With how late WrestleMania goes, this is the week in review leading up to WrestleMania 35!
RAW Women’s Championship Match: I wish I was more excited about the Winner Take All stipulation about the Women’s Championship, but I’m not. It honestly feels like WWE didn’t think that the story they’d been building for a year wasn’t big enough for WrestleMania and needed to be made much bigger. Hopefully, it’ll turn out better than it sounds to me.
I love the Riott Squad, but they were pretty unimportant in the tag match, the all-out brawl after the match was over was THE moment of the night. It’s not often that we see brawls like this in WWE and never in the Women’s Division and Rousey, Lynch, and Flair did a fantastic job. Though, I do have to wonder what kind of idiot thought it was a good idea to put two brawling women in the same squad car. However, moment of the night goes to Charlotte Flair for the amazing knee she landed on Rousey. Bravo, ladies.
Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins: Seth Rollins REALLY needed a big moment to re-light interest in his Universal Championship match at WrestleMania and he did a pretty good job of it. I wasn’t thrilled about Heyman dismissing the Women’s match, but his selective memory about Lesnar’s career was amusing. I’m HOPING that Seth Rollins pulls this out somehow.
Eight Woman Tag: Even though this match wasn’t the best thing I’d ever seen from any of the women involved, I’m glad this match happened so Beth Phoenix could shake off any ring rust she might have. I’m also hoping that Sasha and the IIconics were just having a bad night because there were a lot of botches that didn’t do anyone any favors. I am hoping that Boss-Hug wins on Sunday, but I honestly can’t say I’m certain of it after Monday.
Batista: I was expecting a much longer promo than what we got, but I guess it was better than nothing.
Elias: I have a feeling that Elias isn’t going to get much concert time as much as they’ve hyped him as a musical act.
Jinder Mahal vs Apollo Crews: This was a match to build up the Andre Battle Royal and that’s the most that can be said for it. Crews has a lot of talent, that gets a little lost trying to cover for Mahal, who still stinks in the ring. It breaking down into a mock battle royal wasn’t a surprise, but it was very predictable.
Kurt Angle vs Rey Mysterio: I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, that Angle vs Mysterio didn’t happen. It’s clear that WWE wants to save Angle for WrestleMania. I’m still hoping SOMETHING will happen to keep Corbin vs Angle from happening, but it seems WWE is really serious about this match, and that’s a real shame.
Revival vs Aleister Black and Ricochet: I really enjoyed this match and I knew it was too much to hope that Black and Ricochet, who will be facing the War Raiders for the NXT Tag Titles on Friday, would win this match, but I am frustrated that no attempt was made to put them in the RAW Tag Team match since they got screwed over. Guess we’ll have to see what happens on Sunday.
Backstage: This was just a dumb segment to justify Strowman having a match and it sucked.
Roman Reigns: There’s been a lot of talk about who needs a win at WrestleMania more, Reigns or McIntyre, but since McIntyre has been getting in cheap shots and destroying Dean Ambrose, I’d say Reigns needs the win more, especially since McIntyre is as boring as paint.
Bobby Roode and Chad Gable vs Heavy Machinery: This was just a fun match. It looked like WWE hadn’t figured out what to do with Heavy Machinery, but they looked fantastic with Roode and Gable. Time will tell what will happen after WrestleMania since no RAW Tag Match has been made, but that can still change before Sunday.
Handicap Match: We went from fun to dumb so quickly, it’s actually pathetic.
Lashley and Rush: It’s been speculated that Balor might be bringing back the Demon for WrestleMania, despite claiming that he’d leaned on that persona too much. However, I’m glad that he’s doing it because it makes this never-ending feud with Lashley and Rush more interesting.
Rey Mysterio vs Baron Corbin: This was the Main Event of the go-home show of RAW and I can’t say it was a worthy one. The women should’ve ended the show, but I guess WWE wanted to give Angle one last final moment of RAW. The match was ‘eh’, but seeing Angle get some revenge on Corbin, and hopefully ‘taking’ him out of WrestleMania was a lot of fun. Thanks for the memories, Kurt.
Daniel Bryan vs Kofi Kingston: Well, it is officially official, Kofi Kingston WILL be facing Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania, or is he? Yes, the contract was checked over, notarized, and signed in a remarkably non-violent ceremony, with both men firing up the crowd with their promos. However, some sharp-eyed fans noticed that the date on the contract for the match was March 10, 2019, which was Fastlane, the match Kofi got screwed out of in favor of Kevin Owens.
Now, this could simply be oversight/laziness on WWE’s part since Kevin Owens signed the Fastlane contract meant for Kingston, or it could be another way for Vince to screw over Kingston if he should win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. We’ll have to wait and see.
Kevin Owens Show: I’ve been very ‘meh’ about Styles vs Orton but their segment during the Kevin Owens show definitely got me more interesting. I loved them taking shots at each other’s career, maybe hinting at RL backstage issues between the two. This definitely is a WrestleMania match.
Eight Man Tag: We all knew that the Usos would likely face some backlash over their decision to forfeit their match against New Day so Kofi Kingston could go to WrestleMania, so the announcement of the Fatal Four Way Tag Match doesn’t surprise me and it gives Black and Ricochet a chance to be in WrestleMania.
Women’s Tag Match: The IIconics might not always be the best in the ring, but they’re hard to top on the mic, even if their gimmick is obnoxious. I’m really glad they’re getting this big WrestleMania opportunity.
Miz vs SAnitY: Shane definitely seems to be relishing his return to heeldom, but Miz turned it up to 11 in that handicap match, holy crap. This was another match I wasn’t totally sold on until Tuesday. I just hope Shane and Miz don’t literally kill each other at WrestleMania.
Becky Lynch: I LOVED Becky showing up in a cop car after getting ‘arrested’ on Monday night. Her interview was exactly what was needed to bring all the threads this storyline together and owned to up to WWE planning for Rousey vs Flair until Lynch turned everything on its head. I honestly hope that Lynch walks away as the champion at WrestleMania, but we’ll have to see.
18 Person Mixed Tag: Well, we had to have one clunker of the night and this match was definitely it. Too many people, too thrown together, too ridiculous. Plus, it turning into another ‘battle royal’ was just dumb. It sounds like there was supposed to be two separate matches and someone decided to just lump everyone together to have them on the show.
Samoa Joe vs Mustafa Ali: It was mentioned Tuesday afternoon that Rey Mysterio had suffered an ankle injury during his match with Baron Corbin, leading to speculation that Mysterio would be removed from the match and Ali might be put in. Both those theories were put to bed when it was announced that Mysterio would still be competing and after Joe put Ali to sleep with the Coquina Clutch after a quick match. So much for that.
Oney Lorcan vs Kalisto: It looks like Lorcan is here to stay and he had a great match with Kalisto. I would’ve been happier if Cedric Alexander had done a run-in after what happened a couple of weeks ago, but I’m guessing that Lorcan’s going to be a big, monster, heel for whomever wins the title at WrestleMania down the line.
Drake Maverick’s Office: I’m guessing that Cedric’s dealing with an injury and needs a little time off because Maverick’s decision to bench him instead of giving him the match with Lorcan is just silly. I guess we’ll have to see, it could just be WWE wanting to rebuild Alexander into their super-over underdog to replace Ali.
Tony Nese and Buddy Murphy: TBH, I think 205 waited too long to start the build for WrestleMania, because they only gave themselves a few weeks to build this feud and it’s showing because there’s not as much heat as the Cruiserweights need to stand out on the STACKED WrestleMania card. However, I think they’ll do a great job, I’m just not sure it’s going to be a standout match.
Mike Kanellis vs Akira Tozawa: I’d really like to know what the heck WWE has planned for Mike Kanellis because they looked to be building him into something and then have him lose clean to Akira Tozawa. I like Tozawa, but the narrative for Kanellis really seems to be going nowhere and that’s frustrating.
Kenny Williams and Amir Jordan vs European Alliance: The Lucky Bad Boys haven’t had the greatest luck as a team, but they’re improving! This week, their luck got test against the European Alliance in a fabulous match that actually saw Williams and Jordan get another win, to the surprise of everyone in the ring and out of it. I’m not saying that they’ll be getting a Tag Team Championship shot out of this, but they are inching toward that goal.
Rhea Ripley: Considering that she ran away when Piper Niven showed up, Ripley really has no business trying to pretend she’s not scared of Niven, but I guess that’s part of the gimmick.
Jordan Devlin: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I like Jordan Devlin, at least as an in-ring performer, but why did they wait until the go-home show to push the idea that Devlin wanted to face Dunne instead of WALTER? I predicted that they’ll probably have WALTER win in New York, but now I’m not sure about that.
Isla Dawn vs Kay Lee Ray: This match frustrated me because of how Isla Dawn has been used. She went from challenging for the NXT UK Women’s Championship to basically putting over everyone else. I’m still hoping Dawn, Ray, and Niven will create a female version of Gallus because they’d make a great team, and this match was great, I’m just very frustrated.
Toni Storm vs Jinny: I’m over this feud already because I don’t get Jinny and I’m not invested enough in Toni to really want to see her defeat Jinny either. I’m just ‘eh’.
Travis Banks: I was hoping that the Banks/Devlin feud would continue, but I guess Devlin’s getting a push after TakeOver. I’m intrigued to see how a Banks/Ohno feud will go though.
Grizzled Young Veterans: I found this promo a little strange. Of all the teams to worry about, why focus on Williams and Jordan? They’re hardly the only tag team that consider themselves contenders for the Tag Titles. Anyway, we’ll see what happens after TakeOver, but the idea of Williams and Jordan getting a shot makes me pretty happy.
Trent Seven vs Joe Coffey: This was a great match, as usual, but it definitely feels like they’re building towards a rift in Moustache Mountain by making Seven look like he can’t go anymore and is hold down Bate. Seven looked great in match, but he still tapped and that could be another building block in the takedown of the Big Strong Boys. We’ll see.
War Raiders vs Jobbers/Cezar Bononi and Adrian Jaoude: This was actually pretty hilarious. Rowe and Hanson completely destroyed their first opponents in unseemly hast and then demanded another team and destroyed them too and even faster! I know it was to try and intimidate Black and Ricochet but it was so funny!
Candice LeRae, Aliyah, and Vanessa Borne: I’m glad that NXT is finally remembering that Candice is more than Johnny Gargano’s perpetually worried wife, so I’m thrilled that she’s being given a storyline with Aliyah and Vanessa Borne, who have been on a roll lately. Very excited for this match.
Jaxson Ryker vs Oney Lorcan: Oney Lorcan is a nasty heel on 205, but he’s still a beloved babyface on NXT, but that wasn’t enough to help him against the Forgotten Sons this week, much to my surprise. Since it doesn’t look like there’s a rift between Lorcan and Burch, I’m a little curious as to how they’ll explain Lorcan getting called up by himself.
NXT Championship Promos: These were really good, but also pretty standard promos for Gargano and Cole. They hit all the right talking points and still kept Ciampa in the storyline, in case he can come back.
NXT North American Championship Promos: Since I really don’t like either man involved, it was hard for me to really pay attention to what they were saying, but it sounded pretty standard for them too.
Kairi Sane vs Bianca Belair: This was a really great match, but the real story was the all-out brawl that erupted after Baszler attacked again. I have a feeling that the NXT Women’s Division is going to have a say in who wins that Fatal Four Way. I loved that Shirai stood tall at the end of the day.
NXT TakeOver: New York
NXT Championship Match: WrestleMania is usually the WWE show that makes history, but Johnny Gargano made some history of his own when he became NXT’s first Triple Crown/Grand Slam Champion after defeating Adam Cole in a breathtaking 2-out-of-3 Falls match that showed both men at their best. Cole had some help from the Undisputed Era, but Johnny Wrestling had come too far to be denied his prize and it was Johnny Wrestling who came out on top.
Even better than the victory was the celebration. Not only did Candice LeRae come out to celebrate with her husband, but Tommaso Ciampa, still in a neck brace came out to congratulate his best frenemy. Time will tell how that story is going to play out, especially since Ciampa’s return to in-ring competition is not a foregone conclusion, but it was a wonderful moment between two men who have been the best of friends, the best of enemies, and back again.
NXT UK Championship Match: Well, after nearly 700 days, the unbelievable finally happened, Pete Dunne was defeated by WALTER in an incredible match up that saw Dunne push WALTER to his limit, but the Stock Character managed to hold on before putting Dunne away with the WALTER Splash, but not before Dunne had kicked out of the WALTER bomb, which was crazy to watch. Time will tell what the Bruiserweight’s reaction is going to be, but this isn’t over by a long shot.
NXT North American Championship Match: I’ve probably said this too many times before, but I don’t really care for Velveteen Dream vs Matt Riddle. That said, this was a really good match with Velveteen Dream being the first person to pin Matt Riddle after rolling through the Bro-mission. Dream was a good sport, but I have a feeling this feud won’t be over.
Fatal Four Way for the NXT Women’s Championship: This was the match I was most looking forward to, hoping that someone would finally unseat Shayna Baszler, but that didn’t happen. It was an incredible match, but the fact that Baszler still retained is baffling to me since this seems like the perfect way to crown a new Women’s Champion while still protecting Baszler. I guess we’ll have to see what happens next week, but I hope they figure out a way to sort this out because they aren’t doing the Women’s Division a lot of favors.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: Of all the teams in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, Aleister Black and Ricochet were the most unlikely team to win, but win they did and face the War Raiders in an AMAZING match. War Raiders are huge guys, but both of them are amazing athletes with both men hitting sentons that have to be seen to be believed. To no big surprise, Raiders retained, but Black and Ricochet were allowed to give the NXT crowd one last, emotional, farewell before making their full transfer to the main roster.
WWE 2K19 Million Dollar Challenge: AJ Styles vs Stephen T. Benson: I’m not entirely sure WHY this had to be part of TakeOver, but it was interesting, even though I know nothing about video games outside of Super Mario Brothers and the first Legend of Zelda.
Note: No, I haven’t forgotten about WrestleMania, The Showcase of the Immortals will be getting its own, separate, Week in Review Article which will be out Tuesday, April 9, so keep your eyes peeled for it.