Wrestlemania 37: Every Match Ranked

And finally, we have reached the end of this week of wrestling. I thought it was a bloody good one. I don’t think this Wrestlemania will go down as one of the all-time greats, but there was undoubtedly a lot more good than bad across both nights, and that’s good enough for me.

No point rambling up here, let’s talk about the matches.

14 – Randy Orton def. The Fiend

This match had interesting implications, but as a match in and of itself, it was crap.

Firstly, The Fiend was literally burned alive, and that didn’t stop him or keep him down, but a single RKO is enough to keep him down for three? That can piss right off. The little action we did get wasn’t particularly exciting either, just the standard stuff we’ve come to expect from both of these guys.

The stuff with Alexa Bliss potentially rebelling against The Fiend has tonnes of potential, and I’m interested to see where it goes, but it didn’t make for a good match here. It was such a weird one to open the show with too, the crowd just didn’t know how to react to any of it, and I don’t blame them.

13 – Natalya & Tamina def. Lana & Naomi, Billie Kay & Carmella, The Riott Squad, Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose
(Winner gets a Women’s Tag Team Championship match on Night 2)
(Tag Team Turmoil)

I’d hoped that this one would be better than I was expecting, but unfortunately, I don’t think this clicked at all. It may have been due to the chaos around the weather throwing them off their game, and I sympathise if that’s the case, but I didn’t enjoy what I saw in the ring.

Almost none of these teams have any natural chemistry, and it showed in this match. The Riott Squad are the only team that I’d say actually worked well together, and that’s no surprise when you see how long they’ve been paired up for. WWE think they can just throw whoever the fuck together and expect them to wrestle decent tag matches, but it just doesn’t work that way. Even outside of gelling with your partner, there are so many different aspects to the psychology of tag matches that you can’t expect someone without experience in that field to do well at it.

On top of that, it didn’t help that each stage of the gauntlet way maybe 5 minutes, if that. I get why there wasn’t time for five full-length matches, but maybe just build a proper tag division, and that won’t be a problem? For all the progress WWE has made in recent years at booking the main-event level of their women’s divisions, the mid-card is still treated terribly. If you’re not the four horsewomen or a select other few, you just get treated like a nobody, and it leads to situations like this where we don’t care about any of these people, despite most of them being great.

Also, Natalya & Tamina was completely the wrong choice to win. I would’ve preferred any other team as I think all of them would’ve worked better with Jax & Baszler.

12 – Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) def. Natalya & Tamina
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

Case in point…

Again, this match wasn’t terrible, and it showed pretensions of being something greater in places; I just didn’t click with it on a level I consider to be anything meaningful. I can be a bit harsh about it at times, but the truth is I don’t like Jax, Tamina or Natalya in the ring. I think they’re slow, clunky, and their movements are awkward. Conversely, I love Shayna Baszler, but she can’t make this match great on her own.

There were good spots. Towards the end, things got interesting, and there were a few good false finishes. I can’t call this a bad match; I just think it doesn’t compare to much else on the card. I also have no idea where the women’s tag titles go from here. All of these thrown together teams have been beaten, so unless they’re going to go back and fight one of them, there’s pretty much no one. Unless this is what WWE has Becky do straight out of her return, maybe she teams up with Charlotte or Asuka. I think that’d be a bit crap, though.

11 – Braun Strowman def. Shane McMahon
(Steel Cage)

Well, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. However, when you have to say something like that about a match, something’s already gone very wrong.

There wasn’t anything functionally wrong with this match. As stupid as it is to see Shane hold his own against Strowman, the match was worked well and told a decent story in the ring. I just had absolutely zero investment because the story leading up to this match was terrible. The pre-match attack gave a bit of justification to Braun not immediately crushing Shane’s skull in his palms, but when Shane started doing his weak-ass jabs, and commentary started putting over how he’s some elite striker, I just rolled my eyes and lost interest. Apparently, when Shane returned in 2016, everyone in creative forgot that Shane’s character’s whole point back in the attitude era was that, while he won championships, he couldn’t actually wrestle all that well and needed TONNES of help to get wins.

It wasn’t all bad, as there were some cool moments. When Braun did get to look dominant, it felt like the Braun of old, which I want back so very badly. Him ripping open the side of the cage was a cool spot that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before, so big thumbs up for that one. Then, of course, who doesn’t love seeing Shane get thrown off of something tall?

As I said, nothing exactly wrong with it, I just didn’t get on with it that well.

10 – AJ Styles & Omos def. The New Day(c)
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

Despite the relatively low placement of this one, I do think it was a really fun one.

The way the roles played out in this one was interesting. Traditionally, it’s the heels who cut off the ring and prevent the hot tag, but in this case, it was actually the New Day who got to do it. The justification for this was brilliant and played up to the idea that tag team specialists are much better at tag team wrestling. A crazy idea, I know, but it works. Styles was the MVP of this match, and the way he mixed it up with both Woods and Kingston was super fun to watch. The narrative thread of him trying to get the tag to Omos was precisely what this match needed to be compelling too.

Eventually, Omos did get in the ring and…yeah, he was alright. He didn’t do that much, but at this early stage, it’s unclear whether he was just booked that way, or that’s genuinely all he can do; that’s something we’ll get to in the future, though. In this match, it was the perfect way to bring the story to a conclusion. New Day did a fantastic job of making Omos look invincible, not just in their selling of the moves, but in how they reacted to just about everything he did.

I’m 100% behind the switching of the titles, and I look forward to hopefully seeing Omos grow throughout this reign.

9 – Bad Bunny & Damian Priest def. The Miz & John Morrison

I know, a celebrity match ranked higher than an AJ Styles match. Blasphemy, but I think this was a hell of a lot of fun.

In my predictions, I was cautiously optimistic about what Bad Bunny could do in the ring, and I’m pleased to say that my optimism was not misplaced because he really pulled it out of the bag. Obviously, he lacked the polish of a proper wrestler and couldn’t carry the sections between the moves very well, but that’s ok; no one expected him to. Instead, he impressed me with the vast array of moves he busted out and the fire with which he delivered them.

Miz was the perfect person to be on the receiving end of most of this, as his reactions to everything were priceless. He also added the necessary story beats to the match, as he got frustrated that he was getting his arse kicked by this tiny celebrity. The highlight of the match was, of course, Bad Bunny busting out a Canadian Destroyer out of nowhere and no one in the ring quite knowing how to deal with it. As much as it was a bit over the top, and I think the Canadian Destroyer is a dumb move, that moment was just beautiful.

What’s great is that Damian Priest didn’t feel overshadowed either. While Bad Bunny held his own, Priest was always presented as the one who could get in there and finish the match. Once he did get in, it was pretty much a done deal. He kicked out of everything Miz & Morrison threw his way and laid them out in short order.

Was it some wrestling masterpiece? No, but for what it was, I thought it was super enjoyable.

8 – Apollo Crews def. Big E(c)
(Intercontinental Championship)

This was a fun sprint of a match that ended in unexpected fashion.

Weirdly, I think the fact that this match only got 7 minutes was a bit of a boon to this match. I meant that neither men had to worry too much about conserving their energy for the long haul or blowing their big spots too early, they just went for broke right from the word go, and it was a bit of fun to watch. Both men got to show the intensity I wanted from them, and the match moved at a brisk pace through each of the spots.

My personal favourite was right at the beginning when they were wailing on each other with kendo sticks, but there was plenty to enjoy; the gong around the place, the fighting around the stairs and of course, Apollo’s beautiful frog splash through a table. I did not see the ending coming, but I am quite happy with it. Dabba Kato coming in and being Apollo’s heavy out of nowhere works for me. As much as I wanted Big E to retain, I’m thrilled Apollo is getting an IC title run with this great character, and I’m glad Big E didn’t have to lose clean.

The fact that it was so short and did end with interference means I can’t rank it TOO high, but I did enjoy this one from start to finish.

7 – Bobby Lashley(c) def. Drew McIntyre
(WWE Championship)

After the weather delayed the show by about half an hour, it felt like the wind had been taken out of the show’s sails a bit. The impromptu promos from everyone were really good, but given that both men had to keep themselves pumped up and ready to go at a moments notice, I think this opening match really put the show back on track.

It was a world away from their singles match at Backlash last year, and it just goes to show just how far both men have come over the past year. Lashley felt so renewed as a performer and like an absolute force of nature, while Drew’s hunger upped the intensity and led to a match that moved quite quickly. The thread of Drew constantly trying to avoid the Full Nelson made for some pretty dramatic moments, and it was mixed in with a lot of varied offence.

The finish wasn’t the best, but I don’t think it dragged the match down. Drew essentially losing cos MVP just shouted out, “I’m a distraction!” was a bit dumb, but I think it was a decent way to avoid Drew losing clean. On top of that, there’s the fact that he was in the Full Nelson for ages. Normally, it’s an instant pass-out for people who are in it but Drew fought back a couple times and almost broke it at the end. If WWE wants to keep this feud going past Wrestlemania, then this finish definitely gives them grounds to do so.

As for Lashley winning, I’m disappointed in the right way. I don’t think it was a bad decision, I’m just disappointed because the good guy I wanted to win didn’t win. Lashley has easily been doing the best work of his WWE career, and I have absolutely no issue with him getting to continue his reign.

6 – Rhea Ripley def. Asuka(c)
(Raw Women’s Championship)

It was Rhea’s brutality, and it was fairly brutal.

I had trouble ranking one because it was really good, but it did undershoot my expectations a little. It was a different kind of match to what I was expecting. I thought we would get something along the same lines as Rhea & Charlotte last year: an in-depth & balanced technical contest. What we got was more methodical, though, which is often a bad thing, but I think they did a good job of working the slower pace.

Rhea got to look quite dominant in places, which is absolutely what she needed, and Asuka settled into the underdog role really well. The balance of offence was interesting because Rhea had the advantage more often than not, but Asuka got on top sporadically throughout, making it feel more even than it was. With how quickly Rhea rose as a face in NXT, it’s easy to forget that she was a heel for the entirety of her run in NXT UK, and you can see how comfortably she fit into that role in this match.

The ending sequence was a bit quicker and more back-and-forth, with a bunch of exciting counters. Rhea hitting the Riptide out of nowhere was a lot of fun for the final spot, and it left me feeling satisfied with the match, even if it was different from what I was hoping for. Rhea was absolutely the right choice to win. Now WWE just has to avoid instantly giving the title to Charlotte…

5 – Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn

As expected, these two put on a great match.

Naturally, it touched on a few spots from their previous matches in WWE (of which there have been a few). The classic spot where they just wail on each other was in there at one point, along with teasing the powerbomb onto the apron. With the Pop-Up Powerbomb right at the start, followed immediately by the apron Brainbuster, it feels like the match skipped to the middle and just went from there. Given that they only had 10 minutes, I actually think it was quite a good way to deal with the time constraints.

Sami got to look a lot better than I thought he would, and I’m glad that WWE is remembering that Sami is actually a brilliant wrestler, not just a comedy guy. This felt like the right place for Owens to be following his feud with Reigns, where he lost at every juncture. Not just because he got the win, but because it’s something that felt meaningful to him, he still got to stand up for something and be challenged, only to come out on top in the end.

The post-match stuff was fairly predictable, but I’ll always be pleased with a cunt like Logan Paul getting Stunnered.

4 – Sheamus def. Riddle(c)
(United States Championship)

I did not expect this one to be this good, but I am thrilled we got to see it because it blew my expectations out of the water.

Despite Sheamus putting on some great singles matches so far this year, the concept I had of him from the early 2010s still lingered in my mind. The idea that he was just this boring guy who was alright sometimes but didn’t deserve anything too major. I realised during this match that I was completely wrong to hold onto that vision for so long.

This was a case where two guys just clicked in the ring and led each other to one hell of a match. It was medium-paced but played with a lot of hard-hitting offence that kept the level of intensity bubbling away, only releasing the pressure in a select few high spots. Things like the belly-to-belly off the top, the wide array of counters, and of course, the finishing spot were all brilliant. In almost any other match on the card, a significant botch like the one they had would’ve risked killing it, but it barely felt like a blip on the radar because of how much I was into the match by that point.

The finish was the highlight, with Sheamus kneeing Riddle in the face while Riddle was upside-down attempting a Moonsault. Yes, it wasn’t as good as when Adam Cole & Ricochet did it, but who cares? It still looked brutal and bloody awesome. I would’ve preferred Riddle to win, but after this match, I have absolutely no complaints with Sheamus holding the US title for a while.

3 – Cesaro def. Seth Rollins

As expected, two great wrestlers put on one incredible match.

This one was fast and fun from the word go. It felt extremely balanced, and no man ever stayed on offence for that long at once. Rollins worked to slow the match in places, but it never lasted too long and gave us the rest we needed before the next extended flurry of fun moves. The main story beat here was that this was Cesaro’s first singles match at Wrestlemania, and he made it clear he should’ve been getting them for years before this as he pulled out all the stops.

There were a bunch of really inventive counters too. Rollins managed to turn a Neutraliser into a Powerbomb and then into Pedigree, which absolutely blew my mind because it happened in the space of about 2 seconds. Cesaro busted out a bunch, too, turning a Stomp attempt into a European Uppercut – a move that always looks brutal and impressive. Listing the great spots is all I can do because this match was just full of brilliant action.

Cesaro getting the win is fantastic too. I’m still not super optimistic about whether WWE will turn this into a sustained push, but he has this moment of triumph at Wrestlemania now, and no one will ever be able to take that away from him.

2 – Bianca Belair def. Sasha Banks(c)
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

This match was tied with the Universal Championship match in terms of what I was most excited for going into the show, and BOY did it deliver. It was everything I’d hoped it would be.

This match was the culmination of Bianca Belair’s rise. Not just from the past year, but from the start of her run in NXT. In the space of about three years, she went from a wrestler who was kind of green but had potential into a fully formed main event star ready to claim her crown. Just looking at her previous major matches in NXT and you can see how incredibly far she’s come, and it’s such a joy to see her reach the spot we’d all hoped she would.

The moment at the very start of the match where Bianca took everything and had to hold back the tears was so precious and heartwarming. It told you everything you need to know about how important this match was to her and how hard she’d worked to get there. When the action kicked off, she was all business and – to the surprise of no one – these two had incredible chemistry from the word go.

Sasha has had a great run as a face, but she’s such a natural heel performer, and that was obvious in this match, where she took the role as the defacto heel, despite not explicitly being a bad guy. Sasha used her experience and confidence to press down on Bianca as much as possible, which was perfect for Bianca to fight back against. Every move felt so significant and carefully crafted to build everything to a brilliant conclusion.

Sasha locked in the Bank Statement surprisingly early, and from then on, Bianca did not let her get it a second time no matter what, which was a brilliant touch. The finish was also fantastic, with Sasha repeatedly finding ways to slip out of the K.O.D until Bianca caught her with no escape, made for such a tense sequence with a cathartic payoff when she hit it and got the win.

It was a beautiful match that steadily built to the perfect climax and gave us the heartwarming win we wanted. Easily one of main roster WWE’s best matches so far this year.

1 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Edge & Daniel Bryan
(Universal Championship)

Say what you like about the rest of the card, but you can’t deny that WWE nailed booking their main event scenes for this show.

By the time all three men made their entrances, I was ludicrously hyped for this one, and it did not disappoint. It didn’t move too fast, instead giving us a more tensely paced match that felt like it could end at any moment. The opening was the fastest section, where all three men just wanted to beat each other up. We then brought the element of Jey Uso in to give Roman the advantage before removing him from the equation for the bulk of the match.

From there, it was all the trimmings that make triple threat matches great. All three men cycled round, coming in and out of the match at certain intervals to ensure that the dynamic never got stuck on one path for too long. Things were constantly shifting and evolving, which not only made it more interesting to watch but kept that tense atmosphere bubbling, with any man potentially coming in and picking up the win at any moment.

The highlights include Edge locking in the Yes Lock, with the aid of a steel bar, only for Bryan to suddenly show up and ALSO lock in the Yes Lock on Roman Reigns before both men proceeded to headbutt the shit out of each other. My personal favourite moment was when Bryan pulled the referee out of the ring on Edge’s pin because I genuinely bought that as the finish before it was snatched away from me.

The finish was really good too. The Con-Chair-To is a brutal looking move at the best of times, but that doubles when done to Daniel Bryan. Edge’s choice to do it slowly gave Roman the opening to turn the tables and end it for Edge, and the way he pinned both men at once was just beautiful. If this was a year ago, the internet would’ve exploded with rage at the sight of Reigns doing something like that, but it was just perfect for his character. It makes Reigns seem truly invincible, and whoever finally beats him (I hope Big E, but it could be anyone at this point) is going to become an instant star.

This match lived up to the hype and will absolutely go down as one of the best main events in Wrestlemania history.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and all my posts over the last week. Let me know what you thought of Wrestlemania either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday, where we go back to the world of video games and I talk about the characters that mean the most to me!

NXT Takeover: Stand & Deliver: Every Match Ranked

NXT is back bay-bay!

This was easily the best show NXT has put on in over a year and is definitely up there with some of the all-time great Takeover shows. Everyone brought their A-game over the past couple of nights, which feels like the start of a new era for NXT. Both in a metaphorical sense with the rejuvenated roster and quality shows and in a literal sense with new champions crowned across the board.

I’ve got nothing else to say, so let the gushing commence!

12 – Killian Dain & Drake Maverick def. Breezango
(Pre-show)

There was nothing wrong with this match, it just doesn’t stand out on an incredible card like this.

Dain & Maverick have really entertaining chemistry. I enjoy the fact that Dain just gets tired of Maverick’s shit sometimes and does things like powerbomb him onto the opponents. It’s a shame Breezango didn’t get to make much of their tag title reign, but I think they’re great for spots like this when we just want to see a good match and some friendly faces.

There’s no way Dain & Maverick are winning the tag titles, but I can’t wait to see them try.

11 – Zoey Stark def. Toni Storm
(Pre-show)

This was in no way a bad match, it’s just this is such a stacked show, even a really good match like this isn’t going to get very high up the list.

It’s clear that the people behind the scenes at NXT are really high on Zoey Stark, and this win will no doubt do wonders for her. I’m a little sad that Toni Storm has had to eat so many losses as of late, but I don’t mind that much since this is just helping an already stacked division get another prominent star. Not much more to say about this one; it was a good match with a nice pace and a surprising but satisfying conclusion. Thumbs up.

10 – Johnny Gargano(c) def. Bronson Reed
(North American Championship)

Takeover lists are always difficult to write because I have to stress that even though I’ve ranked this as the “worst” match on the main show, it was still really good. However, I’ve got to rank something at the bottom, even if I like it.

To me, what made this match fall to the bottom of the pile was that it just lacked that something special I expect from Takeover matches. Functionally, there was nothing wrong with it. I admit, I’m not as big on Bronson Reed as most other people seem to be, but this match still had plenty of upside. A good flow, an enjoyable back-and-forth style that let both men look great in their own ways.

However, when you look at the matches I’ve ranked above this one, there’s just something about them that ‘clicks’ more to me. It elevates them to be something worthy of a show like this, where NXT showcases the best of what they have to offer. I enjoyed this match. I just enjoyed the rest a lot more.

9 – Bronson Reed def. Leon Ruff, Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, Cameron Grimes, Dexter Lumis & LA Knight
(Winner gets a North American Championship match on Night 2)
(Gauntlet)

There was a lot about this match that I really didn’t see coming.

For one thing, it wasn’t the style of gauntlet match I thought it was going to be. However, I’d argue it was better. This way kept it to a more manageable time for the show and gave us much more interesting action when the ring filled up with guys, rather than being left with a bunch of slightly too short one on one matches.

The different phases this match moved through kept the action solid throughout. The dynamic between Ruff & Scott early on felt like the kind of match I want to see a lot more of down the line, and as people kept getting added, chaos reigned, and things got fun. Lumis didn’t have nearly as prominent a role as I would’ve thought. However, it looks like his next major feud is ready to go as LA Knight, despite getting the short end of the stick here, got over as much as he needed to on this show.

This left us with a final three of Grimes, Scott & Reed, which was way better than I thought it would’ve been. They generally avoided any man powdering out, keeping all three of them in the action for the entire time until Grimes was eliminated. Once Reed won, I began to doubt my statement that Gargano would lose the title on night 2, but I still think him winning this match was great for someone who I thought wouldn’t get a shot until later in the year.

8 – Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart(c) def. The Way
(NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships)

These women’s tag titles are essentially going to be used as a mid-card title for NXT’s women’s division, and I am totally down for that if matches like this are the result.

This one was a very gradual builder, but that made the heights it reached toward the end feel earned. The bulk of the match is the solid tag action that you’d expect from any match like this. The Way did a good job with the divide-and-conquer style of tag work, and the hot tag felt worth the relative slowness that proceeded them.

As always in tag matches, the best stuff came towards the end when things broke down, and people were jumping in from all over the place. It definitely felt like the women involved just let loose and did whatever they felt like in this last section, and it made for a lot of great moments. I’m glad the champs retained and that it was such a solid match because it definitely gives the feeling that NXT will be treating these titles a lot better than Raw & Smackdown have done.

7 – Pete Dunne def. Kushida

I’ll be frank, picking Kushida here was a bloody stupid pick. In hindsight, of course, Pete Dunne was going to win.

My stupidity aside, I really enjoyed this match. I think it would’ve been better with a more meaningful story, but there’s no denying the incredible technical prowess both men had on display. Kushida keeps impressing with his matches despite the fact that he keeps losing, and it’s these kinds of performances that’ll keep him bubbling away until he can finally start winning again.

Dunne, meanwhile, met Kushida’s quick offence with a range of counters, the likes of which you’ve never seen. Dunne worked to turn everything Kushida did against him, and as balanced as the match was in places, it definitely felt like Kushida never really stood a chance of winning. Dunne was able to decelerate and accelerate the match at his whim and had an answer for just about everything Kushida could throw his way.

I don’t know what they’re going to do with Dunne next, but I hope it’s something meaningful because matches like this make it so clear he’ll be able to run with whatever he’s given.

6 – Karrion Kross(c) def. Finn Balor
(NXT Championship)

Is this good enough for you? People who hate Karrion Kross for reasons I still don’t understand.

I’d say this is the point in the list where the matches reach that higher tier of quality that we always hope to get out of Takeovers. Both men played their roles in this match to perfection. Balor’s strategy of getting in Kross’ head early on was something we haven’t seen in quite that way for a long time, and I loved it. The way Balor painted the cross over his heart and then laughed in Kross’ face every time he’d get chucked across the ring was so good.

The action wasn’t the main attraction of this match because the storytelling carried it better than the action ever could. Balor looked so clever with the game plan he came in with, and for the first section of the match, he actually looked quite dominant over Kross. This time, Kross’s presentation has been different from the indestructible monster we saw last year, and I prefer it this way. Monsters should look beatable but still manage to win anyway.

When Kross took over and put the beatdown on Balor, things got more intense, and the dynamic evened out a lot more. The part of the storytelling I love most is how drastically Balor changed his style once he broke free of Kross’ beatdown. Gone was the slow, deliberate technician, and in its place was a quick and deadly striker, and that looked to end the match as quick as possible. The final portion of the match was far more back-and-forth, and it brought everything together nicely.

Kross winning was absolutely the best choice. Balor’s title reign has been fantastic – better than his first – but it’s Kross’ time. It’s been a long time since we had a true monster at the top of NXT, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with the belt.

5 – Raquel Gonzalez def. Io Shirai(c)
(NXT Women’s Championship)

Honestly, when so many of these matches are so good, it becomes difficult to find different ways to talk about how good they are.

This match was a very clear clash of styles that they executed to a fantastic degree. Gonzalez’s ability in singles matches is understated, and I think that’s because her style is more muted than what we’re used to from the women’s division. I don’t mean that as an insult, to be clear, her movements are affectionately fluid, and she understands exactly how to work against her flashier opponents. Her power game is something to be envied, and she manages to mix it in with just enough fast-paced strikes and technical manoeuvres that she comes across as an extremely well-rounded performer.

This match wasn’t all about Gonzalez, though, as Io made sure that no one could forget her. She certainly had the most memorable moments of the match, with a Moonsault to the outside followed by a brilliant looking dive off of the skull (Speaking of, the set for this show looked really great). She understood exactly the kind of wrestler she was up against and adjusted her style to include a lot more of the muted but excellent technical stylings that Gonzalez is good at, and of course, got thrown around like a sack of potatoes at every opportunity.

This was a worthy send-off for Io Shirai’s fantastic title reign and crowned a new champion in spectacular fashion. Long may she reign.

4 – Santos Escobar(c) def. Jordan Devlin(c)
(Undisputed Cruiserweight Championship)
(Ladder)

I was unsure how these two would mesh their styles. As it turns out, the answer was bloody brilliantly.

I loved how they waited to get the ladders involved in the match. We got a solid 5 minutes of the match before either of them picked up a ladder for the first time. It gave the match a great sense of rising tension. It served the story as well, both men want to prove they’re worthy of heading up the Cruiserweight division, so they started out with some classic cruiserweight action.

Things kept building nicely once the ladders got involved. They still moved very quickly and incorporated the ladders into their offence in fun ways. It may not have been anything we haven’t seen in ladder matches before, but it didn’t need to be. The various leaps & falls off of ladders were the kind of spectacle we couldn’t see anywhere else on this show, and it helped this match stand out amongst an incredible lineup of matches.

As the match reached its climax, I bought into a lot of the false finishes. Which was helped by the fact that I really had no idea who was going to win. Ultimately, while I wanted Devlin to win, Escobar is probably the better choice. He’s been on a roll like few others since winning the interim title, and hopefully, Devlin can set his sights on a certain champion over in the UK…

3 – MSK def. Grizzled Young Veterans & Legada Del Fantasma
(NXT Tag Team Championships)

Chaos, that’s what this match was. Pure, non-stop chaos. What more could you possibly want?

It’s no secret that, in general, I like my wrestling fast and crazy, so this match was always going to tick all of my boxes. Having three amazing teams like these in the ring was a recipe for success from the word go, and they still managed to exceed my expectations. Every person in all three teams seemed to be in the perfect place at the perfect time to hit the perfect move. There was barely a moment to catch your breath in this one with how well it cycled between the active participants, and no one was underrepresented.

It felt like the bulk of the story was between MSK & GYV, with Legada Del Fantasma playing spoiler to that dynamic, getting involved when both of those teams got too mixed up with each other. It was a really interesting dynamic. It only got touched on in a few moments, but it added just that little extra bit of emotional investment I needed to become totally absorbed in the match. I really bought into a lot of the false finishes here, and with each one, I fell in love with the match more. It was the kind of match that built to what I thought was the climax and then managed to build even further.

MSK isn’t who I would’ve gone with to win, purely because there aren’t many people for them to face right now. However, it is absolutely deserved. They are clearly a fantastic tag team destined for great things in NXT. Maybe they’ll hot-potato the titles once or twice, but I have no complaints about them winning the titles.

2 – WALTER(c) def. Tommaso Ciampa
(United Kingdom Championship)

WALTER really is just one of the best wrestlers in the world. His style is so unique, but it’s almost intangibly great. He can work hard, fast, monstrous or technical depending on what the situation calls for, and he’s a brilliant judge of which style is needed for what opponent.

In my predictions, I said this match would have a bit of all WALTER’s best title defences so far, and I think I was pretty spot-on with that statement. The primary baseline of the match was the technical prowess of both men. When the two of them got tussling in that technical style, it was a thing of beauty. There was a bunch of brutality in there too. WALTER’s chops could win a title independently, but Ciampa wasn’t afraid to chop back just as hard. The striking segments felt like they carried this match a lot better than it should’ve been able to, and it added that brutal feel we were hoping for from this match.

What’s brilliant thought was how it pulled in the underdog vs monster dynamic. The truth is, I don’t think WALTER actually ever looked that dominant over Ciampa in the match, and yet Ciampa’s performance still made him feel like the incredible underdog you just had to root for. As soon as the weakness in WALTER’s right hand opened up, Ciampa desperately tried to do all he could with it.

It was a mechanically flawless match with an emotionally resonant story that filled the match at every opportunity. I will honestly be shocked if this match isn’t in my top 3 when I come to make my match of the year list this year.

At the end of night 1, I really thought nothing could top this match, but man… there was something on the horizon I couldn’t have seen coming.

1 – Kyle O’Reilly def. Adam Cole
(Unsanctioned)

What an epic match.

To address some of the criticisms I’ve seen. Yes, it was a bit long. It probably could’ve been 30 minutes instead of 40 and not missed out on much. However, it really didn’t seem 40 minutes long to me when I was watching it. It gripped me so completely that how long it was taking didn’t even enter my mind until it was over. The other major one I saw was too many kickouts, which I disagree with, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

As expected from a 40-minute match, it was a slow builder but a gripping slow builder. Things started out thick and fast, as you’d expect, with a feud as intense as this one, but the pace slowed very soon in, and the brutality slowly ramped up from there. The two men managed to balance the hard-hitting action with an intense set of technical wrestling moves for a lot of it, which kept the action ticking over and kept me interested for when the bigger spots started coming.

The segment centred around the chain, I thought, was particularly good without how they kept bringing it back into the match in unexpected ways. It’s that kind of style that wins me over with weapons matches, where the weapons are used as exclamation points on the action, no the sole focal point on it.

Where this match went from “bloody great” to “match of the year” was in the back half, though, when things were a lot slower, but every move became really meaningful. The various Last Shot attempts & dodges, the fall through the stage, it all elevated the match into that “epic” style few matches can reach. The kickouts, though, the kickouts. People said there were too many, I disagree. The thing is, if you look at the match, Cole only really kicked out of one big move towards the end – the Last Shot from O’Reilly. O’Reilly, meanwhile, kicked out of loads, and that is precisely the point of the story. O’Reilly keeps coming back despite being utterly dead on his feet. One of the last kickouts, where O’Reilly barely gets his shoulder a few inches off the ground, was so powerful to that end.

O’Reilly had to win this to become a star in NXT, which is exactly what he’s done. That long shot of him walking away from the fight, utterly battered, is the look of a hero. I don’t know where or when, but he’s our next NXT Champion, and no one can deny him.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure you come back here this time tomorrow for my Wrestlemania predictions!

WWE Fastlane 2021: Every Match Ranked

I must admit it was a show that surpassed my expectations. However, those expectations were quite low. I still think most of this could’ve been achieved on weekly TV (and, to be honest, probably would’ve given it a boost in quality), but it was a fine way to kick us into full gear towards Wrestlemania. The show as a whole really hit the whole spectrum in terms of quality, so we’ve got a lot to break down as I rank the matches.

8 – Braun Strowman def. Elias

I don’t care. I just don’t.

The story between Shane & Braun has been terrible for a multitude of reasons. For one thing, I have no idea what Shane wants out of this. Is he just being a dick for the sake of it? That’s certainly what it feels like. Secondly, it’s cut the balls off of Strowman. Once upon a time, he would tear apart Heaven and Earth to get his hands on someone who humiliated him like Shane did. Now he’s just been bitching and whining about it, asking for an apology and not actively seeking out Shane in the slightest. Finally, they’re doing stupid shit like pouring slime on each other, which is dumb.

This match wasn’t worth talking about, and I’m not looking forward to whatever form this feud takes at Wrestlemania.

7 – Big E(c) def. Apollo Crews
(Intercontinental Championship)

This is the match I was most disappointed by because I was really excited about seeing this one.

The bulk of the match was good. I liked Big E bringing the intensity early on and Apollo matching him as things progressed. I’m just so annoyed by the awful finish. I was hyped for this match. Apollo’s feels fresher than ever, the video package really sold me on the intensity of the feud, and then it just…ended like this. It wasn’t very well executed either. It seemed like a botch at first. WWE really need to clue in their commentators as to when stuff like this is happening so they can explain it to us. Having them confusedly ponder over what the hell just happened is a massive hindrance to the story.

The potential upside here is that they get a much grander match at Wrestlemania. I’m not entirely confident about that, I think it will probably turn into some sort of multi-man, but I’m hoping these guys get another go. I’m absolutely willing to see more of this feud and another one on one match as long as WWE is willing to do it properly.

6 – Riddle(c) def. Mustafa Ali
(United States Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

I don’t have much to say about this. It was a good but short match with some fun action, but no real consequences and a predictable outcome.

Seems like Retribution is on its last legs, and I’m certainly not mourning. I like everyone in that group, but they’ve been booked like absolute trash since the moment they debuted. They could’ve been something really special, but instead, they’ve been made to look like ineffective losers every time they’ve been on TV. It’s a real shame, but it’s time to abandon ship and let these guys loose. Break up the group, leave them off TV for a month or two, then bring them back as their old selves. Dominik Dijakovic and Mia Yim will be welcomed onto their respective divisions with open arms by the fanbase, so let them go there.

Riddle, meanwhile, is excellent as always, but I’m not enjoying his stupid backstage segments. I’m sure Vince thinks they’re hilarious, but I think they’re dumb and very unfunny. It’s the lowest common denominator style of ‘stoner’ humour that hasn’t been funny since Cheech & Chong did it.

Match was alright though.

5 – Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) def. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

Again, it was a perfectly fine match, I just wasn’t overly interested. I still don’t understand why this feud had to last a second month. It’s not achieved anything.

Jax & Baszler teased some tension at the start of the match but then completely forgot about it after the first incident. Banks & Belair looked to be a pretty solid team early on but then fell apart towards the end over basically nothing. Now, all that’s happened is that both the challenger and champion for one of your biggest Wrestlemania matches have lost twice on PPV to women who WWE don’t think are good enough for singles titles, so now no-one has any momentum.

That said, functionally, I enjoyed the match. Things weren’t fantastically paced, but it held my interest the entire way through, and it never felt like there was too much of a lull in the action. I’d just really like to get on with this Banks/Belair feud already because I think it’s going to be brilliant.

4 – Alexa Bliss def. Randy Orton

So this a bit weird, kinda cool and did what it set out to do well.

This is one of those stories that has been simmering for so long, I’d forgotten that it could actually get really interesting when it wanted to. The black goop thing was a good starting point, and I like how it escalated from there. The fireball was a bit goofy, but they framed the shot well. I really liked the light fixture falling; that’s the kind of thing we don’t see very often, and it made for a surprising and tense moment.

It climaxed, as we all knew it would, with the return of The Fiend. Again, this was really well done. The canvas breaking slowly with the light pouring through, then the burst of flame followed by the hand rising up. Proper horror movie stuff and a lot of fun to watch. I’m glad he’s not just The Fiend as we knew him either. He’s now burned and deformed, let’s keep that as much as possible going forward.

Ultimately, it was all just set-up for Wrestlemania, but it made for a cool segment.

3 – Seth Rollins def. Shinsuke Nakamura

There’s honestly nothing complicated about this one. WWE took two very experienced wrestlers who wrestle similar flashy & technical styles, gave them 12 minutes and let them have a match. There was no way a match like that could be bad, and it delivered. Was it a match of the year contender? No, but not everything needs to be.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Seth, and since he returned, he’s mostly just been talking rather than wrestling. This was the opportunity we needed to remind ourselves of what he can do in the ring and why he’s something worth being excited about. I’ve criticised his character for not evolving recently, but he doesn’t necessarily need to when he’s putting on matches like this. Similarly, Nakamura knows what he’s doing and responded well to what Rollins threw his way.

It wasn’t the most spectacular match ever, but I don’t have any significant criticisms, and I enjoyed what I watched.

2 – Drew McIntyre def. Sheamus
(No Holds Barred)

My main worry going into this match was that it was going to feel very similar to their excellent match on Raw a few weeks ago. Thankfully, they didn’t fall into that trap and made something that felt very different. As we’ve seen between these two, a slower and heavier pace works wonders for them. Against other men, I find this style boring from Sheamus, but when he’s in there against someone like Drew who can match him, he seems to up his game; his various matches with Cesaro over the years are further proof of that.

I liked the stuff in and around the ring are the best. Those sections served as good bookends to the match, and I think were when things were at their most intense. It seemed like neither man could get an edge on the other during those segments, which is what I want. These two absolutely should feel evenly matched, just by looking at them. The higher spots out in the crowd aren’t my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the spectacle. Sheamus going through some of the screens was a surprising moment, and I feel like they took the piss out of AEW a bit with those sparks.

The result was the right one. I saw some people arguing that Sheamus should’ve won since Drew’s got the Mania match anyway, but I’m not on board with that logic. Yes, it would’ve been a nice boost for Sheamus, but Lashley is being presented as a world-beater right now and having Drew go into Mania on a loss would’ve been a terrible decision. The way things are looking now, I’m excited for Lashley vs Drew at Mania, which is what WWE want.

1 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Daniel Bryan
(Universal Championship)

I was very pessimistic about the direction of this feud. I thought this match would be all we got. However, they have 100% proved me wrong. The tension between Bryan & Edge in the build was great to watch, but I thought it was all a tease; however, with the booking in this match (and confirmation from Meltzer), it looks like a triple threat is on the cards for Wrestlemania. I am overjoyed that that’s the case, and I officially withdraw all of the complaining I’ve been doing recently about the timing of this feud.

I loved the way this match was structured. The extended period at the beginning, where they locked up over and over was wonderful. Bryan was undoubtedly going into this match as an underdog, but that opening section showed that Bryan is no underdog. He is evenly matched with Reigns, and Reigns knows it. They played it really well with Reigns having a clear power advantage, but Bryan could tie him up in knots at a moments notice. I loved how, even in the sections where Reigns was dominant, Bryan could lock in some kind of hold on Reigns.

The finish was a bit convoluted, but given that we’re building to a Wrestlemania world title match, why not be a bit extra? It’s set up both Bryan & Edge to be shades of grey in terms of their alignment over the coming weeks, which should make for engrossing storytelling. On top of that, I’m now not so confident that Reigns will retain his title. If it was just Reigns vs Edge, I’d be sure Reigns would retain, but with a triple threat, I now think all three men have a pretty equal chance of coming out as champion.

It was a brilliant way to set the stage for Wrestlemania and an enjoyable match to boot.

And there you have it! Those are my thoughts on Fastlane! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday, where I’ll be ranking all of the rivals from the Pokemon games!

AEW Revolution 2021: Every Match Ranked

AEW’s first Pay-Per-View of 2021 is behind us, and honestly, I think this is one of the rare times where a show perfectly matched my expectations. It was a good show that I had a fun time watching, but I wouldn’t rank it among AEW’s best. There were some surprises, some great matches, some…interesting decisions and a whole lot to talk about, so let’s do that.

9 – PAC & Rey Fenix won the Casino Tag Team Royale
(Winner gets a match for the AEW World Tag Team Championships)

In my predictions video, I described this as a ‘tag team Royal Rumble’ and…yeah, that’s pretty much what it was, although I don’t think it lived up to the prestige of that name.

This wasn’t a bad match, and I’ll talk about what I liked in a moment, but I think there were some major flaws with this one. For one thing, the pacing felt way off, especially around the middle. There were spots and people doing wrestling moves, but there weren’t any ‘moments’ to tide us over between entrants. On top of that, the entrants should’ve been given a lot more fanfare. For one thing, I didn’t even know how far along we were or when the last entrant had come in until the commentary team told me.

On top of that, I didn’t like having the countdown visible for the whole 90 seconds. Firstly, it’s really distracting when it’s in the centre of the screen; it was what my eyes were naturally drawn to rather than the in-ring action. Secondly, it meant they had to very strictly stick to it, which isn’t the worst thing, but I would’ve preferred it if they had ‘kayfabed’ the timer (like in Royal Rumbles) if it made the flow of the match feel better and made moments go off with more of a bang. There were a couple of times in this match where a significant spot/elimination was overshadowed by a team entering the match, or vice versa.

That brings me to my other issue, which is that none of the eliminations felt like they had any real impact; they all just sort of…happened. Not to mention towards the end of the match, they were happening so quickly that I barely had time to digest each one.

However, there was still stuff I liked, most of it was in the final few minutes, though. Using John Silver & Jungle Boy as make-shift partners against the heels made for a compelling finish, and they teased the final eliminations just enough to keep me going until the end. It was just a bit of a rough journey getting there.

8 – Miro & Kip Sabian def. Best Friends

I liked this match, it was just a bit short. It’s not that big of a deal; on a show with 9 matches – 3 of which went over 20 minutes – there was going to have to be a short one. As such, it felt like it started halfway through, with Best Friend having been beaten down off-camera before the match started. I actually thought it was a good way to start things, and I like that not everything has to be on camera in AEW, they give us enough credit to work out what happened when the cameras weren’t there.

The bulk of the match was fun, it just didn’t have any unique pop to it. Orange Cassidy did his thing and hit his moves. The two teams traded momentum for five minutes, and then we went to the finish. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As I said, it has its place on the card, it’s just not going to make me all that hyped.

Miro getting the win was the right decision, and there’s the threat of Miro causing Penelope Ford to take a tumble that they can pull on and hopefully pull Miro away from his pairing with Sabian.

7 – Hikaru Shida(c) def. Ryo Mizunami
(AEW Women’s World Championship)

Every now and then, I get a match like this where I can watch it and analyse it and see that it’s a great match. It hits all the right beats and has technical workings in there that I enjoy. And yet…I just don’t connect with it. For whatever reason, be it the story, or the placement on the card or some tick in my mind, I didn’t get invested in this match despite being able to see that it was good.

Shida & Mizunami had evident chemistry, which is no surprise given their history in Japan. I’d say the middle portion was this match’s strongest point. With the face vs face dynamic, neither woman was ever going to dominate the other, and the middle is where I think the flow of momentum was the best. It took a little while to get going at the start, and I think it really petered out by the finish. For some reason, all of the passion and brutality between the two women we saw in the middle evaporated by the finish. Shida hit a move…then another move…then another move, and that was it. The result was that despite going for 15 minutes, I came away from the match feeling underwhelmed.

6 – Britt Baker & Maki Itoh def. Riho & Thunder Rosa
(Pre-show)

There’s really nothing complicated about this one. It was a really good tag match between four women who will hopefully be much bigger stars in the weeks and months to come.

Bringing in Maki Itoh was a good move here. Despite being eliminated in the first round of the women’s tournament, people really connected with her, and I can’t say I blame them. Her style plays differently from what most of the other Joshi wrestlers have to offer, and she’s exceptionally charming on social media…in a very sweary way. I’m glad AEW stuck to their guns and are keeping her as a heel, though. It would’ve been easy to just make her a face, but you’ve got to play to people’s strengths and to turn her face might’ve made her get lost in the sea of face women’s wrestlers AEW currently has under their belt.

That’s all I’ve got to say, the match was very enjoyable to watch, but there isn’t anything particularly special to talk about. I’m just waiting for the day when AEW finally stop spinning its wheels with Britt Baker and put her in the title scene.

5 – Sting & Darby Allin def. Team Taz
(Street Fight)

I didn’t realise this match would be pre-taped when I wrote my predictions, but I’m happy it was. My biggest worry was how exposed Sting could look if he had to wrestle a full-length match in front of a crowd like this, but the controlled setting in which this match was set was perfect.

The dingy setting of the abandoned warehouse was the right choice as it made the whole thing feel extremely back-alley. It played into Allin’s gimmick and aided many of the spots they had planned for the match. The action did lull in certain places, but it kept me engaged for the majority of its runtime and the high spots were definitely worth it. Allin going through the glass was visually fantastic, and the elbow drop through the hole in the ground was a wonderful exclamation mark on the match that made Allin look brilliant.

One thing for which I’d really like to commend this match is having Taz commentating over the thing. Many of these cinematic matches forgo commentary entirely, but this match showed the benefit of using it when you get it right. Taz’s input really helped tell the story of this match, which could be a little murky at times without commentary on it, and his emotion felt really genuine, which sold the match wonderfully.

This match is a good summary of this show, on the whole, now I think about it. It wasn’t the best cinematic match ever, but still very good and a worthy entry into the history books.

4 – Kenny Omega(c) def. Jon Moxley
(AEW World Championship)
(Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch)

So let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first: the closing ‘explosion’ spot was shite. In an interview, Tony Khan said it was the best they could do without actually blowing up the ring, but that just isn’t true. I’ve seen exploding deathmatches before, and it’s not that difficult to make the explosion look good. Just shoot up a bunch of smoke and sparks ALL THE WAY around ringside, so the ring is momentarily covered by the smoke & sparks. It still won’t look like a real explosion, but it’d at least look like they tried. It seems they’re going with the narrative that Kenny (in kayfabe) just did a shitty job of rigging up the explosive, which I guess works, but it really left the show – which was a good show – on a crappy note. I did like Eddie Kingston coming out and doing what he did though, I really felt the emotional impact of that moment.

So what about the match itself? As I said, I went into it with an open mind as I really didn’t know if I’d like this kind of match. Now it’s over, and I can conclusively say…I think I liked it? I definitely didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t like this amazing revelation of a new style of wrestling I love either. It had ups and downs. As far as spectacle is concerned, it was great (except for the ending), the explosives having this constant presence in the match gave every move some level of tension, and it was always a bit of a shock when one went off, even if it was telegraphed. On the downside, when there weren’t crazy weapon spots or explosions going off, it was boring. Admittedly, that wasn’t very often, but there were periods where my interest waned.

I also wasn’t a fan of the booking of the finish. I get that Jon Moxley is one of the hottest properties out there right now, and you want to protect him, but having the Good Brothers show up and cost him just felt kinda cheap. I know that’s the point, to a certain extent, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. The exploding barbed wire bat was super cool, though. I’m happy Omega retained, but I want to see him do something different now.

3 – Hangman Page def. Matt Hardy
(Winner gets the 2021 Q1 earnings of the loser)

I’d say this is the best regular singles match Matt Hardy has had in…10 years? Maybe more?

It wasn’t the most technically incredible of matches, but the story was there to give it all the heat it needed. In the same way that I failed to connect with the women’s title match, I absolutely connected with this one. It hit all of the beats it needed to and never felt like it was outstaying it’s welcome. It favoured a very steady build with momentum going back and forth the entire time. Truthfully, I think both of these guys have very similar in-ring styles, which is a big reason as to why it worked so well. Both men can pick up and slow down the pace at will with a mixture of hard-hitting strikes and visually impressive manoeuvres.

Whenever Matt has a match these days, it seems to be a coin flip as to whether he’ll look rusty & exposed or as good as he always has, and you can never really tell which one you’re going to get until the match starts. Thankfully, we got the good one here. Page, meanwhile, continues to be one of the best and most easy to like wrestlers in AEW at the moment. You can tell he’s been around Kenny & the Bucks for ages because he has such a firm grasp of how to tell stories in the ring, even through subtle ways.

In my predictions, I thought Matt winning would be the more interesting story, but having seen how this one turned out, I think I was wrong to say that. It’s clear AEW isn’t handing Page a loss anytime before he challenges (and hopefully wins) the world title, and I’m on board with it, Hardy will be able to keep doing his thing regardless, and Page can move on to someone new.

2 – The Young Bucks(c) def. The Inner Circle
(AEW World Tag Team Championships)

Another excellent tag match by The Young Bucks…what more do you really want me to say? Admittedly this one didn’t quite live up to their other significant matches but, to be fair, that is a VERY high bar to clear. The actual story beats between the two teams were ok going in, but they really made something of them in the match. The Bucks came out of the gate with a much harder style than what we usually see from them. It didn’t last once things got going, but it gave the match a different feel in the beginning.

As expected, they did a good job of showing how the Bucks wrestle as a team compared to Jericho & MJF, who wrestled as individuals. The heels were very rarely working in the ring together, and when they were, Jericho was directing traffic. Conversely, you have the Bucks who work together at every opportunity and rarely even need to tell each other what to do. It’s this kind of dynamic that made their match with FTR work so well, and I’m glad they’re still putting an emphasis on it here.

The Bucks retaining was the right choice. The Inner Circle are only about half a step away from collapsing (we may even see it happen on Wednesday), so putting the titles on them now would’ve been relatively pointless. The Young Bucks will probably be champs for the better part of this year, and I’m all in favour of that decision as long as we keep getting matches like this.

1 – Scorpio Sky def. Cody Rhodes, Lance Archer, Penta El Zero Meido, Max Caster & Ethan Page
(Winner gets a match for the TNT Championship)

The one time I say Scorpio Sky doesn’t have an outside chance…

There was so much going on here, and all of it was brilliant. Ethan Page’s debut kicked things off with a bang. Like most new AEW signings, I know nothing about his prior work, but they’re treating him like a big deal, and I liked what I saw, so I’m willing to go with them.

Everyone got something worthwhile to do in this match, and no-one was ever forgotten. Page got the big spotlight as he debuted and established himself as a continuous presence in this match. Penta does what he does best and used the fast-pace to his advantage, doing something noteworthy almost any time he was on screen. Cody got the big story beat of getting hurt but fighting his way back. Caster got in on the biggest spot of the match with the elbow drop off of the ladder. Lance Archer, meanwhile, felt damn-near invincible, it always took a lot to get him out of the ring, and whenever he was in the mix, the spotlight was on him. As I said in my predictions, I think it would’ve been a bad idea for him to win, so booking him this way was the best option.

Then, of course, Scorpio Sky got the win. Like Penta, he was in the mix a lot and did a bunch of cool stuff as he did so, which helped this win feel earned. Not to say he hadn’t earned it before. He’s been someone waiting to break through for a while now. I don’t think he’s going to take the title from Allin, but I do think it’ll be a match worth talking about, and it’ll keep him around the upper mid-card until he’s ready to finally ascend.

So there you have it! Those are my thoughts on the show; thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what your thoughts were in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday, where I’ll be running down my favourite Fall Guys levels!

WWE Elimination Chamber 2021: Every Match Ranked

The first of two pointless stops on the road to Wrestlemania is behind us, and whether or not you liked this show depends on what you focus on. The majority of the matches were pretty good in terms of in-ring action, they all had something going for them. However, there were several booking decisions that I thought were either questionable or straight-up bad.

My main takeaway was the gigantic gap in quality between the storylines on Raw & Smackdown right now. Smackdown is kicking Raw’s arse creatively right now and has been for some time. If you want proof of that, you just need to look at the landscape for Wrestlemania. Smackdown has their top men’s title match sorted out in Reigns vs Edge, and while it’s yet to be confirmed, they’re pretty clearly building to Bianca vs Sasha. Then, on the Raw side, things are an absolute mess. Asuka was originally announced on the pre-show to be facing a mystery opponent after Lacey Evans was forced to pull out of the match only for it to never be mentioned on the main show, so we’ve got no idea what’s going on there. Then you have the several moving parts around the WWE Championship that could go any number of ways.

You’ve got one show with a clear creative direction and one that doesn’t know up from down, which is ridiculous considering they’re run by the same company.

Enough stalling, let’s look at the goings-on from last night.

6 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Daniel Bryan
(Universal Championship)

This was extremely disappointing.

I was excited going into this show, as I thought that there was room for some fantastic storytelling. I was hoping we would get a performance from Bryan worthy of himself from 2014, where he’d go in a massive underdog and put up a fight greater than the odds thought was possible before ultimately falling at the last hurdle. Instead, we got a match that was just…nothing, really. I’m not saying they should’ve gone 20 minutes, I’m not going to be that demanding, but would it be unreasonable to ask for 8? Not the one and a half we got.

It didn’t even tell that interesting of a story. I never at any point bought Daniel Bryan could win, so the drama of him catching Reigns in the Yes! Lock just didn’t land for me. That’s not just because I’m jaded either; take Bryan vs Lesnar from 2018 as an example. We all knew there was no way Bryan would win that match, but when he kneed Lesnar in the face and went for that cover, I BELIEVED it was possible. This match just didn’t earn that level of investment. It blew its load too early, and by the time Bryan passed out in the guillotine, I’d lost interest.

Now, if this was the start of a slow build to Reigns vs Bryan at Wrestlemania, I’d be on board with that, but given that WWE has announced Reigns vs Edge for Mania, that’s not happening. It’s not impossible Bryan gets added to the match, but I highly doubt that will happen. Instead, it’s probably going to blow off at Fastlane, wasting a money match WWE could’ve saved in their back pocket for a bigger show.

5 – John Morrison def. Mustafa Ali, Ricochet & Elias
(Winner gets added to the United States Championship Match)
(Kickoff Show)

This match is like a distillation of all the potential talent WWE has wasted. That’s the real problem with this match, the action was all good, I just didn’t care. I feel horrible saying that because all of these wrestlers are insanely talented, but WWE has pissed it all away with terrible booking over the past few years. You then hear reports that apparently Vince “sees nothing” in wrestlers like Aleister Black & Shayna Baszler, and it absolutely boggles the mind how this man even got to the position he’s in today.

Now I’ve got that off of my chest, this was a fun 4-way match, and given that the winner was always going to be the fall guy in the US title match, I think John Morrison was a good pick for that role.

4 – Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) def. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

This match was a little formulaic in several ways, but I still think it was an enjoyable watch.

I expected the rift between Bianca & Sasha to form more clearly during this match, so I was surprised to see that it didn’t really happen. I can see where the jumping-off point for it is, but the two women were on the same page and quite a joy to watch for the majority of the match. That’s not surprising given how great we know they both are, but in another time, I would love to see these two have an extended run as a tag team. Their connection feels so genuine (probably because it is), and their in-ring styles mesh wonderfully – all the more reason to be excited about the Wrestlemania match.

As I said in my predictions, the champions retaining was definitely the right call. Involving the tag titles in Bianca & Sasha’s upcoming feud would just be a needless complication, and I’d rather see Nia & Baszler do something interesting on their own at Wrestlemania. The finish was a bit odd, but it was a creative way to protect the faces. I don’t know where this thing with Reginald is going, but I’m liking it, for the time being, I only hope it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

3 – Riddle def. Bobby Lashley(c) & John Morrison
(United States Championship)

It happened so slowly I barely even noticed, but I’ve really come around to liking Bobby Lashley now. Ever since he stopped talking and/or kissing Lana all the time, he’s slowly been getting better and better. Now he’s this absolute destroyer of a man who wrecks everyone who comes his way, and it’s brilliant.

That said, he wasn’t the start of the show here. His dominance in the early portion of the match gave way to Riddle & Morrison really going at it around the middle. Neither of these men have got much of a chance to display their full potential since coming to Raw (or coming back, in Morrison’s case), and I think this is the best version of both these men we’ve seen in a while. Morrison played his role perfectly, although it does raise the question of how this match was supposed to go before Keith Lee pulled out.

As things got into the final sections, there was plenty to enjoy. The action had a pace I enjoy, and all three men had their ‘almost’ moments coming up the finish. MVP’s crutch being Lashley’s downfall was a nice touch and a believable way to topple someone so seemingly monstrous as Lashley. I didn’t think they would pull the title change, but I’m glad Riddle is getting something worthwhile now. I don’t know where they’re going to go with it. As long as he doesn’t immediately lose it on Raw tonight, I’ll be happy.

2 – Daniel Bryan def. Jey Uso, Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & King Corbin
(Winner gets a Universal Championship Match)(Elimination Chamber)

While I don’t think either chamber match last night were among the best, they were definitely still worthy versions of the stipulation. Honestly, I think you could reverse the order I’ve ranked these and still think it was reasonable. I just think the other chamber match had a better middle section.

The action in this match was pretty much all great. Bryan & Cesaro were absolutely the correct choices to start things off, and their battle kept that early portion of the match interesting. Sami Zayn was easily the star of the show early on, his stuff before the match was as great as always, and his contributions once he actually entered the match were the scheming heelish beats we’ve come to know and love from the man.

Once Corbin & Zayn were out of the way is when I think things got really good. Having three faces going up against a single heel could’ve been a bit awkward, but it was paced really well and felt more like Jey Uso putting together a gameplan than overcoming any odds. The spot with Owens’ arm in the chamber door was something we hadn’t seen before and quite brutal when you think about it. This definitely feels like the end of Owens being involved with Reigns & Uso, which is a bit of a shame because he’s been terrific, but I’m also looking forward to seeing what he does next.

The final three was excellent. As much as I wanted Cesaro to win, he had a fantastic showing here. His work against Bryan was technical mastery, and he worked well (albeit briefly) against Jey. As I’ve said, I don’t think Bryan was the right pick to win, but the fashion in which he did it certainly gives me nothing to complain about. This underdog style of wrestling is what I (and I think many others) love him for, and this was just like the old days.

1 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. AJ Styles, Sheamus, Jeff Hardy, Kofi Kingston & Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)
(Elimination Chamber)

AND

The Miz def. Drew McIntyre(c)
(WWE Championship)
(Money in the Bank Cash-In)

This was my preferred chamber match out of the two purely because I thought it was more consistently entertaining.

The mix of different styles in this match worked well, and we moved through some different phases are people came in. Things were a bit slower to start off with between Hardy & Orton, but as soon as Drew got in there, things picked up significantly. Kofi did better than I thought he was going to as well, eliminating Orton, which was quite a surprise. I’m sure many of us were expecting The Fiend or Alexa Bliss to get involved with Orton somehow, so to see him just get eliminated so quickly like that was quite the surprise, especially as it would be another 15 minutes before anyone else got eliminated.

Once everyone was out of their pods, there was plenty of fun to be had. Drew facing off against Sheamus was great, and I hope they’re not done with each other yet, even if they wait until after Wrestlemania. Styles got a better showing than I was expecting too, and that spot with Omos ripping the back off of the pod was another unique thing and fit Styles well. Speaking of Styles, that finish was something else, easily one of the best Claymore kicks I’ve seen, ending things with a bang.

The main headline, though, happened after the match, where Bobby Lashley came down, wrecked Drew, which Miz used as an opportunity to cash-in Money in the Bank and win the world title. I’m slightly torn on this.

In a bubble, I’m happy to see Miz get another world title run; he definitely deserves it. However, this isn’t 2017 Miz, the best heel in the company. This is 2020/21 Miz, who has been booked like a chump for over a year. He & Morrison have been portrayed as the most ineffective wrestlers on the planet. They haven’t been able to beat anyone, even when it’s 2 on 1. It just seems like such a leap to make.

However, I’m pretty confident Miz is just a transitional champion. They showed hints of collusion between Miz & The Hurt Business, and the deal was almost certainly giving Lashley the first shot at the title. I’ll honestly be surprised if Miz is still champion come Wrestlemania, and there’s absolutely no way he’s walking out of that show with the title. I think Lashley is going to win that title soon – something I’m definitely in favour of – it’s just a matter of whether he gets it a Fastlane and drops it to Drew at Mania, or Drew gets it back at Fastlane, only to drop it to Lashley at Mania.

It’s all still up in the air and a bit of a mess, but I’m interested to see where it goes.