AEW All Out 2020: Predictions & Analysis

It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these, but it’s time for AEW’s next Pay-Per-View! I’ll admit, with all the hype surrounding NXT Takeover, Summerslam & Payback, I’ve let my AEW viewing fall short somewhat. However, I dedicated this past week to catching up on the past month & a half of Dynamite, and I’ve got to say, I’m really enjoying the shows they’re putting out. Almost every week, there’s at least one match that feels like a big deal, and I can’t say that about Raw or Smackdown these days. Even NXT seems to be cramming its weekly shows with more and more filler (the past couple of weeks not included).

Regardless, there are nine matches on this show, and I’m going to predict them, because if I don’t do it, then you will? You know…other than any wrestling fan with any kind of minor online presence. If you saw my predictions for Double or Nothing, earlier this year, you’ll know that I got almost every match wrong, let’s see if I’ve learnt anything since then.

Britt Baker vs Big Swole
(Tooth & Nail Match)

Britt Baker’s injury was certainly unfortunate, but I’ll be damned if she hasn’t turned it into one hell of a positive for her character. It’s allowed her to play a properly slimy heel that can never seem to get her comeuppance because she’s hurt. Sort of like what MJF has been doing, but in a different way. Baker has been using it to take shot after shot at anyone she feels like dissing, and no-one can seem to do anything about it. Which is why I think there’s going to be some serious shenanigans at play during this Tooth & Nail match. Looking towards Big Swole, for one thing, that’s a dumb name, I don’t care what you say, but when it comes to her wrestling, she’s definitely got ‘future star’ written all over her. At the moment she’s not much more than a no-nonsense babyface who wants to kick people’s arses, and that works for her. It might not work forever, but that’s a problem for future Homer.

I’m curious as to what the Tooth & Nail stipulation entails. On Dynamite, it was implied that this is going to take place at Baker’s dentist surgery, and Tony Khan confirmed a few days ago that it would be a cinematic match, so honestly, anything could happen. Given that Big Swole picked the stipulation though, it seems an odd choice to give Baker the home-field advantage, but whatever.

I’m struggling to pick the winner though. Big Swole should definitely be being built up as a star, but I don’t think it’s going to be her time for a good 6-8 months or so. Meanwhile, Britt Baker is a ready-made opponent for Hikaru Shida already (spoilers), so provided she’s healthy, I don’t see any reason to delay that feud. Plus, as much as she’s been promoted as one of the spearheads of AEW’s women’s division, Baker isn’t a point yet where she can take innumerable losses and not suffer, she still needs big wins. So that’s why I think Britt Baker is coming away victorious in this one.

Casino Battle Royale

So, normally in big multi-man matches like this, I run down the possible candidates that I think could win the thing, but realistically, I think there are only two in this one.

I’m of two minds with AEW’s strategy for running a bunch of number 1 contender matches on their PPVs. It’s an excellent opportunity to give someone the spotlight who might not have received it otherwise, and I like that it gives the world title scene a constant sense of direction. However, I’m not sure a bunch of one-and-done title shots are doing much to elevate the contenders. I don’t know about you, but Brian Cage’s match against Moxley didn’t really do much to elevate him in my eyes. However, it’s a fun battle royal, and I like fun battle royals.

So, the two people I could see winning this thing (other than a surprise entrant) are Lance Archer & Darby Allin, and to be honest with you, which one I think is going to win mostly depends on the result of the main event. Lance Archer would be a great next challenger for Moxley, they’ve got recent history from their time in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and I would be down for a really brutal feud. Meanwhile, Darby Allin would be the perfect first opponent for MJF. From a character perspective, they’re perfect foils for one another, they’ve got in-ring styles that should mesh amazingly, and it would be a great showcase that AEW is willing to invest in its future with young stars.

Other factors that have played into my decision to pick Darby Allin as the winner though. For one thing, Allin’s been on the brink of breaking through for ages now, and they’ve got to do something with him before the fans stop giving a shit. Also, Lance Archer has plenty of options without needing to go after the world title. I would sure as hell like to see Archer vs Cage, even if it was heel vs heel.

The Dark Order vs Matt Cardon, Scorpio Sky & The Natural Nightmares

That TNT title sure has been going strong, hasn’t it? I still think the belt looks a bit boring, even with it’s improved look, but that doesn’t matter, because the booking team have been treating it very prestigiously. A series of open challenges is an excellent way to get me interested in any title/champion, and the run Cody had with the title was fantastic. Then, to have Brodie Lee come along and absolutely eviscerate Cody was the perfect next step. For one thing, Cody is easily one of the most sympathetic babyfaces out there, for another thing, it reestablishes Lee as a massive threat following his high-profile loss to Moxley. Not to mention, it’s given The Dark Order the credibility it’s been lacking, meaning I’m now a hell of a lot more interested in what they’re doing than I was before.

Given how close Lee winning the title has been to All Out, I don’t mind there not being any kind of title match on this PPV, because his presence around The Dark Order should be enough, especially if there’s an angle going down. As for the faces, I couldn’t care less. I’m happy to see that Cardona is making waves after leaving WWE, but unless he’s going to be a permanent fixture on AEW TV, then I’m not going to bother getting invested. I like Scorpio Sky, but this is not how I want to see him being used, he should be having high-profile singles feuds with anyone and everyone. I like Dustin, no complaints there, and QT Marshall is alright, but I haven’t really found a reason to like him yet.

Regardless, The Dark Order are winning this one, in fact, this is by far the predictions I’m the most confident about. They’re riding a huge wave momentum right now, and it’s way too early to hand them any significant losses. Combine that with the fact that the faces aren’t in a position to be hurt by taking a beating here, The Dark Order should absolutely wipe the floor with them.

Jurassic Express vs The Young Bucks

Yes, this is a match with nothing on the line, no build and is pretty much just ‘for the hell of it’, but it’s going to be excellent.

I’ve got very little to say about this match, other than that I’m really looking forward to it. Jurassic Express have been on fire ever since AEW began, and The Young Bucks have always been able to go with the best. The only there is to discuss is who I think is going to win. I think it would be nice for Jurassic Express to take it, but The Young Bucks have been jobbing themselves out like crazy since AEW began. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy they’re not going the exact opposite way and overbearing the whole show, but they’ve got to win big matches sometimes.

So I’m going with The Young Bucks, but really, I’m going to invoke the ‘we, the fans, win’ cliche in regards to this match.

Matt Hardy vs Sammy Guevara
(Broken Rules)
(If Matt Hardy loses, he must leave AEW)

I don’t know why this pairing works so well, but I’ve been enjoying this feud a great deal since it began. Sammy’s sign schtick has been wearing a bit thin, but it worked for this feud and allowed for some cool moments. Not to mention, it made great use of the picture-in-picture aspect of the ad breaks. Their matches have been killer too, after recent events, Sammy was always going to have to earn his way back into a prominent role in AEW, and I think his matches with Hardy have done just that.

Apparently, a ‘Broken Rules’ match just means a Last Man Standing match, which admittedly, does take away from my hype for the match somewhat. I honestly can’t remember the last Last Man Standing match I actually enjoyed, but I do think it’s the logical progression given where they’ve gone with the feud so far. If nothing else, I think it’ll serve the story perfectly, even if the action suffers as a result.

If the ‘Matt leaves AEW’ stipulation wasn’t on the match, I’d pick Sammy Guevara without a second thought, but that’s really thrown things into the air. It’s entirely possible that Matt Hardy could be going away for a little while, many on the internet have already theorized that he’ll just come back under a different gimmick. The only problem there is that AEW has already acknowledged Matt’s multiple gimmicks to be the same guy, so I don’t think the logic would hold. Ultimately, I’d prefer to Sammy win this one, but as it stands, I’m going for the safe pick, Matt Hardy.

Chris Jericho vs Orange Cassidy
(Mimosa Mayhem)

This match is going to be an absolute blast.

The in-ring action probably won’t be world-class, but in terms of pure entertainment value, this could easily be the most enjoyable match of the show. Jericho has proved time and time again that he’s one of the best comedic wrestlers when he wants to be, and Orange Cassidy is an absolute master of comedic timing in wrestling matches. Will it be over-the-top and a bit stupid? Probably, yes. Will that make it incredibly fun to watch? Hell yeah.

This feud as a whole has been really entertaining too. I love how dedicated AEW has been to getting Cassidy over as a real main-eventer, even despite his highly comedic persona. Jim Cornette and his screaming piss-babies will be forever crying about how comedic wrestling is the work of the devil and is ‘killing the business’, but it’s time to leave them behind and embrace the entertainment value of a guy like Cassidy for what it is.

The interesting thing about picking a winner is how the stipulation of the match is actually going to work. The way I see it, there is absolutely no way that Cassidy is going in the vat of mimosa. His character is one that can bounce back from any beating you give him, but humiliating him like that is insanely damaging to his persona. However, the match can also be won by pinfall or submission, so it’s entirely possible that Jericho could win the match via pinfall, only for Cassidy to push Jericho into the mimosa after the match to get the last laugh. Ultimately, I think that if Jericho’s going into the mimosa regardless, you might as well give Orange Cassidy as big of a boost as possible by giving him the win.

Hikaru Shida(c) vs Thunder Rosa
(AEW Women’s Championship)

AEW really need to get their shit together when it comes to the women’s division because this match has not been hyped or built nearly as much as it should. Shida is the kind of wrestler that you can build a division around, with her running strong at the top, and yet she’s barely on TV, and even when she is, it’s almost never in the ring. The treatment of the women’s division has been AEW’s biggest problem since the company began last year, and it’s incredibly frustrating to see that they’re not learning their lessons.

However, the one thing they do at least do well, is that they give the matches plenty of time on the shows, which is why I’m still very excited about this match. I don’t know a lot about Thunder Rosa, but what I’ve seen of her, I really like. As much as AEW hasn’t been pushing her personality properly, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve got of it so far, and I think she’ll click really well with Shida in the ring. I just think AEW has been leaning too heavily on Rosa’s status as the NWA Women’s Champion to sell her to the audience when really, that should be secondary to her character.

Now, I don’t know anything about what AEW’s agreement is with the NWA, but I don’t think AEW would be willing to put their women’s title on someone who isn’t under contract with them. It’s certainly not unheard of, but I’m pretty confident in my belief that Hikaru Shida is going to retain.

Kenny Omega & Hangman Page(c) vs FTR
(AEW World Tag Team Championships)

I didn’t think anything from this year could top Omega & Page vs Young Bucks, but if any team can do it…it’s FTR.

The build for this one has been excellent. I don’t like how absent Omega has been from a lot of it, but it’s a case where the story works fine without him; in fact, you could argue it shrouds the dynamic between him & Page in even more mystery. Everything Page has been doing all year has been great, and it finally feels like things are coming to a head. FTR has been masterful heels, manipulating Page to get him to screw over The Young Bucks and cause a rift between him & Omega, while not being so overbearing that they can have deniability about the whole thing.

I mean, come on, you don’t need me to tell you that this match is going to be amazing. FTR were one-half of one of my favourite tag team matches of all time (vs #DIY at NXT Takeover: Toronto), and Omega & Page were one half of the other of my favourite tag team matches of all time (vs The Young Bucks at AEW Revolution). With guys who can go in the ring like these and a story as hot as this one, I’m expecting a match of the year candidate.

Funnily enough, I think the outcome is fairly obvious. FTR are coming away with the titles. There’s definitely still a route for the story to go if Omega & Page retain, but I don’t think it’s the right way to go. We all know that FTR vs Young Bucks is where we’re headed, and while you can argue that match doesn’t need the titles, it should absolutely still have them involved. Tully Blanchard said it himself, if you haven’t got the titles, how can you truly say that you’re the best?

Jon Moxley(c) vs MJF
(AEW World Championship)

This is a real toughie. The thing is, this is the moment that MJF’s AEW career has been leading towards ever since he first showed up. There’s no way he isn’t going to hold the AEW Championship at some point in the next year or two. The thing is, is it actually going to happen now?

The feud has been great. MJF is the epitome of a clever heel. He knows that Moxley’s attitude is ‘fight first, talk later’ so he’s taken every opportunity to prevent Moxley from resorting to violence. The whole campaign to ban the Paradigm Shift has been a wonderful satire of the political landscape, without diving too deep to feel like a straight-up parody. Moxley’s bounced off it perfectly too. I adored his performance in the contract signing, where he just sat there and let MJF shoot his mouth off for ages, his facial reactions, the little comments he’d make were terrific. I honestly think Moxley could do very well for himself as an actor if he really wanted to.

I’m interested to see what direction the match will take. MJF can absolutely go in the ring – just watch his match against Jungle Boy at Double or Nothing if you don’t believe me – so they could wrestle a largely technical match. MJF touched on the idea that he was going to do everything in his power to keep Moxley from taking the match out of the ring, so I think there could be a great story to be told with Moxley wrestling a technical style in the ring. Alternatively, this could be a huge story-based match, with lots of excitement, big spots and interferences. I think either way would be equally as entertaining, provided they’re done well.

I’ve got to pick a winner though, and I honestly don’t know. As I said, MJF is getting his hands on that title eventually, I’m just not sure if now is the right time or not. It’s one of those situations where I’d be happy with either result, I’d love to see Moxley continue the absolute tear he’s been on as of late, but MJF at the top of the mountain would make for some incredible TV. It’s a tough call, but I’m going to go for MJF. I don’t know why. It was just my gut feeling.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you think is going to happen tonight, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure to come back this time next week, where I’ll be running down my favourite tracks from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise!

WWE Summerslam 2020: Predictions & Analysis

The biggest party of the summer is upon us! Only, it’s not much of a party this year, is it? To think back in March we were all expecting fans to be back in time for this show…

WWE’s been a bit of a mixed bag over the past month or so. I’d argue Raw has had a pretty decent hit-rate week-to-week, with a lot of fun storylines. Smackdown, meanwhile, is definitely better than it was a couple of months ago, but it’s still not great. Still, I think WWE has put together a show with a lot of potential, the main event matches especially are looking pretty tasty.

Let’s break down the matches.

Mandy Rose vs Sonya Deville
(No Disqualification)
(Loser Leaves WWE)

Honestly, it’s amazing that we’ve had to wait this long for a payoff to this feud. It’s not like WWE has carefully spent time building to this match either, they just straight-up dropped the storyline for a couple of months before suddenly remembering about it in July. As it stands though, I’ve been enjoying this one a lot. I think shifting the focus of the story slightly was the right idea. Otis is wildly entertaining, but his presence is no longer necessary in this feud, so I’m happy that the recent instalments have focused just on the animosity between Rose & Deville.

As for the quality of the match, I honestly don’t know, but I’m optimistic. Deville has been on fire since turning heel, and she’s quickly becoming one of my favourite wrestlers in WWE’s women’s division. Rose, meanwhile, I think is a far better wrestler than many fans think she is. I think we’re so used to 00s-10s WWE’s style of ‘gimmick centred around attractiveness = bad wrestler’, I don’t believe that to be the case with Rose. These are two women who know each other incredibly well, so I have no reason to doubt the fact that they’re probably going to kick some ass.

I can’t quite decide who’s going to win though. When it was hair vs hair, I thought Mandy was an easy pick, but now the stipulation’s changed and I don’t see where this is going. I don’t believe there have been any reports that either woman is legitimately thinking of leaving or even taking a hiatus. I suppose the loser could go to NXT, or maybe even Raw Underground, you could argue those would count as ‘leaving WWE’. It’s a tough call, but I’m going to stick with what I think the story was leading to anyway, which is Mandy Rose coming out on top. I just hope there’s something interesting planned for Deville going forward because I want to see her do so much more.

The Street Profits(c) vs Andrade & Angel Garza
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

This match feels incredibly familiar. I wasn’t quite sure why at first, but then I remembered that this feud has been going on, on and off, since Wrestlemania.

As such, I’m not sure there’s much more that can be said about it. Bianca Belair has been doing great work, and I’m glad Zelina Vega is getting to show some skill outside of a managerial role, but it’s only tangentially related to this match. At the end of the day, this is a match containing four incredibly talented performers, and I have no doubt there will be plenty to enjoy once it’s all said and done.

In terms of a result, I think there are two ways it could go. The fact that Andrade & Garza can’t seem to get along has been running for months now, so I’m pretty confident that will play into the result of this match. They could pay it off by having them come together and finally win the tag titles, which I think has a decent chance of happening. Street Profits have been champions for roughly 6 months now, and changing the titles just for the sake of it is precisely the kind of thing WWE would do with its tag titles.

Alternatively, the pair could finally fall apart and start beating the crap out of each other, allowing The Street Profits to retain. I think this is more likely, and also more beneficial. If the two of them launch off into a singles feud, I hope that it’ll give Angel Garza a more prominent platform to get himself over, something I believe he is more than capable of. Meanwhile, The Street Profits can keep doing what they’ve been doing, which, for the most part, has been very entertaining.

Apollo Crews(c) vs MVP
(United States Championship)

I’m of two minds with this match. On the one hand, I think there are a lot of wrestlers who need the opportunity at the US title a lot more than MVP. Not to mention, I think a lot of wrestlers would put on a better match with Crews. That said, MVP has been crushing it on the microphone so far this year, and he’s pretty much the only reason I have any interest in this feud. Between this feud with Crews and his semi-takeover of Raw Underground alongside Lashley & Benjamin, I think we could be praising the entertainment value of MVP for a long time to come.

As to what I think the match will be like, you can pretty much just copy/paste whatever I said during my Extreme Rules predictions. Except this time, I expect we’ll actually get to see the match, rather than it be surprise announced on the show that it’s not happening (I know it was because Crews was ill, but still).

My prediction is the same too, I think Apollo Crews is going to retain. Admittedly, I do see value in putting the title on MVP, and I won’t complain if it happens, but keeping on the younger guy in Crews feels like the right way to go. I think I spent so long not caring about Crews that I forgot how good he can be, so now I’d like to see him carry this on for as long as possible.

Dominik Mysterio vs Seth Rollins
(Street Fight)

We all knew this was going to end up here, and yet for some reason, I was still surprised when this match was announced.

I know I wasn’t much of a fan of the eye-for-an-eye match at Extreme Rules, but I think the build of this story has been great. I’m still not entirely sure why guys like Black & Carrillo are wasting their time with it, but the stuff between Rollins and the Mysterios has been fantastic fun to watch. I was expecting to have a difficult time getting used to Dominik showing up and fighting every week on Raw, but the writing team did a great job in getting me invested in him. Admittedly, it was through the method of having Rollins & Murphy beating the crap out of him, but what can I say? I’m invested.

The match itself is a bit uncertain though, purely because we have no idea what Dominik is like as a wrestler. He might have taken to the sport miraculously quickly and will blow us all away, but there’s an equal possibility that he’ll be really green. As such, I’m not if a weapons match was the right choice for his first match. The positives are that it allows for plenty of interference, so the pressure isn’t all on Dominik to help carry the thing, plus, a slower pace will work better with his relative inexperience. The problem is that it takes two very skilled performers to make a slow-paced weapons match work, which means he could be in trouble. Also, I don’t like weapons matches, but that’s beside the point.

I could theoretically see this one going either way, but I’m reasonably confident in picking Dominik Mysterio. Rollins has won the entire feud up until this point, so I think it’s only appropriate for this to be the time for him to take the loss. If Dominik is going to be sticking around as a permanent fixture of the Raw roster, then giving him a big win like this right out of the gate is an excellent way to build him up. I know people are arguing there’s a believability issue with Dominik beating someone as big of a star as Rollins, but if Rey gets involved, then I don’t think that’ll be a problem.

Braun Strowman(c) vs The Fiend Bray Wyatt
(Universal Championship)
(Falls Count Anywhere)

How is THIS the match I care the least about? On paper, it’s an absolute winner, both of these guys have a history, and both of them have significantly evolved since 2016 when they were together. Yet, this story has been running for roughly 4 months now, and I’m bored with it. I can see what they were trying to accomplish with getting Bliss involved, and I commend them for trying to switch things up in regards to the heel/face alignments. The thing is, I don’t think it’s been very well executed. This is a war between a destructive monster and a brutal psychopath, why are they sitting around arguing all the time?

I used to love Braun Strowman around 2017/2018 because he’d come in full of adrenaline and absolutely demolish anyone or anything in his path. It was much the same with The Fiend, he was this seemingly invisible force of destruction that would tear his opponents to shreds. This should be the most straightforward story in the world to tell, all you have to do is slowly escalate the violence week on week. Have it reach the point where their conflict starts to intrude upon every aspect of Smackdown until management has to step in to try and put a stop to it, only for them to keep causing mayhem anyway. It’s the kind of story that, somehow, WWE don’t tell very often, and with characters like these, it would be an absolute blast to watch. The final segment on Smackdown proved my point on that front, it was by far the best part of the whole feud, and this whole story should’ve been full of cool stuff like that.

When it comes to the match, I’m not sure what I’d prefer. On the one hand, they’ve already had two very drama-focused matches, so part of me wants to see a much more action-focused match. Then again, maybe doing another drama-focused match is the way to go? Bray is a world-class in-ring storyteller, so if anyone could make it work, I’d say it’s him.

The result is a tough one, so I’m just going with what I’d prefer, which is The Fiend Bray Wyatt to win the title. To be blunt, Braun’s title reign has been crap. He’s been boring as a character and none of his matches have been any fun to watch. Sure, The Fiend having the title again may create some problems down the line, but I honestly don’t care at this point. If we’re going to have anyone hold the title until Roman’s ready to come and take it, I’d rather it be Bray than Braun.

 

Sasha Banks(c) vs Asuka
(Raw Women’s Championship)

AND

Bayley(c) vs Asuka
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Bundling these two together because their stories are essentially one and the same.

So, there’s plenty of theories as to how this whole story with Banks, Bayley & Asuka could turn out, which is why I’m so invested in it right now. There are a bunch of different options, all with their own exciting storyline potential.

First of all, what I don’t think will happen: Bayley & Sasha BOTH retaining. I feel confident that Asuka is walking out of Summerslam with at least one of those titles, the question now remains, which one? Or perhaps even both? I seriously considered the ‘both’ option, and I very nearly made it my final decision, but I think it would create some problems. While it’s become almost a cliche to say it at this point, I think we’re headed to a break-up of Bayley & Sasha, which would mean that they’re going to be feuding with each other in the near future. While I agree with the sentiment that it’s a feud that doesn’t need the title, I think it would unquestionably be enhanced by having a title on the line.

So, which title will it be? Here’s my pitch.

Bayley takes the hit for her friend and has her match against Asuka first, and it plays out mostly how you would expect it to. The two of them have a fun match for 12-15 minutes, then things go into overdrive, and the shenanigans ensue. I don’t know the specifics of it, but Sasha does her thing, screws over Asuka and Bayley escapes with her title. Then, a little later on in the night, it’s time for Asuka vs Sasha. Already we’ve got a great story to tell in the match as Asuka is starting on the back foot in a major way. Things boil to a climax where, somehow, someway, Bayley costs Sasha her title, letting Asuka walk away with the Raw Women’s Championship.

Whether Bayley does this through deliberate sabotage, an accidental miscommunication or simply inaction, something is going to happen that causes Sasha to lose her title. From there, you’ve got a whole bunch of directions to take it. You can either do the break up there and then, or you can let the tensions simmer for a little while, through the pair’s defence of the tag titles at Payback.

It’s an ambitious theory, I’ll admit, and I can’t wait to see how horrifically wrong I am, but let me have my fun, dammit.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)

I cannot believe that I’m sitting here in 2020, excited for a Randy Orton world title match.

I know I wasn’t a fan of Orton vs Edge at Backlash, but I’ll be damned if Randy Orton hasn’t become one of the most entertaining characters on all of WWE TV right now. I don’t know what it was, but something lit a fire under his ass, and he’s become more motivated, animated and downright exciting than he’s been for years. He’s entertaining to the point where I’m sitting here thinking that if he won the world title on Sunday, I’d be perfectly ok with it; even when he’s taking the title away from my beloved British wrestling hero, Drew McIntyre. NOW, to clarify, just because I’d be ok with it, doesn’t mean it’s what I want to happen, I would still prefer Drew to retain, however, if it happens I won’t be mad about it. There’s just something about the idea of Orton vs Edge for the WWE title that gets me very excited indeed.

I honestly don’t know what to expect from this match. I have no idea how the styles of these two men will mesh in the ring, whether it will be a slow burner, or fast and furious, I really couldn’t tell you. However, I’m choosing to take the optimists route and say that I think it’ll be something we’ll look back on fondly at the end of the year. Maybe not a match of the year contender, but definitely something we’ll have been glad to have invested our time in.

Now…I’ve got to pick a winner, and I’m really struggling. Every logical bone in my body is telling me, Orton. Looking at his story since Wrestlemania, it makes all the sense in the world and, as I said, Orton vs Edge III still needs to happen…but I just can’t do it. This a decision made almost entirely by my heart rather than my head, but I’m picking Drew McIntyre to win. He’s had an absolutely cracking reign as WWE Champion, and I’d very much like to see it continue.

NXT Takeover XXX: Predictions & Analysis

NXT Takeover time! A time where we can all rejoice and feel happy that great wrestling is going to be on our screens very soon. Except…this time around, I’m not nearly as excited as I usually am. At least 3 of the matches have unlimited potential, that is true, but weekly NXT TV the past month or so has felt pretty soulless to me. None of the builds to any of the matches have been anything unique or exciting. The only build that’s done things differently ended up being killed dead in the water on Wednesday when Pat McAfee cut the world’s most generic heel promo.

Maybe the pessimism of the world has gotten to me, who knows? Let’s try to stay positive as we break down the matches.

Breezango vs Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch vs Legado del Fantasma
(Winner becomes #1 contender for the NXT Tag Team Championships)
(Kickoff Show)

You know, the NXT Tag Team division became utter barren so quickly, I barely even noticed.

The tag division on NXT has heavily suffered from Imperium very rarely being on TV week-to-week. I like Imperium as champions, and I hope they hold onto the titles for a while, but they were such a bad choice given the current situation. This isn’t like Lesnar with a world title, where him not showing up as much adds to his drawing power, with the NXT tag titles gone from TV most of the time, it just means we stop caring. I want to care about the NXT tag titles, they’ve given us some of the best matches in NXT history, but right now, they’re in serious trouble.

That said, I’m confident this will be a fun match. I’m not entirely sure what the point was on putting this on the pre-show but provided it gets a respectable amount of time, I have no reason to doubt the excitement we could be in store for. Breezango have had a new fire lit under them since returning to NXT, Lorcan & Burch have always been extraordinarily reliable in situations like this, while Legado del Fantasma are the exciting new prospect and still feel quite fresh.

There’s a couple of ways to go in terms of a winner here. My first instinct was that Legada del Fantasmo would win because they’re the fresh guys and even if they aren’t going to win the tag titles, a high-profile match with the champions would be great for them. However, I’m actually going with Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch. My logic behind it is pretty simple, I think they’ve been killing it over the past year, and while their role is mainly to put guys over, I think it would be really cool to see them go for the titles. I don’t think they’d dethrone Imperium, but it’d be great to watch.

Finn Balor vs Timothy Thatcher

This is one of those matches that most people won’t give much thought, but could absolutely tear the house down on Saturday. I’ve still not made my mind up entirely about what I think of Thatcher, but there’s definitely a lot to love about his character. His stuff with Riddle was a great way to bring him to prominence, and I like the idea that he’s someone who slowly crawls his way up through the ranks in NXT over the next couple of years.

I don’t really know what this match is going to be like, these are two guys who have pretty different styles, and that always makes it hard to tell how they’ll mesh. I have faith in them though, so I’m remaining optimistic that it’ll be good. I’m torn for a winner though. As much as Balor’s in a position where nothing will hurt his stock too much in the long-run, I still don’t think he should lose too often. Looking into recent history, he got a win over Damian Priest at the last Takeover, but that’s it, he’s lost to just about everyone else with name value. That said, beating Balor would be an excellent way to turn some heads towards Thatcher.

It’s a tough call, but I’m going with what I think is the more sensible pick in Finn Balor. I just don’t think Thatcher has been built up enough to the point where he could beat someone on Balor’s level. That said, I would certainly be on board if Thatcher won.

Adam Cole vs Pat McAfee

Ok, just to get it out of the way, I don’t know if the radio show blow-up was a work, or a shoot that NXT turned into a work, and quite frankly I don’t care.

I’m of two minds with this feud. There’s the optimistic side of me that says McAfee is going to blow us away. I have no idea how long or hard he’s been training for, so I can’t make a judgement call yet, but he’s been around the industry long enough, and he’s in the ring with Adam Cole, so I think there’s a good chance this could be a killer match. Then there’s the pessimistic side, which says this is going to be like every other time an ‘outsider’ tried to come in and have a serious wrestling match.

The story’s been ok, it certainly had a decent amount of heat to it following the blow up on McAfee’s show, but I don’t think they capitalised on it all that well. Things started alright, with them seeming to patch things up, only for them to come to blows on NXT again, I even liked Cole’s rant about the situation, because Cole can talk with the best of them. What killed my excitement for the match was McAfee’s promo on Wednesday. I alluded to it in the intro, but it was dull and generic, not just with the words he was saying, but the style he delivered them, it was like what a trainee would put out after their first week of promo classes.

I’m a bit torn with a winner because I think there’s a chance McAfee is going to stick around and wrestle semi-frequently on NXT. If that’s the case, then I think he should win, not to mention, with a draft coming later in the year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cole is leaving NXT sometime soon. That said, this is Adam Cole we’re talking about here, he’s just off the back of a 400+ day title reign and is bouncing back from a high-profile loss. Surely he’s got to win? Admittedly, I don’t think it would do all that much damage to Cole in the long-run, but it just doesn’t feel right to pick anyone other than Adam Cole to win this one.

Damian Priest vs Cameron Grimes vs Johnny Gargano vs Bronson Reed vs Velveteen Dream
(NXT North American Championship)
(Ladder)

Ahhh, a good old fashion multi-man ladder match. These will always be entertaining, regardless of which promotion they take place in. That said, the last time NXT had a ladder match for the North American Championship, it was arguably one of the best multi-man ladder matches ever, so…

That doesn’t answer the question of who wins though, so let’s take a look at the participants.

Velveteen Dream – I don’t think Dream was even supposed to be in this match initially. Given the uncertainty surrounding his return, I think NXT management decided that the only thing they could do with him so close to the PPV was to shove him in this match. On top of that, Dream’s already had a run with the North American Championship. There are indeed a lot more opponents he could face now, but I don’t see what could be gained from it.

Bronson Reed – The case with Reed is that I think just being in the match will be enough to raise his stock. He’s still a fresh face in NXT, and this is the perfect opportunity to show everyone what he can do. That said, I don’t see him winning the title for at least another year, he’s just not been built up enough yet. Hopefully, his performance in this match will go some way to remedying that.

Johnny Gargano –  It’s really starting to feel like the NXT writers have no idea what to do with Gargano. That’s the problem when he’s been in NXT for so long – Ciampa’s got the same problem – as great as he is, NXT doesn’t have as deep of a roster as Raw or Smackdown, so there’s very little for him to do nowadays other than to take high-profile losses to the new guys. That’s not to say he won’t add anything to this match, I think he’ll be fantastic, but much like Dream, there’s nothing to be gained from him winning the title again.

Cameron Grimes – Now we’re getting to the people that I think have a chance of winning this thing. To me, the North American title seems to be the perfect tool for taking someone who’s not quite a huge star yet and getting them over and a main eventer in the eyes of the fans. This is technically the role of any mid-card title, but in practice, it very rarely works out that way. However, Grimes is in the perfect position to pick up a mid-card title right now, if he were to go on a bit of tear for it for 8 months or so, it’d be the perfect launching pad to send him to the main event scene. I’m not picking him to win though, as I think there’s one guy that NXT is more likely to invest in right now.

Damian Priest – Honestly, I think Priest is the only real choice for this one. It’s felt like he’s been on the cusp of breaking through for around a year now, so we’re coming very close to ‘now-or-never’ territory. Priest has all the makings of a top guy in NXT, and I think his feud with Balor was a mini-test of that fact. The way I see it, Priest is a perfect fit for the North American title in his current state. NXT in need of a heel champion, and who better than a man who will probably be one of NXT’s biggest stars in a year.

Io Shirai(c) vs Dakota Kai
(NXT Women’s Championship)

It’s amazing how briefly Charlotte was champion. It already feels like it was years ago.

I’ll speak plainly, Io Shirai has been absolutely killing it since winning the title. I was pessimistic about waiting this long to put the title on her, but all my doubts have since been cleared. Sure, she’s not been wrestling as much, but when it comes to pure force of personality, there is no woman better in NXT in right now. There’s nothing about her character that inherently draws her to a heel or babyface alignment, a fact that I think will be fantastic for her stories throughout her title reign. Dakota’s been on fire too, she grasped her heel persona almost instantly, and since then it’s been built to an incredibly compelling degree.

I honestly think we could be in for one of the best WWE matches of the year so far, I really do. Io has already proven that she can go with just about anyone, and I really get the feeling that we’ve not seen anywhere near the limits of what Kai can do yet. I firmly believe that these two women will have near-flawless chemistry, and we could be in for a fast and fun fight.

That said, I think this is by far the easiest match to predict. Io Shirai is winning this one, her title reign has barely begun and has so much potential. Meanwhile, Dakota’s story can be enhanced by a loss here. She’s already getting a bit too full of herself, so if she blames Raquel Gonzalez for her loss, then there could be months of great TV in that. Not to mention, Io herself is proof that Dakota could easily come back in a year’s time and pick up the title without it feeling any less of an accomplishment.

Keith Lee(c) vs Karrion Kross
(NXT Championship)

Colour me impressed, I really thought they were going to wait on this one.

There’s so much to break down here and so many directions the story could go. First of all, Kross is incredible. He’s the first person in so long that I think genuinely gives off a Lesnar-esque vibe of indestructibility. Not only has he torn through everyone he’s come into contact with, but everything surrounding his persona & characterisation gives him an aura of an unstoppable badass. Meanwhile, Keith Lee is the purest human being on the planet, so watching him being pushed to his mental limits by Kross is very compelling stuff.

I have all the confidence in the world this match is going to rock. Lee’s shown time and time again that he can wrestle any style he needs to for a match. Kross has a wide range as a performer too, so I think there are several ways this one could play out. Personally, I think this will be akin to Lee vs Dijakovic in January, with plenty of big & explosive moves and a pace that refuses to ever let up.

This is where it gets tricky though because honestly, neither man should be losing here. However, I don’t think we’ll get a screwy finish, that’s not the NXT way. The thing is, Keith Lee has only just won the title, he’s barely held onto it for a minute, which, under normal circumstances should mean there’s no way he’s losing the title this quickly. The problem is when you look at NXT’s history, the brand’s biggest babyface always have insultingly short title reigns; Sami Zayn, Johnny Gargano & Drew McIntyre are all clear examples of this. On top of that, Kross has been built up like no-one else has since he debuted. He SLAUGHTERED Tommaso Ciampa, and if that isn’t a sign that he’s destined for stardom, I don’t know what is.

The way I’ve rationalised it to myself is thus: Keith Lee can recover from a loss, a hell of a lot better than Karrion Kross can. Sure, Lee won’t have the title anymore, but people are still going to love him regardless because of everything he is as a person and a performer. Meanwhile, Karrion Kross’ whole persona has been built around his unstoppable nature, so taking such a high-profile loss this early on in his NXT run could be catastrophic in regards to the audience’s view of him. Maybe I’m overanalysing it, but I’m going to go with the logic I’ve laid out and pick Karrion Kross to be crowned our new NXT Champion.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read these predictions. Please, let me know what you think is going to happen on Saturday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here this time tomorrow, where I’ll be running down my Summerslam predictions!

WWE Extreme Rules 2020: Predictions & Analysis

It’s nowhere near October, but are you ready for The Horror Show at Extreme Rules?! Admittedly, following “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever”, this doesn’t seem like that bad of a tag line, but it’s still dumb. I’m not even sure who it’s supposed to be appealing to. Then again, this is a gimmick Pay-Per-View, so whatever.

I’ve got mixed feelings when it comes to this show. Running down the card, it all looks like good stuff (except for one match). I think there’s a high chance that there’s going to be at least a couple killer matches on the show. The thing is, I’m just not invested in the build for most of them. Honestly, for the past month, the only storyline I’ve been all that interested in is the stuff surrounding the women’s titles; which has been exciting to watch week in and week out. Orton’s actually been doing pretty good stuff too, but they bumped his match with Big Show over to the next night’s Raw for some reason.

Anyway, let’s break down the matches.

The New Day(c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Tables)

I get that WWE has a bit of an issue with their TV ratings right now. Raw especially has been suffering horribly during the no-crowd era, but why have this match on the card when you had AJ Styles vs Matt Riddle for the Intercontinental Championship on Smackdown? This match between New Day and what remains of The Artist’s Collective has had about two weeks of proper build, and while I like all four guys, I don’t care about their feud. When you compare this to Styles vs Riddle, a great match, between one of your top guys and a guy who’s a fresh face on Smackdown and need some expose…oh yeah, and it’s for one of the most prestigious titles in the history of the industryIt seems such a dumb decision for that to be bumped to TV.

Focusing in on this match. I think it’s got some good potential, though I can’t say I’m super excited about it. Tables matches don’t tend to be the most interesting of matches, it always feels like the wrestlers are a little constricted by the stipulation. Table spots in other extreme matches are fine, but there’s not enough substance to them to carry a whole match. Plus, it’s so incredibly easy to botch the finish. All it takes is for the table to decide it doesn’t want to cooperate and the whole thing’s ruined.

I guess I’ll pick The New Day to retain. This is mostly because I see absolutely no reason for them to lose the titles. As I said, there’s been almost no build to this match, and I can’t see what storyline potential there could be if you switched the titles. I’d say that there are no face tag teams of Smackdown right now, but let’s be honest, there are no tag teams on Smackdown full stop. Heel or face.

Apollo Crews(c) vs MVP
(United States Championship)

At face value, this seems like a bit of an odd one, but if this is all leading where I think it is, then this is actually a pretty effective way of telling the story.

I think the stuff they’re doing with MVP & Bobby Lashley has been good this past month. They’re quickly getting Lana out of the way so that Bobby can fry bigger fish and it turns out MVP was just the mouthpiece he’d needed all this time. Their choice to target Apollo Crews is an interesting one, but given that a rematch with Drew would only result in Bobby losing again, I’m ok with it. MVP’s insistence on recruiting Crews has been fun to watch, mainly because it feels like Crews is only rejecting the proposal out of stubbornness. Putting MVP in for the title match instead of Lashley is a nice touch too. I’m confident in saying that Crew vs Lashley is where we’re headed, but giving Crews a win over MVP in the meantime is the perfect way to keep things building. If things go smoothly in this match, then there’s a chance I’ll actually be quite excited to see Crews vs Lashley by Summerslam.

Oh, and while we’re here, the new United States Championship…it’s fine. I have problems with it, but I had problems with the old design too. I would currently say that I prefer the old one, but that might just be because I’m not used to the new one yet. Ultimately, it’s really not a big deal.

As for the quality of the match, it’s honestly hard to tell. Since MVP has come back, he’s wrestled somewhat inconsistently, but when he has wrestled, it’s been enjoyable to watch. I’m not sure how he’ll fare in a longer, more high-profile match, but Crews is a consistent and safe wrestler, so I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Apollo Crews is almost certainly going to win though. Putting the title on Lashley at Summerslam and giving him a run of dominance with it is the way to go right now. Naturally, putting the title on MVP would screw that up pretty badly, so have Crews retain, only for Lashley to attack him after the match, or something along those lines.

Rey Mysterio vs Seth Rollins
(Eye for an Eye)

So, the first part of the ‘horror’ side of this show. We’ve got one man ripping another’s eye out.

I honestly respect WWE for promoting that match that way. Not making any bones about it and saying that one of these men will rip out the eye of the other one. The problem is that this isn’t a promise they can deliver on. They can smoke-and-mirrors or CGI it, but Mysterio or Rollins can’t keep wrestling in an eye-patch forever. At some point, probably in just a few months, they’re going to remove the eye-patch and reveal that they did not, in fact, have their eye ripped out. The only way they could really get away with it is if Mysterio is planning of retiring soon, but I honestly have no idea on that front. He is getting a bit old, but he’s not slowing down athletically.

The story surrounding all of it has been a bit weird, specifically surrounding all the other wrestlers that have been getting involved. I get why Murphy & Theory are there, as they are Rollins’ disciples and add to Rollins’ gimmick, but why are Black & Carrillo involved? I know Black has had problems with Murphy in the past, but I don’t understand why Black, as a character, is putting so much time and effort into sticking up for Mysterio. They don’t have any history together, and they haven’t even done a scene where Black professes his respect for Mysterio’s career. Black really feels like the kind of character that should’ve just bailed to deal with other business by this point. At least with Carrillo, there’s the heritage aspect.

I think this had to be Seth Rollins to win. I wouldn’t have a problem with Mysterio coming out on top, but I don’t think anyone gains anything from it. Seth’s had some significant losses since Wrestlemania, and a win here will do wonders for him. Plus, if their goal is to get Dominick on board as a full-time wrestler following this feud, what better way to tell his story than to have him fighting for the honour of his father? The simple fact of it is, with a Rollins’ win, there are so many more places for the story to go, so that’s what they should do.

Braun Strowman vs Bray Wyatt
(Wyatt Swamp Fight)

I’d love to sit here and speculate what a ‘Wyatt Swamp Fight’ will entail, but the past 4 months of pre-taped matches have proved to me that there’s just no point in trying. They’re always the kinds of things you could never have possibly imagined, they’re always ridiculous and stupid, and they’re always great.

Although I initially enjoyed the Strowman/Wyatt storyline during the build to Money in the Bank, it definitely feels like it’s lost some steam this month. I don’t know if it’s just me, but after losing to both Goldberg and Strowman, I just don’t view Wyatt as anywhere near a big of a deal as I used to. I know he beat Cena at Mania, but the pre-taped nature of that segment made it feel like less of an impactful victory (although, it was still brilliant). It might be a little bit intangible, but I just don’t get the same level of intrigue or excitement that I so when seeing Wyatt on my screen anymore.

When it comes to picking a winner, we have somewhat of a clash when it comes to WWE tropes. So, this is a match named after Wyatt, and WWE tropes say that means Wyatt has to lose. However, this is also a PPV non-title match featuring the world champion, and WWE tropes dictate that the champion must lose. So which trope are they going to go with? I’m honestly struggling to pick. On the one hand, if Wyatt loses here, then there is no interest or justification in The Fiend gunning of revenge at Summer (which is 100% where this is going). On the other hand, what a rubbish look for Strowman if he can’t beat Wyatt here. Especially when it’s the objectively worst version of Wyatt from a kayfabe standpoint.

I’m just going for Bray Wyatt to win because that’s what I want to happen. Strowman’s been relentlessly boring as champion, and I hope he doesn’t keep it past Summerslam.

Bayley(c) vs Nikki Cross
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Now here’s some good stuff.

I’m so happy they gave this shot to Nikki instead of Alexa. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big Alexa Bliss fan, but I’ve wanted to see Nikki get a singles opportunity for so long now and she’s finally moving out of Bliss’ shadow. Like I mentioned in the intro, the whole interplay around the women’s championships has been great this past month. It’s no wonder that their segments are far-and-away the highest-rated segments of the shows week-to-week.

I’m optimistic about the quality of the match too. Cross has put on some incredible matches in her time (most notably with Asuka in NXT), while Bayley’s resume speaks for itself by now. I think it would be cool if this was quite a chaotic match. I don’t just mean in terms of people like Alexa & Sasha getting involved (although, I’m sure they will), I mean in terms of the in-ring style. Cross is someone who I think is most entertaining when she’s working a fast and frantic pace. If Nikki comes out of the gate firing on all cylinders, then there’s a great story to be told there of Bayley having to respond in-kind before she can find her spot and slow her down. But hey, they’re the wrestlers, I’m sure they can come up with something even better.

As much as it would fill my heart with joy to see Nikki win the title, I don’t think it’s going to happen. The money right now is with Bayley retaining. I’m not sure that we’re actually going to get Bayley vs Sasha at Summerslam, but it’s a definite possibility. Regardless, I think the company recognises the roll that Bayley has been on this year – both in terms of her matches and character – and I think she’ll be holding onto that title for at least another month.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Dolph Ziggler
(WWE Championship)
(Dolph Ziggler to reveal stipulation on the night)

Does Ziggler have pictures of Vince or something? Why on Earth does he get world title shots at least once a year?

I just don’t care about Dolph Ziggler, and I haven’t done since about 2015. The fact of the matter is, he’s just awful as a heel. He’s got pretty good mic skills, but I find his style to get quite repetitive when he’s in a long-term feud, and his in-ring style is so boring. He seems to believe that being a heel means that you should never perform any fast or exciting moves ever, which just isn’t how it works. Guys like Rollins, Styles & Bryan have been proving that for years.

So, now they’ve thrown him at Drew McIntyre, and I just don’t care. The way the whole feud has been built feels like it was designed to be Jinder Mahal in this position instead of Ziggler, as it has mainly focused around their history together. Now, I know Ziggler & McIntyre were a duo for about a year follow McIntyre’s return, but when it comes to former partners for Drew, Mahal & Slater come to mind a lot quicker. Of course, Jinder’s injury can’t be helped, and I’m not saying that it would make for any better of a match, but at least the story would be more interesting.

Ziggler withholding the stipulation is good from a strategic standpoint, but it also works to build intrigue for the match because, to be honest, I wouldn’t give even the slightest of shits otherwise. Now, some leaked promotional material hints at it being a Tables, Ladders & Chairs match, although those leaks have been wrong before. Personally, I’d be into a TLC match. I know that goes against my ‘anti-weapons matches’ preferences, but I think Ziggler vs McIntyre in a regular singles match would be so unbelievably dull, that I’m happy with anything that threatens to spice it up.

Drew McIntyre is going to win. There’s no other outcome here. In fact, that’s another major problem with Ziggler always getting these title matches. No-one ever believes Ziggler stands a chance of winning. WWE management has never got behind him as a world champion, and I don’t see any reason as to why they’d start now. Especially in the face of Drew McIntyre, who has the potential to carry the company for the next decade if he had the opportunity.

Asuka(c) vs Sasha Banks
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Seriously, nothing has been able to hold a candle to the women’s division this month. How could you not be excited about this match?

Usually, I’d sit here and worry about how this match might not get enough time, or how they’ll overbook it and ruin it, but looking at Raw this past month, I honestly don’t think that’ll be the case. Week in and week out, WWE seems to have really taken their hands off and just let these women wrestle some genuinely great matches against each other, and I fully expect that trend to continue on Sunday night. Both women have proven time and time again that they’re just as good as any wrestler on the planet. Combine that fact with how strong each of their characters are right now, and I have full confidence this one will live up to my expectations.

Story-wise, I have a feeling that the writing team still aren’t 100% sure that Sasha vs Bayley is where they want to go. They are leaning into the dissension angle in small ways, mostly via Charlie CONSTANTLY asking them dumb questions about whether or not they like each other. However, it still seems like they’re giving themselves enough wiggle room to swerve away from it if they need to. We were in this exact spot just a couple of years ago, remember.

Ultimately, if they’re going to go down the Sasha vs Bayley road, they’re going to have to set things in motion on Sunday. Leaving any longer would just be too late for it to be interesting. I’m not going to get my hopes up – because we’ve been burned so many times before – but I’m going to tentatively say that will Bayley with either deliberately or accidentally do something that ends up costing Sasha the match and finally the duo will explode. So, it’s Asuka to win.

So there you have it! Those are my predictions for Extreme Rules. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think will happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure you come back here on Monday where I’ll be reviewing the show!

WWE Backlash 2020: Predictions & Analysis

It turns out, the wrestling world’s response to a pandemic was just to do even more wrestling! This is the third major show in only four weeks, and earlier this week, New Japan Pro Wrestling announced they’re going to start to run shows again. There’s just a hell of a lot going on right now. Still, I’m glad we can cap this madness off with what WWE had promised us will be The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever™. More on that later.

In reality, I see very little to get excited about on this show. The build to every match has been generic and boring across both shows. Being realistic, I only see one match here that has any real potential to be amazing…

Jeff Hardy vs Sheamus

…and this isn’t it.

Admittedly, I think if any match is going to surpass my expectations and turn out to be good, it’s this one, but my hopes aren’t very high.

The build to this one has been peculiar. It’s always uncomfortable when WWE plays off of a wrestler’s real-life issues with substance abuse, especially making light of Hardy’s constant relapses. The bit that annoyed most people was Hardy potentially driving under the influence and running Elias down with a car. Ironically, this is the only part I’m okay with because it’s so evident this is a frame-job. All of the witnesses said they just saw “someone wearing all-black” and the rental car papers just happened to be lying out in the open with Hardy’s name on them. To me, it’s incredibly obvious that someone knocked Hardy loopy and poured a bunch of alcohol on him to incriminate him.

What baffles me is why they haven’t been playing this up more. It’s a perfectly packaged whodunit story where half the Smackdown roster had some sort of motivation to do it. Speaking of, I don’t think it was Sheamus that did it. While it would be the most obvious person, it would seem like an odd choice to have this happen just a few weeks out from the match. Not much stands to be gained from it.

This whole situation plays into my prediction for the match. As I think Sheamus will win after the real culprit gets involved and costs Hardy the match. As to who that will be, probably either Corbin or Styles, but who knows? Maybe it’ll be someone weird and interesting. Maybe the Smackdown hacker will get involved, that’d be fun. I also think giving Sheamus the win is fine. It’s not like Hardy needs it, he’s at the point where he’s such a legendary name that no amount of losses will hurt him. Meanwhile, Sheamus has done nothing but lose since his big return at the start of the year, and I think he could really do with a win.

Apollo Crews(c) vs Andrade
(United States Championship)

Despite having a good-length reign with the US title, Andrade managed to do absolutely nothing with it during his time as champion.

This was in-part thanks to poorly timed short-term injuries and suspensions, but I can’t help but feel like even if those things hadn’t happened, the booking never would’ve come around to help him do anything of interest. He barely defended to defend the title at Wrestlemania, remember, even before he got injured. So instead Apollo Crews won the title on a random episode of Raw after losing to Andrade & Garza for a good month, or so…and WWE wonders why no-one gives a shit about their secondary titles anymore. Mind you, at least the United States Championship is being defended on Sunday…

Provided this match gets the time of day, I think we could be in for an unexpected treat. It’s been easy to forget given his booking for the past 3-4 years, but Apollo Crews is a great wrestler, and Andrade is more than capable of putting on exciting matches. My main worry is this match not going longer than 10 minutes. I shall choose to remain optimistic (I’ve got to be excited about SOMETHING about this show) but who knows?

As for a winner, it would seem ill-advised to start hot-shotting the title, thus decreasing interest in it even further. Admittedly, WWE is very close to the “every champion is a face champion” problem that I spoke about with AEW a few weeks ago, but if Apollo Crews doesn’t retain, then it would be a foolish decision.

Bayley & Sasha Banks(c) vs The IIconics vs Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

No HERE’S a match I can get excited thinking about. It’s a multi-team tag match featuring six of the best women’s wrestlers WWE has to offer right now, what’s not to love?

Between this match and the previous one, it seems like WWE has decided that doing a title change has now become a way to start a feud, instead of end it…which seems backwards. I’ve got no problem with Bayley & Banks winning the tag titles; I think they’ll be good for the belts’ credibility. That said, couldn’t they have saved the title change for the PPV, instead of switching the belts on Smackdown and making the PPV match supremely predictable?

May as well cut to the chase here, I think Bayley & Sasha Banks will retain their titles. The whole ‘dual champion’ thing is perfect for Bayley’s arrogant persona and having to divide her attention between defending both of her titles will be a good pitfall for her to fall into in the coming months. Hopefully, that fact will also help grow the tension between Bayley & Banks, so we can finally get that match we’ve been hoping for all year. I think The IIconics could pick the titles back up, but given how they were treated as a total afterthought last time they held the titles, I doubt it.

The match should be good, though. There’s plenty of opportunity for chaos and shenanigans that make for an enjoyable time.

Braun Strowman(c) vs The Miz & John Morrison
(Universal Championship)
(2 on 1 Handicap)

Oh…yay…more handicap matches for titles…who thinks they’re entertaining? Seriously, who?

I honestly couldn’t give less of a shit about this match if I tried. The build to this has been ridiculous in the worst way possible. Miz & Morrison started with some decent promos, but since then they’ve just become nuisances, doing stupid things like…watching Braun on a monitor and giggling at him like they’re 14-year-old schoolgirls? If that doesn’t get you hype for a world title match then, I don’t know what will. It doesn’t help that Braun has been presented as the world’s most boring and generic champion ever, despite looking like he does. You would think Braun as champion would be the easiest thing to book in the world, but no, he’s just like everyone else. It’s almost like WWE never intended for Braun to win the title…

The match will likely be boring as well. Remember the Braun vs Artist’s Collective handicap match from earlier in the year? I imagine this match will more or less be a copy/paste of that. Miz & Morrison will try some sneaky stuff and beat Braun down early on until Braun eventually makes a comeback and destroys them both. Speaking of, Braun Strowman is going to win, because of course he is. There is absolutely no way either The Miz or John Morrison is going to win a world title, let alone on the most minor show of the whole year.

Asuka (c) vs Nia Jax
(Raw Women’s Championship)

The booking surrounding the Raw Women’s title this month has been bizarre. Despite being the NXT Women’s Champion, Charlotte has seemingly made a point of continuing to show up on Raw every week just to continually remind everyone that she’s better than everyone else on Raw. It sounds like it’s good heel work, but in reality, it’s undercut Asuka’s reign as champion.

Luckily, Asuka was able to avoid looking weak from just being handed the championship, since she did have to win Money in the Bank to get it, but I can’t help but feel like always being in Charlotte’s shadow and losing to her all the time can’t help. All I can say is that I hope this goes somewhere and they play up how Asuka can’t be beat Charlotte. At least then it’ll be a worthwhile story.

Now, you might’ve noticed that I’m on my third paragraph of this section and I’m yet to mention Nia Jax’s name. That’s because she’s been quite the non-factor in this feud. As I’ve said, WWE has done a better job building Asuka vs Charlotte than Asuka vs Jax. To put it bluntly, I’m not a fan of Nia. It’s got nothing to do with the injuries she may or may not have caused (depending on who you ask) I just don’t think she’s even remotely interesting as a performer. Plus, she can’t cut a promo to save her life.

Will she win here? Maybe. The logic dictates that Asuka should win. This is her first major title defence, she got the nod from Becky Lynch, who has dominated the Raw women’s division for the past year and everyone seems to love her. On the other hand, given that it’s unlikely WWE ever actually intended to make Asuka champion before Becky announced her pregnancy, I think they might just want to take the title off of her. I honestly think that having Nia take the title from Becky might’ve been the original plan anyway. It just fits with how they’ve built Nia up as a total monster since she’s returned. I think Becky probably would’ve got the title back from Nia eventually, but Nia winning it in a shock victory sounds like something WWE would do.

I’ve gone back and forth on this a bunch now, and in the end, I’m settling with Asuka, mainly because I think they’ll want to pull the trigger on the Charlotte vs Asuka rematch over the bulk of the summer. Although this is undoubtedly the pick that I’m the least confident about.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Bobby Lashley
(WWE Championship)

Again, I feel like this past month has done a better job of building Drew vs MVP than Drew vs Lashley.

To be fair, MVP has been absolutely killing it with his work building this match. It’s put Drew in a position where he doesn’t have to do much talking. He just has to react to what MVP is saying, and it works. Drew is a great talker anyway, but merely coming in with the odd counterpoint where he threatens violence has made him seem like quite the formidable champion. I’m not the biggest fan of him getting beaten down every week, but he keeps coming back with more and more fire, and it’s a good look for the top guy in the company.

That said, I’m not overly excited about the match. I’ve never bought into Lashley as a wrestler. He’s had a couple of good matches since his return, but nothing that surprised me or blew me away with how good it was. However, maybe Sunday will be the night. I can’t deny that Lashley has seemingly found a new lease of life since pairing with MVP and a big ‘clash of titans’ so to speak might be the perfect match for him to flourish.

While I’m confident that Drew McIntyre is going to retain the title, I’ll admit I think there’s a minuscule chance they could switch it to Lashley. I think it would be a terrible idea, and I hope they don’t do it, but I have this weird feeling in my gut that they might. I’m sticking with Drew because it’s the correct choice, but until the referee’s hand hits three, that tiny little worry is going to sit in the back of my mind.

Edge vs Randy Orton

Fuck this.

Honestly, I just don’t care. I hated their Wrestlemania match, and I don’t see how this is going to be any different. The fact that they’re billing it as ‘The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever’ is utterly ridiculous and turns me off to the match more than it does make me want to watch it. Seriously, who is going to see the marketing for this show and think to themselves: “Oh, well I wasn’t going to buy this unimportant, B-show Pay-Per-View, but if they’ve said this match is going to be the greatest ever…how can I refuse?” Do WWE think that low of their audience. Even Edge thought it was a joke when he first heard about it.

More importantly, there are so many better things Edge could be doing right now. I understand why Orton was chosen for his return. They have loads of history, Orton’s a safe worker, and I imagine the two of them are good friends in real life. Why do another one, though? The storyline justification Orton gave for it is flat-out dumb. They may as well have come out and said: “We think we can milk this feud for a little longer”.

Edge is going to win. Purely because if Orton wins, that means we have to do a tie-break and I just don’t want that to happen. I want Edge to be wrestling with the young guys, all of whom could put on fantastic matches with him. Not to mention, where has it even got to go following this? They’ve already done the hardcore match, and now they’re doing a standard match. Hell in a Cell? Three Stages of Hell? I sure as shit don’t want to see either of them. There is just no reason for Orton to win and I can only hope that Edge goes on to better things following this match.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. What do you think will happen on Sunday? Please, let me know what you think either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here this time on Monday, where I’ll be reviewing the show by ranking every match!