Creeping closer to WrestleMania, coupled with the finish of the Cruiserweight Tournament and a Fatal 5 Way after Ciampa’s injury. So much going on in WWE. How did Tiffany assess it all?
Here, in lovely Indiana where I hang my hat, we have a mini-season during the late winter/early spring called ‘Pothole/Chuckhole Season’. It’s where even the best kept road can suddenly turn into a minefield and every driver finds themselves trying to decide which hole in the ground is least likely to completely wreck their tires.
The road to WrestleMania is a well-kept one, but even it has its share of potholes and RAW hit one in a big way this week, but it’s a little too soon to declare that the wheels are off.
Opening: The start of RAW, even if it was Lesnar and Heyman, was reasonably promising. Heyman’s schtick is so repetitive I could say it in my sleep, but McIntyre’s appearance was new, as was the brutal beatdown that Rollins gave McIntyre with the chair. Best part was Lesnar’s reaction, he may have underestimated Rollins, but I don’t think he was after that.
Finn Balor and Braun Strowman vs Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush: I was extremely ‘meh’ about the whole Balor/Strowman vs Lashley/Rush match. These ‘surprise’ partner things are rarely a surprise and Strowman doesn’t have much going on right now anyway. The one interesting thing about this match, other than watching Lio Rush get the snot beat out of him, was the fact that Lashley left Rush to his fate. Given that Lashley and Rush have been having issues with each other lately, I’m sure Rush isn’t going to be impressed with Lashley’s abandonment.
Moment of Bliss: For once, Moment of Bliss wasn’t an absolute, cringe-inducing, ‘OMG, make it stop!’ segment it usually is, but it’s clear that WWE is doing everything it can to cram every single superstar on the roster on the Mania card SOMEHOW, like booking Elias as the musical guest instead of someone like Flo Rida, or Kid Rock. I’m calling it now: The REAL headliner will interrupt Elias.
The thing that bugs me most about Elias’ ‘announcement’ is that Elias isn’t that big of a deal. He had some momentum after Dean Ambrose turned heel, but that didn’t last. If you want further proof, look who he was up against: No Way Jose, who hasn’t even been on Main Event for months. Not exactly a wow-inducing act.
Speaking of Jose: What in the world is going on with Heavy Machinery? They went from destroying the tag division to leading a conga line. Did I miss something here?
Kurt Angle Retirement Announcement: For once, I’m in the majority who are PRAYING that the Kurt Angle/Baron Corbin match at WrestleMania is a joke. Maybe not a good joke, but a joke nonetheless. After all Angle has done and accomplished, his final match is going to be up against Baron Corbin? I’m guessing that Vince is going to troll us at WrestleMania and Kurt’s opponent will either be John Cena, or Vince is going to break out the oilcan and the Ensure and get the Undertaker to do the honors. Either would be preferable to Corbin.
I did love the Angle/Gable match. It’s clear that WWE wants to send Kurt out as the hero he is and it’s also clear that the guys he’s fighting are honored to get in the ring with him, which makes this even better.
I LOVED the Revival and Apollo Crews ignoring and mocking Corbin and hope it’s a sign that Corbin is NOT Angle’s final match.
Divas of Doom Reunion: I’ve said before that I was getting frustrated with the fact that Sasha and Bayley hadn’t really defended the Women’s Tag Team Titles anywhere but on RAW, despite the fact that the selling point of only having one set of Tag Titles was that they were going to be defended on all of WWE’s shows. I’m glad that they’re FINALLY going to be going to SmackDown and having a match with the IIconics, who should’ve been first in line for the titles after Elimination Chamber.
I’m still hoping that Trish and Lita will get a shot at the tag titles, but I’m so happy that Beth Phoenix and the Divas of Doom are back and looking better than ever, I’ll shelve that other match hope for later. I’m not impressed by the inclusion of the Samoan Dynasty, but since they’re the only other ACTUAL Women’s Tag Team on RAW, I guess there’s no way around it.
I really hope Phoenix gets a match before WrestleMania just to re-acclimate herself to the ring again, but I loved watching Sasha vs Nattie, even if the Samoan Dynasty ruined a great match just because.
I don’t know what’s up with Mojo Rawley and I don’t care.
Ricochet vs Jinder Mahal: Since Aleister Black is in Amsterdam on his honeymoon, Ricochet was left to try and get something out of Jinder Mahal, with Singh Brothers in tow. Ricochet did a pretty good job of that and still got the win and showed he can stand on his own without Black.
Warrior Award: I know a lot of people were disappointed that Roman Reigns didn’t win the Warrior Award, but since the Warrior’s initial idea was to honor unsung heroes in the company, Sue Aichinson getting the award makes sense.
Seth Rollins: I love that Seth said that his match against McIntyre was for Reigns and Ambrose, who were not there this week. Seth seemed to have realized that his brutal beatdown of McIntyre had made an impression on Lesnar, which he desperately needs.
Ronda Rousey vs Dana Brooke: I HATED the Rousey/Brooke Match! For all the build, Dana should’ve been given more of a shot than what she got. I get that it’s to build Rousey as a nasty badass going into WrestleMania, but it sucks that Dana was basically sacrificed to do it.
Apollo Crews: I really enjoyed Crews vs Corbin and hope it means that Corbin will NOT be Angle’s final opponent. Plus, it give Crews some much needed momentum, which he’s been missing since the end of Titus Worldwide.
Batista Interview: I have no idea no idea why Batista is mad at Triple H and his interview on Monday didn’t make the situation clearer. Considering how many title reigns Batista had during his first run in WWE, he can hardly say Triple H held him back or down or whatever. Batista came across as a spoiled brat that made you want to see Triple H beat the shit out of him just so he’ll shut up.
Seth Rollins vs Drew McIntyre: I loved Rollins/McIntyre, especially because Rollins proved that he could hang with big men on his own, something that a lot of people were doubting after the Royal Rumble. I wasn’t impressed with Lesnar being petty and costing Seth the match since it still looks like he’s not taking Rollins as seriously as he probably should.
The Road to WrestleMania has been a lot less clear for SmackDown on many fronts and the path didn’t seem any clearer as the Blue brand went off the air.
Opening: Miz kicked off the show, and cut a great promo. Miz usually isn’t good in the babyface role, but he hit it out of the park on Tuesday, even if saying he had to earn his dad’s love sounds like something he should be talking about with a therapist.
Boss-Hug vs IIconics: I’m so happy that Sasha and Bayley FINALLY made it to SmackDown and faced the IIconics in such a great match, that I can’t be mad at HOW the IIconics got the win on Tuesday or that Lacey Evans showed up again. It looks like the IIconics are going to WrestleMania!
Rey Mysterio: Rey Mysterio’s promo and the announcement that he’s facing Samoa Joe for the United States Championship was great, but the reveal of his son, Dominic, which most WWE fans of the early 2000s remember as a little boy caught in a custody battle between Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero, was enough to make anyone feel REALLY old.
The Kevin Owens Show: The brawl between Charlotte and Becky was really good and helped heat up the RAW Women’s feud, which has cooled off just a little since Fastlane. Owens played the pot-stirring host very well, while still managing to stay a babyface, which is not natural for him. This RAW Women’s Championship match is going to be WILD.
AJ Styles: I’m still not on board with the Styles/Orton match. It just feels too forced and petty. If anyone should have the advantage in this, it’s Styles, who has wrestled all over the world with some of the best the world had to offer, while Orton has only wrestled in WWE.
Daniel Bryan: I get that Daniel Bryan is a heel, but him calling Kofi Kingston a B+ player is eye-roll inducing. It’s not like Bryan has been setting the world on fire lately.
Gauntlet Match: I think we all knew Vince was going to pull something to keep Kofi from winning the gauntlet match, but the bigger story is the conversation this storyline and the real-life incident involving Jimmy Uso and Naomi with a police officer, over the treatment of People of Color in everyday life interactions with white people. I’m not going to judge Vince McMahon, the human being, by the actions of Mr. McMahon, the character, but the conversation Mr. McMahon’s treatment of Kofi Kingston is more interesting than the wrestling storyline, in my opinion, and it’s a conversation that we need to be having.
I also found it very interesting how the babyface SmackDown locker room seems to have banded together behind Kingston, wanting him to get his shot and makes for an interesting question about what happens next week.
Mike Kanellis vs Akira Tozawa: My hopes that Mike Kanellis is going to be a super over underdog babyface seemed to have been dashed on Tuesday since he and Maria put away Akira Tozawa in that fantastic opener for 205, but I’m still thrilled that Kanellis seems to be getting a push.
Cedric Alexander: I really enjoyed this interview. Alexander really needled Nese and Murphy, raising questions about what would happen if Nese won the #1 Contender match. Love Nese’s assertion that he’s not a sidekick despite being Murphy’s lackey for the past several months.
Lucha House Party: I like Lucha House Party, but news of their return has me pretty ‘meh’, though them going against Gulak, Gallagher, Carrillo sounds interesting.
Tony Nese vs Cedric Alexander: I LOVED this match! I wasn’t sure it was going to live up to the hype, but Nese and Alexander really tore it up. I was surprised that Nese won, but I’m very happy since Nese would be a breath of fresh air to the title picture. Murphy turning on Nese was definitely NOT a surprise, but it ends the question of what will happen if the Body Guys have to face each other for the title: It’s going to be a fight at WrestleMania.
Pete Dunne: Well, it seems WWE is finally going to get Pete Dunne vs WALTER out of the way, thank god. I’ve been over this build for awhile and I’m glad that we’re finally getting it.
Women’s Division: I like Toni Storm, but I haven’t warmed up to her as much I would like to. There’s just something about her in the ring that I don’t get, she always acts like she has no idea what’s going on. However, I loved her promo on Jinny and am happy that they’re probably going to have this feud going into WrestleMania.
Rhea Ripley’s reaction to Xia Brookeside is hilarious when you remember that Brookeside came VERY close to beating Ripley a few times, so this match will be interesting to watch.
Eddie Dennis vs Ligero: The Headmaster from Hell is back and he vented his rage on poor Ligero in a hellacious match that I’m not sure Ligero was quite ready for. Any hope that the time away would help Dennis’ attitude seem to have been dashed because he beat the Leeds Luchador from pillar to post, though Ligero put up quite a fight. I pity whoever gets in Dennis’ way now.
Amir Jordan and Kenny Williams: I’m totally stoked to see the Lucky Bad Boys talking about going for the tag titles, even if Jordan is more enthusiastic about the idea than Williams.
The Hunt vs Sam Stoker and Lewis Howley: There’s not a whole lot to say about this match except that the Primate and the Wild Boar are going to be trouble for whomever gets in their way, as poor Stoker and Howley found out. Ouch.
Kassius Ohno vs Ashton Smith: Kassius Ohno has only been in the UK a week and he’s already having more success than he had in NXT US. The match against Ashton Smith was extremely good and let Ohno show off his skills. I don’t blame Smith for being skeptical of Ohno’s ‘respect’, but I don’t think Ohno KOing him was the way to show his goodwill.
Gallus: I like seeing Gallus figuring out why they’re having not great luck lately rather than singling someone out for blame or blaming their opponents. I’m interested in seeing how Gallus gets back on top, which I’m sure they’re going to do.
Tyler Bate vs James Drake: This was a really good match to try and get Mustache Mountain back in the tag title picture. Both guys are CRAZY talented and it was nice to see them one on one without their partners and since Bate got the win, Mustache Mountain are still in the title picture, so everyone wins.
Opening: Ever since it was announced that Ciampa was going to be out because of a neck injury, I’d been wondering how they were going to write him out and they did it exactly right. Triple H knows what it’s like to have career threatening injuries and the promo about the dreams that bring people to NXT were fantastic.
I’m happy that Gargano is going to keep his title shot, even if he’s going to have to wait to kick Ciampa’s ass a little longer and the names in the Fatal Five Way are exactly who should be in the picture.
Promos: The first round of promos were pretty standard. I can’t say anyone really jumped out to me as being the star of the segment, but I liked Forgotten Sons keeping the Dusty Rhodes Classic storyline going, even with everything else being kind of topsy-turvy.
Tommaso Ciampa: I’m not a huge Ciampa fan, but it sucks to see any superstar laid up, especially knowing how serious neck injuries are. Hopefully, Ciampa will heal quickly and be raising hell on NXT soon.
More Promos: We got to hear from the contenders of the Fatal Five way. The promos were pretty standard for everyone involved, and nothing really stood out as a pipe bomb.
Sky Pirates: Our THIRD promo segment was about the Fatal Four Way. Bianca Belair’s mental gymnastics game continues to be quite impressive, but it doesn’t change the fact that Io Shirai should be facing Baszler for the title because she earned the shot fair and square, while Belair whined and complained over not getting a rematch she wasn’t owed.
Fatal Five Way: I loved this match SOOO much, it mostly made up for having to sit through a show that was almost nothing but promos. Actually, if the whole show could’ve been this match, I would’ve been happy. I wasn’t even mad that Adam Cole won, even though I was rooting for Aleister Black. Cole and Gargano will have an AMAZING match in New York and I look forward to seeing it!
Overall Thoughts: This was an okay week for WWE on the Road to WrestleMania. RAW hit several potholes, but the other shows did a much better job.
I’m not a fan of petty!Lesnar, but if it means Seth got Lesnar’s attention, so be it.
I find it interesting that the video with the most views was Dean Ambrose coming to Rollins’ aid after RAW went off the air.
SmackDown didn’t have any REAL surprises. I’m not sure who actually thought Vince wouldn’t pull anything in the gauntlet match, but I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. I did love the solidarity between the babyface locker room and New Day, Tuesday will be interesting.
205 and NXT UK were both really good. I love that Tony Nese is the #1 Contender and I’m dying to see the promos between him and Murphy.
Love that Kanellis is FINALLY being taken seriously because he’s a great talent that needs to be utilized better.
I really would like to see whatever show NXT was supposed to be before Ciampa had surgery because an hour long show of four promo segments and ONE match got boring QUICKLY.
Again, this was a good week for WWE, but RAW REALLY needs to straighten up because SmackDown is pulling ahead in terms of WrestleMania building.