We’ve learned a lot this week on WWE television. For example, Brock Lesnar has more creative control than Hulk Hogan.
Natalya is tougher than Ronda Rousey. Roman Reigns wants to lose to Brock Lesnar for the fourth time in a row. Kane can still get cheers. Kevin Owens is a Shania Twain mark, but then again who isn’t? Shinsuke Nakamura got ruled out of action after being bitten by a dog. Bayley has to go to counseling for doing her job. Vince McMahon just got a whole lot richer thanks to new TV deals. Let’s hope they haven’t actually been watching the shows lately.
Here’s the Top 10 from both Raw and Smackdown this week:
- Rusev Def. Xavier Woods.
Following their rather bizarre social media exchange, Rusev squared off with Xavier Woods on Smackdown. It was a fast-paced, athletic contest between two of WWE’s most underrated performers. Obviously Rusev won, considering he’s challenging AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at Extreme Rules.
Let’s speak about that PPV bout a bit more. It certainly won’t headline the event, not with what Kurt Angle announced on Raw, but it could definitely steal the show. As I said last week, I really can’t see The Bulgarian Brute winning. This just smacks of Vince McMahon showing fans he listens to them by putting someone they constantly cheer for in a main event scenario. Once it’s over with, Rusev will be back down in the mid card until his contract expires, and he will undoubtedly hit the independent scene and either succeed or flop.
- Jeff Hardy & The Usos Def. Sanity.
After Shinsuke Nakamura got bitten by a police dog and declared unfit to compete (seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up), Jeff Hardy instead issued an open challenge for his United States Championship. Sanity’s Eric Young answered it, and what followed was a decent TNA style encounter between an obviously injured Enigma and a over the hill veteran.
It ended in a no-contest when Sanity and The Usos got involved setting up an impromptu Six-Man tag bout. That creative move was quite the shock to the system, I can tell you. Having Sanity lose right out of the gate was pretty surprising, but I don’t have much faith in the group anyway. They would’ve been better suited to Raw, but let’s see how it unfolds. It hasn’t been the best of starts, though.
- James Ellsworth Promo.
I believe I am in the minority here, but I’m a big fan of James Ellsworth, and not just because we share the same first name. He just gets it, whatever “it” is. His promo work on Asuka was tremendous. People hate him, and that means he’s doing his job correctly. He made a name for himself on the Independent scene by fighting women, and it looks as if that trend is about to continue in WWE as Ellsworth will clash with Asuka next week on Smackdown.
Asuka will no doubt absolutely destroy Ellsworth and get the win. That’s what people want to see. That’s why the Ellsworth character is so unique and entertaining. Two years ago, he helped elevate the dull Dean Ambrose/AJ Styles rivalry with his interjection. The only problem was that WWE backed out of an Ambrose heel turn at the end of it. Carmella isn’t the only thing money, Ellsworth brings his fair share to the table too.
- Natalya Def. Alexa Bliss.
Having Alexa Bliss lose so soon into her title run is a little counterproductive, but that’s WWE in a nutshell these days. They should have her continuously finding ways to defeat Ronda Rousey’s friends before the former UFC Champion emerges from her suspension to kick her ass. But then again unless you’re Brock Lesnar, being champion in WWE means you only win the title matches.
I enjoyed Alexa’s promo pre-match. The fans in attendance didn’t seem overly into it at the beginning, but she won them over in the end. That’s perseverance for you. I’ve heard some insiders call for Alexa to turn face because of her heroic real life story of overcoming anorexia, but I think that would be a bad call. She could definitely succeed in that role and play a hero to the kids, but I genuinely don’t think her ring style would suit the WWE comeback during matches. Her character is the perfect heel, don’t fix what isn’t broken.
- Braun Strowman & Kevin Owens Def. Baron Corbin & Finn Balor.
Teaming up rivals together is a creative trope WWE have used for many years, but it doesn’t mean it’s a very good one. In rare cases it can be perfect, but when you’re just literally throwing guys together to fill time then writers heads must roll. I’m not denying the chemistry of Owens and Strowman, but did we need to see them tag together to get that point across? Same goes for Corbin and Balor. It’s lazy writing.
It looks like we’re going to get Corbin/Balor and Strowman/Owens at Extreme Rules, and there’s no prizes for guessing which will be more fun to watch. WWE seemingly have no faith in Balor as a top guy, yet they promoted Jinder Mahal there once he suddenly started spouting more muscles than Scott Steiner. No enhancements of course….. Back to Owens for a moment, and there’s no way he wins this rivalry, but I do hope we see a full time face turn from the French Canadian. He’s so hard to dislike. Let’s see how he does as a babyface. He even loves Shania Twain, if that doesn’t scream babyface I don’t know what does. As for Strowman, he’s just biding his time until Brock Lesnar decides to show up. He may have to go to the Octagon to cash in his MITB briefcase at this rate.
- Becky Lynch Def. Sonya Deville.
I love these two. As I have mentioned countless times, if I was in charge of booking, these two would be the cornerstones of the women’s division. They’re so marketable and believable in everything they do. It also helps that they are exceptional in the ring. Their match on Smackdown was a race to the finish, but they still did well with what little time they were given.
I’m glad WWE are continuing the push of Becky Lynch, and hopefully this will make her big moment that much bigger when it finally happens. And what’s the delay on Sonya Deville? Turn her babyface already. With today’s culture, she is the perfect good guy. She can very well be the face of Pride. She’s so vocal about her beliefs on social media. If she was given the platform to do the same on WWE television, I see big things in her future.
- The Revival Def. Roman Reigns & Bobby Lashley.
Once again WWE decided to use Brock Lesnar’s contract situation as a means to get him more heat, and to ensure Roman Reigns is cheered. Neither seems to be working. Roman will doubtless be booed for the remainder of his career, while it’s pretty hard to dislike Lesnar anymore than fans already do right now. Scrapping the multi man match for Extreme Rules in favour of a straight up one-on-one battle between Reigns and Lashley is the right decision though. They have the potential to deliver something very special indeed. I can also see Lashley going over to set up a dream bout of sorts with The Beast Incarnate at SummerSlam.
Continuing to use The Revival in a prominent role on Raw is also a good move. They’re great at what they do, and certainly deserve a run at the Championships. Getting a pinfall victory over Roman Reigns, no matter how tainted, is no easy feat and they managed that on Raw. Obviously the story wasn’t about them, but it happened and it will allow them to brag about it and become a dangerous force in the tag team division.
- Bayley Turned On Sasha Banks.
This is what we had all been waiting for. It happened quicker than expected for me, but it certainly hit the mark. Bayley finally snapped and took her frustrations out on former best friend Sasha Banks with a blistering attack, turning fully-fledged heel in the process. I genuinely expected the roles to be reversed, but at least this gives the Bayley character a new dimension, although it does mean we still have to wait for the best version of The Boss to show up.
The silly counselling angle aside, this should be spectacular. These two have never had a bad match together. Now they also have a tremendous backstory to work off of, and real heat in their relationship. If played correctly this could be a Steve Austin/Rock level of matches and rivalry. I’m prepared for something epic, but I have a feeling WWE are going to spoil it with Dr. Shelby.
- Seth Rollins def. Dolph Ziggler Via Disqualification In Intercontinental Championship Match.
What a main event this was. The Miz doesn’t get enough credit for bringing such prominence back to the Intercontinental Championship. Because of him the title is main eventing on Monday Night Raw. Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins delivered a tremendous battle with lots of false finishes and high risk moves. They had the fans second guessing the result until the very end. The disqualification finish may upset some, but it was the logical call.
Having Roman Reigns come to Seth’s aid made sense too. About time The Big Dog helped out one of his friends for a change. The exchange between Roman and Drew McIntyre was very good too. They could spell money for WWE with a big summer program. Keeping the title on Ziggler for now is wise, let him carry it for awhile and see how he does. It would be a waste to have Rollins be the guy to dethrone him because then nothing would have been achieved. Maybe Elias could be the guy.
- Team Hell No Reunited.
Well, this was unexpected. Easily one of the best feel good moments of the entire year. Team Hell No are back together. Who saw that coming? This may have been the first time in history that fans were actually pleased to see Kane. He and Daniel Bryan’s chemistry is tremendous, and their battle at Extreme Rules with The Bludgeon Brothers should be fantastic.
Some could argue that having Bryan feature in the tag team division is a demotion, but I see it as a good thing. He’s still clearly finding his feet as an active wrestler again, and easing him in this way is best for everyone. He’s familiar with Kane, and The Bludgeon Brothers for that matter. This rivalry should be a doddle for him, and will set him up nicely for a summer showdown with AJ Styles or Samoa Joe. As for Kane, this is the perfect swansong for The Big Red Machine.