What follows a disappointing pay per view? A semi disappointing week of WWE programming. RAW and Smackdown both seemed to suffer from a lack of things to do as both offered compelling moments whilst also packing their shows with filler. NXT struggled because it was a post Takeover episode meaning you got 75% recap packages. With that being said let’s breakdown what we got and whether it was any good. Let’s go.
Bye Bye Braun
Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre defeat Finn Balor, Elias and Braun Strowman
Never trust the Authority.
This is a lesson Braun learned the hard way as Stephanie McMahon reneged on part of her deal to Braun Strowman. He will get Corbin in a TLC match at the upcoming PPV but he must win to get his Universal Title Shot. If Corbin wins, he becomes permanent General Manager of RAW. Corbin wanted to make Strowman’s journey to TLC a nightmare so instantly set up a handicap match. Steph would actually earn a crowd pop by cancelling this and making it a six man elimination tag match.
As opening matches go this was pretty damn chaotic. Finn was the first to bite the bullet eating a Claymore kick from McIntyre. Elias was counted out after being attacked by Lashley and Braun suffered the worst fate. All three men took it to Braun attacking him with chairs and Corbin shattering Braun’s elbow with the steel steps. It has been revealed that Braun will be undergoing surgery so Corbin’s attack may have cost him the TLC match. Baron may have also saved his own job. With Braun gone this may just explain why Lars Sullivan is being called up. His package was played on both RAW and Smackdown this week.
Dean’s Mind Games
The continuous story thread going through this edition of RAW was Seth’s hunt for Dean. Dean refused to meet Seth in the ring, instead leaving taunting messages from the Titan Tron. Dean would drop some pretty controversial statements during these promos too just to make sure the fans were booing him, including taking shots at the California crowd and even insinuating that Roman’s Leukaemia coming back was a result of the rotten things the Shield had done in the past. This may not have been the best thing for WWE to have Dean say but it is hardly the first time we have seen the company have used a tragedy for shock value. This all culminated in the two finally meeting in the ring where Seth finally got the chance to get some licks in on the Lunatic Fringe. Dean would power through, hit a low blow and drop Seth with the Dirty Deeds to end the segment on top. It would appear that every heel under the sun needs to use Low Blows now. Can we not have a return of the poison mist instead?
AOP Taking the Piss
Roode and Gable defeat AOP via Roll Up
Hey do you know what someone on WWE creative seems to find funny? Urine jokes. Remember Drake Maverick wetting himself at Survivor Series? Well now you’re never going to be able to forget about it as the joke will be rammed down your throat for the next few weeks at least. Anyway we were treated to a catering section where Drake Maverick was taunted with a bunch of urine related puns of questionable quality and an eventually match between AOP and Roode & Gable. The match seemingly came about because Maverick couldn’t take Roode and Gable’s jokes. The match itself was fine for what it was and the face team getting the surprise win over the hulking champions was rather unexpected. This should give this unlikely team a title shot which could be a decent watch.
Revival Can’t Ignore Piñatas
Lucha House Party defeat the Revival via Shooting Star Press
Your last standing RAW team got treated as a joke again this week. The Revival got booked into a three on two tag match where piñatas were used as weapons. Now we all know how much the Revival love piñatas and Lucha House Party. This was a decent match but the unfair numbers and idiotic finish soured the match. The Revival are back to being the clueless heels as they were distracted by a Piñata and then finished by a Shooting Star Press from Lince Dorado. It’s all well and good bringing new blood to your tag division but don’t sacrifice one of the best technical tag teams you have to welcome them to the division. It hurts even more as the Revival actually had a decent showing at Survivor Series only for them to falter again immediately on RAW the next night.
Riott Rolled Up
Natalya defeats Ruby Riott via Roll Up
Natalya finally got a chance to get some measurement of vengeance on Ruby Riott for all the Jim Neidhart related harassment that has gone on over the past few weeks. The two were booked in a match together that was fun to watch and ended with Natalya getting the win after reversing a roll up. She would have won via Sharpshooter but the Riott Squad would not allow that to happen. Natalya dispatches the Riott Squad and gets the win over their leader. This was a nice way to give Natalya a win and give us a continuation of this feud that has slowly been giving the Riott Squad more personality.
Ronda Rousey defeats Mickie James via Arm Bar
You’d think after the beating Ronda Rousey took at Survivor Series at the hands of Charlotte, she may have wanted to take the night off. Instead she came out spitting fire and borderline no selling the beating she’d taken. She drops a promo about what a champion needs to be and demands a fight for tonight. Baron Corbin tries to talk Rousey out of it but instead of taking his advice she threatens to fight him instead. Corbin backs off and Mickie James comes out to fight the champ. James tries to give Ronda a fight but is eventually dispatched after multiple Judo throws and tapped out with the Arm Bar. Ronda is still on fire despite the beating she took from Charlotte. It even seemed that the crowd was slightly more on her side during RAW too, though she is still being haunted by Becky chants.
Charlotte defeats Billie Kay and Peyton Royce via Natural Selection and DQ
Charlotte was in full heel mode last night. She was completely satisfied with her actions at the PPV and dropped a promo justifying them. Her words brought out Paige who had come to deliver her punishment for all the refs that Charlotte had knocked out during her beat down. She is fined $100,000 for her actions, which seems rather steep, but Charlotte seems unphased. All this talk brings out the IIconics who drop one of their promos and get on Charlotte’s nerves. She challenges them to a match and Billie Kay obliges. This was not a very good match but it was over quickly when Charlotte hits a Fall Away Slam and finishes her with Natural Selection. Peyton Royce came to tend to her partner and Charlotte challenges her too. Billie demands Peyton takes the match and we now get Charlotte vs Royce.
This one ends in DQ as the IIconics try to play the numbers game with Charlotte. Instead she overpowers both of them and smashes them off the announcer’s table. She ends the segment by throwing both of them over the table and standing tall over them. Charlotte got to be dominant and heelish and the crowd seemed to appreciate it more than her face persona.
Miz and Shane: Best Team in the World?
The Bryants defeat Miz and Shane McMahon via Roll Up
So, here are two things I never thought I’d be celebrating. One, the slow turn of Miz from heel to face and two, Miz eating a roll up loss to local enhancement talent. The context for my previous statement comes from a Miz TV segment where Miz was sucking up to Shane, the best wrestler in the world, and trying to get him to team up with him. Shane is playing it down and trying to do his best to let Miz down gently but out comes a team of jobbers called the Bryants. A tag team match is started and Miz cockily messes with one of the Bryants. He is trying to show off to Shane and eats a roll up for the loss. Shane admonishes Miz and the segment ends with Miz looking suitably shocked. This was a weird segment but it has been effective in setting up a face Miz and a heavily apathetic Shane who seems to be secretly revelling in all the attention he’s getting from Miz.
The New Day defeat The Bar and Big Show via Turkey Shot
I imagine this was a popular segment for a lot of people from this week’s Smackdown but I found it too ridiculous to fully enjoy. It was a fun six man tag match to begin with and the two table spots made sense but by the end of the match it was purely a food fight. The New Day and the Bar are great at handling comedy matches but even they couldn’t stop this feeling too ridiculous. So the finish is not a typo, Big E fisted a Turkey and punched Sheamus in the head. I must admit that is not a line I thought I’d ever have to type. Cesaro tried to get some ounce of vengeance by attacking with a plate of cranberry sauce but is stopped and then pelted by about every Thanksgiving condiment known to man. That could have been the end but then the New Day took comedy style pratfalls that may not have been planned. Either way it was a decent match marred by over the top comedy.
Every Rose has its Thorn
Asuka and Naomi defeat Absolution via Asuka Lock
This felt more like Asuka takes on Mandy Rose. It wasn’t much of a match as Asuka beat down Mandy Rose, Sonya got a surprise tag, nearly gets hit by a running knee from Rose and then both members of Absolution are laid out for the face win. Deville ends up saving Rose from a head kick by pushing her out-of-the-way. Rose eats a Rear View and Deville is tapped out by the Asuka Lock. It’s nice to see Asuka be dominant but this was purely there to throw some more seeds of discontent between the members of Absolution. Once again Mandy Rose has cost Sonya Deville a win and it won’t be long before the two are fighting it out. Sonya Deville could actually benefit from more attention though as she is a decent performer and her MMA style could be a decent fit for a solo player in the women’s division.
The New Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan was an intensity machine last night. His promo was a perfect balance of unhinged and menacing as he killed off the Yes movement and referenced his dreams as if they were a real person. The crowd were booing and he relished it. He took joy in talking down to the crowd and his continuous referencing of himself in third person added another level of delusion to the promo. He sounded like a man that had snapped to get what he wanted. A man who had taken too much and now decided to give back in kind, whilst achieving his dreams in the process. This was all added to by the wide-eyed and blank expression in Bryan’s eyes. The last part of the promo reveals Bryan is talking to the title belt and it is all made clearer. Bryan doesn’t care about fans or pleasing anyone he cares about being champion. Much in the same way as another top heel in a certain yellow and black brand happens to interact with the fans.
Rey not so Mysterio
Randy Orton defeats Rey Mysterio via RKO
Randy Orton may be one of the single greatest things on Smackdown Live at the moment. His heel persona has dripped venom and given us some of his most compelling work in years. He is out to destroy fan favourites and is now laser focused on destroying Rey Mysterio. This was an awesome main event too as it featured one of the best RKO’s to date. Rey was going for his slide splash to the outside but Orton reversed it into an RKO. Orton rolled Rey into the ring, drops him with another RKO and wins the match. Orton attacks after the match, putting a chair around Rey’s head and ramming it into the ring post. He then does something no one was expecting, he unmasks Rey, well partly anyway. The mask kind of fell off from all the damage it had taken. He had done it at one point during the match when grabbing at Rey’s head and then fully commits to the act after the match. Randy poses with the mask and the show ends.
Glory beats Leviathan
Keith Lee defeats Fidel Bravo via Jackhammer
Lars Sullivan defeats local jobber via Freak Accident
It looks like NXT is gearing up for a battle of the monsters as they teased an upcoming match between Keith Lee and Lars Sullivan. Both men had very one-sided matches against local jobbers and both looked incredibly dominant. Lee was gracious in defeat whereas Lars Sullivan decided to use this match to send a message to NXT management. Sullivan wants an NXT Championship match and is about to use his opponent to send a message, however before he can destroy the jobber Keith Lee takes to the ring, makes the save and pounces Sullivan out of the ring. Sullivan is shocked at this action and leaves the ringside area. The two run into each other backstage and have a verbal throw down. A match is then made between the two next week.
Candice Wrestling vs the Twisted Sister
Nikki Cross defeats Candice LeRae via Twisting Neckbreaker
It seems that both members of the Gargano family are embracing their inner darkness. Candice LeRae snapped during her match with Nikki Cross and really started to get violent. She kicked out of the Purge, hit a Deathlock Facebuster and continuously tried to pummel Nikki in the corner. She had to be pulled off by the ref multiple times. She still lost the match as Cross was able to snap LeRae off the ropes and transition into a rope hung Neckbreaker. This was a short sharp sprint of a match that was a lot of fun to watch even if it didn’t quite feel like a main event match.
Nikki is still ridiculously over with the NXT crowd and it was excellent to see Candice finally snap after all the crap her husband has piled onto her over the year. First there was Ciampa, then he attacked Black and now she has to deal with the mocking of Cross. Who didn’t expect her to snap? It was incredibly justifiable and allowed her to showcase a lot more of her move set. A fun match and this may end up being Nikki’s final feud before finally moving up to Smackdown full-time.
Despite the quiet nature of this week, there was still a lot to talk about. RAW felt okay but it was incredibly lacklustre for a post Survivor Series show. The Braun stuff and Dean stuff was compelling but the rest of the show felt kind of empty and pointless. Smackdown was more engaging but it still had a lot of filler and not a lot of killer. Miz’s face turn is coming along nicely, Daniel Bryan is showing himself to be main roster Ciampa and Charlotte seems to be way more interesting now as she tries to ape Becky’s heelish edge. NXT was marred by all the recap packages but again for what we got it was fun enough. Lars vs Lee is an exciting prospect but it was slightly disheartening to see no follow on from War Games shocking finish between Ohno and Riddle. Hopefully we get more on that feud soon.
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