t really grab me as much of a character or performer.
Humberto Carrillo followed up his impressive main roster debut last week with a similarly decent outing against AJ Styles. Oddly, for someone apparently being pushed as someone to keep an eye on, Carrillo tapped out no questions asked to the Calf Crusher but, given that he was saved by the Street Profits when the O.C. beat him up after the match, looks to be on track for a feud against Styles and his O.C. buddies.
Once again, Raw ended not with the Universal Champion in the spotlight but, instead, Bobby Lashley, Lana, and Rusev, who aired their grievances on the King’s Court. Basically, Lana said that she wanted a family but Rusev just wanted sex, then she accused Rusev on cheating on her, than (obviously) a big ol’ brawl broke out that saw Rusev get a good ol’ shot to the grapefruits courtesy of Lashley.
So, you might be thinking: “Why didn’t you do Crown Jewel predictions last week?” and the answer is that I kinda messed up a bit. Crown Jewel being on a Thursday threw my schedule out of whack so, here we are, just reviewing it as part of the regular week’s schedule.
Anyway, Crown Jewel kicked off with a battle royal to decide who would face AJ Styles for the United States Championship later in the night; Luke Harper and Erick Rowan joined forces to chuck out a bunch of guys until only Cedric Alexander and Humberto Carrillo were left in the ring with them. Some choice decisions led to Harper and Rowan’s partnership dissolving and, in the end, Humberto was able to toss out Rowan, the last man in the ring, and earn a shot.
FOX’s deep pockets joined forces with Saudi Arabia’s blood money to convince Brock Lesnar to open the show, not that he really cared, I’m sure. Cain Velasquez went for the striking game, throwing kicks and strikes at Lesnar for a few minutes, before Lesnar just tied him up in the Kimura and forced him to tap. After the match, Rey Mysterio tried to make the save and ate an F5 for his trouble. What an absolute waste of time; I don’t want to see Lesnar with the WWE Championship, or Velasquez winning the belt, but this really made Cain look weak as all hell. No doubt he will get his revenge, and the belt, at WrestleMania, hopefully after some seasoning, but I’d rather we just swept this all under the rug.
All the tag teams were thrown into the ring next for a tag team turmoil match, which was essentially a gauntlet match featuring the WWE’s less-than-stellar tag team division. Robert Roode and Dolph Ziggler struggled to get past the Lucha House Party (which is embarrassing in many ways) but made short work of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder. Heavy Machinery rolled over Roode and Ziggler but almost immediately fell to the New Day (which was utter bullshit), who also took out the B-Team with little issue. The Revival put up a bit more of a fight but still got beaten when Scott Dawson was randomly rolled up; they attacked after the match, softening the New Day up a bit more for the O.C. to pick the bones and toss a bit more dirty onto Kofi Kingston’s grave. The final team was the Viking Raiders, who didn’t get much of a chance to make an impression before Erik got finished off with the Magic Killer. On the one hand, I’m glad that the O.C. got a win here and outlasted the other teams but Heavy Machinery and the Viking Raiders really should have had a stronger presence, and Kofi really shouldn’t be eating pins in tag team matches or be lumbered with these pointless tag endeavours after the year he’s had.
Mansoor came back…if that’s supposed to mean anything? He fought with Cesaro, who really should be doing something better than randomly losing matches like this but the Saudi crowd love a bit of Mansoor so I guess that’s all that matters?
Tyson Fury and Braun Strowman were up next; Tyson made a grand entrance that was basically a rip-off of Apollo Creed’s, kind of painting him as the face in this feud? I don’t even know anymore. Anyway, this was a lot of big (but slow), heavy shots and lock-ups, for the most part, until Strowman (of course) ran into a ring post when Fury dodged a charge. Fury couldn’t really capitalise though and never really built any real momentum; he hesitated after a Big Boot, as though he forget what was happening, but did manage to hit a big boxing punch that was enough for get Strowman counted out. Strowman hit the Running Powerslam afterwards but…are you seriously telling me that Braun Strowman, the guy who tips over ambulances and regularly wrecks sets and entire arenas, can’t get back up after being punched?
After R-Truth was once again upset by the Singh Brothers, Humberto Carrillo came back out for his United States Championship match against AJ Styles; the O.C. were in AJ’s corner but he didn’t really need their interference to put away Humberto. Humberto did manage to escape the Calf Crusher this time and roll through a missed Moonsault attempt but, distracted by his hurt knee, he was unable to avoid being pinned by the Phenomenal Forearm. All-in-all, this was good night for the O.C….who will no doubt be destroyed by Strowman next week on Raw.
In a surprising addition, Natayla and Lacey Evans got the distinction of having the first-ever women’s match in Saudi Arabia. While historic, both were still way more covered up than normal and this match didn’t really make a lot of sense as they seem to have put aside their issues but, after Nattie got the win with the Sharpshooter, they both embraced and had a bit of a cry so I guess this was more of a friendly contest than anything else. Still, though, we’ve seen this match a hundred times at this point so there wasn’t really anything new to be seen here.
Team Hogan (Rusev, Ricochet, Shorty G, Ali, and Roman Reigns) and Team Flair (Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley, Shinsuke Nakamura, Baron Corbin, and Randy Orton) were up next; things started off a bit slow and unsure, with Ali absorbing a massive beat down from the heels until he was finally able to hit a Tornado DDT and make the hot tag to Ricochet. The heels soon dominated Ricochet as well, though, so he had to bring in Reigns to actually turn things around; this led to a fantastic RKO out of nowhere…for a two count, before everything degenerated into anarchy. Ali, Ricochet, and Shorty stopped Orton hitting the Punt, allowing Reigns to hit the Spear and secure the victory for the red-and-yellow.
Finally, Seth Rollins once again put the Universal Championship on the line against the Fiend, Bray Wyatt, in a last man standing match that was billed as being unable to be stopped “for any reason”, begging the question of how one is supposed to actually win the match but I get what they were going for. Anyway, the match was again bathed in red light, which is really obtrusive, and started off with a wild brawl; they busted out table and chair spots, to little crowd reaction, then Wyatt tried to hit a Sister Abigail on the exposed concrete on the outside. Rollins countered and hit a Stomp…for two…they kicked out of a Sister Abigail. Eight more Stomps followed up on the ramp but Wyatt still wouldn’t go down, completely neutering one of the most protected and vicious finishing moves of the modern era, so Rollins Superkicked Wyatt off the stage and into a big explosion of fireworks. Suddenly worried about his opponent, Rollins allowed himself to get a face full of explosions, slapped with the Mandible Claw, and then hit with Sister Abigail to finally lose the title. Great news for Bray, who is now a two-time World Champion in a company where Strowman has never won such a belt, but this wasn’t really the greatest match for him to win it. Also, Raw doesn’t really have any babyfaces to challenge Bray so I guess he’ll have one or two more matches with Rollins before he gets into it with…Strowman, maybe?
Brock Lesnar kicked things off this week; Paul Heyman said that Lesnar was all pissed off at Rey Mysterio but wasn’t allowed to do anything about it because Rey is a Raw guy…which was weird because I could’ve sworn guys were still floating to and fro between brands. Anyway, Lesnar decided to “quit” Smack Down so he could go put a hurting on Rey, which is exactly what you want from your brand’s World Champion, I’m sure…
Bayley and Nikki Cross went at it in the first match of the night; Sasha Banks was at ringside and factored into the finish of the match but pushing Nikki off the ropes so Bayley could finish her off. Perennial heel Shayna Baszler showed up after the match to attack Bayley and Sasha, which was a surreal sight considering Bayley and Sasha are also heels…
A similar madness then befell Sami Zayn, who got decimated by Keith Lee and Matt Riddle, before Tommaso Ciampa and the Miz got into a war of words, followed by a more physical war that once again saw the Miz laying defeated in the ring. I’ve gotta say, though, that as great as it is to see the NXT guys making an impact to build towards Survivor Series, it’s a bit weird to cheer them, especially their heels, for attacking heels.
Rhea Ripley and Tegan Nox continued NXT’s invasion by defeating Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville before the night ended with Adam Cole taking on Daniel Bryan, which served mainly to emphasise how incredibly talented by guys, and the NXT roster, can be. In the end, Cole intercepted Bryan’s Running Knee with a Superkick and got the win with the Last Shot; after the match, all of the NXT guys swarmed the ring and Triple H officially announced that they were going to war with Raw and Smack Down; again, I like this idea and the NXT guys looked fantastic as dominant, credible threats, but it’s really weird to see heels suddenly be on the same page as faces and a bit odd to try and get crowds to feel sympathy when heels like Sasha, Bayley, and Zayn are being beaten down.