WWE Money In The Bank 2021: Predictions & Analysis

I don’t know if it’s because crowds are back or if WWE has finally pulled out of the post-Wrestlemania slump, but I’m more excited for this show than I have been for any WWE show since Royal Rumble.

Money In The Bank has had a disappointing few years. The women’s briefcase was non-existent last year thanks to Becky’s pregnancy, and the men’s briefcase has been treated like garbage and hasn’t had a good cash-in since 2016. I don’t know why, but I feel like this year is going to be different. WWE’s history doesn’t really warrant this optimism, but sod it; I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

The non-ladder matches all look pretty damn promising too. As much as the weekly TV product has been in the toilet, WWE’s Pay-Per-View output this year has been surprisingly great every time.

Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio(c) vs The Usos
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Kickoff Show)

Surprised this was the match that got bumped to the pre-show rather than the other tag titles. It’s reasonably arbitrary at the end of the day. It just felt like this match had more build & heat going into it.

Either way, I think it will be good. I know pre-show matches don’t usually get as much time as they need, but The Usos practically lived on pre-show tag matches for a while, and they still pulled it out of the bag in a major way every time. Rey & Dominik have been great, and I’m super happy for them about getting the tag titles, but I don’t see their reign lasting any longer.

The Usos have the momentum right now, and them winning the tag titles will just make Roman look even more legit if he’s backed up by two champions. I guess their disagreements could screw things up, but they already told that story last month with Roman costing them, so now’s the time to switch those belts.

AJ Styles & Omos(c) vs The Viking Raiders
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

The one thing that hasn’t picked up since Wrestlemania is the tag title scene on either show.

Styles & Omos are great in general as a pairing, but this tag title reign has been really underwhelming. They’ve defended the titles twice, and neither match has been anything worth shouting about. I feel like we’re all still waiting for Omos to show us what he can do, and it’s starting to seem like he can’t do a whole lot. Either that or management don’t trust him to do anything. I’m not sure which is worse.

That said, this could still be a good match. The Viking Raiders are one of the best tag teams WWE have on the main roster, and even with Omos’ limited moveset, I’m hoping the other three can pull this out of the bag. Unfortunately, if any match is going to get cut for time or bumped to the pre-show, it’s going to be this one.

I’ll go with AJ Styles & Omos to retain. It’s a possibility Raiders win the titles. It’s not like it would make much difference, either way, to be honest. It just felt like WWE were trying to do something with Styles & Omos in this title reign, and they haven’t done it yet, so the reign should continue.

Bobby Lashley(c) vs Kofi Kingston
(WWE Championship)

I’m just happy to see Lashley defending against someone other than Drew.

This storyline has been pretty good. Xavier Woods has surprisingly been the MVP of the storytelling (pun intended). Even though this is Kofi’s story (who has still been great), Woods is the one whose fire I can feel whenever he cuts a promo. He’s looked surprisingly good against Lashley, too, even getting a win on Raw.

I’m confident this will be a great match. Kofi’s run as champion a couple of years ago proved he could compete in high-quality singles world title matches consistently, and Lashley is better than he’s ever been right now. The big man vs little man dynamic is obvious, and both men know how to play to that potential.

Bobby Lashley is 100% retaining, though. A second run with Kofi at the top would be incredible, but there’s just no way Lashley’s losing that title before Summerslam. Every story the rumour mill has about Summerslam involves plans where Lashley is champion, so I don’t think WWE is budging on him anytime soon.

Rhea Ripley(c) vs Charlotte Flair
(Raw Women’s Championship)

After the bizarre and terrible ending to their match at Hell In A Cell, I’ve not been particularly interesting in this rematch. I really only care about the result.

The build’s been ok, but nothing particularly special. Charlotte & Rhea have been going back and forth since just after Mania now, so we’re running out of directions for the story to go. They’re also taking Rhea’s character in a weird direction. They want her to be heel, but they’re putting her up against Charlotte, who is even more of a heel, so it’s not going to work. I’m sure the match will be good. Both these women are at the top of their in-ring game. It’s just all a bit heatless at this point.

As for the result, it’s a hard one to pick. It’s Charlotte, so her winning is always a possibility; it’s just a matter of what you think the Summerslam plans are. Becky Lynch is definitely going to be fighting for one of the women’s titles; it’s just a matter of which one. If she’s going for the Raw title, Rhea is almost certainly retaining here because no one wants to see Becky vs Charlotte for the 100th time.

However, I actually think Becky is going to return to Smackdown and challenge Bianca. This is partly because, after Bayley’s injury & Sasha’s absence, the main-event scene of the Smackdown women’s division is pitifully shallow. It is also partly because that’s where Rollins is, and WWE (rightfully) like to keep couples together on the road.

It’s really a coin flip in my head, so I’m going with Rhea Ripley to retain because it’s what I want.

Roman Reigns(c) vs Edge
(Universal Championship)

As much as I was thrilled when Daniel Bryan got added to the Wrestlemania main event, I was a little disappointed we wouldn’t see the singles match between Reigns & Edge instead. Thankfully, WWE knew there was still money there.

Edge came back and kept all that fire he had in the Wrestlemania build. The added wrinkle of the drama between The Usos has given this build a different feeling to the Wrestlemania one, though. Reigns has very much settled into his groove for this character, and we know what to expect from him, which allows his opponents to consistently play off it to great effect.

The last few PPVs have shown that Reigns’ title matches will always get as much time as they need, so I’m really looking forward to seeing these styles collide. Roman hits hard and fast, while Edge is notoriously more wily and opportunistic. I think a lot of great storytelling will come from Edge picking his spots and creating opportunities for himself.

Roman Reigns is winning, though. Unless something monumentally unforeseen happens, there is no way Reigns is losing that title any time this year. In fact, assuming WWE can get Reigns vs Rock for next year’s Wrestlemania, I wouldn’t expect to see Reigns drop that title before 2022’s Summerslam.

Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match

The booking surrounding this match has been bizarre. Raw sorted out all four of their participants the week after Hell In A Cell, but Smackdown has been drip-feeding them. They also conspicuously left the final spot open, only to suddenly announce it would be Tamina on Twitter.

The last-minute nature of it all very much feels like some sort of plans have fallen through, especially considering fans were speculating that people like Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch or even Sonya Deville could fill that final spot.

Regardless, here are each competitor’s chances.

Natalya & Tamina – Lumping these two together because the reason they won’t win is the same, they’re the Women’s Tag Champs. I know that just a year ago, those champions were also singles champions, but Natalya & Tamina are not in the same position that Bayley & Sasha were this time last year.

Zelina Vega – A surprising return, especially considering what her husband’s currently up to, but a welcome one. Hopefully, on this run, WWE will fully treat Vega as a wrestler and not as a manager who sometimes gets in the mix with other women. Vega would be the most interesting choice to win, in my opinion, but I don’t see it happening.

Asuka – Asuka’s run as Raw Women’s Champion last year was great when it was allowed to be. Unfortunately, the lasting impression of that reign was how badly she was treated in the latter half of it. I don’t think WWE have any intention of putting her back in the title picture anytime soon, and she’ll probably move to Smackdown in the draft, so she’s not getting the briefcase.

Nikki Cross – I’m not really sure what this new character of Nikki’s is supposed to be. From what I’ve seen, it looks like she’s the one who came up with it and is enjoying doing it, so good for her; I just don’t quite get it yet. Of course, if it gets her featured on TV more often, then I’m all for it; I think she’s great. I think she has a very small chance to win this briefcase, but I’m not optimistic.

Naomi – Again, I think her chances are slim, but not zero to win. She’s been on the back burner for a long while, but people react to Naomi when given the opportunity. I could easily see WWE wanting to put her back in the spotlight with this briefcase, and I’d be all for it too.

Liv Morgan – Normally, I’d discard Morgan as someone with no chance, but on Smackdown, she actually has been making some waves in her story with Sonya Deville. It would be awesome to see it go somewhere, but I can’t really convince myself it will. I certainly hope it does because, as I’ve said, Smackdown is in desperate need of more top talent in the women’s division; I’m just unsure.

Alexa Bliss – On the surface, Bliss seems like the only legitimate pick, but I’m not so sure. I think Bliss will get a women’s title match at Summerslam (assuming Becky goes to Smackdown, as I have previously predicted), but I don’t think she needs the briefcase to get there. She’s been slowly building since Wrestlemania, and even if her stuff is just a poor man’s Bray Wyatt, it’s more interesting than Charlotte going after the title for generic reasons.

This is a really tough pick because the field is so open, and I’m not behind the seemingly obvious choice. I’m going to go with the only person with a solid story going into this match and pick Liv Morgan.

Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match

What an incredible lineup this is. I’ve really got nothing more to say, this is eight of the best out there right now, and we could be in for one hell of a match when they all get together in the ring. It’s made it a very tough match to call too.

Ricochet & John Morrison – The “no chance” club, as I like to call them. They’ll no doubt both get some great spots, and the rivalry they’ve built for themselves has been fantastic. The Falls Count Anywhere match on Raw was a great watch and showcased both men to their fullest. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re going to get even close to winning this thing. The only way I could see Morrison winning is to further drive the wedge between him & Miz.

Drew McIntyre – Normally, I rank these in order of how much chance I think they have, but honestly, all six of these remaining guys have an equal chance as far as I’m concerned. Drew has only just got out of the WWE title scene, and I don’t see him going back into it anytime soon. He’s not even allowed to challenge Lashley anymore, so I see little point in giving him the briefcase.

Riddle – He’s got the tag team with Orton waiting in the wings, which will be a good story whichever way they go. Personally, I hope they challenge for the tag titles at Summerslam, but Riddle winning the briefcase and then feuding with Orton would be a good way to push him to the top as fast as possible. Like almost everyone in this match, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he won.

Shinsuke Nakamura – It looked like he was going to receive a substantial push at the start of the year, but it ended up going to Cesaro instead, so maybe Money in the Bank would be a way to make that up to him. He’s been on quite the hot streak recently, and it’s put him in the forefront of people’s minds in regards to this match. I just can’t quite see it.

Seth Rollins – This top three is so hard to pick between. Ultimately, what’s made me move away from Rollins is that I think he’s going to stay on Smackdown after the shakeup. As I’ve said, Roman is not losing that title anytime soon, so having a Smackdown guy win it is pointless. Whoever wins it will end up on Raw after the shakeup, which I think both of these next two guys will do.

Big E – The man who seems to be the sentimental favourite to many (myself included) Big E’s time in the spotlight feels like it’s so very close. I think a switch to Raw and a New Day reunion is in the works for the shakeup, and he would be arguably the perfect candidate to eventually take the title from Lashley. There’s a really compelling argument to be made here.

Kevin Owens – Like Big E, I feel pretty confident that Owens is switching to Raw soon. He’s done all there is for him to do on Smackdown. He wrapped up his feud with Sami Zayn, feuded with Roman at the start of the year and has been everywhere in between. There’s nothing left for him to do on the blue brand. His face run is absolutely deserving to be in the world title picture, and Lashley vs Owens is a nice, fresh matchup, which Raw is desperately lacking. On top of that, Money In The Bank has always felt like a gimmick that’d suit Kevin Owens perfectly.

This is such a tough choice. There are six viable candidates, and I could honestly be talked around to the other two as well if someone conjured a compelling enough argument. This is going to be one hell of a match where I will be on the edge of my seat.

I want it to be Big E, but I think it’ll be Kevin Owens.

Man, I’m excited.

Thanks for reading! I’ve been a lot less active on here lately because I’ve been writing for Game Rant! Check out my stuff here: https://gamerant.com/author/ryan-woodrow/

WWE Hell In A Cell 2021: Predictions & Analysis

Hell In A Cell is just around the corner, and…I’ll be honest, I’m not very excited. Smackdown has been pretty consistently great week-to-week, but all of their matches on this show are rematches, so it’s not that interesting. Raw, meanwhile, has been terrible. With the possible exception of the celebrity guest host era, I can’t think of another point in time where Raw has been this consistently bad on a week-to-week basis. I hate to use the word “unwatchable”, but when even the wrestling YouTubers – who make a living off of watching & reviewing Raw – are like “fuck this, I don’t wanna watch it anymore”, something is clearly dire.

All told, there is only one match on this card that we haven’t seen before. That is the clearest sign ever that WWE is creatively bankrupt right now. However, their Pay-Per-View output has been pretty consistently good so far this year, even if the TV product isn’t up to scratch, so maybe this will be surprisingly good.

Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn

Why though?

Surely an Intercontinental Championship with one or both of these guys would’ve been better than them going one on one for…nothing? It’s not even for the number one contender ship. Don’t get me wrong, it’s Owens vs Zayn, so it’s not going too bad. I’m just not entirely sure what the point is. When Reigns vs Mysterio got bumped to Smackdown, and this is what they replace it with, it seems like a hilariously stupid decision.

As I said, Owens & Zayn always put on great PPV matches, but I would’ve preferred to see an original match over this one, preferably for the IC title, since that seldom gets onto PPVs these days.

I don’t really know who’s going to win, but it probably doesn’t matter. I want to say Zayn because Owens won at Wrestlemania, and if there’s one thing WWE loves more than endless rematches, it’s giving all of those rematches 50/50 booking. However, Owens is probably next in line to challenge Crews for the IC title one-on-one, so he seems like the better choice. It’s a coin flip, but I’m going with Kevin Owens.

Alexa Bliss vs Shayna Baszler

Two – Three years ago, I would’ve been very excited about this match. Alexa Bliss has always been better in the ring than people give her credit for, and I am still firm in my belief that Shayna Baszler is the best of the best when it comes to women’s wrestlers in WWE. Seeing these two clash would’ve been a sight to behold in 2018/19.

Unfortunately, the story building to this match has been FUCKING AWFUL.

First of all, Baszler gets thoroughly manipulated by Nia Jax in their “frenemies” relationship to look like a chump. She then loses to Reginald of all people because God is dead, and Vince McMahon killed him. Then there was that Raw segment where Lily…did some spooky things while Shayna was in the room. It was WWE trying to do Bray Wyatt’s stuff without any of Bray’s creative genius that made it work.

Alexa Bliss is going to win, and I hate it. I hate that Shayna Baszler has been relegated to the first stepping stone on Bliss’ path to the title.

Cesaro vs Seth Rollins

Out of all the rematches on this show, I think this is the best-built one.

Rollins’ attack on Cesaro at the end of his Backlash match against Reigns was a brilliant way to reignite the feud, and the build week-to-week on Smackdown has been pretty good. Rollins feels like he’s a revitalised version of his messiah character that was getting a tad stale, and Cesaro has had a meaningful way to continue his momentum from the Roman Reigns feud.

Additionally, it will be a fantastic match. Cesaro & Rollins put on a great showcase at Wrestlemania, and after Cesaro put on a blinder against Reigns last month, I think this match might get more time than the Wrestlemania match and be even better. Even if it is a rematch, I’m going to get my enjoyment out of it somehow.

This is another one where picking the winner is tough. Cesaro could do with a win after losing to Reigns. However, he’s definitively beat Rollins twice over the past couple of months. This makes me think Rollins will get the win because otherwise, what was the point in doing this again? Additionally, I have a feeling that Rollins is going to be going after the Universal title soon, or possibly even winning Money in the Bank, so a win would solidify his rise after a string of losses.

It’s a bit of a coin flip, but I’m going to go with Seth Rollins.

Rhea Ripley(c) vs Charlotte Flair
(Raw Women’s Championship)

I feel I should be more excited for this than I am.

The feud this month took all of the fun intensity between the women from their Backlash feud and just threw it all away. Instead, the story has centred around both women failing to beat Nikki Cross over and over, which is so stupid. It doesn’t make anyone look good. Cross constantly gets treated like a pushover, making her wins feel flukey and meaningless, while Flair & Ripley keep losing someone they see as beneath their level.

I am, and I’m not excited about this match. On one level, it’s Rhea vs Charlotte. They had Wrestlemania’s best non-cinematic match in 2020 and were involved in two of WWE’s best matches last year. On the flip side, this is a relatively heatless story, and I can’t get past the fear that WWE will end Ripley’s title reign prematurely just because…it’s Charlotte.

I really don’t know who to call for the winner. I would hope WWE have shown they’re committed to Ripley as champion, but when Charlotte’s involved, you can really never tell. Even if Ripley does win, I doubt it’ll be clean. Bliss will probably cost Charlotte, or, hell, maybe Becky Lynch will show up. There are too many moving parts, so I’m going to play it safe and say Rhea Ripley will retain.

Bianca Belair(c) vs Bayley
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
(Hell In A Cell)

Again, this is a good feud that I’ve just seen enough of.

At least this one has the Hell In A Cell stipulation for some intrigue, but it’s not exactly a game-changer. The story beat of Bianca using her hair was going to come up eventually, and Bayley was the right character to be able to run with it and make it compelling. Bianca has played a largely reactionary role in this feud, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as Bayley has slowly become more unhinged and unpredictable.

Is this feud intense enough to justify using Hell In A Cell? Not really, but it’s better than most feuds that just get shoved inside when this show comes around. I’m sure it’ll be a good match, though. I enjoyed what they did at Backlash, and as long as this match properly builds on that, it’ll be good. We’ve yet to see how Bianca handles a hardcore environment, but Bayley is well-versed in this type of match, so they should be able to put together something great.

Bianca Belair is absolutely retaining. There’s nothing to be gained in Bayley winning the title back, and Bianca can continue her first run at the top in glorious fashion.

Bobby Lashley(c) vs Drew McIntyre
(WWE Championship)
(Hell In A Cell)

I’m so done with this.

What amazes me is that this is actually only the second time these two have gone one on one this year, and yet it still feels like it’s dragged on forever and has gotten really boring. Lashley’s general characterisation has been great, but creative has failed to utilise that characterisation to build an interesting feud or tell any kind of good story with it. Drew is still Drew, and he’s still great, but he’s lost so much fire since Wrestlemania, and I can’t summon the passion to get behind him like I could last year because of it.

I’m honestly not expecting much from this match. If they massively ramp up the brutality and make them really try to destroy each other, it could be good, but I don’t think it’ll be that. I think it’ll be the standard, plodding Hell In A Cell match where they just lumber about setting up spots for 5 minutes for 5 seconds of underwhelming payoff.

I initially thought there might be some possibility Drew gets the title back, but there’s no way that’s happening. Not only have all the rumoured Summerslam plans we’ve been hearing about recently feature Lashley as champion but Drew actually pinned Lashley on Raw, and that seals his fate. Bobby Lashley is retaining, and there is no doubt in my mind about it.

AEW Double or Nothing 2021: Every Match Ranked

Another Pay-Per-View is behind us. Some got double, some got nothing (I don’t understand this metaphor), but generally, it was a pretty good night of wrestling. I don’t think it ranks among AEW’s best, but that’s a pretty high bar, and I still found the show entertaining. Let’s just talk about the matches.

10 – Cody Rhodes def. Antony Ogogo

As much as I had a strong disliking toward the story of this match, I thought the action itself could still be good. I was wrong.

It wasn’t necessarily bad; it just felt a bit heartless compared to everything else on the show. It only went 10 minutes, and nothing memorable happened during it. Ogogo came out of the gate with a bit of fire, Cody mounted a comeback, they traded momentum for a bit, and that was that. The commentators were desperately selling it as some huge moment and tough triumph for Cody, but it’s just not.

I’ve often defended Cody when people talk about him having too much of an ego, but with every pointless and heatless major win like this, I’m starting to come around to that way of thinking. What was the benefit of this? The crowd were noticeably quieter during this match than most of the show, save for some half-arsed USA chants. Cody didn’t beat a particularly strong opponent, and Ogogo looks pathetic in defeat. What was the point? Other than an ego wank from Cody with a chance to be America’s “hero”.

9 – Jungle Boy Wins The Casino Battle Royale
(Winner Receives A Future AEW World Championship Match)

I mentioned in my predictions that this battle royal format was a little awkward. Although I said that, I have by and large enjoyed all of them up until now. However, watching this one on Sunday, it made all of this format’s flaws really obvious.

Competitors entering five at a time just flat-out does not work. It’s awkwardly paced as each person has to get their own music, but it means that none of them get to have a chance to shine on their own as they come in the ring. People don’t get to come into the match full of steam and clean house to look good. They just immediately fade into the background. On top of that, so much time is spent on entrances that the pacing of the match feels disjointed. Eliminations get missed, spots get overlooked, and it can be hard to tell who’s even in the match sometimes.

When the match got good was towards the end. The Joker entrant, Lio Rush (who I’m pleased to see), got a great moment to shine in their entrance, and they got in the ring. Then, once the field had cleared, the story with Matt Hardy & Private Party got to take the forefront, and things were more compelling. The final sequence with Christian & Jungle Boy was great too, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the winner.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You’re never going to beat the Royal Rumble, so stop trying to be the Royal Rumble because all it does is make me wish I was watching the Royal Rumble.

8 – Sting & Darby Allin def. Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page

I don’t have a great deal to say about this one. It was good, but nothing particularly special. It’s nice to see Sting wrestle again, and it’s clear he’s still got some left in the tank, which is always good.

I just want to see both him & Allin used differently now. I’d rather see Sting mentoring Allin in a singles capacity at this point rather than random tag matches that damage the credibility of mid-card heels.

7 – The Inner Circle def. The Pinnacle
(Stadium Stampede)

I promise this is the last match I’m going to moan about, but this match didn’t really click with me.

For context, I loved last year’s Stadium Stampede match. It had tonnes of memorable moments and gripped me for the entirety of its 30-minute runtime. This one was not even remotely like that, and it was a huge detriment to the match’s quality.

The intensity of this feud was through the roof, and they tried to play the Stadium Stampede match a lot more seriously because of it, and that is where this match fell short. The entire concept is inherently silly, so you’ve got to play up to that fact. Rather than a long string of memorable and entertaining spots, this match was just people wandering around, punching and occasionally hitting each other with things.

Just off the top of my head, I could give you a laundry list of memorable moments from last year’s Stadium Stampede. The charge at the start. The Northern Lights suplex across the field. One of the Young Bucks Moonsaulting off of the goal post. Page wandering around on a horse. The Omega & Page bar fight and several others that I’m leaving out, so this doesn’t go on too long.

Compare that to this year, what are people going to remember in a year’s time? The Inner Circle’s entrance, absolutely, that was brilliant, but in the actual match? Not a lot. The “disco” fight was pretty memorable, I guess, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything else. The motorbike/golf cart chasing Shaun Spears was good, but even that was just a callback to last year’s match.

At the end of the day, it was fine and still held my attention throughout. I just don’t think it justified the 30 minutes it had this time around.

6 – Miro(c) def. Lance Archer
(TNT Championship)

Yup, thumbs up for this one.

It was pretty short, clocking in at just under 10 minutes, but the intensity that both men brought to it felt like it justified the shorter runtime. Miro is finally unleashed in his full potential, and it’s as glorious as we all knew it would be. Naturally, Archer responded to his style of offence in kind, and the match held the feeling of two men really trying to crush each other.

It worked somewhat slowly throughout the middle, but the hard-hitting style both wrestlers brought made up for it, and the flurries of fast stuff mixed in there wrapped it all together nicely.

I’m not the biggest fan of Archer taking yet another major loss like this, but I can understand that it’s probably worth it for the sake of building Miro up as a monster. I’m excited to see where this title reign goes, Miro has shown throughout his career that he can work against both big & small guys, so there’s some interesting dynamics to play around with throughout his reign.

5 – Serena Deeb(c) def. Riho
(NWA World Women’s Championship)

A pretty simple but very engaging match. Maybe it’s because WWE has conditioned my expectation of pre-show matches to be so low, but I was surprised at how much these two were able to get in.

Serena was great at getting the crowd to turn on her from the get-go. I didn’t realise that she’d become a heel on NWA programming, but the in-ring storytelling quickly clued me in and adjusted my expectations accordingly. Riho responded to it in the right way too. Her general presentation presents her as quite the underdog, and she knows how to play up to it.

The champion retained, but it was still a fantastic feature for both women.

4 – Hangman Adam Page def. Brian Cage

Another simple but great singles match here. They played this one very balanced in terms of momentum, which kept it interesting throughout. 12 minutes was the perfect length of time for what this match was, and the pacing flowed perfectly from start to finish. Cage’s powerful offence gave him this force-of-nature aura, but Page handled it well and told the story of learning from their first encounter.

Team Taz getting involved at the end was an interesting wrinkle. I find it interesting that almost all of the attempts at match interference on this show went wrong in one way or another. Cage’s desire to do it alone added an extra layer to the story and justified what would’ve otherwise been fairly stupid decision-making on his part.

I’m interested to see where they take his character following this. While I think he could’ve gotten more out of his run with Team Taz, at this point, I think it might be best to let it go and change his status quo. You don’t even need to turn him face. Just breaking away from Team Taz would be enough of a change to let him start fresh. As for Hangman Page, him winning was the right decision, and I’m looking forward to seeing his rise continue.

3 – Britt Baker def. Hikaru Shida(c)
(AEW Women’s World Championship)

A worthy end to Shida’s title reign.

I didn’t realise they’d given her a new title belt, but I like it. The only real problem with the original belt was how pitifully tiny it was, and this fixed that. Now it looks like a throwback belt with a modern style, and I like it.

The match itself had a lot to love. Not as quickly paced as I would’ve liked, but most other aspects of the match made up for that shortcoming. The momentum shifted gradually between each woman, and that combined with the ramping up in intensity for a compelling contest. The styles between these two meshed in the way I had hoped, and it brought the shine out of both of them.

The story elements were great too. Despite the crowd largely being pro-Britt, she stayed true to her character and did everything in her power to turn them against her. Admittedly, it didn’t work, but I still enjoyed watching it. Rebel’s interference going wrong was a great dramatic moment, although I’m glad it was only a false finish. I’m sure something will come of that in the long term.

The finish made both women look pretty good too. Shida wasn’t soundly out-wrestled, but she made a mistake and got caught by a competitor on her level who knew how to make the most of it. With Britt at the top, I’m confident AEW’s women’s division will reach the status it deserves at last.

2 – The Young Bucks(c) def. Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston
(AEW World Tag Team Championship)

This was definitely the most fun match of the evening.

The story between these two teams focusing on a pair of shoes was an odd choice. I know it was symbolistic of the wider conflict, but still, especially considering how little bearing they ended up having on the match. Also, before I get into the match properly, did The Young Bucks pay off that referee or something? Both Bucks were in the ring for almost the entire match, and the referee didn’t even try to count them out, but he still had a go at Kingston for even thinking about it.

The action was fantastic throughout this match. With how dominant of a champion he was, it’s easy to forget how great Moxley is at taking a beating. He got his clock cleaned by the Bucks at almost every opportunity but still came out of that gate swinging in the way only he can. Kingston got to be the controlling factor for his team, but the Bucks still found a weakness to exploit. That was a great device to turn momentum back the Bucks whenever it was needed.

Towards the end, when things got more chaotic was when things hit their peak. The kickout at one was nice, although I feel like that’s becoming a bit of an overused trope, especially considering we basically never saw it a couple of years ago. Things went off with a bang in the final sequence, with the exception of the actual finish, which felt like more of a whimper. However, it couldn’t take away from what was a fantastically entertaining bout.

1 – Kenny Omega(c) def. Orange Cassidy & Pac
(AEW World Championship)

Triple threat matches are just the most entertaining things.

The balance of power between all three guys was really interesting. I said in my predictions that Orange Cassidy would serve as more of an exclamation point on the match, and I think that was more or less the role he filled. While the crowd loved all three guys, it was clear they were fully behind Cassidy, and whenever he popped back in the ring for a few quick punches, it was a joyous occasion.

Pac & Omega trying to out-wrestle each other helped carry the bulk of the action and gave things the technical flavour we love to see. Both men are very familiar with each other by this point, and it shows, as the ebb and flow of the match never faltered. The tropes of triple threat matches are very well established by this point, but I feel like this match didn’t lean on them too heavily. While there was some amount of powdering out, I feel like all three men were a featured part of the action for more of the match than not.

Things got a bit convoluted towards the end but in the right kind of way. Kenny using all four of his belts to clobber Pac was a cool twist on an established spot, and the ridiculous amount of false finishes were a lot of fun. The final one was especially great and does everything it needed to for Orange Cassidy. He almost caught Omega on several occasions and only lost because of some quick thinking on Kenny’s part. Both Cassidy & Pac can be waiting in the wings now and can be pushed back into the title picture whenever they’re needed.

AEW Double or Nothing 2021: Predictions & Analysis

It’s been a rather eventful couple of months for AEW since their last Pay-Per-View. Their arrangements with Impact & NJPW have clearly boosted all companies involved. Impact especially feels like it’s hotter than ever right now, and you’ve got to give AEW some credit for that.

As much as it’s all been pretty cool, I haven’t been keeping up with Dynamite on a week-to-week basis as much as I would’ve liked recently. In fact, I’ve watched more episodes of NXT UK over the past month than Dynamite. That said, I’ve done my best to catch up with all the goings-on and make my predictions for Double or Nothing, which looks to be a brilliant show!

Serena Deeb(c) vs Riho
(NWA World Women’s Championship)

AEW’s women’s division is slowly improving. Not enough to get more than one match on a Pay-Per-View, but one step at a time, I guess.

I don’t think there’s a great deal to be said about this match. Both women are fantastic wrestlers who will no doubt be involved in the title scene sooner rather than later, but for now, they’ve just got to have matches to stick in our minds.

I’ll go with Serena Deeb to retain. As great as Riho is, the NWA Women’s title doesn’t seem like a good fit for her, and with NWA running their own shows again, I doubt they’d want the title to change hands on an AEW pre-show.

Hangman Adam Page vs Brian Cage

Page’s trajectory continues to be an interesting one. I still think he’s on track to eventually be the person to dethrone Omega as champion, but he’s definitely taking the long road to get there.

Cage is a great competitor, and I’m glad AEW are still finding good spots for him. He’s one of those people that I feel could fade from TV at any moment without anyone really noticing. That sounded like more of an insult than I meant it to be, but the point still stands. His win over Page was a surprising upset, as I did not expect Page to be taking any major losses this year, but it worked out well in terms of this story.

Page should hopefully come into this one with a lot of fire in this one, and the story can play with the mistakes he made in their first match together. I think Hangman Adam Page is going to get his win back here. As I’ve said, he needs to be on an upward trajectory now, and while another loss to Cage wouldn’t be the worst thing, a win seems like a better outcome.

Cody Rhodes vs Antony Ogogo

Sod this. Sod this so much.

I know the whole feud hasn’t been about the “yay America” thing, but its presence has really overwhelmed the feud. The whole schtick feels so outdated by this point, and I don’t see what this feud has to gain from it. Rhodes is an expert at creating emotional matches while facing down bigger opponents, playing on that would’ve been easy to create a compelling story.

I get it, the pro-USA stuff does good for the live crowds, but this is a company with an international audience. At best, people in non-USA countries have no reason to care, and at worst, they feel directly alienated because they’re being told that their country is the bad country. It doesn’t matter what country it is; I think the overall negative reception to Cody’s recent promos should be proof enough that it just doesn’t work anymore.

If this were WWE, I wouldn’t think twice about the pro-America person getting the win, but I’d like to think AEW would be more willing to take the risk of having Ogogo win. That said, now Cody’s using Dusty’s “American Dream” moniker, I don’t see him losing. Cody Rhodes winning will be a nice moment for the live crowd at the very least.

Sting & Darby Allin vs Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page

I can’t help but feel like this partnership with Sting is why Allin lost the TNT title. Not to say his run with Sting hasn’t been good, I just think he should’ve been given more of a chance to flourish on his own as a singles competitor with the title. He still defended it plenty, but it always felt secondary to whatever he was doing with Sting.

On top of that, is this really the best use of Sting? Sure, putting him in a singles match might be a terrible idea this late in his career, but what is anyone getting out of Sting feuding with Sky & Page, two (admittedly great) mid-card talents who have little to do with each other? It’s nice that the two of them are getting featured on Pay-Per-View, but losing to Sting & Allin can’t be a good look, right?

Or maybe they’ll win? It’d certainly be a nice surprise if they did. I’d originally considered picking Sky & Page for the reasons I said above. There’s nothing to gain from them losing, so surely they should win? Then I thought about it some more and realised Allin’s coming off a big loss to Miro, so he should probably get some heat back, and this is Sting’s first match in front of a full live crowd since his AEW debut, so it’ll probably be Sting & Darby Allin with the win.

Casino Battle Royale
(Winner Gets A Future AEW World Championship Match)

It’s battle royale time!

I’m not too convinced the Casino Battle Royale is that great of a format. It’s more interesting than a straight-up battle royal, I’ll admit. However, with the entrants coming in groups of five, it makes everyone feel less indistinguishable and like they all get less of a chance to shine, other than the Joker. All-in-all, it just feels like a kinda cheap Royal Rumble, which is such a top-tier piece of booking perfection, it’s better to not even try and replicate it.

Looking at the lineup we’ve got set out before us, I can’t see many viable contenders for the win. Matt Hardy is a possibility, that would make a nice dynamic with Omega. You should never count Penta out of the running. There’s a possibility Andrade shows up to put a spanner in things, but picking someone who’s not even in the match is generally a poor decision for predictions.

In the end, I’m going to go with who everyone else seems to be going with, and that’s Christian CageHis story with Omega would likely be really good and would parallel Edge’s Wrestlemania story too (probably ending in the same crushing loss).

The Pinnacle vs The Inner Circle
(Stadium Stampede)
(If The Inner Circle Lose, They Must Disband)

What a crazy couple of month’s it’s been. At the start of the year, everyone was picking all kinds of crazy directions the Jericho/MJF story could go in. Would MJF depose Jericho as the group’s leader? Would the tension between Sammy & MJF tear the group apart? As always, MJF went with option C and tore the whole thing to shreds, starting a brand new faction that has been looking very strong ever since its formation.

I didn’t expect to see another Stadium Stampede match, but given the success of the first one, I don’t blame them for trying. It’ll be interesting to see how this will mesh with the live crowd. As entertaining as it is, I doubt they’ll have them staring at a screen for half an hour. Whatever happens, my expectations are high.

Picking a winner is a bit difficult. The Pinnacle got the win at Blood & Guts, so it wouldn’t hurt them to take a loss in this one. However, the stipulation of The Inner Circle breaking up if they lose has pushed me the other way. The Inner Circle has been around almost since the very beginning of AEW, we’ve seen all of those guys in the same formula for almost two years now. I think it’s probably time for everyone to move on. I know they have, for the most part, been great, but everyone involved is more than ready to break out on their own.

It’s a tough call because I could easily see this being a feel-good face victory, but I’m going with The Pinnacle.

Miro(c) vs Lance Archer
(TNT Championship)

Wow. I mean, we all had a feeling that his partnership with Kip Sabian was holding Miro back, but who knew he’d rise so quickly after ditching him?

Miro’s TNT title win was one of those decisions that seemed shocking and unusual in the moment but actually makes a lot of sense the more I thought about it. Allin was too busy dealing with Sting to bother with that title, so let’s get it away from him and do something more interesting with it, like a big ol’ hoss fight.

Lance Archer is an incredible talent. Whenever he’s on-screen, his whole performance sets the atmosphere on fire, and I love that. Jake Roberts is the ultimate mouthpiece for the guy, and amazingly, he works as both a heel and face. When it comes to the meshing of in-ring styles, I think Archer will have no trouble clicking with Miro for a heavy-hitting encounter.

I’m a little conflicted on the winner, though. Normal wrestling logic would dictate that Miro should retain since he’s only just won the title. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that Miro’s title win might just be to get the belt on Archer without having to do a face vs face fight. It would be a shame, but I’d also have no complaints as I love Archer right now. You could even create a scenario where the two trade the belt once or twice just so Miro isn’t left in the dust. It’s a risky pick, but I’m going with Lance Archer to get the title.

The Young Bucks(c) vs Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston
(AEW World Tag Team Championships)

The Young Bucks’ trajectory as of late has been interesting. All the weird non-drama of what may or may not be going on backstage aside, their heel turn has been weirdly understated. They aligned themselves with Omega, which isn’t even remotely a surprise, but given Omega was already doing really well with Gallows & Anderson, they felt a bit like secondary henchmen, which they never should.

Still, this feud with Moxley & Kingston has been pretty good on the whole. Moxley & Kingston have felt like kindred spirits ever since they first started feuding. Their chemistry and history was clear from the moment they appeared on screen together. Putting them in as a tag team is the perfect use of both men now Moxley is out of the title scene. It’s true that, if this were WWE, I’d criticise such a decision, but the difference is that I know AEW treats their tag division with some respect.

I could honestly see this one going either way. It may just be me, but it still feels like The Young Bucks have only just won the titles, even though they’ve held them for over 6 months, so I’m apprehensive to say they’ll lose. Then again, Moxley & Kingston are a really hot tag team at the moment, and a run with the titles would be a fantastic use of both men, so…flip a coin, I guess?

When in doubt, pick the champs to retain, so that’s what I’m doing. The Young Bucks win.

Hikaru Shida(c) vs Britt Baker
(AEW Women’s World Championship)

At last, we reach the point that the AEW Women’s Division feels like it’s been inexorably sliding towards since AEW’s announcement.

That makes it sound like I think it’s a bad decision, but in actuality, I think Britt Baker as women’s champion is the very best option for the company. She’s been far and away the best character in the division since its inception and is one hell of a wrestler with some brilliant matches under her belt. Her Lights Out match with Thunder Rosa shot her popularity into the stratosphere too.

Shida’s title reign has been a bumpy one. When given the chance to shine, it has been one of the best parts of AEW programming, as her matches with Nyla Rose will attest. The problem is those opportunities have come few and far between. Thankfully, the women’s division is getting more expansive and treated better in AEW. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s absolutely heading in the right direction, and Britt Baker as champion is what it needs to get to where we all want it to be.

In case I hadn’t already made it obvious, I’m picking Britt Baker to win the title. It just has to happen.

Kenny Omega(c) vs Orange Cassidy vs Pac
(AEW World Championship)

AEW has this amazing talent for giving us unexpected but brilliant world title feuds.

I did not see Orange Cassidy getting anywhere near the world title scene for a while. As great as he is, I’m not sure if people would’ve bought him in a singles feud for the title just yet. However, they went about it perfectly and carefully crafted a feud that has got him over as a main eventer better than any singles match could’ve.

First of all, him & Pac put on a great number 1 contender’s match on Dynamite. Putting Pac in the feud two gives things a great dynamic, as it allows Cassidy to be more of an exclamation point on the match than anything else. Pac vs Cassidy last year was easily one of Cassidy’s best ever matches, so pulling in that opponent specifically was a great choice.

That said, Kenny Omega is not losing that title anytime soon. His run as the belt collector with the AAA & Impact titles has been one of the most exciting stories in wrestling of late, and there’s no way he’s losing the AEW title before he loses both of the other titles first. That said, this match will put Cassidy in the position of the credible main-eventer he should be, which is all I think anyone really wanted out of this feud. So good job.

WWE Backlash 2021: Every Match Ranked

Our first post-Wrestlemania PPV is in the books, and it was pretty good. It suffered from a lack of stakes, as every show around this time of year does, but there were plenty of good-to-great matches on offer and only one baffling creative decision, which is pretty good for WWE.

7 – Damian Priest def. The Miz
(Lumberjack Match)

I’d love to comment about how well these two men matched up in the ring, but I cannot remember a single beat of in-ring action because of…well…the zombies.

I get it was just a giant advert, but the whole thing makes absolutely no sense to me. In kayfabe, were these supposed to be real zombies? Or people dressed as zombies? Because neither makes any sense. If they’re real zombies, why are they observing the rules of the lumberjack match, and why does no one else on the show care? If they’re just actors, The Miz shouldn’t give a shit because he could easily beat them all up at a moment’s notice.

I mean, it was certainly more interesting than the match I was envisioning, so I guess well done? It was still crap.

6 – Sheamus def. Ricochet
(Kickoff Show)

Not much to say here, a quick match with good action but a weird finish. I assume Sheamus just didn’t have enough room to get his foot up for the Brogue Kick. Don’t get me wrong, it was a brutal-looking knee-strike, just made for a very abrupt finish to the match.

5 – Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio def. Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode(c)
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)

They really did their damndest to stack the odds, didn’t they?

I joke, but I think it made for a much more dramatic match, with more compelling stakes. Rey’s always been great at taking a beating and then fighting back from underneath, so he got to show his full arsenal in this match. Ziggler & Roode pulled out their fair share of innovative tag offence too. It’s nice to see them gel as a team just in time to lose the titles.

I thought the pacing was good for the most part, but each section dragged on just a bit too long. This match ended up being the second-longest on the show, and it really didn’t need to be. We knew Dominik would show up eventually, but they dragged it out for a bit too long. Then, even once he did show up, the dynamic of the match didn’t change; the Mysterios were still fighting from underneath the whole way.

That said, the action was still really good, and the story was compelling. On top of that, we got a nice moment with Rey & Dominik winning the tag titles, in what will hopefully inject a bit more life into the tag division on Smackdown.

4 – Rhea Ripley(c) def. Asuka & Charlotte Flair
(Raw Women’s Championship)

This was definitely an improvement on the Wrestlemania match. I still enjoyed the Wrestlemania match between Rhea & Asuka, but it was clear their chemistry wasn’t the best. Thankfully, adding Charlotte into the mix made up for that deposit, and her presence brought the best out of Rhea & Asuka. Rhea felt like the Rhea we saw in NXT for the first time since coming to Raw, while Asuka got to show more of the edge she’d been lacking since last summer.

The action was fast-paced and fun to watch from start to finish, which is exactly what I was hoping for. It didn’t fire off at the incredible pace of the triple threat for Takeover: In Your House last year, but they still pulled a lot of tricks out of the bag to bring up the energy. Towards the finish, they really put their foot on the accelerator, and it ramped up the excitement perfectly.

My only complaint was the awkwardness of the finish. After Charlotte kicked Asuka, it seemed like she was in a prime position to break up the pin, but the camera later showed she’d fallen to the floor for…no reason? It seems like this was more on production than anything else. Either the cameraman wasn’t in the correct position, or the director didn’t cut to the shot, but it made for a bit of confusion on the finish. Rhea winning was the right call, though, and hopefully, Charlotte will get sidelined with Alexa Bliss sooner rather than later, so we can stop worrying about WWE screwed Ripley out of the title.

3 – Bianca Belair(c) def. Bayley
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

I said in my predictions that I thought Bayley was the perfect first opponent for Belair, and I think this match proved my statement to be entirely accurate.

Bayley’s slightly more deranged attitude came through perfectly in this match and is yet another testament to how incredible she is at character work. It gave this match an extra layer of intensity and made Bianca’s ability to overcome it feel more earned. I thought the story of the hair being a key factor in the match was well done. They set it up like a Chekov’s Gun towards the start of the match, and it paid off in a great way that presented Bianca in an intelligent light.

The action throughout the match was really enjoyable and kept me engaged from start to finish. Bayley dominated the majority of the match, but her intermittent use of dirty tactics made it feel believable and didn’t cast anything bad on Bianca. Bianca’s flurries of offence were a lot more enjoyable because of it, and she was great at making me feel the effort she was going to in order to get back on top.

As I’ve said, the finish showcased Bianca’s intelligence and ‘veteran instincts’ but has also left the door open for a rematch if that’s the direction they want to go in. Personally, I think a Triple Threat between Bianca, Sasha & Bayley would be the best move going forward, but we’ll see.

2 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Cesaro
(Universal Championship)

I was amazed that this match got almost half an hour, but it was definitely worth it.

If you don’t think Cesaro is a main eventer after watching this match, then I honestly don’t know what to tell you because he knocked it out of the park. The match took a slower pace, but it was filled with powerful moves and technical back-and-forth action. Cesaro getting the upper hand early on and forcing Reigns to reset himself was a simple and effective way to establish Cesaro as someone who could hang with Reigns.

As things moved towards the middle, it dragged a little, but the action picked up and eased off at a good pace that kept pulling me back into it. Reigns established his dominance well, never drowning Cesaro out. Then, Cesaro got close with Reigns a few times towards the finish, although it never felt like he genuinely had Reigns beat. At least not in the same way Kevin Owens or Daniel Bryan did. Cesaro showed plenty of heart and resiliency by powering out of the Guillotine a couple of times but eventually succumbing to it in a strong performance that benefitted both men.

The stuff after the match is interesting. I think Cesaro vs Seth Rollins inside Hell in a Cell is the direction they’re going with this one, which is not what I would’ve done, but it’s alright. I suppose they could put Seth in with Roman & Cesaro for a triple threat, but it looks more to me like Reigns will be facing Jimmy Uso at the next PPV instead.

1 – Bobby Lashley(c) def. Drew McIntyre & Braun Strowman
(WWE Championship)

Three big beefy boys doing big beefy boy things.

This match was a hoss-fest full of chaos, and it was absolutely brilliant. Despite the fact that everyone knew he was never going to win, Strowman worked his ass off in this match and felt like the biggest threat of the thing. The moment where Lashley & Drew decide to team up take him output over his threat level more than anything did in the build. Drew & Bobby pulled their weight, too, and it created this brilliant feeling of all three men going all-out for the title.

Drew hitting Braun with the Claymore to send him over the barricade was great, and Bobby going through the LED board was a brilliant climactic spot to send us into the final act of the match. Momentum never stayed with one wrestler for very long, and that kept the pace going for an extremely brisk-feeling 16 minutes.

The finish gave Bobby a strong title retention but left the door open for both Drew & Braun to get a rematch if they wanted. Based on Raw last night, it looks like Bobby vs Drew is most likely for Hell in a Cell, which should hopefully be a killer end to their feud.