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)
(Buy-In)

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)
(Buy-In)

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.

WWE Backlash 2021: Predictions & Analysis

There’s a Pay Per View this weekend? Oh, ok, I’ll do predictions then.

Wrestlemania already feels like it was aeons ago, but this show still managed to sneak up on me. It’s not been a particularly active month creatively for WWE, and even this show is still trying to cling to the Wrestlemania name. There’s some cool stuff lined up for this show, though, so it could end up being one of the more underrated ones of the year.

Damian Priest vs The Miz
(Lumberjack Match)

For a man who was WWE Champion just three months ago, The Miz is still being booked like a complete chump.

I really have no idea why this feud is still ongoing. Well, I do, it’s because they don’t have any other ideas for Damian Priest, but that’s beside the point. At least if Bad Bunny was still involved, I’d understand having the celebrity appeal, but we’re done with that now; Priest isn’t going to gain anything by beating The Miz again.

This match should be alright, but the Lumberjack stipulation could overbear on it a little. I’m sure we’ll see plenty of shenanigans involving said Lumberjacks. I just hope this isn’t some lame excuse to give The Miz a cheap win. Just let Priest get the win here and wash his hands of The Miz. I’m pretty sure John Morrison’s going to turn on The Miz soon too, so hopefully, that goes somewhere.

It might be a stupid heel win, but I’m going with Damian Priest to get the win on this one. He’s still a fresh face, this is the first PPV singles match, so he has to win.

Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode(c) vs Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)

Smackdown has tag titles? Who knew.

As much as I mock, Smackdown does have the makings of a great tag scene right now. Ziggler & Roode are pretty good heels, even if they don’t have the best chemistry. The Street Profits are extraordinary, Otis & Gable have good chemistry, the Mysterios are tremendous, and The Usos are back in action now.

Speaking of The Usos, word on the dirt sheets is that they’re going to get together and beat a face tag team for the titles, so I don’t fancy Ziggler & Roode’s chances in this one. Even without that, I doubt they’d hold onto the titles here anyway. Their heel run has been fine, but I think it’s run its course. The Mysteries have a more fresh and exciting feel to them, and I’d like to see Dominik start to get some credible accolades under his belt.

Even if they are only going to hold the titles briefly, I think Rey Mysterio & Dominik Mysterio are coming out of this one as the champions, in a feel-good family moment.

Bianca Belair(c) vs Bayley
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Simply put, Bayley is the perfect first opponent for Bianca.

Even putting how incredible she’s been since turning heel aside, Bayley’s character is so perfectly opposed to Bianca in every way, it feels like they’re destined to be eternal rivals. Everything that went on between them in the build-up to the Royal Rumble was pure gold, and now they’re back at it again, and it’s a joy to watch.

Bianca’s match with Sasha at Mania was one of the best of the year so far, and I’m expecting a similar level of performance from these two, provided it’s not poorly booked. The matches they’ve had here and there on Smackdown were great, so giving it 15-20 minutes on PPV is all you need to satisfy me here.

Bianca Belair will win because she absolutely should. Her crowning as champion was the emotional high-point of Wrestlemania, and it would be a travesty to see it snatched away so suddenly. Sasha may get involved to screw with this match, but I’m hoping any such shenanigans happen after the match, not during.

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

I’ve had pretty mixed feelings about this whole feud.

I think Lashley has been a fantastic champion so far. He’s got a presence and intensity like something we haven’t see in a long time, and MVP as his mouthpiece makes him this brilliant total package. Drew’s been ok as a challenger, but I feel like he’s lacked a lot of fire since losing at Wrestlemania, the intense spark that he had while chasing Lesnar for the title isn’t there this time. Admittedly, creative isn’t giving him much to grab onto, but what can you do?

Strowman’s presence is fine. I didn’t want to see Drew & Lashley go one on one again anyway, so why not throw in a third hoss to this contest of big beefy boys. As much as the build hasn’t been super interesting, I think this could be a killer match if all three men are allowed to go wild. They could really try to destroy each other, and it’d be tonnes of fun to watch.

Picking a winner is tricky. Some people have said Strowman’s just there so Drew doesn’t have to pass out again, while others have said it’s so Lashley can lose the title without being pinned. I think one of them is correct, but I don’t know which one. I expected Drew to win the title back at Mania, and when he didn’t, it signified to me that WWE was choosing to run with Lashley for the time being. As such, I don’t see why they’d back down on that plan now. So I’m going with Bobby Lashley to retain the title.

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

The weird circumstances surrounding Charlotte’s lack of participation at Mania seems to have brought the best out of the situation. I couldn’t be more thrilled at Rhea getting to hold the title. I know people are upset that Asuka’s not being treated so great, but she was champion for almost a year, she can go on the back burner for a bit, and it won’t hurt.

Charlotte, meanwhile, has reverted back to her heel persona, which is where she should always be. She was a face so briefly, but even in that short time, it was clear that it wasn’t working. People just aren’t willing to cheer her, and she performs so well as a heel that her face work comes off as disingenuous. Regardless, this is a triple threat match between three of the best women’s wrestlers active in WWE right now, so I’m excited to see what’s they can do when all put together.

I don’t know where the result is going through. Rhea should win, that much is obvious. She’s only had the title for a month, and it would totally undercut her Wrestlemania moment. That said, the momentum is 100% in Charlotte’s corner. She has been the driving force of this story, and it would almost seem weird for WWE to go so hard on this angle and not put the title on Charlotte. On the flip side, there is the looming spectre of a Becky Lynch return, which could be a straightforward device to sideline Charlotte for a while without giving her the title.

At the end of the day, I’m going with Rhea Ripley because it would be a disaster for her title reign to end so soon, and I’m putting a little faith in WWE to do the right thing.

Roman Reigns(c) vs Cesaro
(Universal Championship)

FINALLY.

It felt like we’d never see the day, but here we are; Cesaro is getting a one on one shot for a world title in WWE. Even though there’s no way he’s winning, it feels good to see. He’s been a force of nature since Wrestlemania too. His association with Daniel Bryan kept him in the backseat while boiling up for a while, and finishing out his feud with Seth Rollins was enjoyable to watch. Since he’s had his sights set fully on Roman, it feels like the Cesaro we’ve known was there this whole time can finally shine.

I have pretty high expectations of this match. I know there will be some Uso-based interferences (there always are), but there’s a lot these two guys can work with. Reigns always wrestles a powerful style, and Cesaro can absolutely match that while bringing in an extra dose of technicality. Cesaro should really be able to take Reigns to his limits, and that’s what will do him good in the long run.

As I’ve said, Roman Reigns is absolutely going to retain, but that’s ok. If Cesaro puts on the killer performance he’s capable of, he’ll have the momentum that’ll stop him from falling back into obscurity once this is all over.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Let me know what your predictions are, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here early next week for my review!