It’s here once again… the one time a year (or fifteenth time) that superstars from both Raw and SmackDown compete in head to head competition.
That tagline is annoying not only because it’s mentioned every 30 seconds on WWE programming, but because it’s obviously not true. I mean, there’s an entire show where mixed tag teams from different brands compete against each other for crying out loud. Nevertheless, the show is upon us and I must make with some predictions. I went 5-3 in the [Location Redacted] Crown Jewel event a couple of weeks back. That brings my overall record to 65.5% for the wrestling-year. This is a strange card to try to predict, since the brand vs. brand theme makes for some unpredictable results. And yet, here I am, predicting anyway.
Tag-Team Division 5-on-5 Elimination Match – Team Raw vs. Team SmackDown
This match has exposed just how shallow the tag division is right now on both brands. Just before the 2016 Survivor Series event, SmackDown actually managed to have a 5-on-5 Tag Teams Match just with teams from their brand. The blue brand had 10 tag teams on their show and that didn’t even include the champs at the time! But now, here we are, where almost every tag team from each roster is on their respective teams with barely anyone to spare (sorry, Slater & Rhyno).
I must say though that SmackDown seems to have the better division overall. Despite how shallow it is, the champions, The Bar, have a nice cast of potential contenders on their brand, including The Club, The Usos, Sanity, and New Day. AOP is less fortunate with a rag-tag group of teams that include The B Team, The Ascension, and The Lucha House Party. So, I could see this going either way because of that. They could give Team Raw a win to maybe give the division a boost, or they could have SmackDown win to keep the division looking strong.
I’m picking team SmackDown to win, simply because the Raw side seems so weak compared to the blue side of things.
Winners: Team SmackDown
Cruiserweight Championship – Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Mustafa Ali
I’m honestly surprised to see this match even on the card as it doesn’t fit with anything else going on. But, that’s what happens when you isolate the cruiserweight division off into its own little corner.
I have no idea how to go here, because of said isolation. My guess is WWE could pop the crowd early (I assume this will be a pre-show match) by having Ali win the title, but it would seem weird for Murphy to drop the title just a month or so after winning it at Super Show-Down.
I’m picking Buddy Murphy to retain. I have nothing to really go by other than, when in doubt, go with the champion.
Winner: Buddy Murphy
RAW Tag Team Champions vs. SmackDown Live Tag Team Champions – AOP vs. The Bar
This could be a sneaky-good match on the card, as I think the styles of all involved could mesh well. The only bad part is that both teams are heels. Face vs. face matches seem to work on occasion, but heel vs. heel usually die a slow death with the live crowd. If the match isn’t good, it’ll be because the fans won’t care about cheering for anyone and therefore check out of the match early.
I mentioned earlier the difference in the two tag team divisions. I think that with SmackDown having the deeper depth, I could see The Bar losing here and being able to recover just fine because they would have quality opponents to bounce back with. As for AOP, if they lose here, I think it would hurt the team’s gimmick and leave them looking weak with an even weaker division surrounding them.
I’m picking AOP to win, simply because having them lose seems like it would be too detrimental to the Raw tag division. I think that having AOP beat The Bar would improve their stock and help them look even stronger on Monday Nights. It’s unfortunate that they have to go to SmackDown just to have viable competition.
Intercontinental Champion vs. US Champion – Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
I could set here and type out a well thought out, lengthy exposition explaining the differences in value between the Intercontinental and US titles and the booking issues with Nakamura and so on and so on… but why? I’m about 90% sure this match ends because of Dean Ambrose doing a run-in.
I’m picking Nakamura to take the win. The run-in finish makes sense, if you think about it. This way Nakamura could get a much needed win, Rollins would have an out for taking the loss, and we would get a little bit of story progression out of the match finish with the whole Ambrose/Rollins angle.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
Women’s Division 5-on-5 Elimination Match – Team Raw vs. Team SmackDown
As of this writing we still don’t have the final member of this team nailed down since Charlotte had to be moved over to the Rousey match. I really have nothing to go on here since there’s very little story going on leading into the match.
I’m picking SmackDown to win, because the storyline with Alexa Bliss screwing over Sasha Banks and Bayley on Raw would be paid off with the team losing here. If Bliss’ team won, it’d be a weird follow up to what she did on Monday. I wish I had more reasoning than this, but that’s part of the problem with this brand vs. brand gimmick.
Winners: Team SmackDown
Men’s Division 5-on-5 Elimination Match – Team Raw vs. Team SmackDown
There are a few storylines that have carried over into this match and that is a refreshing change in the brand vs. brand matches. SmackDown has the issue of Shane naming himself part of the team and also being crowned “Best in the World” at Crown Jewel which might be highlighted at some point during the match. We also have The Miz involved and his involvement always seems to play a role in my picks (see my Crown Jewel World Cup prediction for reference.)
On the Raw side of things, you have a more significant storyline playing into this match. Stephanie McMahon gave Braun an added incentive to win this match, by giving him a pair of matches as a reward should he win this match. In addition to a future Universal Title match, Braun will get a chance to give his hands to Baron Corbin. I think that will play a role in the finish to this match.
My pick is Team SmackDown to make a clean sweep of the 5-on-5 matches. They’ve lost (overall) the past two years and I think giving the brand a shutout victory would help make up for that. More importantly than that, I think Baron Corbin might end up costing his own show the win just to avoid having to wrestle Braun Strowman in the near future. I think that type of a finish could give Raw some good material to work with moving forward.
Winners: Team SmackDown
Raw Women’s Champion vs. SmackDown Women’s Representative – Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair
Rousey vs. Lynch was the one match I was really looking forward to on this show, so to see it get changed really bummed me out. But, as Jerry Lawler used to say back in the day, one mustn’t weep forever. So, this is a pretty cool consolation prize for us. It would be better if we could’ve gotten a bigger build to the match, but obviously there wasn’t time for that. Because this match is a last minute replacement, I don’t have much to expound upon here.
I’m picking Charlotte to win. That might be a bold pick, but I think Charlotte handing Rousey her first loss in WWE wouldn’t be a bad move. She has to lose eventually, and having Charlotte end both Asuka and Rousey’s streak would make sense. Plus, I could see Nia and Tamina getting involved to further that program and give Rousey an out. I just hope we eventually get Rousey vs. Lynch down the road, maybe in the WrestleMania main event.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
Universal Champion vs. WWE Champion – Brock Lesnar vs. Daniel Bryan
I cannot believe this match is happening. Just 238 days after announcing he was cleared to return to the ring, Daniel Bryan is the WWE Champion. Yes, it happened in a rather bizarre way in an oddly last minute championship match with a questionable heel turn, but it happened nevertheless. I get all the extra bits takes some of the shine away from this moment, but let’s not forget where Daniel Bryan was at when this year started. He was 2 years into retirement and we, as fans, assumed we’d never see him in a WWE ring ever again. So this is a pretty special moment in wrestling, despite how we got here.
But now he’s stepping into the ring with Brock Lesnar. And that terrifies me a little bit. Did you see how he threw Samir Singh onto his head Monday night? I still think of Daniel Bryan as fragile and I don’t want him to be dropped on his head by a maniac. I know Bryan has wanted this match for a while though, so I’m curious to see what happens. I have a hard time seeing how Lesnar loses this match, but I also don’t know why you put the title on Bryan just to have him get squashed a few days later by the part-time champion.
I’m picking Daniel Bryan against my better judgment. I’m so tired of Lesnar that I can’t bring myself to pick him. Let him go back to UFC and cross his fingers that no traces of clomiphene or hydroxy-clomiphene pops up again. Seriously, I’m not the kind of fan who complains about part time guys or whatnot, but this dude bores me and no longer holds any “big match feel” for me personally. So, yeah, I’m picking who I want to win instead of who I think will win. I’m sure that’s a mistake, but who cares?
Winner: Daniel Bryan