WWE week in review – April 27 2018

Another week in WWE has been and gone. Maybe not as eventful as last week but nonetheless a lot going on. Please note that I’m releasing this on Friday afternoon at around 3pm, so BEFORE the start of the Greatest Royal Rumble. Enjoy!
Friday afternoon: WWE will air a Bruno Sammartino tribute documentary on the network immediately after Raw on Monday. Lovely stuff.
Booker T will temporarily replace Jonathan Coachman on commentary for Raw Monday (Coach is away covering a golf even, as his WWE contract also allows him to cover other sporting events alongside his WWE commitments). THANK GOD! MAKE THIS A PERMANENT THING! If you thought Booker T was bad then my oh MY Coach is AWFUL! Just to annoying and his points he makes and delivery of them are abysmal.
Alexa Bliss has reportedly had a boob job. This is being given as a reason why she hasn’t gone on WWE’s tour to South Africa. oi oi…
Friday Evening: WWE announce Asuka & Becky Lynch vs The IIconics (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce) for Smackdown this week. Great stuff. Billie and Peyton worked really well with Asuka in NXT so this should be good.
Saturday: a selfie posted by Alexa Bliss (showing off her new ‘boosted’ … ‘assets’) now has more likes than posts of the Wrestlemania returns of Daniel Bryan and The Undertaker. Wrestling fans……………….
Sunday: WWE release a new promotional image for the Greatest Royal Rumble match. It features (amongst others) Gallows and Anderson, Mark Henry, The Great Khali and Rey Mysterio. Expected really beens as they NEED soooooo many men to fill this match, but the big names of Henry and more notably Khali (not good) and Rey (absolutely brilliant) are a nice bonus.
Sunday Afternoon: WWE reveal 8 athletes have been successful at the tryouts in Saudi Arabia. And at least one of them will compete in the Greatest Royal Rumble match. cough cough *MONEY* cough cough…. lets hope whoever they choose gets a nice pop from the home crowd, and doesn’t embarrass themselves in the match.
Monday: John Cena turns 41 today. Given recent events lets hope he has a good one.
Monday Evening: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has once again become a father. MY GUY!!!
Ronda Rousey vs Mickie James announced for the upcoming WWE European (UK included) tour. Great match up this. Mickie is one of the most experienced and best wrestlers on the female roster, so putting Ronda with her in a run of singles matches is a wise move.
Monday: RAW

  • Bruno Sammartino tribute package airs to begin the show. Followed by a 10 bell salute. The tribute video was excellent, and also featured Vince McMahon SENIOR speaking about Bruno.
  • Lesnar and Heyman came out to open the show properly. Heyman cut a long promo, Reigns then came out and cut a promo of his own, standing face to face with Brock. The promo was good but long from Paul and not much of any difference to his pre-mania ones. And although it was obviously positive that Roman finally stood toe-to -toe with Lesnar, the lack of a physical altercation between the two was a tad disappointing.
  • Elias came out for another ‘performance’, he was though interrupted by Bobby Roode and the two had a match following. Elias eventually won with a roll up. A tad surprising that they had Roode lose after giving him the show closing spot when making his Raw arrival last week, but nonetheless this is surely only the beginning of an angle between these two so that should be fun.
  • WOKEN Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt cut a usual promo of theirs. they then beat The Ascension. No surprises at all here. Matt and Bray worked great together, their opponents are about as jobber as you could get.
  • Owens and Zayn presented ‘The Kevin & Sami show’ with Kurt Angle as their guest. They were very condescending with him, the gave him a tacky fold-out chair to sit on, and were just generally disrespectful to the Raw GM. He responded in kind (after they spoke of them winning the Greatest Royal Rumble match) by reminding them that he himself as well as Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho were also in the match and wanted to repay them for past grievances. He then also put Zayn and Owens in a tag team match later in the show against Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman. This was excellent simply put. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are just the best heel for a long time. HILARIOUS!
  • Bo Dallas and Curtiz Axel were backstage in the locker room with Seth Rollins. And as The Miz had departed to Smackdown the pair looked to Rollins to be the new team leader, with the idea they could be a 2nd version of The Shield. Seth said it was a “firm no”. This was pretty funny.
  • Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler beat Titus worldwide. Both then cut a promo afterwards with McIntyre being particularity vocal in his new heel persona. Drew also had new music (his old one with a heavy drum beat over the top of it). Drew’s was awesome here in his promo, so much fire in him. This guy is going to be a MEGASTAR! And he’s going to drag Dolph to stardom with him too for a time anyway.
  • Kurt Angle was backstage with Chad Gable (who it appears is a face now). Jinder Mahal eventually interrupted to set up a match after a brief ad break. The two had an ok match with Gable surprisingly getting the win. Jinder was furious as a result. 2 weeks on Raw, 2 matches, 2 losses for Mahal… hmm… when has a losing streak ever got anyone over? VERY rarely. Kind of obvious to me. Anyway at least Chad Gable is a great wrestler, so any chance he gets to showcase his stuff is a good time for me. So fingers crossed it continues and he build sup a decent character along the way.
  • The Riott Squad do a backstage interview with Renee, ahead of the 10 woman tag that will close the show. No thoughts really. It was fine. Ruby is great, needs to be a face though.
  • Samoa Joe did a cell phone promo. Fairly similar to what he said on Smackdown last week. Similar yes, but still really good work. Joe comes across as such a believable scary, monster, heel guy.
  • Finn Balor was in the locker room area with Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. Bo and Curtis were wearing the “OG BC” t shirts and attempted to too sweet and team up with Finn. Finn declined. This was jokes.
  • Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman faced Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn. Finish came when Lashley did his delayed suplex to Zayn before tagging in Braun and he quickly did his running Powerslam for thew win. This was absolutely tremendous. All 4 guys played their role wonderfully. It was really entertaining. One conclusion that was clear as day for me after this though, was that Braun Strowman SHOULD be the guy. Not Roman. BRAUN. Now!
  • Baron Corbin was due to face No Way Jose (accompanied by his ‘conga line’, but after Jose came with his dancing friends to the ring Corbin came out and essentially said he wouldn’t be doing the match for fear some of the conga line would jump him. Corbin went to the back, Jose danced back up the ramp anyway before Corbin came back out and attacked Jose. This was fine enough, without being amazing.
  • Alexa Bliss was shown in a filmed segment, billed as a public service announcement, entitled: A Moment of Bliss. She cut a very solemn figure, and spoke very softly as she put across her “anti-bullying” message as she told a story about her ‘former best friend’ Nia Jax stealing a Burrito from a homeless person. This was one of the best women’s segment I had seen in a LONG time! Alexa Bliss acting here was out of this world good! I laughed. Maybe that wasn’t the intention but it was brilliant.
  • After their separate confrontations earlier in the show, Finn Balor and Seth Rollins beat Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel (as they have done on the house show segment recently) in quick fashion. Meh.
  • Natalya held court in the locker room with her tag team members for the main event: Ember Moon, Nia Jax (who each spoke separately too) and Sasha and Bayley. As the 3 other women made their exit Sasha tried to smile at Bayley but Bayley returned with a glare and shrugged off her sign of reconciliation it seemed. This segment was straight out of BORESVILLE!!! And Bayley vs Sasha maybe the worst feud of the year. NOTHING is happening!!!
  • The Raw main event then saw the team of Natalya, Ember Moon, Nia Jax, Sasha Banks and Bayley take on The Riott Squad (Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan), Mickie James and Alexa Bliss. Match came to an end when Sarah Logan chop blocked Natalya and hurt her knee real bad, Mickie James then tried to further hurt Nattie. That was when Ronda Rousey’s music hit to make the save, she helped her friend but was then kicked down by James. This prompted Ronda to enter the ring and do a Judo Throw and locked the Armbar in on James (this ended the match on a DQ). So: match was a bit of a clusterfuck, Alexa did absolutely nothing in the match (further evidence they’re keeping her away from action as she recovers from her ‘surgery’), Bayley and Sasha had ZERO interactions to advance their storyline, Ronda was a megastar and her spots with Mickie James looked so natural it gives me great hope for what looks like a feud between thew two going forward. But most of all… WWE… don’t think I don’t see you… putting all your Raw women in a match that you’ve just thrown them all in to, putting it on last and having your top female star close the show looking strong… just a few days before a massive event your promoting… that women just so happens are NOT on. I see right through you!

Monday: After Raw had finished WWE did indeed air a new Bruno Sammartino documentary on the WWE network. It was really good.
X Pac reveals on his podcast that had Bruno and the WWE not come to an agreement on his Hall of Fame induction in 2013, DX as a group were going to be the headline replacement instead.
Tuesday = A Backlash contract signing for Carmella’s Smackdown Women’s Championship defense against former champion Charlotte Flair AND Miz TV with guest Daniel Bryan are both announced as segments for Smackdown this evening. GREAT! Particularly the later announced segment will be enthralling!
Paul Heyman will reportedly NOT be travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Greatest Royal Rumble event this Friday. Hmm… this is interesting and potentially concerning… we shall see…

Along with Carmella vs Charlotte, Nia Jax vs Alexa Bliss is also confirmed for the upcoming Backlash ppv.
Zack Ryder reveals on social media that (in his match against Mike Kanellis that was tapped for the Main Event show on the network, tapped before Raw) he suffered a knee injury. He was not flying to Saudi Arabia but instead to Orlando for an MRI. Gut wrenching stuff this. Particularly when he’s just moved brands. Hopefully it’s not too serious. Got loads of talent has Zack, sadly never given a proper and long enough chance to showcase it.
Tuesday : Smackdown
– Miz TV was supposed to be with Daniel Bryan, but instead Big Cass came out in a great looking suit. They both talked down about Bryan. I guess this delays the inevitable Miz – Bryan feud…

Asuka and Becky Lynch are shown backstage as they are about to make their entrances for their match, but they stop walking upon seeing Daniel Bryan in the floor being tended to by officials. He has apparently been attacked (presumably by Big Cass)
– The IIconics come out, cut a promo then beat Becky and Asuka in a tag match. Finish coming when Peyton pinned Lynch whilst her feet were on the ropes. Good for Billie Kay and Royce to get a big win early in their main roster career, but Asuka losing a match AGAIN?!?!?!
– Renee Young is shown outside Shane McMahon’s office, but instead AJ Styles comes out looking very pleased with himself. He reveals their will be a 6 man tag match in the main event later on, pitting him and 2 partners vs Shinsuke Nakamura, Rusev and Aiden English. Intriguing… I hope it’s what I think this is… But strange how after weeks of Rusev and English beating in him, Nakamura is now teaming with them. Heel or not, some continuity would be nice…
– a hype video plays for the upcoming Smackdown arrival of former NXT Champion Andrade Almas and his business associate Zelina Vega. YES YES YES! IM ALL IN ON THESE TWO!!!
– Naomi and The Usos did a segment from the locker room. Naomi expressed her concerns ahead of Jimmy Uso’s match with Rowan later. So… they’re all in on showing Naomi as Mrs Uso on TV as well now then… ok…
— Rowan (with Harper) v Jimmy (with Jey). Rowan dominates until Noami makes her entrance (neon clothes and flashy lights and all). This distracts Rowan enough to allow Jimmy to get a shock win. You have to give The Usos a bit of build going into this match I guess…
– Renee hosts a contract signing between Charlotte and Carmella. Carmella makes her way out first, she gloats and then shows a video package showing her road to becoming champion… Twice! But half way through the 2nd showing Charlotte comes out. She takes her seat at the other side of the set out table, Carmella continues to talk trash which leads Charlotte to slam Carmella’s head into the table and then flip the table onto her. This went the way every single contract signing ever in WWE has gone, nonetheless it was good enough.
– Dasha Fuentes is outside Shinsuke Nakamura’s locker room, instead Aiden English comes out and tells her “sorry, no questions”FANTASTIC!
– Shelton Benjamin looked set to take on US Champion Jeff Hardy in a rematch from last week’s show. But instead Randy Orton passed Hardy on the ramp (reverse of last week) and he took the match instead. With Jeff at ringside throughout a masked man attacked him. Orton dragged the man into the ring and took his mask off to reveal it was Jinder Mahal’s ally Sunil Singh. Singh got an RKO for his troubles but this was enough to provide Benjamin with the chance to get the upset win. ANOTHER DISTRACTION WIN WTF IS HAPPENING?!
– New Day backstage segment featuring a candle lit pancake dinner (don’t ask, just go with it) … The Bar came in and played party poopers. Simple stuff. Fued been done before, but wouldn’t be against it on Smackdown.
– AJ is in the locker room… with… GALLOWS AND ANDERSON!!! HALLELUJAH!!!
– Sanity hype package video. I still am sad Nikki Cross is sticking around in NXT but nonetheless I’m so excited for their arrival to Smackdown!
– Renee Young interview backstage with Daniel Bryan. His shoulder was heavily bandaged up. He was really fired up and revealed Smackdown GM Paige had made Bryan vs Big Cass for Backlash. Awesome. MASSIVE opportunity for Big Cass.
– Samoa Joe pre-filmed promo. Same sort of content as has been recently. But still as good.
– Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson followed by WWE Champion AJ Styles came out. They were followed by their opponents; Aiden English, Rusev and finally Shinsuke Nakamura (who had new music. A take on his old one but with a Japanese singer and an electric guitar playing over it. It was cool AF to me). Decent match ended with Nakamura predictably pinning Gallows after a Kinshasa. After the match AJ brawled with Shinsuke, until Nakamura once again low blowed the champion and then hit Karl Anderson with his signature knee strike as Anderson took the BULLET for his friend. Simply put this aftermath was wonderful. Really builds the grudge match feeling going into Friday, stunning contrast to the ultra respectful build to their last meeting. But by a long way the build to this has been so much better from a storytelling standpoint. Nakamura has gone to even higher levels as a performer as a heel. And given how good he was before that’s saying a lot!
– 2 other segments related to the show were put out by WWE; Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose mocking a crestfallen Becky Lynch backstage (presumably setting up a match next week) and also Tye Dillinger on the phone to R Truth, who it appears didn’t find his way to the arena………. yeah…..
205 Live featured the gauntlet match to decide the challenger for Cedric Alexander’s Cruserweight title at the Greatest Royal Rumble event. The match saw Mustafa Ali beat TJP, Drew Gulak then beat Ali, Gulak beat former friend Tony Nese, and then finally Kalisto beat Gulak to book his ticket to Jeddah.
Wednesday morning: so it now appears Paul Heyman WILL be making the trip to Saudi Arabia, he just will do so later on the week. PHEW!
Wednesday: WWE has now officially confirmed Rey Mysterio, Mark Henry, The Great Khali, Shane McMahon, Randy Orton and Kevin Owens will be in the Greatest Royal Rumble match. Again not a massive surprise… a 50 man match, there isn’t going to be many names NOT in it.
Wednesday evening: Zack Ryder reveals his injury isn’t as bad as first feared, and that nothing is torn or broken just strains suffered. No surgery needed. Thank god! Would be last thing he needs. Hope to see him back soon.
Tye Dillinger points out on twitter that he is not featured in the advertising for the Greatest Royal Rumble event. Dangerous came you’re playing there Tye…
Wednesday: NXT

  • Undisputed Era came out and each cut a promo. Adam Cole was last and spoke about his North American title match against Oney Lorcan. He said he would win by himself and even laughed about needing help to win the match. This was great. All 4 members are really into their role, particularly the newly turned Roderick Strong.
  • Cole retained his title against Lorcan. Cole had his ribs tapped up, and at one point Lorcan threw Cole onto the ropes on his ribs. Kyle O’Reilly ran down with a doctor to see if he was ok, in the meantime Roderick Strong came out and gave Lorcan a back suplex onto the apron. Adam Cole was suddenly ok, and he then hit his finisher on Lorcan to retain the title. After the finish Danny Burch tried to stop Undisputed Era beating down his tag partner, but he was beaten down too. This was expected, but I’m a big Undisputed Era fan so I loved it. Give me Adam Cole and his cronies beating people up and being arrogant dicks all day long pls.
  • Shayna Baszler video package.
  • Bianca Belair video package, She’ll face Candice LeRae next week. Great, should be a fun match.
  • Heavy Machinery beat Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbatelli. I love NXT, but I couldn’t be less uinterested in these two tag teams if I tried.
  • There was a video shown setting up potential challengers for the NXT Women’s Championship. Featured were Nikki Cross, Aliyah, and Kairi Sane. Aliyah? DPMO. Don’t even put her in the same conversation as my two girls!!!!!!!!!! HOW DARE YOU!!!!!
  • Dakota Kai was shown being interviewed by Cathy Kelley about Shayna Baszler earlier in the day. Kai didn’t want to talk about Baszler even though Kelley kept asking about her. Shayna then walked in. Baszler talked down to her and said that Baszler running the women’s division is Dakota’s worst nightmare. I like Dakota don’t get me wrong, but I hope this is just a TV feud, and they give Baszler another challenger for the next Takeover.
  • Kona Reeves with another hype package. ZZZZZZzzzzz…..
  • Lacey Evans, Vanessa Borne, & Candice LeRae also were shown saying they too would defeat the NXT Women’s Champion Baszler if they got the chance. I feel like there may be a multi women or battle royal type match in the upcoming weeks to decide the next main challenger. Far too many women talking directly about challenging the champion for it not to be for a purpose.

Next week we will have TM61 vs The Street Profits & Pete Dunne vs. Roderick Strong.

  • Johnny Gargano came to the ring for his NXT championship match with Aleister Black. But on hos way to the ring he was jumped by Tommaso Ciampa. Ciampa threw Gargano into the stage, Johhny fought-back until Ciampa gave him a low blow. Ciampa then kicked Gargano in the head and, ignoring the officials that had come out to try and stop the attack, then gave him an Emerald Fusion through some production tables off the stage area. (The same spot he did when he originally turned on his former partner almost 1 year ago). The medics stretchered Gargano away, Kassius Ohno was among those who cam to help out, Aleister Black too arrived to see what was happening. As the ambulance drove away the camera zoomed out and there Ciampa was pictured on top of a ring truck. This was heartbreaking obviously, but absolutely brilliant stuff. This incredible rivalry is NOT done then, so maybe a gimmick match between the two soon? Cage? HELL IN A CELL???
  • Aleister Black came out to the ring and took to the mic and appeared to be about to challenge Tomasso Ciampa (GIVE ME THIS MATCH PLEASE), but instead he was interrupted by SAnitY! Eric Young said that Gargano’s hope was taken away by chaos, but that ” we will find hope and we will find sanity”. As Young was about to continue Black saw what was coming and challenged Young to face him for his title! So the match took place, and it wasn’t spectacular but it was fine. Black won with a Black Mass. and as both Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain got in the ring to try and avenge their leader’s loss, they were both Black Mass victims too, as Black ended the show holding his title and standing tall. Presumably this was done to give Sanity there sendoff before they officially move to Smackdown. But it was fun enough, and the champion looking strong is something I will never be against, particularity when that man is Aleister Black, and he is cool AF!

Thursday:

Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven and Tyler Bate) issue a challenge to the Undisputed Era for WWE’s UK Championship shows in June, via a video released on WWE’s twitter. If we could have Undisputed Era vs British Strong Style (the name on the indies for the collective group of Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate and Trent Seven) that’d be great. Thanks.
Triple H announces potential plans for NXT to go global via ‘global localization’ (the idea being there will be feeder-like promotions in countries all over the world, all feeding eventually towards the main NXT brand and the main roster shows). This information was actually made available during Triple H’s conference call over Wrestlemania weekend, but seems to have only come to light now. This is really exciting for WWE but does seem as if they are attempting to take over the world, which might not please some other smaller promotions over the globe.

Friday:
It’s the Greatest Royal Rumble later TODAY! They have extra comfy seats at ringside… the type you’d see in a posh lounge. This show is going to be CRAZY! I’m absolutely fascinated to see it!

Josh.

Greatest Royal Rumble: Preview & Predictions

(DISCLAIMER: for the sake of this blog, I’m going to not talk about the ‘questionable’ morality and laws of the country of Saudi Arabia, and all the other issues related to the event form that standpoint. I’ll just talk about the event itself in the blog, and temporarily forget all that stuff for the sake of my enjoyment of the event).

So it is finally here. After a 7 hour event just a few weeks ago we are blessed with a mere 6 hour long event emanating from the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, just north of Jeddah in the country of Saudi Arabia. It is FINALLY time for the much talked about, promoted and at times maligned Greatest Royal Rumble (SUPER) show. And my oh my what a show it could well be… I’ll try my best to run through the card and offer my thoughts and predictions ahead of what may possibly be an ever bigger show than Wrestlemania 34!

50 Man ‘Greatest’ Royal Rumble match: Pretty much every male main roster superstar not already on the card, a few legends and possibly some NXT superstars too

This match is going to be madness. FIFTY men in the same match?! Royal Rumbles aren’t usually too bad, but imagine one that is almost double the length of a regular rumble match. It’ll just be crazy, and as it stands the only prize on offer seems to be a trophy that has featured on the advertising for the match, although given how highly they’ve pushed this event you’d presume that whoever they have win the match will either be a megastar already or someone who is going to become one. I’m sure it’ll have all the usual facets of a regular Royal Rumble match; confrontations between former foes or allies, surprise returns, shock eliminations etc. but it’s going to be about an hour and a half long and that’s my main worry with the match that people watching will be so worn out. I’ve absolutely not a clue who they’re going to push, have win or be the star of the match. This match is so unique and unlike anything WWE have ever done before (as is the event as the whole) it’s very difficult to predict it at all. All I can predict with any assurance for this match is that it will be eventful, that is for certain!

Prediction: WHO THE FUCK KNOWS?! (But if I had to pick a name I’d like for Daniel Bryan. Would be poetic after he SHOULD have won the Royal Rumble in 2014 and/or in 2015).

Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (C) with Paul Heyman v Roman Reigns – Steel Cage Match

So the result of this match will pretty much depend on Brock Lesnar’s contract and just how long his mega-money new deal will last for. Reports have varied from it being 2 years to just 2 matches that would likely take Lesnar up to Summerslam. Some have even speculated that Brock may be being kept on and as champion in order to break the previous title reign record held by CM Punk, who the WWE aren’t too high on these days. WE just don’t know. One thing we do know though is that Roman Reigns is STILL the guy, and even after his traumatic loss in the main event of Wrestlemania it looks increasingly likely that his long-anticipated coronation is still only a matter of time away. Roman surely has to win the title.The addition of a Steel Cage to the equation will only heighten the expected brutality that has become custom to a Brock Lesnar match. If Brock retains… then I really will be at a loss with WWE’s direction for their premier title and their chosen one.

Prediction: Roman Reigns

WWE Championship: AJ Styles (C) v Shinsuke Nakamura

The Wrestlemania match between these two was billed as a dream match. The build up was sub-standard, the match underwhelmed. The re-match here has turned into a grudge match. The build-up with the now heel Nakamura has been great, so this match? Could it be great? Very possibly. Certainly now both men have a real purpose going into this one, rather than just wanting to have a great match and win the championship. I’ve absolutely loved Nakamura’s character since his much publicized heel turn, he’s got a real edge to him now and his constant low blows to the uber-popular Styles will only add to his heat. I expect this, if given the chance, to be even better than there mania match. In terms of result, as is the case with the other world championship match in this card, who on earth knows… but as I don’t see both world titles changing on the same show here I’ll go for AJ to retain… but would not be surprised to see Nakamura claim the title in the not so distant future.

Prediction: AJ Styles

John Cena v Triple H

Considering this is a match-up between two of the all time greats, two of the biggest names in the company and two men who have an huge amount of history with one another, there has been absolutely ZERO build up to this showcase match. Obviously given the recent goings-on in Cena’s personal life and the fact Triple H has already been busy in Saudi Arabia promoting the event it’s easy to see why they wouldn’t have time to, and with both being part timers and not featuring on TV since Wrestlemania (when both featured prominently but ultimately lost their respective matches) there’s little context or story that can be applied to it either. It’s simply presumed that a match between John Cena and Triple H can speak for itself to both the local crowd and the worldwide audience, which in all honesty it does.

Prediction: Triple H (just… because…)

The Undertaker v Rusev – Casket Match

Now if Triple H vs John Cena has had zero in the way of a build up, this match has been the total opposite. This has arguably been one of the most talked about matches on the entire card, despite not being spoken about on regular WWE TV in storyline one bit. When first announced this match seemed an odd one indeed, but things got even weirder when after a shoot-looking interview with TMZ and some questionable twitter activity Rusev was replaced in the match with Chris Jericho. And then just as quickly (as all sorts of rumours were abound about Rusev’s future) after a tweet negating on her previous call for her husband to be removed from the Casket match by Lana, the match between Taker and the Bulgarian Brute was then back ON (still keeping up with all this?). So as of writing this is happening, why it is and why it was on then off then on again within a few days is still unclear. But just a few weeks after his last match The Undertaker is in action again and I’m not sure he has had 2 matches this close together for a number of years (not since 2015 has he wrestled 2 matches within a month), and despite more rumours speculating that he may compete more often than in recent years between now and next year’s Wrestlemania I still expect this match to be short, and one sided.

Prediction: The Undertaker

United States Championship: Jeff Hardy (C) v Jinder Mahal with Sunil Singh

Similar to the situation post superstar shake up with the Intercontinental title, the holder and home of the US Championship going forward remains unclear. So who will win this match (and also who wins the title match at Backlash) will surely parallel who is victorious in the IC title matches. So as it stands the champion here is Jeff Hardy of Smackdown, who is facing Jinder Mahal of Raw here, with the champion scheduled to face another former champion Randy Orton (of Smackdown) at Backlash. I like the idea of Jeff Hardy as US Champion, but I see much more value in a Miz v Daniel Bryan feud for the IC belt on the blue brand. BUT given who I have winning the other mid-card belt match, I’ll have Hardy to go over here and retain his title… for the time-being…

Prediction: Jeff Hardy to retain… for now…

Intercontinental Championship: Seth Rollins (C) v The Miz v Finn Balor v Samoa Joe – Ladder Match

This is a ladder match. This is involving 4 of the best competitors in WWE. This is going to be fabulous. I doubt they will end the title reign of such a big star like Rollins so soon, however their is the caveat with this and the US title match that they could still switch the 2 mid-card belts to opposing shows. Miz and Samoa Joe are now both on Smackdown so would take the IC title with them to the blue brand should they climb the ladder and retrieve it in this match. It’s also already been announced that Rollins will defend his title against former champion Miz at the upcoming Backlash ppv. But obviously this is wrestling, and nothing is set in stone so that could all change. I predict the match will be great, that I’m certain of. Even with Miz’s ongoing pursuit to become the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time I feel he is destined for a chase of a much bigger prize down the line, and I also feel like as much as it would make sense for Jinder Mahal to be the evil foreigner with America’s Championship and for The Miz to carry on his IC champion glory-train and into his feud with former IC champion Daniel Bryan (who was once forced to vacate the Intercontinental Championship due to injury, so he never actually lost it nor had had a chance to reclaim it) I still think… actually… that all makes way too much sense right? Right? Miz has to take the title to Smackdown, question is does he do it here or at Backlash???

Prediction: Seth Rollins to retain… for now…

Raw Tag Team Championship: WOKEN Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt v ‘The Bar’ (Sheamus & Cesaro)

If the 2 mid-card belts are in doubt result-wise due to who will or wont take what belt to which show, this match is surely in no doubt about who will win. Sheamus & Cesaro, now of SMACKDOWN, are surely not going to take the RAW tag titles to the blue brand right? I’m a huge fan of WOKEN Matt and his alliance with his former foe Bray Wyatt, so will be delighted if/when the two of them claim the gold. Don’t be surprised if we see an AOP run in afterwards to set up the new champions’ first title defense.

Prediction: WOKEN Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: ‘Bludgeon Brothers’ (Harper & Rowan) (C) v ‘The Usos’ (Jimmy Uso & Jey Uso)

Despite Jimmy Uso’s win over Rowan on Smackdown to counter Harper’s win over Jey last week, I still am in no doubt about this one. Who knows, maybe Naomi will come out and her neon and flashing lights will distract Rowan again and Naomi can take in the crowd adulation and celebrate with her team in the ring…………….. OH……… OH WAIT……. MAYBE NOT THEN……..

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers

Cruserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander (C) v Kalisto

This as a match will be fine. Sure. Both are good wrestlers. Sure. Is there any story at all with this match (given Kalisto only won the right to be in this match on Tuesday)? None. You can get away with no story for Cena vs Triple H or Taker vs Rusev, as those guys are stars already. This match-up not so much. I’m certain that Murphy (after he failed his 205 weigh in last week) will run in and set up a title match at Backlash and that’ll be the main story here, but hey I suppose you have to get the Cruserweight title on the card, and as I’ve said the match will be fine, but I’d be surprised if this got many headlines after the event has concluded.

Prediction: Cedric Alexander

So there is a hugely stacked card for what promises to be, above all else, a LONG and eventful event. Wrestlemania was equally both of those so lets see what this one brings. It promises to be another amazing event, entertaining in many different ways and infuriating in others. and MAYBE… MAYBE… the coronation at long last of the “face of the company”??? …

Josh..

16/4/2018 – What’s on my mind: I’M BACK!!!

Well I’m back!!! And… not much has happened in the world of WWE since I released my previews for Takeover and Mania… it’s been very quiet in fact……

So since I last wrote anything on here we had NXT Takeover: New Orleans, which was… the best WWE show there has EVER been!!! It was a brilliant line up to begin with and the card was sandwiched with 2 of the best WWE matches there has ever been; the show opener was the 6 man ladder match for the new NXT North American Championship that saw EC3 vs Killian Dain vs Adam Cole vs Velveteen Dream vs Lars Sullivan vs Ricochet. It was simply incredible. All 6 men made entrances of stars, and they came out of it as MEGAstars. It would be hard to pick an MVP but I must give special praise to the performances of ‘The One and Only’ Ricochet and of course the eventual winner Adam Cole… BAY BAY!

Shayna Baszler is your new NXT Women’s Champion after dethroning Ember Moon in a great match. There was NXT Tag Team Championship/Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winner takes all match that saw AOP vs Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne vs Kyle O’Reilly and the double duty-ing Adam Cole. The match ended in dramatic fashion with Roderick Strong turning heel and handing the win to Cole and O’Reilly as he joined the Undisputed Era. Aleister Black is the new NXT Champion after he beat Andrade Almas, despite the best efforts of Zelina Vega in what was a terrific contest. And in the match that surprisingly at the time but not in hindsight main evented the show (because how on EARTH do you follow this) Tomasso Ciampa faced Johnny Gargano in their Unsanctioned Match… Wow… expectations were high… but many are already calling it the best match in WWE history!!! So yes, Takeover: New Orleans was AMAZING!!!

AND THEN we had Wrestlemania 34.. and what a show it was! Brilliant, weird, bizarre, brutal… the adjectives you could associate with this LONGGGGGGGGG show are about as endless as the show seemed to be. But despite its time span it was possibly the most eventful event WWE has ever put on. I’ll do my best to summarize it:

– WOKEN Matt Hardy won the Andre Battle Royal. With a little help from Bray Wyatt as the 2 embraced after and so began what COULD be a WONDERFUL alliance. The match was a clusterfuck as it was always going to be (30 guys in a ring at once and all) but the finish and the spot this story was given I personally loved. The crowd going mad for it too made it all the more DELIGHTFUL!

– Cedric Alexander beat Mustafa Ali to win the vacant Cruserweight title. Decent match but they’ve done much better work on 205 Live before.

– Naomi won the Women’s Battle royal in another underwhelming clusterfuck.

And then FINALLY the main show began:

– Seth Rollins (cool blue contacts and all) became a grand slam champion as he won the Intercontinental Championship from The Miz, also bettering Finn Balor in what was a super fun Mania show opener.

– in an unsurprisingly brilliant match Charlotte BEAT Asuka to retain her Smackdown Women’s Championship. Shocking, 10 minutes too short maybe but in hindsight, in my opinion (although I was gutted at the time) the right call. Even with Charlotte losing her title 2 days later, this win at Mania only further cements her legacy. Special mention also for her incredible, spell-binding entrance. Charlotte Flair IS Women’s Wrestling.

– it was at this point in the show that John Cena (who indeed stuck to his word and watched Wrestlemania as a fan, and was shown to high hilarity throughout the show sat ringside watching on) was told by a referee something that made him immediately jump from his seat, over the barricade and then sprint to the backstage area. It was never stated what the ref actually told him but it was presumed, certainly from the huge reaction of the crowd, that Cena was being told that THE UNDERTAKER WAS HERE!!!

– next match was the 4 way for the US title; Bobby Roode vs Rusev vs Jinder Mahal vs Randy Orton. Jinder won. Meh…

– following that was the best match of the entire show… no not Aj vs Nakamura but Triple H & Stephanie McMahon vs Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey… WOW OH WOW OH WOW!!! The very definition of exceeding expectations. The match was brilliant; it had every conceivable spot you could’ve dreamed of and then some. And above all else, Ronda Rousey was SENSATIONAL! Without question the best debut of anyone in Wrestling history. With all the pressure and spotlight that was on her I was so pleased. This was fantastic start to finish. Ronda tapped out Stephanie for the finish. Great great GREAT!

– Following that was always going to be tough, so spare a thought for the Smackdown Tag title 3 way of The Usos v The New Day vs The Bludgeon Brothers. Harper and Rowan’s ever-dominant triumph was sadly still in the shadow of the amazing bout before it.

– THEN… we had John Cena come out for a match. He was then told the match wasn’t on … and then the lights went out and… THE…. no, ELIAS came out. He sang a song, wound up Cena, Cena beat him up, and then Cena’s music played as he looked heartbroken at the prospect of his dream match not being on after all. It looked as if our dreams were over… and then… lights out, Taker’s hat and gloves appeared in the ring, a lightning bolt struck them, lights out… UNDERTAKER!!! 3 minutes, an indescribable entrance, 1 Chokeslam and 1 Tombstone Piledriver later and The Undertaker SQUASHED John Cena… and it was PERFECT.

– It was at this point the crowd seemed to die a little, and what had to this point potential to be one of the all time great Manias began to dip slightly…

– next match though saw Daniel Bryan make his long awaited in-ring return. As he and Shane McMahon beat Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Match was ok, Dbryan was as good as we all remembered, Yes yes yes!

– Nia Jax won the Raw Women’s Championship from former friend Alexa Bliss. Only real result really given this awfully bad tasting storyline. Finish was a tremendous Samoan Drop from the middle rope.

– AJ Styles RETAINED the WWE Championship against Shinsuke Nakamura (whose entrance was spectacular; Alice Cooper’s guitarist and a handful of Violinists and drummers featured). This was an underwhelming (given its incredibly high expectations) but still ok match. The headlines after though were all about Nakamura’s low blow and attack on Styles after the match and his apparent show of respect gone sour. A heel turn for Nakamura was certainly not something I predicted but I’m excited at the prospect of it going forward.

– Then Braun Strowman and a 10 year old boy called Nicholas won the Raw Tag Team Championship from The Bar. As you do… (they gave them up the next night due to Nicholas’ busy schedule… in the 4th grade…).

– and finally after what felt like 3000 hours of an event, it was time for the main event. Brock Lesnar with Paul Heyman defending the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns. Where to start with this one… one thing that was clear is the crowd in New Orleans had decided to absolutely shit all over this match from the beginning. There were a variety of derogatory chants, multiple beach ball appearances in the crowd… yeah this could’ve been a 5 star classic but nobody in the arena would even give it the slightest bit of chance to entertain them at all.

An absolutely brutal match saw Brock hit Roman with a plethora of German Suplexes, FIVE F5’S (including one to the announce table) to which Roman kicked out of each time. Brock then hit Roman with hard elbows to the head ala Randy Orton at Summerslam 2016. And just like Orton did so before, Reigns bled FOR REAL absolutely EVERYWHERE! It was like something from a horror film as Roman’s crimson face then showed his true fury as he went on to hit Lesnar with multiple spears! Lesnar would though then pick Reigns up for a SIXTH F5 and BROCK LESNAR WON! With seemingly everyone convinced otherwise the unthinkable had happened!

A variety of details about Lesnar’s contract and the change to the match finish have since emerged. Far too many for me to explain. but yeah it was… weird. Lets see how it goes down at the Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia at the end of the month when Lesnar faces Reigns for the title in a steel cage.

This was absolutely bizarre booking to me at the time and it still is now. I’m fascinated to see how it goes for Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar going forward. For once I have absolutely no theory or no idea that I’m willing to get behind enough to believe and that I could use to try and explain why this happened. There’s plenty of possible reasons why maybe but nonetheless it was absolutely astonishing to watch.

And my main emotion upon watching it back was a personal sadness and sympathy for Roman Reigns as a man irl. Imagine turning up at the arena the day of Mania, having for months and months heard every man and his dog claim that you’re the man and this will be your moment… only to be told the plans have changed and this is what’s happening… gutted for him personally. The characters, the storyline not so much but don’t forget that none of this is Roman’s fault. The blame lies solely with the bookers.

So to follow an… eventful… Wrestlemania 34 we had a pretty great Raw. Call ups for Ember Moon, AOP and No Way Jose, returns from injury of Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe, and a huge return to WWE for BOBBY LASHLEY! Smackdown gave us Peyton Royce and Billie Kay making their way to Smackdown Live from NXT and making an immediate impact…

The IIconics attacked Charlotte Flair and left the Smackdown Women’s Champion laying and prone for a Money in the Bank cash in from Carmella and FINALLY Carmella is the new Smackdown Women’s Champion. After her official retirement just 24 hours prior PAIGE was announced as the new General Manager of Smackdown Live after Daniel Bryan had resigned from the role in order to become a full time active roster member once again. Paige’s first act as GM was to make the main event for the evening as Daniel Bryan vs AJ STYLES!!! This dream match was cut short though by an ambush from Shinsuke Nakamura on both men.

A recap episode of NXT featured a win for Kairi Sane and the arrival of the War Raiders tag team (fka War Machine). I feel both will be making a big impression on the NXT Championship scene in the upcoming months.

This Monday and Tuesday we have the annual superstar shake up that will see stars of Raw and Smackdown swapping shows, which is always good fun. Plus we are a few weeks away from the Greatest Royal Rumble event from Saudi Arabia which is looking like it should be one hell of a show! So even though Wrestlemania is behind us now the goings on and drama of the WWE looks set to continue to shock and wow us all for the foreseeable future… And I cannot wait!!!

In terms of what I will be producing as content for my blog my time off has given me time to have a rethink about what I write. So instead of doing individual reviews of Raw, Smackdown and NXT each week I will be releasing a weekly review of all things WWE each Friday. I’ll also be doing previews and reviews of every NXT Takeover and main roster Pay Per view as well as a monthly ‘ranking list’ similar to my previous blog on The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania matches. On top of all that I will also be doing a weekly post called (as is this one) ‘What’s on my Mind’ (Credit to JR on his podcast before for the name idea). This will just be a random blog based on whatever I have… well… on my mind at the time of writing about whatever is going on WWE related at that time.

I’ll also every now and then be putting out some different types of content whenever I have the time or enough interest to do so. So yeah that’s about all up to date. Once again thanks to everyone for your words and retweets and likes on all my blog posts. I hope you like what I write going forward just as much as I’m sure I’ll have fun writing it.

Josh.

Wrestlemania 34 Preview & Predictions

So it is almost upon us. With arguably the most STACKED card in wrestling history, Wrestlemania 34 in New Orleans looks like it could be an absolutely incredible show. So many different stories in all of the matches, matches we seem to have built to over, some matches we don’t know who is going to be in them yet, and the amazing fact that the (potential) biggest match of them all isn’t officially happening as of this moment!!!

Now predicting sport and things that aren’t pre-determined is difficult, but trying to predict the results before a big WWE show where the fate of an entire storyline and it’s blow-off could be absolutely changed beyond belief if desired, all on the say so of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon, is very hard indeed. But i’ll give it a go here. Also featuring in this blog will be my good friend and one of the people I shall be taking in the festivities in with; Dan (aka the only person I could find willing to help me out) who will also be offering his thoughts and predictions going in to each match. Enjoy OUR preview and predictions write up and enjoy Wrestlemania, I know we will!

Cruserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander vs Mustafa Ali

This will be an awesome wrestling match, that I’m in no doubt of. You only need to watch 1 previous match of either of these 2 guys to know that, but for sure this will be the match of the whole card that the least amount of the watching audience in the arena and at home will know anything about. And that’s the problem with 205 Live. For those of you who don’t watch the Cruiserweight specific show, it’s been A LOT better since that twat Enzo was dismissed. That has coincided with Triple H apparently taking over the running of the show, and since then it has been less about over-the-top characters and more about the amazing talent that these guys possess. They’ve picked the best 2 guys on the main 205 Live roster in my opinion for this showcase match, so I hope for the sake of the 205 Live show and the entire Cruiserweight division I hope these 2 absolutely kill it! Being on the pre-show isn’t ideal, yes it’ll get the crowd warmed up well but if you look at last year’s Cruiserweight Title match between Austin Aries and Neville, the match was great but the stadium was less than half empty to the lack of atmosphere took the life out of that one and limited any potential it had to be great. So let’s all hope it’s a classic, my prediction for who will win is Cedric. He was supposed to dethrone Enzo at the Royal Rumble but even if Ali wins I won’t be too upset.

Prediction: Cedric Alexander.

Dan: Don’t really know anything about this as I don’t really follow the cruiserweight stuff so pure and simple guess, Cedric Alexander.

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

Hey, everyone gets a Wrestlemania spot! Who on earth knows who will win this, they’ve shown with ZERO of the four previous winners of this match that it matters at all, but Battle Royals are always good fun to watch. I know they’ve announced a load of mid-carders for this one but I hope they use it as a chance to showcase and give a Mania moment to an upcoming NXT star. They did so with Baron Corbin a few years back and I hope they follow suit here; Killian Dain, Lars Sullivan… someone like that ideally. But they’ll probably give it to someone who they will push… for about 3 weeks… like they always do… I hope I’m wrong but I’m sceptical. Who wins? God knows…

Prediction: Lars Sullivan (PLEASE).

Dan: Can’t really pick for the guys one tbh. I’m trying to see noobs or upper carders who could take it but I’m struggling so I’ll just say dolph because I’m here to show the world 😂

The Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal

Although in similar sense to the men’s in that this is just for everyone who can’t get on the Mania card elsewhere, I feel the women’s Battle Royal in terms of strength in depth could be a lot better. Particularly as it has been eluded to that for sure there will be NXT competitors in this match. I hope one of the actually wins it but more likely it’ll go to a bigger name such as Becky Lynch or Sasha Banks or Bayley in conjunction with Banks and Bayley and their personal storyline. I’m still not over the fact Bayley vs Sasha isn’t a singles match on the card but can’t complain at this Mania card.

Prediction: Ember Moon (hopefully).

Dan: women’s maybe Mandy or Sonya to cement them a bit more? I think Carmella goes out early, has a hissy fit then cashes in after asuka/Charlotte and becomes champion?

AND NOW THE WRESTLEMANIA MAIN CARD!!!

Raw Tag Team Championship: ‘The Bar’ ( C ) V Braun Strowman & a mystery partner

So the fate of this match really does all rest on who Braun’s partner is. Elias? Big Show? Bray Wyatt? Who on earth knows… but they’re keeping it a secret until the show which I absolutely love, it makes a-near-certainty that whoever comes out will get a decent pop. As for the match I trust it to be good, I think it’ll be fairly short but we shall see. This story for me HAS to end with Braun and his partner winning or at least setting up a story, I think Braun should be in the Universal Championship match personally but it’s something at least.

Prediction: Braun and his partner win the titles.

Dan: I think Braun will win and have the titles to himself. But I’m intrigued to see who any partner would be, could be some odd couple type deal though. Although the whatculture madness idea of Alexa as his partner is mad enough to be possible, or perhaps Elias, I don’t think they know what do do with Braun and Elias now so they could be teamed up. So Braun to win this.

United States Championship: Randy Orton ( C ) V Bobby Roode V Jinder Mahal with Sunil Singh V Rusev with Aiden English

IT’S RUSEV DAY, AND IT’S RUSEVMANIA BECAUSE WRESTLEMANIA IS ON RUSEV DAY!!!

This was the match I was looking at as my potential ‘bathroom break’ as despite the fact I like all 3 guys in this one beforehand, the feud and build to it had been so dull it’s absurd. And then… it ALL changed when RUSEV was entered into it!!! AND NOW I CARE… BECAUSE IT’S RUSEV DAY!!! Previously I had Jinder as an absolute lock to win this one, but fuck Jinder because IT’S RUSEV DAY!!!

Prediction: RUSEV. BECAUSE IT’S RUSEV DAY, AND IT’S RUSEVMANIA!!!

Dan: I really think rusev needs pushing again but then roode getting it back would be great! And orton can do whatever and be good and I’m sure jinder will too maybe another feud with orton? I’ll say roode wins and then maybe that leads to a feud with rusev or something down the line. Roode to win.

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss ( C ) V Nia Jax

The match itself I’m absolutely fine with. The story that has led us here? Not so much. I get that it’s a good thing to talk about in 2018 and showing a real-life issue, but ffs really? Could do WWE not think of another way to build to this match than have Alexa Bliss simply repeatedly imply that her former best friend Nia Jax is FAT!??! Like I said I get hey they’ve built to it this way but it strikes me as awfully cheap. If you didn’t know they’re actually best friends in real life so chemistry shouldn’t be an issue. I’m sure therefore the match will be fine, better than the build anyway. Who wins? Really hard to call this one for me as I can see many reasons for both winning, and DO NOT rule out a certain briefcase holder playing a part too…

Prediction: Alexa Bliss retains. Just.

Dan: I think this is a typical case of face beating heel at mania. Nia clearly got moral high ground going in and Alexa with all the heat. )My goddess is gunna lose here I think 😞 😂 ) so I’ll say Nia to win this one.

Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon V Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

Imagine saying a month ago that DANIEL BRYAN will be in a match at Wrestlemania? It really has seemed like a dream, but he’s back and we will finally get the conclusion to this story we had all hoped for. In the same venue where he won the world title at Wrestlemania 4 years ago I just cannot see Bryan coming back and losing, it’d be a disaster for me if WWE went that way. What will happen with Zayn and Owens, with the stipulation of their jobs at Smackdown Live being on the line, I don’t know… I expect they’ll just end up on Raw shortly after Mania but whatever happens they will be fine I’m sure. Their heel work (particularly Sami having been an ultra babyface before) has been superb, and I hope this match is as good as well hope it will be… YES, YES, YES!!!

Prediction: Daniel Bryan gets a submission win.

Dan: Yes! And here comes the money vs Team Canadian besties: I think it’s nicely set up for Bryan’s come back and Shane’s revenge if they win. Then KO and Sami get drafted to raw I think after a short break. DB and Shane to win.

Intercontinental Championship: The Miz ( C ) V Seth Rollins V Finn Balor

Again, this too could be a fantastic contest. Who will win? I really don’t know for sure. The lack of suggestion that we will see Finn come to Mania as ‘The Demon’ leads me to believe he won’t be winning, as for Seth I’d imagine he’s being kept for a feud with a soon to return Dean Ambrose. And whilst that would be a good IC title feud they have been playing on The Miz being days away from being the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion (in terms of combined days) of all time an awful lot recently. So by default I say the new father retains.

Prediction: The Miz

Dan: Another I’m not sure about on the face though, Miz is a great intercontinental champ but I think they’ll go new directions with him after mania. Then both Rollins and Balor could do with the boost but I’ll say Balor because dean will probably be back and do something with Rollins like challenge whoever ends up dominantly as rag champs when dean comes back. So Balor on this one to win.

WWE Championship: AJ Styles ( C ) V Shinsuke Nakamura

WOW, what needs to be said to build anymore to this one? A match for the ages, an all-time Wrestlemania classic. Already monikers like that are being labelled on this dream match, and indeed it should and will be brilliant. I see Nakamura getting his crowning moment here, but a loss for either men doesn’t hurt them if the match is a good or even close to their match in New Japan a couple of years ago.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Dan: Really not sure yet on this one, I feel like they might give makamura the big one but it is wwe so I think they’ll kill some dreams and AJ will win.

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Usos ( C ) V The New Day V Bludgeon Brothers

This match could be the one that surprises people with how good and how much fun to watch it is. All of the participants are, whilst great together as a team, supremely underrated in the ring. The result of the match seems to be the obvious and inevitable coronation of Harper & Rowan, but that isn’t a massively bad thing for me. Whoever wins this I’ll be happy for them.

Prediction: Bludgeon Brothers

Dan: I’d like to say bludgeon brothers with an upset to change up the game but my head says new day as baby face ish and super popular, plus it’ll change things up and they’ve got the credibility to beat the Isis at mania. So New day to win.

Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle V Stephanie McMahon & Triple H

The blockbuster match of the show, designed primarily to bring mainstream eyes on the WWE product. I don’t see this going long, I don’t want it too either to be honest, but seeing Ronda make Stephanie tap to the Armbar will be something that will bring me a lot of joy. And the added involvement of two veterans (and of course this is Angle’s first Wrestlemania match for 12 YEARS) will make it be sound in-ring. Let’s hope Ronda and Stephanie can play fair parts too.

Prediction: Ronda makes Stephanie tap

Dan: Olympians vs authority: Authority love to look good at their annual mania match but obviously Ronda needs a good boost to give her momentum starting in WWE so 3 experiences people with her I think she’s in good company and her and kurt win. Ronda and kurt to win

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair ( C ) V Asuka

If AJ vs Nakamura is being billed as a dream match, then this one is MY dream match! Potential to be one of the best women’s matches of all time sees 2 of the all-time great in-ring female performers square off. My heart will be all over the place during this one for sure, it should be F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S … (don’t forget about that briefcase…)…

Prediction: Asuka

Dan: If anyone will beat the streak it’s Charlotte but I’m not super confident they’re ready to end it. But they can reinvent her character and redeem her if she loses at mania. So it pains me but I think asuka is gunna lose. Charlotte to win this one.

John Cena V The Undertaker… maybe… ???

So we don’t even know if this match is happening… officially anyway… but surely they wouldn’t tease this much for nothing??? So let’s act as if it is happening, somehow… I imagine Taker will come back absolutely livid and beat down Cena. Then I see possibly a year build to rematch and a retirement match NEXT YEAR at Wrestlemania, where Taker will return the favours. Lots of if, buts and maybes there but everything with this one is up in the air at the moment. I cannot wait to see what unfolds… If it happens I see TAKER winning. Purely because I can’t see him showing up after all this time, to then go and lose… surely not???

Prediction: The Undertaker

Dan: Cena vs taker would be a good match and I don’t think they’d get undertaker to lose to cena. I think it’d be a way to see undertaker go out with some grave by showing he still has it and can topple the guy at the top of the company (arguably). I think it gives cena chance to go off and do films and other stuff a while. Then make a come back a bit more loved again. But he’ll obv be be back to big match John status in no time and not go away at all 😂 undertaker to win if it happens.

Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar ( C ) with Paul Heyman V Roman Reigns

We all know whose winning this, right? The build-up I’ve really enjoyed, and at times it has worked to the desired outcome of getting Roman cheered. It seems more and more likely now that Brock is returning to the UFC, and that only increases the inevitability of the finish. In terms of the match itself; they have been building for pretty much a full year the strength of the F5. Nobody kicks out of the F5… until Sunday… and it has been notable tome that during all their encounters, Roman is yet to hit Brock with the Spear… until Sunday…

Prediction: Roman Reigns

Dan: I think roman is going over here, typical heel loses at mania plus it’s about time and don’t think brick would lose anywhere but mania.

Josh… and Dan.

PS. I’m taking a week off from blogging now. I want to enjoy the incredible week that we have of wrestling ahead of us to the fullest. And I don’t want to be sat with a notepad and pen during the events. So I’ll be back in some form of blog refreshed and ready to go and write some more about WWE. And by then who on earth knows what the landscape will look like! I’d like to finish by saying just how much I’v enjoyed writing and analyzing the WWE product in the last few months, I’ve long needed an outlet for me to “spew the bullshit” (as a certain Texas Rattlesnake has been known to say on his podcast from time to time) about pro-wrestling and this has been a much needed hobby of mine. To everyone who has commented and read my blogs, and liked my tweets on Twitter I’d like to thank you all too as it means an awful lot to me. See you in a couple of weeks!

Smackdown Wrestlemania go-home show Review: 3/4/18

So this week, like with my review of Raw, I will be formatting my Smackdown review a little different. It’ll all be about the matches that are taking place from the blue brand a little show this Sunday… with that in mind here’s what happened on the Smackdown go-home show for WRESTLEMANIA!!!

WWE Championship: AJ Styles (C) V Shinsuke Nakamura

What happened on Smackdown? :

They showed separate pre-recorded interviews during the show with both Styles and then Nakamura. In his, AJ accused Nakamura of being emotional as to why he’s playing mind games, but that his emotions are not his weakness but his strength. AJ went on to say Shinsuke was taking him too lightly and they’re ‘a long way from the Tokyo Dome’ (arching back to their previous match in New Japan, which I reviewed in a blog earlier this week if you’re interested).

In Nakamura’s interview later in the show, he admitted to trying to play mind games. He said he came to America for Wrestlemania, and said “I do not take AJ Styles lightly, I know AJ Styles very well… and I know AJ Styles is very emotional. So emotional, he will make a mistake. When he does, I become WWE Champion with a knee to face”.

The main event of the show was AJ & Nakamura teaming up to face Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable. Match was great, but the story here was obviously the dynamic between the two Wrestlemania opponents. At one point Styles offered to be tagged in by Shinsuke and although he obliged he did so simply by patting him on the head. This made AJ get in Nakamura’s face as the crowd lost their mind, but any potential brawl was halted as Gable and Benjamin attacked them. The match was really good, 4 supremely talented guys going all out. The finish came when AJ stared Nakamura down before hitting Chad Gable with the Phenomenal Forearm to give them the win. Great match.

Afterwards AJ got hold of the WWE title and walked up the ramp. As this happened Shelton Benjamin attacked Nakamura from behind, but with AJ watching on Nakamura was though able to fight him off. As this was happening AJ went for a Phenomenal Forearm, but he stopped just before he hit Shinsuke (just as Shinsuke did to AJ last week when he stopped just before hitting him with the Kinshasa). Nakamura then looked up and just grinned, but as Styles patted him on the head he quickly looked annoyed as AJ help up the title belt as Smackdown closed.

CAN WE JUST HAVE THIS MATCH ALREADY?!?! I CANNOT WAIT ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair (C) V Asuka

What happened on Smackdown? :

After having to miss last week due to dental surgery, Charlotte returned to TV this week to have her scheduled match with Natalya. Match wasn’t all too long, and as Charlotte was dominating Natalya came back by getting her knees up when Charlotte tried a twisting moonsault. They then knocked each other down and then… CARMELLA came out with her Money in the Bank briefcase and a referee… but before she could try for the 10000th time to cash in, Charlotte kicked the briefcase out of her hands (and this briefcase went FLYING) and then kicked Carmella out the ring too. Natalya then tried to roll the champion up off the distraction, but Charlotte was able to get out of it and lock in the Figure Eight for the victory. Match was fine, and nice to see Charlotte get a win just before Mania. As for Carmella… something tells me this time next week she’ll no longer be Ms MITB…

After the match Asuka made her way to the ring. She grabbed the mic and told Charlotte that “the Queen will bow down to the Empress” … Charlotte then interrupted as Asuka was due to finish talking and asked Asuka if SHE was ready. They had a staredown to end the segment.

I should also point out that later in the evening, in the final of the Mixed Match Challenge, The Miz & ASUKA were victorious over the team of Bobby Roode & CHARLOTTE FLAIR. The finish in that match saw Miz pin Roode, but the tremendous match really helped build towards Asuka vs Charlotte. My heart will be absolutely all over the place during that one for sure!

United States Championship: Randy Orton (C) V Bobby Roode V Jinder Mahal with Sunil Singh V Rusev with Aiden English

What happened on Smackdown? :

Rusev faced Jinder Mahal with both men’s accomplices at ringside. And indeed before the match Sunil Singh sang a song in a mocking-fashion towards English. Aiden would later respond with a song of his own. Orton was shown backstage watching the match, and Bobby Roode was on guest commentary. This match was far from great (I’ll give you a clue, it wasn’t Rusev’s fault) but fortunately Rusev did get the win after kicking away Sunil Singh after he tried to distract him, he then hit the Machka kick on Mahal for win. As Rusev was in the ring after Randy Orton then came out of nowhere (it looked like he really did this time, crowd cheers aside it was a surprise to us watching at home so it looked really good) and gave Rusev an RKO. Aiden English then came in the ring to avenge his friend, he went to the middle rope to try and jump Orton but was pushed down by Bobby Roode. He then suffered an RKO from Orton. Randy then starred down the Glorious one.

GOD I hope Rusev wins this!!! After all, Wrestlemania this year is on the same day as RUSEV DAY… so he has to win surely???

Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The Usos (C) V The New Day V The Bludgeon Brothers

What happened on Smackdown? :

OHHHH BOYYYYYY. Do I have to? Really? OK then… well… the go home build for this WRESTLEMANIA match went like this; New Day were shown goofing around, pulling out different electrical devices from each other’s pants, The Usos came in and said they’d win at Mania… Bludgeon Brothers appeared from behind them, both teams backed off as Harper smashed up a camera with his hammer… and that was the backstage segment done. THAT WAS IT! It absolutely sucked. It’s a shame as this match will be absolutely fantastic I am sure… so let’s forget this bit and just look forward to a great showcase of 3 excellent teams… and the eventual coronation of Harper and Rowan.

Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon V Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

What happened on Smackdown? :

Daniel Bryan came out to open the show. He eventually welcomed out Shane McMahon (whom was selling his health issues), he then put Bryan over saying he was a role model and congratulated him on his return to the ring, he said he had his own health issues but said he was medically cleared, Daniel Bryan then said Shane was right about him letting his friendships get in the way, he apologized, Shane said he didn’t need to, he put his arm on Bryan’s shoulder, he admitted he can be a bit hot-headed, which Bryan laughed at. Shane McMahon then said sorry for being a hot-head ever since Kevin Owens head-butted his father and offered to shake his hand, Daniel Bryan then suggested they hug instead and so they did. Bryan said him and Shane being on the same page was bad for Owens & Zayn etc. etc. … This segment began to lose its way towards the end, particularly when Shane appeared to forget his line in the middle of it!

Later in the show; Kevin and Sami came out through the crowd and stood on the announce table. Owens cut a promo saying both Smackdown and Wrestlemania were STILL ‘The Sami & Kevin Show’ despite them being fired. Zayn then came in and mocked the earlier conversation between Bryan and McMahon, and then he apologized to both BRIE BELLA and BIRDIE for what they were going to do to Bryan (whenever anybody brings in a man’s wife and his family I am INTERESTED, so this was great)! They both mocked the advice Bryan eluded to that Brie had given him, Sami declared it was their dream to “obliterate Bryan” before Owens stated it would be THEIR Wrestlemania moment, Sami Zayn said they deserve it and then tried to start a “we deserve it” chant. This was absolutely brilliant heal work here from both men, they’re absolutely smashing it at the moment.

Both Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan then both came out. Bryan then told the fans to take plenty of pictures of both men as it was the last time we would see ‘those two’ on Smackdown. Shane then got the crowd to start the “hey, hey, hey, goodbye” song, and eventually the referees all came out to usher Owens and Zayn away. But this was a great segment from them, I don’t know what they are going to do after Mania (presuming Bryan gets the win) but I hope that they are pushed to the absolute moon once again because both these two are absolutely brilliant at what they do!

Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

What happened on Smackdown? :

Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Mojo Rawley and Primo Colon beat Tye Dillinger, Zack Ryder, Tyler Breeze & Fandango. There was lots of superstars tossing the others ones over the top rope to really preview Sunday’s Battle Royal. Not that it matters but Baron Corbin got the pin after hitting Fandango with the End of Days. Match was about 5 minutes. Great…

Women’s Wrestlemania Battle Royal

What happened on Smackdown? :

NOTHING. ABSOLUTELY ZERO. NO BECKY, NO LANA, NO RIOTT SQUAD, NO NAOMI. Other than Nattie jobbing to Charlotte and Carmella failing a cash in, the women’s roster on Smackdown got no TV time at all. WHAT THE ACTUAL?!

Can we just have Wrestlemania now PLEASE?! That is all.

Josh.

Raw Wrestlemania go-home show Review: 2/4/18

I had an idea that this week I was going to try and do a review of Raw, Smackdown and NXT as normal but I would cater them very much towards the ‘minor’ set of shows this upcoming weekend. But instead of doing no reviews and just do a Wrestlemania preview I decided against this, in case there were major goings on in the go-home shows. But Raw last night, much similar to last week, seemed to have not much of huge significance going on. The phrase ‘peak to soon’ can be used in many circumstances, and it very much applies here as for the 2nd week in a row Raw seemed to limp towards Wrestlemania. It’ll still be an amazing event with an incredibly stacked card, but let’s be glad it’s this Sunday and we don’t have any more shows to build up to it. So I’ll briefly run through what happened on Raw, but much like what we saw via TV I think we all care about Wrestlemania now. So I’ll write up what happened in relation to the Raw matches set for Mania, the one notable exception that is happening… but isn’t happening and the other more filler-like stuff that was on the final Monday night Raw before Wrestlemania FINALLY happens!

Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar (C) with Paul Heyman V Roman Reigns

What happened on Raw? :

At different points in the show Raw General Manager Kurt Angle expressed his concerns to both Paul Heyman and Roman Reigns about any potential confrontation tonight. Angle stating that he ‘wanted to make sure his Mania main event stayed intact’. This seemed to me as a very subtle indication/confirmation that Lesnar vs Reigns WILL close the show.

To close the show Brock and Heyman made their way to the ring, and after Angle again made his concerns clear to them both before they came out an immediate swarm of other superstars gathered on the entrance rampway as a human-shield, in order to stop any potential physical confrontation with his challenger for Wrestlemania. Heyman cut a really fun promo; began by saying that the human-shield was “over compensatory behaviour” and that Angle doesn’t have control as that was with the man who holds the Universal Championship, Brock Lesnar. He went on to quote Angle “it’s true, it’s true… I swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God… the truth is before the last Wrestlemania that took place in New Orleans, I stood in this ring and vowed that Lesnar would conquer Undertaker’s undefeated streak… it wasn’t a prediction, it was a spoiler, which meant it was the truth. And then Lesnar defeated the Undertaker, and no one laughed at us then.” He’s right to be fair, it was after that were both Lesnar and Heyman as his advocate reached extraordinary levels of being over, and seeming legitimate.

Heyman went on to say that everyone acts like its fate for Reigns to dethrone Lesnar and you can’t help but be impressed by Roman, he said you have to respect Reigns, but that the truth is this Sunday “Lesnar will F5 Reigns and pin him in the centre of the ring 1,2,3… that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler. It’s the truth”. And then we got another subtle but HUGE confirmation which I picked up on, this is pro wrestling of all so what people say should always be taken with a pinch of salt, but Heyman went on to say that “an unfortunate truth in life is that there are accidents in life, and should Lesnar lose on Sunday, this will be the last time you will see me and Lesnar on Raw!” So there it is then; it seems that Brock Lesnar AND Paul Heyman WILL leave WWE should/when Brock loses at Wrestlemania. He went on to say that whilst he will say his goodbyes on social media, Brock Lesnar will be saying hello to everyone from UFC (again this is wrestling, so don’t take this as 100% truth). Heyman was on a roll at this point, and really went in to shoot-work mode at this point; he wanted to dispel something that was out of character for Lesnar by saying that the image that he’s built around Lesnar (that he looks around the locker room and thinks “none of you can shine my boots”, the mystique that Lesnar looks at the fans and thinks he’s worthy of contempt and disdain and disgust and that he chooses who he fights only on his own merit and on his terms)… he said that image is 100% true! He finished by saying that there is not one member of the locker room that can “hold his jock” let alone take his title. Then he REALLY went in on Roman personally: ‘Reigns’ only choice is to accept defeat on Sunday night, because it’s easy to make choices when you have no options… Roman’s choices is like his ass, they’re both owned by Lesnar! … if Reigns thinks he’s going to have a victory party, he’s going to go up to his wife, his kids, his father and his uncles and say he got conquered by Lesnar… he ain’t no ‘Big Dog’, this ain’t no yard and he’s going to be another notch on Lesnar’s title belt… the truth is Reigns is Lesnar’s bitch!’.

And that brutal series of putdowns was enough to make the challenger for the Universal title at Wrestlemania make his appearance. The shield of mid-carders were able to hold him off as Brock mocked Roman from the ring, and then Reigns got a mic and said to those that were blocking him “all you full-time guys are going to protect that part-time bastard. Think about it, boys.” The jobbers talked amongst themselves before letting Roman pass. So they’re still going with the idea that Roman is the man of the people and the rest of the ‘boys’, and that Lesnar is the evil part timer that is holding the world title hostage. He then came to the ring and stared at Brock, Lesnar told him to ‘think about it real hard’ as the crowd began to chant “Let’s go Roman” (so maybe it is working then). Once Roman did get in the ring, a staredown ended when Lesnar but his belt on the floor, they then circled the ring before Brock rolled to the outside as Reigns then picked up the Universal belt, Lesnar picked up a chair as Roman put the title down once Brock got back in the ring, they circled the ring again before Roman hit Lesnar with a Superman Punch, and then another, then another and another. Brock was though still able to get up with the chair still in hand but Roman quickly put him down with another Superman Punch as he then once again grabbed the Universal title and held it up whilst looking towards the Wrestlemania sign. But he was not to end the pre-Mania Raw on top as Brock quickly got up and hit him with an F5. So they’re saving the Spear and the kick out of the F5 until the match itself then. I like that. It seems inevitable at this point but I legitimately think the match will be good. If it’s closing the show, considering how amazing the show is looking it’ll be, it NEEDS to be good.

Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle V Stephanie McMahon & Triple H

What happened on Raw? :

They had the world title segment close the show (rightfully so) and the confrontation for this match opened it. It happened in the form of what looked-like it was set up to be as civilised as possible (obviously, this is wrestling, so it won’t be) with 2 tables set up for the teams to sit at as Jonathan Coachman stood at a podium in between to officiate matters. And after both teams came out The Coach said that the WWE Universe has submitted questions for everyone, but as he went to ask the first question he was interrupted by Triple H. He told Angle that it was sad that the roar from the crowd for Ronda Rousey would become a deafening silence after Sunday, and it was his fault. He said Angle had intensity, integrity and intelligence when he first came to WWE, and while he understood Angle had intensity and integrity, he couldn’t believe that people thought the Raw GM still had intelligence. As he implied that Angle was setting Ronda up for failure by making this match, and before Kurt could reply Ronda Rousey spoke instead. She asked Triple H why would he so two faced to sign her with ulterior motives? Stephanie said Rousey was rough around the edges and she didn’t understand the format yet, but they would polish her up after they rebuild her career after they beat her Sunday. Rousey quickly came back by saying she understood the format and wanted an answer. Stephanie came up with a bs answer that Rousey was a star and that people wanted to see her in the ring, but that her attitude was appalling but that bringing her to WWE was “best for business” before going on to say that Angle had already cost Ronda and the company millions of dollars and reminding them they both work for her. She went on to ask Ronda ‘who the hell does she think she is?’ which led Angle to reply with She’s Ronda Freaking Rousey” and that she was going to make McMahon tap out. Triple H eventually said that although Ronda dreamed of coming to WWE her whole life, to Stephanie and him the WWE is their whole lives. He finished by saying that ‘in this ring, they know the rules and Rousey has no idea what’s going to happen… it’s a foregone conclusion, Rousey is going to lose’. Stephanie replied to Coach’s question about how important winning this match as by saying that it was important to show the locker room that when there’s an uprising, the Authority will quickly bite the head off the snake, that they will make quick decision, they will shut you down and everyone else in the locker room will learn to respect authority.

Coachman then asked both Angle & Rousey: “How do you feel about teaming with Rousey at Wrestlemania?” to which he said whether it’s a ring, a cage or an octagon Rousey is ‘the baddest woman on the planet, and this Sunday she would prove it by making Stephanie tap out… Yes Kurt, we are well aware… both gave final thoughts with Stephanie telling Ronda that her first match in the WWE would be a loss to her, and the whole world knows how Rousey handles losses (if you followed Ronda’s UFC career you’ll know she doesn’t take defeat well, so I really appreciated this line). An un-deterred Ronda then asked her Mania opponent if she was left or right handed. Stephanie said right, and then Rousey explained she was curious because she still wanted Stephanie to sign her cheques when she rips her arm off. The officiating Jonathan Coachman then tried to organise a picture of the two teams, stating it wouldn’t get out of hand “like the UFC weigh-ins”… and then so OBVIOUSLY it did. After a stare down, a rejected handshake and some more trash talk Stephanie began to leave the ring but was stopped by Ronda, and then Kurt turned away but was hit by Triple H with a microphone. A furious Ronda then grabbed Triple H by the throat as Stephanie then suplexed Rousey through the nearby table. An angry looking Rousey could only watch on as Triple H and Stephanie stood tall.

I really like this. It did what it needed to do. And actually seeing Stephanie perform a move herself on someone was nice to see again. I think the match itself will be better than expected, although I would hope it is short. Maybe 10 minutes or so maximum, would protect all involved and make the match be seen as good or even better than a longer version would be viewed as.

Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss (C) V Nia Jax

What happened on Raw? :

Bliss and her friend Mickie James lost to Asuka & DANA BROOKE in a tag match. Afterwards James and Bliss attacked Asuka as Dana Brooke came to make the save, but instead was hit with a double ddt (because… she’s Dana Brooke FFS… you’ve got ASUKA being helped by DANA BROOKE?!?! DO ME A FAVOUR?!). Nia Jax then made her way out and grabbed Alexa’s hair but once again it was Mickie James who helped Bliss escape. She hit Nia, Nia hit her with the Samoan Drop as Bliss ran away (same thing we have seen for the past 456789 weeks basically). Yep… that was all they got… at least Nia and also Alexa and Mickie cut a promos in interviews with Renee Young during in the show, but it was really nothing new…

Raw Tag Team Championship: Sheamus & Cesaro (C) V Braun Strowman & ?

What happened on Raw? :

The Bar came out. Sheamus said he does not care about who Braun’s tag team partner will be, as as strong as Strowman is, it’s still a tag team match. Cesaro also made the point about how Strowman will need to tag in at some point and that he’ll never wear the tag team championships. Braun came out to a big crowd response, he said he did have a partner and that he was in fact just talking to them in the back. Sheamus asked for him to come out, Braun agreed if he got a match against one of The Bar tonight, Sheamus said he wouldn’t pass up that opportunity. Strowman went to get him… and then… Braun Strowman’s music played and… out came Braun Strowman… wearing a white shirt and Bubba Ray Dudley like-glasses. He said he was Braun Strowman’s brother “Brains” and that he was coming down to ‘knock theirs out of their head’. I usually find Braun’s stuff great, I was not arsed about this at all. Braun beat them both up but much like me watching the live crowd seemed dead after the non-reveal of his mystery partner. Let’s hope after all this it doesn’t disappoint… they had Braun beat up Curt Hawkins backstage too (Curt wearing a ‘Pick Me Braun’ t-shirt). So let’s see…

Intercontinental Championship: The Miz ( C ) with Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel V Seth Rollins V Finn Balor

What happened on Raw? :

The Instagram post from The Miz last week was shown that announced his Wife Maryse giving birth to their daughter. Lovely.

Seth then faced Finn with Miz doing guest commentary. Miz spoke a lot about his experiences in the early days of being a father. He came over quite genuine… but on tv he’s a heel…. So not sure how I felt about this… The match itself was a little over 20 minutes… and it was really, really good. These two went all out an equalled their classic from Summerslam 2 years ago. Not much to say other than it was a great match, Rollins winning with a reversal being turned into a schoolboy cradle which he then released to hit the Curb Stomp for the win. Excellent match, the build has been hit and miss for me but I maintain the match itself will be great I’m sure.

Men’s & Women’s Battle Royal’s…

It was announced earlier on Monday that both battle royals and the match for the vacant Cruiserweight Championship will be on the Wrestlemania pre show. So with WWE showing they don’t really care about these 2 matches, I won’t go on too much about them too. So on Raw we had: Bayley beat Sonya Deville, then brawled with Sasha after before they both were beat up by Absolution, Goldust and Matt Hardy both did promos and had a short match after that Matt won, Elias beat Heath Slater after a short promo … that was about all…

AND FINALLY

We had John Cena come out. He once again called out The Undertaker. He got nothing. So as far as he is concerned he’s going to Mania as a fan.

I don’t mean to spoil anything for Sunday… but I would be absolutely astonished if John Cena isn’t in that ring at some point during the show…. And surprised too if this match doesn’t happen. It’s an interesting way of doing it, but could pave the way for one of the all-time great Mania moments if Taker does indeed make surprise/non-surprise appearance and the match does take place.

And MAYBE… MAYBE… Cena is being absolutely genuine… MAYBE it’s not happening… we see Cena in the crowd or even he comes in to the ring and he does a segment or even has a match against someone else… but SURELY WWE wouldn’t give this as much time as they have for it to turn out to be nothing…

So that was essentially all that took place on Raw. As go home shows go it was kind of weak, but let’s be grateful Mania is around the corner shall we. My Smackdown and NXT previews will be similar structure-wise to this one (building up to the weekend) and I will also have specific previews of both Wrestlemania and NXT Takeover out later in the week too. So stay tuned…

Josh.

Flashback Review: Shinsuke Nakamura v AJ Styles (New Japan Pro Wrestling)

This Sunday at Wrestlemania, on arguably the most stacked card in WWE history, we will have the pleasure of witnessing a match between 2 of the very best professional wrestlers in the entire world. The WWE Champion AJ Styles defending his title against the winner of the 2018 Men’s Royal Rumble Shinsuke Nakamura. This is being billed as a dream match, and some of you may be aware of history between these 2 competitors pre-dating their time in WWE. Shinsuke Nakamura vs AJ Styles has in fact happened once before, and in this blog I’ll be telling you all about it. Hopefully you’ll go and watch the match for yourself, or if not I hope to further your excitement for Wrestlemania.

So… on January 4th 2016 at the New Japan Pro Wrestling event ‘WrestleKingdom 10’ (aka their equivalent of Wrestlemania) in the Tokyo Dome, a 1st time ever one on one match up took place for the prestigious IWGP Intercontinental Championship; the champion Shinsuke Nakamura defending against the then leader of the Bullet Club; AJ Styles. On the morning of WrestleKingdom 10 it was widely reported that AJ, Nakamura and also Doc/Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson all handed in their notices to New Japan, informing them of their intention to sign with the WWE. This may have been a blessing in disguise as it led New Japan to abolish their policy of giving 1 year deals to their top stars. 24 hours later AJ was turned on by his Bullet Club teammates, just weeks later he would enter the Royal Rumble match and Shinsuke would make his WWE debut at NXT Takeover: Dallas that following April. Gallows and Anderson followed soon after, and the rest is history. But this was the match that made the hype for the arrivals of Styles and Shinsuke to the WWE reach near unfathomable levels.

The match begun with an extended ‘feeling out process’ between the two, with very little moves from either man in the early stages. AJ had a long rest hold in, they both exchanged holds, and then both men stood tall as the psychological battle between these 2 warriors was evenly fought early on.

Both then attempted their finishing moves but were each dodged by the other. They then exchanged taunts to one another, it was really an enthralling chess match up to this point. AJ then hit a dropkick, Nakamura got on top soon after though as the contest remained an even fight. That was up until Styles appeared to fall awkwardly on his back, and with concern by the ref and coming from the voice of the commentators Nakamura turned his back to let Styles be seen to… only for AJ to get up and hit The King of Strong Style in the back (AJ was a heel in New Japan so tactics like this were unsurprising).

Styles then locked in an exquisite looking submission on Nakamura, only broken when he was able to find the bottom rope. AJ maintained control with a series of strikes to the title holder, another great exchange between the 2 followed, ending when Shinsuke dropped Styles onto his knee to further target his opponent’s back. Styles received more damage on the outside of the ring when Nakamura launched him into a barricade railing. He then rolled him into the ring as Nakamura demonstrated his unique set of offence with a series of kicks, an inziguiri and then his ‘good vibrations’ move in the corner of the ring to his opponent. He then set up for his Kinshasa finisher (then known as the ‘Bomaye’) but AJ moved out of trouble. He was though unable to move out of the way of a knee strike with AJ trapped in the corner; 1 , 2 , but not the 3 as Styles kicked out.

Styles would then hit a springboard forearm, a vertical suplex into the lower part of the padding on the corner turnbuckle and then, after having a potential Styles Clash countered out of, was able to lock his Cab Crusher submission in, AJ hit some more kicks but then it was Nakamura who responded with a big inziguiri kick to Styles that left both men down with the magnitude and just how much they were putting in to this match that was about to really go to another level.

Nakamura would then take charge after a backstabber. He then went for his Bomaye but AJ moved out the way once again, another delightful exchange of wrestling then led to Styles locking in the Cab-Crusher, but Shinsuke then rolled him over into an Armbar, to which AJ defiantly punched his way out of. It did though demonstrate that Nakamura isn’t just a striker, he can mat-wrestle and grapple too!

He’d maintain his control of the match by putting Styles in a torture rack position that he turned into a spin-out Powerbomb that earned him a 2 count and a nearfall. AJ would show his willing and determination by getting back into it, he attempted to perform the Styles Clash on 3 occasions but each time he was unable to lift Nakamura up. And as such Shinsuke then flipped him over and went to hit him with another knee strike but was unsuccessful. He did though later hit the Bomaye from the top rope no less, and believe me it REALLY connected right on Styles face. The impact of the move in fact left both men down.

Styles was able to recover enough to bring the match to an even level again. They exchanged more strikes, AJ even got a nearfall in on Nakamura, and then followed a really wondeful exchange of fist and leg strikes from both men. Styles hit a Pele Kick but Shinsuke responded with enough offence to get a nearfall of his own.

Shinsuke would then get Styles in a fireman’s carry position but AJ rolled into a nearfall, before then hitting a Bomaye of his own. And with the momentum swinging his way now he made his way to the top rope before hitting a glorious-looking 450 splash that gained a 2 count. At this point the crowd really seemed to get into the match, and in Japanese culture it’s rare for a wrestling audience to be particularly loud during any match.

Nakamura then amazingly rolled AJ into another Armbar, he pulled at his leg then to increase the pain on his opponent too. Nakamura would then transition into a Triangle hold… and then somehow AJ picked his opponent up with 1 arm and hit the Styles Clash! 1 , 2 , but again not the 3! AJ’s frustrations then began to be clear to see and his Styles Clash would be blocked again. As a result Styles chose to take Nakamura to the top rope with him, he then looked like he would attempt a ‘super’ Styles Clash but Shinsuke was able to hit some strikes on AJ meaning he was able to take charge before slamming him down from the top. But this was still not enough to put Styles away.

A desperate yet defiant AJ Styles began to crawl away in search of some sanctuary from a resurgent champion but would succumb to 2 Bomaye knee strikes from Nakamura. And that was FINALLY enough to give him the win and Shinsuke retained his IWGP Intercontinental Championship. But he had to do everything he could to do so and the challenger Styles for sure played an equal part in an absolute classic.

The young lions (the New Japan term for developmental talents) quickly entered the ring to tend to both these exhausted warriors, amongst them was current IWGP United States Champion Jay White by the way… once both men were able to sit up Nakamura offered Styles his fist to bump. And AJ would reciprocate Shinsuke’s sign of mutual respect after what was an incredible contest. A real special moment for the live crowd and a defiant one in New Japan and wrestling history. And as AJ was helped to the back whilst the victorious Nakamura soaked in the celebrations of the crowd, it was clear that both these men had now a new found level of admiration for one another. Nobody could possibly dream of where and how far that would go and the heights it would reach.

And so now we are less than a week until we get the long awaited rematch. On a different continent, in front of 3 times as many live fans in attendance and a surely many times over bigger tv audience. It will be an incredible match, but the back story of both men and their almost unbelievable road to get here just makes it that little bit more special. And just the simple fact this match is happening makes me smile; AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania. Absolutely tremendous.

Josh.

Ps. If you wanted to see just how good the match was, you can see it for yourself @ https://youtu.be/HajGBj3uQiE

Smackdown 27/3/2018 Review: KNEE TO FACE

Smackdown this week would see the fallout unfold of the incredibly emotional announcement of Daniel Bryan being cleared to return to in-ring competition, and what will happen after the subsequent attack the Smackdown General Manager suffered at the hands of Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens. We will also see more build up to the WWE Championship dream match, as well as what will happen with the rest of the Smackdown Live roster on the road to Wrestlemania.

Now a couple of disclaimer’s before we start:

  • Shane McMahon is legitimately in hospital at the moment. Having suffered an acute bout of Diverticulitis as well as a Hernia whilst on holiday with family. As you will see later tonight though this WILL NOT affect any potential Wrestlemania plans
  • Charlotte Flair is also not on the show tonight, and was also replaced in the Mixed Match Challenge semi-final later in the evening. She had minor dental surgery last week and so is being rested. She will also NOT miss Wrestlemania (there was a video package shown during the show promoting her match with Asuka so it’s definitely still on, do not worry).

NOW THEN… on with the show!!!

The show itself began with a video package showing the Bryan/Owens/Zayn stuff from last week, with Corey Graves telling us that we would hear from Daniel Bryan tonight about if he would be able to fight through his injuries, following last week’s attack.

The first match of the show was supposed to be a tag match pitting the United States Champion Randy Orton & former champion Bobby Roode vs the other man in the triple threat at Wrestlemania; Jinder Mahal, and his loyal servant Sunil Singh. However Sunil came out with his arm in a sling and his neck in a brace, with Jinder saying Sunil was hurt by Orton & Roode last week. Mahal would then introduce his new partner… RUSEV! This got a huge pop from the crowd (and a little jump for joy from me watching), although Sunil would still get physical in the match only to be batted away by both Orton and Roode. After an ad break the animosity between Orton and Bobby Roode was clear to see and this allowed Rusev to take advantage by hitting Orton with a kick, Roode eventually hit Mahal with a Spinebuster but the cover was broken up by Rusev, who then was ready to stop Orton interfering but Randy chose not to help his tag team partner/Wrestlemania opponent. He would eventually tag himself in, and whilst Mahal was ready to attack Orton from behind… Bobby Roode made the save! The alliance was halted when Mahal shoved Roode into the US Champion, something Randy thought Bobby had done on purpose, and so Orton gave his tag team partner an RKO, which then allowed Rusev to hit the Machka Kick and Rusev got the pinfall for his team. YES you heard me, RUSEV GOT A PINFALL WIN!!! Decent match to open the show, Rusev’s added involvement made what had been a dying feud that little bit better it needed to be. Shortly after Jinder and Sunil Singh were seen celebrating the win backstage, and they then ran into both Rusev and his operatic-ally Aiden English. Mahal invited them both to his US title celebration party after Wrestlemania, but Rusev responded by saying he was about to find Smackdown GM Daniel Bryan and ask that he turn the United States championship match at Wrestlemania into a fatal-4-way match (which given he had just pinned the champion would make sense to be fair)! Aiden English then sang to us all that it would be “RUSEVMANIA”! Jinder was furious and ordered Singh to take of his neck brace, he was not happy, but I most definitely will be if this 4-way is made official!!!

Backstage in the locker room area, the men’s Royal Rumble 2018 winner Shinsuke Nakamura (saying that still makes me so happy) was with the WWE Champion & Wrestlemania opponent AJ Styles. Nakamura asked Styles ‘are you ok?’ to which AJ said he didn’t know what he was talking about. Shinsuke explained that as Styles chose not to help him last week, when he was getting attacked by Rusev and English, and wondered if this was because he had lost confidence him beating him at Mania. Styles quickly came back saying that his confidence ‘is never an issue’. Shinsuke said he wanted to ensure both men were at their best at Mania asked him to be in his corner tonight for his match against Shelton Benjamin. AJ decided that he would even the odds, as Chad Gable would be in his tag team partner Shelton Benjamin’s corner and as he didn’t want to risk their match at Wrestlemania being in jeopardy by either man being hurt (ironic considering AJ is carrying a legit minor injury) he agreed. Liked this little segment, they’re going with the mutual respect thing and the fact both men are so desperate for this match to happen, which is very believable, and whenever anything comes across as real it’s always going to be good. So I’m fine with this.

Next we had a match between Becky Lynch and Ruby Riott, who had her Riott Squad of Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan at ringside. We were supposed to be getting a rematch form last week tonight with Charlotte taking on Natalya, but with Charlotte out it was Becky who was voted in to replace her in the Mixed Match Challenge later in the evening. So I imagine this one had its time cut and was likely a last minute thing so the fact it was only a few minutes long… I guess it had to be this way. Anyway Becky won an ok match (considering its short timespan) with a cradle pinfall. Morgan and Logan tried to jump Lynch after the match, but were both tossed over the top rope in a preview of the Women’s Battle Royal to come at Wrestlemania.

Next we saw Daniel Bryan looking less-than-pleased backstage (sporting a new t-shirt by the way, a sure fire sign that he is BACK). He would then make his way to the ring to huge ‘YES’ and ’DANIEL BRYAN’ chants from the crowd. He cut an extremely impassioned promo whilst stood on the rampway the whole time, he said he had been waiting for last week to come for so long and was thankful for the response he got from the fans. They chanted “You still got it,” but he got serious and actually cut them off, saying he ‘had a job to do’. He would go on to say how Smackdown was the land of opportunity, and he was going to give Owens and Zayn just one more. Bryan then announced Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs Shane McMahon and himself at Wrestlemania. The crowd cheered. IT’S OFFICIAL, YES, YES YES!!! Bryan went on by saying the attack on Shane by Owens & Zayn a few weeks back left him in the hospital, but that he has reason to believe that he’ll be ready for Mania (happy days). He then revealed the permutations for the match, that if Zayn and Owens lose then they will remained fired, but if they win, they’ll be reinstated. He continued by saying ‘people wonder why I keep giving them opportunities’, he spoke about their history together as friends (they wrestled against eachother in Ring of Honor many times), and whenever he needed a place to stay that they were there for him (again this seemed very real so it was great). He explained that even though it was part of his job to give opportunities he has a lot of other duties, like ‘attending meetings, doing paperwork and wearing blazers’ (to which the crowd booed heavily). Bryan said that he was sick of all of those things and threw down his blazer! He said he wanted to wrestle and Owens and Zayn tried to take that away from him, but he’s back and WILL fight at Wrestlemania. A very fired-up Bryan then said that there are things he is not supposed to say as a GM and role model and an underdog, but that this was the Daniel Bryan who was ‘fighting for his dreams and wouldn’t take no for an answer’, that ‘this was the Daniel Bryan who will fight Owens and Zayn at Wrestlemania and kick their ass!’ The crowd cheered wildly. This was great. I’ve missed the WRESTLER Daniel Bryan because not only is he incredibly talented in the ring but his mic work is top class. You can tell how much he just loves to wrestle. Truly great stuff here from him; YES, YES, YES!

It was then made official that the United States Championship match at Wrestlemania will now be a fatal-4-way match pitting the champion Randy Orton vs Bobby Roode vs Jinder Mahal (with Sunil Singh) VS RUSEV (with Aiden English)! Brilliant stuff. I was so uninterested I this whole programme before but the inclusion of the ultra-popular Bulgarian Brute and his singing companion will make the crowd very much enthralled by this match at Mania, even if it is on the pre-show.

Next out we had The New Day cut a promo; Kofi spoke of their road to Wrestlemania, and how it was littered with garbage thanks to the “large, smelly, disgusting, sweaty, hairy, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad pieces of trash Bludgeon Brothers”. Xavier Woods picked up saying they made the mistake of leaving The New Day the ability to walk and that they ‘would run through them tonight’ and get back on the road to winning the tag team titles. Harper & Rowan then made their way down to the ring for the match, and took control early on by then attacking Kofi Kingston on the outside. We were only a few minutes in before The Usos came out and attacked the Bludgeon Brothers, causing the referee to call for the bell. A brief brawl concluded with The 3 members of The New Day (Big E included) and Jimmy & Jey Uso standing tall on the aisle of the entrance way staring down the monstrous tandem of Harper and Rowan. All out action here, and it was great fun to see. All very talented guys here so any chance they get to shine is a good watch. Hope we get the Mania 3 way now…

Dolph Ziggler beat Fandango (with Tyler Breeze by his side) in about 2 minutes after. It was fine but… well… it was a 2 minute match… all 3 men will be in the Andre Battle Royal at Mania… great…

We then had official confirmation that it will be The Usos vs The New Day vs Bludgeon Brothers for the Smackdown Tag Team Championships at Wrestlemania. Good news. Match will be a lot of fun. I hope The Usos finally get their long-awaited main card Mania match, and that Bludgeon Brothers are crowned champions at the end… that’s what will be the end-result so may as well embrace it.

And then it was time for the main event of the evening. A sort of dream match really between 2 of the most entertaining in-ring performers the WWE has ever had. The not as nimble a she used to be, but nonetheless still accomplished and very much (G)able in between the ropes; Shelton Benjamin versus the… well… I don’t really need to give any introduction to his opponent Shinsuke Nakamura… it’s pretty obvious how good he is. The commentary team did make reference though to the fact that this was the first match between these two in WWE, but not the first ever (they had previously faced one another during their time in New Japan). The match was pretty good, but really got going towards the end: Chad Gable tried to distract Shinsuke but was pulled off the apron by the on-watching Styles, Benjamin then managed to hit a Northern Lights suplex for a nearfall, he tried his Pay Dirt move but Nakamura countered it into an armbar and eventually led to a triangle choke, Shelton was able to power out and hit an inziguiri, and finally Nakamura came back with a flying knee strike form the top rope and followed it up with Kinshasa and the 1,2,3. WWE Champion AJ Styles clapped the win, with Shinsuke then grabbing the mic and calling him in to the ring. He thanked Styles for being at ringside, but said that he didn’t need his help and that he only wanted to show AJ how he would beat him at Wrestlemania. AJ accused Nakamura of playing games, Shinsuke said he wasn’t, Styles said that it was a dream match for the fans but that it was a dream match for him too, because outside of himself, Nakamura was regarded as the best and Styles would prove HE was the best by defeating him. Then after Nakamura left, Benjamin and Gable came back in and attacked Styles. The beatdown continued until Nakamura ran in to make the save, but eventually AJ was left in a position that allowed Nakamura to set up for the Kinshasa. He then ran towards Styles but stopped just before hitting him, and simply shouted “KNEE-TO-FACE” and mockingly patted him on the head. This was a hilarious end to a great segment for me. Now we have but behind us any injury concerns about AJ I am so ready for this match now. I would like it if they have a proper brawl next week, or at least AJ gets physical with Shinsuke, because he’s been wound up by the King of Strong Style for weeks now. And if anyone is going to act as more of the heel in this one it’s definitely AJ. Although, providing it does indeed end with a ‘KNEE TO FACE’ I’ll be happy whatever happens in the match. But yes, great, great, GREAT stuff.

And that was Smackdown. Raw didn’t do this so well for me this week but this show was a great improvement on how to build up to THE ppv. This show really got me pumped for Mania and advanced a few of the stories very well. And now of course it is OFFICIAL; DANIEL BRYAN IS BACK; YES, YES, YES!!!

Key Points to Take Home

  • YES,YES,YES!!!
  • RUSEVMANIA!!!
  • BLUDGEON BROTHERS!!!
  • KNEE-TO-FACE!!!
  • WRESTLEMANIA!!!

Conclusion

I feel this really did its job well as the penultimate show before Mania. All the stories were advanced, the good matches were made more exciting and those that had little interest in them got an added element to get people interested. The Smackdown side of the Mania card, which was previously BY FAR the lesser side of the card, get a massively needed kick up the backside and now, in my opinion anyway, the Smackdown matches for Wrestlemania look fantastic. AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura; WWE Championship, Charlotte vs Asuka; Women’s Championship, Usos v New Day v Bludgeon Brothers; Tag titles, Orton vs Roode vs Jinder vs RUSEV; US title and OF COURSE: DANIEL BRYAN (making his return to in–ring action in the same venue that he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestlemania 4 years ago) teaming with Shane McMahon in a tag team match against Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn. I don’t know about you, but I think that is one hell of a line up! And that’s just the Smackdown side of things. Exciting times ahead, and I cannot wait!

Josh.

Raw 26/3/18 Review: DO SOMETHING!!!

We are just THIRTEEN days away from Wrestlemania, and the build up to the Raw side of the card will only heat up further tonight… maybe literally as we will see John Cena take on Kane. Maybe a certain brother of his will make an appearance… or send a message of some form… or a GONG… lets see shall we? …

Raw began with the Universal Champion Brock Lesnar and his advocate Paul Heyman making their way to the ring. Heyman then showed some footage of last week’s attack by Lesnar on his Wrestlemania challenger Roman Reigns from last week, before revealing that Reigns’ suspension had been lifted. He went on to say that that means everyone is waiting for Roman to now come out, but that would not be the case because he wasn’t here tonight (much to the delight of the crowd… for god sake guys, play along please). Heyman continued on, making reference to Reigns being raised by his father Sika and uncle Afa (WWE Hall of Famers ’The Wild Samoans’) to be a ‘badass, to wrestle and to win’ but that it was a shame they didn’t raise Reigns to be a man, because a man would be in Cleveland tonight (to face Lesnar man-to-man). Heyman would continue to berate Roman before the challenger came towards the ring through the crowd, before being halted by a viscous clothesline by Lesnar. Roman was able to fight back by pushing Brock into the ring post and hitting him across the back 3 times, he then went for a Superman Punch by flying off the steps, only to be caught and hit with a belly-to-belly suplex followed by a huge shot to the head with the steel steps, then hit again back in the ring, then hit across the back with the steel chair he had previously bought into play, and then finally after teasing leaving Reigns in a heap he went back and hit a huge F5 onto the steps, before raising his Universal Championship belt high above his head, with his fallen challenger laying beaten beneath him. And for the second week in a row Brock Lesnar had absolutely destroyed Roman Reigns. The pattern during Lesnar’s title run so fart had been that the challenger would look strong going into the match before Lesnar would hit the F5 for the win, perhaps a reverse with this match? Probably.

Next match was Raw Women’s Championship challenger Nia Jax taking on the new accomplice of the champion (Alexa Bliss was at ringside) Mickie James. Relatively straight forward match with Jax getting the win after James came from the top rope only to be picked off, Gorilla Pressed and then Samoan Dropped. Shortly after the match Bliss made her way into the ring and hit Jax across the back to little effect as Nia looked on bemused and then chased Bliss away from the ring, screaming as she did so and even calling her former friend a “Bitch” (I think they tried to bleep this out, but failed and it was clearly heard… I imagine somebody is in big trouble). Simple stuff here but enough to advance the story a little bit more, I imagine Bliss will have another near miss next week before Nia finally gets her hands on the champion in the match itself at Wrestlemania.

There was then a video package showing Triple H and Stephanie McMahon building up and training for their match with Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey at Mania. The 2 spoke well and seemed very real in the things they said, there was also an interview with Joe DeFranco (a famous strength and conditioning coach) where he said that both Stephanie and Triple H train ‘all year round’ mentioning their ‘midnight workouts’ (check their Instagram’s for the videos), he then put over more how hard they were both training. I didn’t mind this as I genuinely believe it. Stephanie then said Rousey looked ‘vulnerable’ last week, footage was shown of Triple H beating Angle a number of times during their original WWE run (99-05), and then Stephanie finished off by saying Rousey doesn’t scare her because she’s ‘a McMahon’ which means she will ‘work for her’ and that she would humble Rousey just the way they’ve ‘humbled every superstar in the WWE’. God I hope this match is at least OK because I feel people are waiting for it to be bad before they castrate it. I don’t think it’ll be bad but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it’s very good.

Next up was something I really wish I had more to talk about, but the match was less than 5 minutes long so I didn’t really take many notes. The match saw the return of the cruiserweight division of 205 Live to Raw; and with 205 Live General Manger Drake Maverick on commentary to try and further promote the division we were greeted to a tag team match pitting the two men who will contest the Cruiserweight Championship match at Wrestlemania, Cedric Alexander & Mustafa Ali, against Drew Gulak & TJP. It was a fun enough match with plenty of typical Cruiserweight spots, but the match was sub 5 minutes so that says it all really. You are never going to get this division over if you just showcase them for FIVE MINUTES on a Raw every now and then. Finish saw Ali make a blind tag on Cedric after he had hit his finisher, before Ali hit his 054 (reverse 450) splash for the pin. Ali and Alexander showing some tension between them both afterwards as Cedric was unable to get the pinfall. I hope these two are on the main card at Mania, and I hope they absolutely smash their match out the park, god knows for the sake of 205 Live they need to. I think they will, but I’m nervous for them.

Next was yet another Mix TV segment. The crowd offering Miz “welcome home” chants (Cleveland is where he is originally from), but he was able to stick to his heel persona by reminding them all that “I live in L.A.”. The Miz then went on to bemoan his Miztourage colleagues Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel by telling them that he had been left laying for the past two weeks because they let him down. Dallas responded saying they are doing the best they can before Miz suggested that maybe he should “BO-LIEVE himself back to catering because Dallas would be nothing without him” (I really found this line amusing). Seth Rollins then made his way out, and applauded the Miztourage for hashing out their problems, before asking Miz when the last time he thanked Dallas and Axel? He went on to say if it wasn’t for the Miztourage then Miz wouldn’t be Intercontinental champion. Miz came back by saying they know he is grateful for them, and that they should be thankful for him because he elevated their careers, and that even without them he would still be a huge star. This prompted Bo Dallas to again comment by saying Miz would be “a phony A-lister who can’t fight”. This got a big shocked reaction from the crowd, and was probably the loudest pop Bo Dallas has got for some time. A shocked Miz then demanded Dallas repeat that, but was unable to before Finn Balor made his entrance. Balor then proceeded to add further flames to this developing fire, Dallas went on to indeed repeat what he had said which garnered a positive crowd response and a slap from The Miz which in turn angered Bo so much that Curtis (Hennig, this will become relevant soon) Axel had to hold him back. Miz said he was trying to motivate Dallas because he was 34 days away from becoming the longest reigning Intercontinental Champion of all time, meaning he would be better than ‘Randy Savage, better than Shan Michaels, better than Mr. Perfect (aka Curt Hennig, aka Curtis Axel’s DAD). This was when Axel got mad. Miz tried to calm the situation but Dallas and Curt got in his face and seemed to want a fight, Miz was eventually trapped between Balor & Rollins on one side and Dallas and Axel on the other and just when it seemed as if the IC Champ was in big trouble, Dallas and Axel then attacked Rollins and Balor. Showing it had all been Miz’s plan all along as he smirked. Eventually Finn Balor’s Balor Club allies Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson came down to make the save, brawling with Bo and Curtis to the back, leaving Balor and Miz in the ring together. Finn then went for a Slingblade and Rollins for Curb Stomp, but Miz was able to escape. He did leave behind his Championship belt, Rollins took it and held it over Balor whilst looking right at him, before Finn pushed Seth out of the way of the incoming Miz, who was then sent packing. Balor then gave Rollins a strong punch to the face, leaving Rollins down and now Balor hoisted the Intercontinental Championship aloft. This was fine. Not spectacular but like I say week after week, I have no doubt the match will be great fun to watch.

Interview with Kane next backstage, he told his opponent later tonight, John Cena, that “there are demons you should never call out, demons that should Rest In Peace” and that Cena wasn’t going to Wrestlemania because tonight he was “going to hell”. This would’ve been great had it not been for the fact that there is absolutely no chance that Kane is winning tonight.

Next up we had Charlie Caruso do an interview with Jamie Frost, the jobber… sorry, opponent… for Asuka let tonight. Frist said “Asuka likes to say no one is ready for Asuka, but Asuka isn’t ready for me”. Ok then, good luck… Asuka came out, the bell rung, Frost slapped Asuka, Asuka hit an incredible roundhouse kick and pinned her 1, 2, and 3. The match was over in 30 seconds. That was it. Always fun to see Asuka destroy someone but 2 weeks from Wrestlemania I’d have hoped for more, I don’t even know why she isn’t on Smackdown fully building the match up with Charlotte already? I imagine she’ll be there tomorrow but we’ll see…

Michael Cole and Corey Graves then reviewed the Ultimate Deletion from last week (spoiler alert… it was WONDERFUL). WOKEN Matt Hardy then did a promo telling us all he had DELETED Bray Wyatt, and that he was entering the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. DELIGHTFUL!

Next up was the most noteworthy part of the show. Bayley was in the locker room area when Sasha Banks (her ‘friend’) came to her and said she had received her text. Bayley though began to walk away which led Banks to ask if that was it? Bayley said she was entering the Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal and that was it! Sasha asked if they were going to talk about what happened last week, Bayley said there was nothing to talk about because Banks knows what she did. An angry Sasha said then shouted that ‘was sick of Bayley’s passive-aggressive nonsense’, Bayley responded saying she thought Banks liked it because that was the type of friendship they wanted to have, the one ‘where Banks gets to do whatever she wants because Bayley gets to be right by her side going along with it’. Bayley said she thinks Banks loves it that she puts her first, Banks says she is the boss and makes no apologies for putting her career first, and suggests that maybe Bayley too should do that so that everyone around here ‘doesn’t think Bayley is a complete loser’ (WOW thigs heating up here). A fired-up Bayley then said that the truth is Banks can’t beat her, to which Sasha said she’s a four-time Raw Women’s Champion, in which Bayley then asked her how long she kept it for (referring to the amazing fact that Sasha Banks has never had a successful main roster title defence). The Hugger then began to walk away before Banks grabbed her from behind and threw her into a nearby locker. The 2 then brawled before being separated… FINALLY THIS FEUD IS HAPPENING! We aren’t going to get the Mania one on one match they deserve but going forward it all seems to be ON! EXCELLENT!

The Raw Tag Team Champions Sheamus and Cesaro then made their way out, with Sheamus due to take on Braun Strowman. Sheamus demanded to know who Braun’s partner to the tag team title match at Wrestlemania would be. Braun said he would reveal his partner if Sheamus could defeat him. This made the Irishman very angry, as Strowman ensured Sheamus would ‘GET THESE HANDS’! And indeed Sheamus would ‘GET THESE HANDS’ as Braun would obviously get the win. Who do I think the partner is? Hopefully Elias. Should they keep it a secret until the match itself? Absolutely. Will Braun and partner win? I’m not sure, but hopefully.

Kurt Angle then made his way to the ring, he then introduced his Wrestlemania partner Ronda Rousey. Kurt cut a promo saying Wrestlemania was ‘the most intimidating stage for anyone to compete in for the first time’ but after watching Ronda train he knows she is ready. He said Triple H and Stephanie write the rules and make the rules, and that this wasn’t going to be easy. Ronda said it was fine that it wasn’t going to be easy because she wasn’t looking for easy, she said she was here to earn everything that she gets and that Stephanie talks tough, but “she’s trust-fund tough, she’s limousine tough and personal trainer tough” (Best lines from Ronda in WWE so far by a mile).Ronda finished off by again saying she was going to rip Stephanie’s ‘arm from her socket’. Absolution then came out, Paige took the mic and warned Ronda that not having friends will absolutely destroy her, before offering her to be the 4th member of Absolution. Ronda declined, saying Angle had her back, Paige then led Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville towards Ronda ad Angle held the Rowdy one back, Sonya Deville then grabbed Ronda’s shoulder which earnt her a huge clothesline from Rousey. This would be followed up with a Suplex on Rose into Deville (the timing of which was way off as Deville had to run forward to be hit with Rose, it was clear what the spot was supposed to be but it was sloppily executed). Kurt angle then raised Rousey’s arm but Mandy Rose attempted to jump her, she was though seen and Rousey hit a great-looking Judo type throw on Rose before locking her in a potential Armbar position. Angle pleaded with Ronda not to break Rose’s arm and Rousey eventually let her run free. Rousey looks stronger still, so can’t complain.

Gallows and Anderson then beat Dallas and Axel in a bit of a nothing match. 5 minutes was all they got. Gallows got the pin. Fine.

The ever talented, and one of my favourite’s on the entire roster at the moment, Elias came out next looking to give us another of his signature performances. He told the crowd that “in this kingdom of madness, there are those who walk and those who don’t walk yet, but in 13 days at Wrestlemania I will give the greatest performance of my lifetime”. He then said he had ‘sold out Madison Square Garden last week, so coming to Cleveland is a huge disappointment’ (WWE recently did a big live event at MSG, so he’s not technically wrong). He would go on to say he was embarrassed to be here tonight’ but that his friend LeBron James told him the same thing when he returned to Cleveland. He would go on to say that James would be leaving Cleveland soon, just like he would, before then going on to sing another of his hilarious songs. This one including the putdown: ‘Wrestlemania was on the horizon, but I’m stuck in this town. The only thing that would be more embarrassing is being a member of the Cleveland Browns’ which I really liked. Another masterful performance was then interrupted by Rhyno and Heath Slater. A squash match followed with Elias beating Rhyno in no time at all. After the match Elias hit Heath Slater with his finisher too. Always fun to see Elias perform, shame it was against such sub-standard opposition.

We were then told it would be Rollins vs Balor next week, and also there’d be another confrontation between Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Should be good.

And finally it was time for the main event; John Cena taking on… THE UNDERTAKER… ‘s brother Kane… This turned out to be a NO DQ match which added an extra fun element to it. Early on Cena tried to lift Kane for the AA, but simply fell down under the pressure of how heavy Kane was (bit harsh on old Kane imo…). They would go on to brawl around the outside of the ring area with Kane throwing Cena into the steel steps. Cena would later launch a barricade into Kane’s stomach, Kane then suplexed Cena onto the barricade, they returned to the ring where Kane undid one of the turnbuckle covers, before Cena sat up just like The Undertaker typically does. John Cena would continue to mock Kane’s brother by doing his throat-slashing gesture before performing a Chokeslam on Kane (who has been using the move as his finisher for 20 years or so). Cena went under the ring for in search of a table, and then set it up in the ring, but Kane this time sat up in signature fashion. Kane tried to lift Cena, but he was reversed and Cena then attempted to AA Kane through the table. But the Big Red Machine was able to push the table over and knock Cena down. Kane then placed the table in the corner, he then threw Cena but got only two count from the referee. Kane went on to pull out another table and set up for the Chokeslam of his own but the leader of the Cenation was able to get behind Kane and hit him with an AA through the table for the pinfall and the win. Obviously John Cena won, that was never in any doubt. Match itself was fine for a 15 minute no DQ match between two veterans. Again we all await the aftermath now… And so Cena and us all waited and waited for SOMETHING from The Undertaker, but we got nothing. A frustrated Cena said this was a match with no rules, anything can happen and anyone could be here. He even screamed for The Undertaker, the crowd chanted his name, leading Cena to say that The Undertaker wasn’t deaf, ‘he was just a coward’. He said his silence was no longer an answer and that it’s either yes or no, he again reiterated he had no problem going to Wrestlemania as a fan, but he pleaded that The Undertaker “DO SOMETHING” because (talking directly to the camera throughout the later part of this amazing promo) ‘now you only have one week left, one week left that sums up your entire career… you can do something, or you can do nothing… and if you do nothing you will let me down, let Kane down and let everyone down who ever believed in you… I hope for the sake of all that is good inside this ring I see you next week’. Cena then dropped his mic, walked off and that was how Raw ended. An impassioned promo from Cena, I really felt as if he meant very word he said. It has long been a desire of most WWE fans and also a public desire of Cena himself to have this match happen, and he is building up to it tremendously well in my opinion.

And that was Raw. Not the most eventful of shows, not going to be when you have your Mania card all sorted weeks before the show but it had some high point for sure. Some bits I struggled to write anything about too…

Key Points to Take Home

. Roman needs to get SOMETHING over Lesnar going into Mania surely? Or do you just save it for his inevitable victory?

. Nia’s going to squash Alexa at Wrestlemania; or at least she should do

. Asuka deserves so much better of a Wrestlemania build to the one she is getting

. I hope Braun’s partner doesn’t disappoint

. I’m starting to think Cena vs Taker should main event or at least be 2nd last on the card at Wrestlemania

Conclusion

I’ve accused Smackdown of this in recent weeks, so would be unfair if I didn’t criticize the usually eventful Raw for the same thing. Raw seemed to just be stagnant this week. There were extreme highs; Cena’s promo obviously top of that list but Bayley and Sasha FINALLY getting some offence on one another was great to see, the rest was all… just … ok for me. I feel Raw could’ve maybe done without another week to build until Mania. But we have reasons to be hopeful, next week promises to be an epic go home show… and then obviously it could have something else too…

GONG!

Josh.

Smackdown 20/3/2018 Review: YES, YES, YES!!!

So this review may be a little different to normal; mainly because I’ll be watching the show live (subject to how much I can resist falling asleep) and also… because… idk if you heard… BUT DANIEL BRYAN HAS BEEN CLEARED TO RETURN TO THE RING!!! YES, YES, YES!!!

The show itself begins with a video recap of Daniel Bryan’s retirement announcement, a little over 2 years ago now, as well as the news that broke earlier in the day about his clearance to compete again in the ring. This really was news that absolutely exploded earlier in the day, the internet went absolutely crazy over it for a good half an hour it was all people in the wrestling world were talking about. The live crowd begin the inevitable “YES” chants before the man of the moment made his way to the ring, the Smackdown Live General Manager… and I guess now ‘superstar’ too… Daniel Bryan! He then proceeded to cut a very emotional (and that was just me watching at home) and powerful promo; ‘Thank you … last week something horrible happened to Shane McMahon but unfortunately Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are not here yet so Imma have to talk about something else…’. He went on to say that as he was coming to terms with the fact that he had to retire from wrestling he began to ‘focus on being grateful… I have amazing family, amazing friends, the best fans in the world, and I also have an amazing beautiful wife… and when I was depressed… she came to me and she said ‘it’s wonderful that you’re grateful but you need to …fight for your dreams’ … she encouraged me to see specialists…’. Very worthwhile chants of “THANKYOU BRIE” began to ring around the arena from the crowd, the particularly powerful line there was “Fight for your dreams” which if you take anything from all this it is surely that. This isn’t as much a wrestling angle but a real life man achieving something he could only dream of before and overcoming incredible odds and obstacles to do so.

Bryan would continue to say that over the last 2 months I asked WWE to re-look at my case’, he credited them for sending him to all the best appropriate people he needed to go to, and the crowd rejoiced more so when he said that ‘every specialist said the same thing; “you are cleared”’. More “YES” chants from the crowd, I’ve a feeling we may get one or two more in the foreseeable future. Bryan would go on to say ‘thank you to the WWE and their doctors, first and foremost they looked at me as the person and not the wrestler and for that I will be forever grateful to them, I also am grateful that they were willing to give my case a 2nd look… and I wanna say thank you to every single person here, to every single person watching at home cuz you guys have supported me for this entire time and lastly but not leastly I would like to say thank you to Brie (he began to choke up a little here as we all did watching)… I don’t think any of you truly understand how much she’s supported me over the last 2 years… so now… on to the fun stuff right? I don’t know exactly when or where I will get back in this ring’ (he then looks at the Wrestlemania sign, there’s Wrestlemania chants from crowd…. OMFG THIS IS AMAZING!!!) “Does that sound like a good idea?” he asks the crowd. Obviously the crowd goes ape shit with more “YES” chants, he went on… “I don’t know for sure if that’s gonna happen but will Daniel Bryan compete in a WWE ring again?” “YES” chants the crowd as Daniel Bryan did the yes arm raises himself gleefully in the ring before making his exit. And that was the end of the best segment/promo in WWE or anywhere else in the wrestling world since… Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech!!! It was everything we had all hoped for and more. Indescribably positive and joyous. Daniel Bryan was then shown backstage after the ad break with referee Charles Robinson who passed on his best wishes as Bryan was looking for Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, he was then greeted by Dolph Ziggler who too congratulated Bryan on his clearance, but said “I can’t wait to beat you”. Dolph Ziggler vs Daniel Bryan sounds ok, but there are SOOOOOOOOOO many more matches that are real possibilities now.

First match of the show was Rusev (with Aiden English) vs Shinsuke Nakamura in a Fastlane re-match with the Men’s Royal Rumble winner’s Wrestlemania opponent, WWE Champion AJ Styles, sat at ringside to take in the match. You may well have heard that AJ is carrying an injury, which apparently he is but the match at Mania is still definitely ON, so don’t worry too much about it. Fun match here, similar to the ppv one, an even contest of Rusev’s power against Nakamura’s technical mastery. Shinsuke got the win via a roll up but was immediately beaten down by English and Rusev after the match was done. Like Nakamura last week AJ Styles very slowly appeared to be preparing to make the save, but before he entered Nakamura was able to fend off his two foes by himself. AJ and Nakamura then starred eachother out to end the segment (with regards to AJ’s injury this segment showed me that AJ is fine but is being protected, so don’t expect any physical stuff from Styles anytime between now and Mania). Next we were shown an Asuka promotional video package which the Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair was shown watching backstage, she was then told by long term rival Natalya that she was ‘scared’ of Asuka and their impending match, to which Flair responded by saying “I’m actually excited” and a brief verbal exchange between the two led to Charlotte vs Natalya being set for later in the show. AJ and Shinsuke then had a brief but very funny exchange backstage, you can tell these 2 have great admiration for one another and they work together so well. Now AJ appears to be all fine medically for the match the excitement for it will only intensify. Next match was Tye Dillinger vs Baron Corbin. This was about 5 minutes long and Corbin won. Not much more too it.

Charlotte vs Natalya was after. This was a decent enough match between two women who have a long history together and so chemistry wasn’t a problem at all here, Charlotte hit a great looking spear on the outside and eventually had Nattie in the Figure 8 submission in the ring. However she would refuse to tap … and then CARMELLA (MS MONEY IN THE BANK) CAME DOWN TO THE RING AND ATTEMPTED A CASH IN! However she was thwarted as she turned around from handing her briefcase over into a huge big boot from the champion Charlotte. This distraction however led to Natalya rolling up Charlotte for the win. I liked the failed cash in, there’s been a few of these teases form Carmella now and I really like how they’re telling her story with the briefcase. Hopeful it has a good and dramatic ending, not so sure how I feel about Natalya pinning the champion before Charlotte has one of the biggest showdowns in women’s wrestling history in a couple of weeks but… Jimmy Uso (with fellow tag team champion, his brother Jey) vs Harper (with his [Bludgeon] brother Rowan supporting him at ringside) was next. This of course coming off the back of Rowan and Harper’s dominance over both The Usos and also The New Day in recent weeks as their ongoing pursuit of the gold has taken more forceful steps. Fun match this between two supremely underrated talents, and after interferences from both tag team partners that were on the outside it was Harper who got the win. Their winning those belts at Wrestlemania, I’m in no doubt about it. There was then a 3 way promo between United States Champion Randy Orton, the former champion Bobby Roode and the challenger Jinder Mahal (that match being made official for Wrestlemania shortly before Smackdown went on the air by the way). Jinder talked himself up, Roode told Mahal he was a hypocrite and that respect was a 2 way street, and Orton told Jinder that he relied heavily on the help of his stooge [Sunil Singh] and this was why he had little respect. They appeared to be about to have a brawl but Jinder would throw his loyal follower Sunil Singh into Roode and Orton before quickly exiting the ring. The two then beat the helpless Singh down before the 3 Wrestlemania opponent starred eachother down. Match will be fine I’m sure but this feud just does nothing for me to be honest. Final match of the show was Becky Lynch & Naomi vs Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan with their Riott Squad leader Ruby watching on from ringside. Bit of a nothing match really, finish came when Becky had Logan in her submission and Naomi stopped the interference from Morgan to give the faces the win. These women will all be in the Women’s Battle Royal at Mania… yeah… whatever…

And finally, of course, the show ended with Daniel Bryan delivering his judgement out to Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens regarding their recent actions and their attack on Shane McMahon last week. A clearly disappointed Bryan made clear to Zayn and Owens that ‘you assaulted your boss, I don’t get it… you guys won… you got what you wanted… Shane said he was leaving and gave you a one on one match at Wrestlemania and I was here in your corner to run the show… and you guys still felt the need to assault your boss?’ Bryan goes on to say that he just doesn’t get it (with Owens and Zayn and their recent actions) and he goes on to say that ‘I don’t want to have to do this… you’re fired!’ continuing by saying ‘this doesn’t mean you’re gone forever, just for now… I’m so sorry’. Both Sami and Kevin then shake Daniel Bryan’s hand, and turn away to slowly leave the ring, before turning back to attack the man who just ‘fired’ them. It is a bit of beatdown until the wonderful moment we have all waited 2 years for, Daniel Bryan got some offence in a WWE ring! He eventually has both Zayn and Owens in either corner of the ring, before delivering his signature kicks to Owens in the corner and then a WONDERFUL German Suplex on Zayn which delighted the Dallas crowd. He followed these great moves up with a series of running dropkicks to them both one after the other, with both men prone still against each opposing ring corner. The crowd were then delighted more so when Bryan hit his ‘YES’ kicks to Owens, but was sadly stopped after a takedown by Zayn. Owens and Zayn then hit Daniel Bryan with a superkick and a Helluva kick respectively, and it was KO who finished the assault by hitting a Powerbomb, slamming Bryan against the ring apron. And that was how the show closed… with Owens and Zayn destroying a Smackdown authority figure for the second week in a row… I think the match for Mania now is pretty much wrapped up isn’t it? YES, YES, YES!!!

And that was Smackdown. OK show. Mania soon. DANIEL BRYAN IS BACK!!!

Key Points to Take Home

. YES!

. YES!

. YES!

. YES!

. YES!

Conclusion

YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

Josh.