WWE Hell in a Cell 2020: Every Match Ranked

We’re out the other side of hell and…it was alright, wasn’t it? The three cell matches were all very enjoyable, but the undercard lacked any real spice or intrigue. It’s the kind of show where people will remember key moments, but the majority of it will be lost to time.

I really don’t have anything else to say here, so let’s rank the matches!

7 – Elias def. Jeff Hardy via Disqualification

If the reports are accurate that Vince sees Elias as a future top star on Raw, he’s got a funny way of showing it.

There was very little substance to this match. It was 7 minutes long, but it may as well have been 30 seconds for all the noteworthy things that happened during it. The action the two men produced was fine, but you could tell neither of them was trying very hard, and I can’t say I blame them given the crap finish they were working towards. As for the DQ finish, what can I say? It’s your standard WWE non-finish to needlessly extend the feud to pay off on Raw in a few weeks because Pay-Per-Views just build to TV rematches these days.

It also makes Hardy look like a jerk. I know Elias got the guitar out and was going to use it, but for Hardy to use it as a foreign object in plain view of the referee is just a heelish thing to do. The commentators loosely tried to justify it, but I couldn’t help but agree with the heels in that scenario.

6 – R-Truth(c) def. Drew Gulak
(24/7 Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

There was a 24/7 championship match on this show, but not a Raw women’s championship one…think about that.

Sure, this was a throwaway 5-minute match, but at least we got some fun character stuff at the start. The inconsistency with which R-Truth remembers Lil’ Jimmy is a thing is quite startling these days, but it gave us a fun opening to this match. Bless Drew Gulak for always giving angles like this his all, I honestly think he could be a fantastic comedy wrestler if he was given the time to flourish. Sadly, I can’t help but sit here and remember the start of the year where it looked like he was going to big places with Daniel Bryan.

Now he’s taking rollup losses for the joke belt on the preshow, and then making a joke about how John Cena sucks. Which is fine, I guess, but he should have better.

5 – Bobby Lashley(c) def. Slapjack
(United States Championship)

Well, it was nice thinking Retribution might be going somewhere while it lasted.

Seriously, did Ali spit in Vince McMahon’s face or something? Every storyline with any big potential he’s had immediately goes to shit and gets tossed to the side. I’m not ready to write Retribution off just yet, there’s still time to turn this around, but I’m already starting to give far less of a shit than I did a month ago. I don’t understand why they’re losing and being put on the run so often this early into their time. To protect the Hurt Business? Why? What plans do you have for them? It’s not like you’re going to push anyone other than Lashley as a top star from that group and he can recover from a few quick losses.

Better yet, if you’re so desperate to have Lashley protected, just don’t put Retribution in a match with him. That is an option, there are so many other people they could fight, hell, even within the Hurt Business there are three other guys that you’re always keen to hand losses too. There were just so many other ways out of this situation that it makes the whole thing like a deliberate effort to make Retribution look like chumps.

4 – The Miz def. Otis
(Otis’ Money in the Bank contract is on the line)

Small note, why did commentary keep saying the match was “for the Mr Money in the Bank”? That’s got to be the worst possible way you could’ve phrased that.

This may have been ranked as the fourth-best match of the show, but don’t let that fool you into thinking I liked it. As I said in my predictions, there was no chemistry here. These two have particular wrestling styles, and they didn’t work when pushed together in the ring. The only reason this match ranked this high is that it’s the first one that felt like an actual match, and we got two significant status-quo changes out of it.

First of all, Tucker’s betrayal, it’s ok, I guess. I like that they clarified that he didn’t do it for Miz’s benefit, he just did it cos he’s sick of Otis’ shit, which, yeah…I’d probably get tired of him after a while too. It’s something interesting for both guys to do, but I’m not optimistic that it’ll go anywhere interesting. As for Miz with Money in the Bank, it’s hard to see where he’ll slot in. Unless he’s going to lose it to someone of higher status, I highly doubt he’s winning a world title anytime soon.

The only scenario I can see it happening, is if Edge wins the title from Orton at Mania, and Miz comes in to ruin the moment the next night on Raw, but that’s a stretch. Ultimately, I think it’s just going to go down as another waste of the briefcase, as there hasn’t been a fair use of it since 2016.

3 – Randy Orton def. Drew McIntyre(c)
(WWE Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

It was a slow-paced, Randy Orton Hell in a Cell match that relied on slow builds to big spots, and I didn’t hate it. This is a miracle.

Now, it wasn’t incredible, and it was definitely my least favourite of the matches these two have had, but I was never really bored during the half an hour runtime of the thing. Maybe the build of this feud has just been good enough to keep me interested, or maybe my tastes have changed over the past year, who can say? All I know is I was engaged the whole time.

The match definitely had the aura of brutality I think it needed. It can be hard in the modern era to make a Hell in a Cell match feel truly horrible without blood, but heaviness with which these two men attacked each other did the job for me. The stuff on top of the cell made the whole thing quite tense, and there was definitely a tremendous sense of intrigue thanks to the fact that I genuinely had no idea who was going to win.

While I would’ve preferred Drew to keep the title, I don’t think he’s in any way been damaged by losing Orton here. For one thing, it was a violent match where he looked like a badass and took one hell of a beating. However, he’s beaten Orton twice already, he’s still got plenty of legitimate claims to come back into the world title scene eventually. As for the immediate future, I’m not sure, I think another Pay-Per-View match would be a bad idea, but I could potentially see a rematch on Raw that gets interrupted by Drew’s next big feud. Hell, if they’re basing Survivor Series around The Undertaker, it could even be the deadman himself.

The problem is that I don’t see who else on Raw could challenge Orton. The Fiend seems like the obvious choice, but given that Orton is definitely holding that title until Mania, I’m not sure that would be such a good idea. Kevin Owens wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I’m sure he’s been built up enough for that kind of feud right now, especially not for a big 4 show. That pretty much just leaves Keith Lee, unless AJ Styles is planning on turning face, which he isn’t.

2 – Sasha Banks def. Bayley(c)
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

As expected, this match was incredible. Honestly, if you said to me that this was your number 1, I wouldn’t argue with you in the slightest, it’s mostly just down to personal preference as to why this is number 2.

When it comes to action, this match is the highlight of the night. There were some concerns that the match hadn’t been built quite as well as it could’ve, but you wouldn’t know that from the final product. These two women were able to perfectly capture the sense of betrayal and hatred that exists between the two of them in just a few choice moments. The way Sasha punted Bayley’s chair out of the ring as the cell lowered was all that was needed to establish the tone, and they ran with it from there as far as they possibly could.

The action was great, Sasha carried that chip on her shoulder to give every move she made a little extra sting, and it felt a lot heavier because of it. Bayley meanwhile balanced her cowardly heel side, and vindictive predator side well, responding to Sasha’s offence with pathetic whimpering, but relishing the times where she took control. It made sure the flow of the match was near-perfect and made the most of all the factors they had in play.

I didn’t think Sasha would win the title straight away like this, but I’m very glad it did, it made the match feel like a complete story, rather than chapter 1. They’re definitely going to be having a rematch sometime soon, but I’m not sure if that will involve some more trading of the belt. It’s one of those feuds that’s hard to speculate on, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

1 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Jey Uso
(Universal Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)
(I Quit)

This was a masterpiece of storytelling.

I loved the match at Clash of Champions, and I wasn’t sure telling the same story again would be as effective, but man, they blew my expectations out of the water, this was beautiful.

It was a little light on action. There was some fun back-and-forth stuff in the first half, but the headline here is the second half of the match, where the action took a backseat to this fantastic story. We’ve seen the bond The Usos have with Roman over the years, they’ve worked together plenty of times before, and this story really impressed the importance of family in their culture. I felt the bond between these three men, even though they were beating the piss out of each other, the whole story felt real because we know that the familial bond is real.

Reigns’ acting was world-class. The way in which he ran through disappointment, frustration and remorse as he tried harder and harder to put Jey away. What was brilliant about it is that you could tell it wasn’t remorse over beating Jey senseless, it was remorse over the fact he knew he wasn’t going to stop beating Jey. Heyman’s small contributions were perfect too, the expressions on his face as things got more and more heartbreaking, the way he told Adam Pierce “He won’t listen to me!” as the violence reached its peak sold that moment so entirely.

Then there was the climax of the match. The way Roman broke down into tears as Jimmy laid over the unconscious body of his brother, what an image that was. Then there was the touch of Jimmy using his real name to try and get through to Roman, just that line of him saying “It’s Josh” is so powerful, and made the whole thing hit an emotional peak. Then, Roman put the final nail in the coffin, proving once and for all that he’s gone past the point of no return and has no intension of looking back, as he reveals his tears were all a ruse to drop Jimmy’s guard and get the result he wants.

The image of Roman flanked by Afa and Sika, holding the title aloft is the most powerful image of them all. Knowing all the hurt and heartbreak that Roman caused, and the dirty way in which he pulled it off, this is the best Roman Reigns has ever been (even better than his time in The Shield), and I can’t wait to see more of it.

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 comment below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday, where I’ll be running down the best Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simspsons!

WWE Clash of Champions 2020: Predictions & Analysis

Man, the end of summer/start of autumn has been absolutely packed with wrestling. Between WWE, NXT & AEW from August through October, there will have been 6 Pay-Per-Views in the space of 10 weeks, which is a lot of wrestling. That number would be even higher if I dedicated myself to watching NJPW on a regular basis, but I think if I did that I’d burn out completely.

Focusing on WWEland today, it’s the one night of the year where every championship is on the line. Funnily enough, this has actually become a big deal again, since there are now 9 titles on WWE’s main roster. If anything, I’m worried that several of the matches aren’t going to get the time they need to breathe.

Asuka(c) vs Zelina Vega
(Raw Women’s Championship)
(Kickoff)

You’ve got to be kidding me. The Raw Women’s title, the title that main-evented Wrestlemania not two years ago, is on the kickoff show?

This is an absolute disgrace. These are titles that are supposed to be on-par with the men’s world titles, and this is how it’s getting treated? Especially while Street Profits vs Andrade & Garza, a match we’ve seen about 12 times since the spring, gets to be on the main show. Even if you put aside what an insult it is to the prestige of the title, you’ve got Asuka, one of WWE’s most popular acts right now, slumming it on the part of the show nobody watches. My main problem though is that this is Zelina Vega’s big moment, her chance to show the wider audience that she’s actually been a great wrestler this whole time. I’ve always railed against WWE’s refusal to let Vega wrestle regularly, and now they’re finally giving her a shot but doing their damnedest to bury it.

Usually, I’d say I’m excited about this match, but given that it’s been relegated to the kickoff show, I doubt it’ll get any longer than 8 minutes. I’m sure we can all expect a paint-by-numbers face vs heel match where we don’t get to see anything remarkable; because all that time WWE spent patting themselves on the back about how progressive they are was all just empty words.

Asuka will retain, and I’ll continue to be grumpy about the placement of this match.

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

I cannot even pretend to care at this point. Seriously, who still gives a shit about this match? These two teams have been feuding on and off since Wrestlemania, and they’ve not done a single unique or interesting thing with it. If you’ve ever wanted proof that WWE doesn’t care about tag team wrestling, this should be all the proof you’ve ever need. Nothing has changed with any of these teams this year, Andrade & Garza are still flipping between working perfectly as a team and hating each other’s guts week-on-week with no explanation, and I don’t have the capability to care about any of it anymore.

Andrade & Angel Garza to win, because they don’t, what has been the point of all of this? Meanwhile, I’m going to sit here and pray to every God anyone’s ever believed in that WWE find a new tag team to fight for the titles.

Oh, I guess Retribution could get involved, but after their laughably bad debut on Monday, I wouldn’t care if I never saw them again.

Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro(c) vs Lucha House Party
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)

I’ve come around on Lucha House Party in recent months. Now WWE has tried to book them as something other than a generic pack of luchadores there’s something quite charming to their performance. Of course, this means that WWE is teasing a break-up because WWE doesn’t know how to write a story for a tag team other than making them hate each other. Nakamura & Cesaro are working well as tag champs, I think they could end up with a dynamic similar to that of The Bar, which was one of my favourite tag teams while they were together.

Picking winner is a tough call. I’d say the smart money is on the champions retaining, but I’m going to be picking a lot of champions to retain throughout these predictions. As I highly doubt WWE would put every title on the line, only to have everyone retain, I’d say this is the match most likely to have the titles change hands. So I’m going with Lucha House Party to balance things out.

Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) vs The Riott Squad
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

I was hesitant when Jax & Baszler first paired up. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jax, and I thought Baszler was the kind of character that only works when dominating on her own. However, this tag team seems to have brought a lot of positive stuff out of both women. I like the dynamic of two people who aren’t exactly friends, but they have a mutual understanding that they work well together in the ring. The match at Payback between them, and Banks & Bayley was really good, and it showcased what a pair of ass-kickers these two can be.

Hopefully, that is a pattern that will continue into this match. The Riott Squad are good, but I don’t have much reason to be invested in them right now. It looked like they might’ve been doing something interesting with Liv Morgan as a singles competitor for a little while, but now they’ve just slapped her back with Ruby. Of course, if the alternative was not even being on TV, then I’m glad they’re getting a spot on a show like this, but that still doesn’t mean I’m overly interested in their antics.

I think the match will be an enjoyable one, but Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler are definitely coming out on top. Jax & Baszler have only just won the titles, and they feel like the kind of team that needs to tear through the entire division before we even think about taking the titles off of them.

Bobby Lashley(c) vs Apollo Crews
(United States Championship)

I feel like I’ve already said everything I can possibly say about this feud. It’s another that’s gone on for too long by this point. However, unlike Profits vs Andrade & Garza, this is a story that has actually had a few twists and turns along the way to make things interesting.

I’m not sure what to make of Alexander joining The Hurt Business. Right now, it’s fine, because he’s the hot-button topic of the day, but I have a feeling he’s more likely to fade into a role similar to Benjamin, where he’s just kind of…there. That’s my main worry with The Hurt Business, is that it’s just a vehicle to get Bobby Lashley over, with little regard for the others. Regardless of my speculation, that has minimal bearing on this match, which could be a lot of fun if it’s given the time. There’s a good dynamic between Lashley & Crews’ styles, plus, there’s room for a whole host of outside shenanigans to make this a wild ride.

I’m pretty confident in picking Bobby Lashley to win though. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Crews could win the title back, but I honestly don’t see the point. Crews had a good run with the belt, but if Lashley wants to stick around as a force to be reckoned with on Raw, he needs to keep that title for a while.

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

This feels very placeholder. Two stories are surrounding this match, both of which have very little to do with Bayley & Cross being in direct conflict.

Firstly, there’s Bayley & Sasha’s feud. I don’t want to pass any judgement on it yet, because it’s still in its infancy, but I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. If anything, I wish Bayley didn’t have to defend her title on this show so we could focus 100% on building it. I doubt many would disagree with me when I say that a Hell in a Cell match next month is where things are headed between the two, so I’m hoping to see Sasha show up and bite back at Bayley, either on Sunday or next week on Smackdown.

Then there’s the storyline between Bliss & Cross. There’s a lot of theories floating around as to what exactly The Fiend did to Bliss’ mind, and quite honestly, your guess is as good as mine in this instance. Either way, I’ve enjoyed the way they’ve been telling it. For someone with such an expressive face, I’m surprised how well Bliss has been able to pull off the vacant expression that comes with her reaction The Fiend’s name, and Cross has been playing off of it well. I get the feel from Cross of someone’s who’s concerned for their friend, but also desperate to progress their own career and focus on their title match.

Ultimately, I think the situation surrounding Alexa Bliss will cause Cross to lose focus on Sunday and allow Bayley to retain. People can sit around and cry about how Bayley vs Sasha ‘doesn’t need the title’, but I’ve never agreed with that mentality. The Bayley vs Sasha feud is a massive story on its own, but the title adds another layer of depth to things and turns it into the main-event rivalry it should be.

Jeff Hardy(c) vs AJ Styles vs Sami Zayn
(Intercontinental Championship)
(Ladder)

I mean…do I really need to say anymore?

Let’s break this down. We’ve got Jeff Hardy, a wrestler with endless charisma and an in-ring style that pushes him to constant do crazy stuff, especially when ladders are involved. We’ve got AJ Styles, one of, if not the very best technical wrestler of this, or any other generation who can pull a 4-star or better match out of his arse whenever he wants to. We’ve got Sami Zayn, an incredible wrestler with an explosive style and some of the best character work I’ve seen in WWE all year. Finally, we have a whole lot of ladders, surely you don’t need me to do the maths on this one?

As much as I was disappointed that Zayn couldn’t continue his IC title run in the spring, I was pleased with what we ended up with instead. Between Bryan, Styles, Riddle & Hardy, there’s been a lot to enjoy from the IC title scene this summer, even if it barely ever got onto a PPV. This match just looks to be a continuation of that, the pieces are still floating around right now, but once we’re past this match, I’m expecting a lot of great singles matches in this division.

It’s a little harder to predict this match, though. I don’t think it’ll be Styles, he’s already had his run, and his loss against Hardy was a good way to put a cap on it. Zayn winning the title back is a possibility, but I feel like it might be overplaying the hand. Plus, I’m not sure backstage will be wanting to put a title on Zayn after he took time off for COVID (even if WWE said they wouldn’t punish people). As such, Jeff Hardy retaining makes the most sense in my mind. The whole story since his return has been about his second chance, so holding that title until at least the end of the year feels like the right way to go.

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

This feud as really solidified Drew’s title reign for me. I think that, no matter what happens going forward, Drew is a made man for life in WWE after the run he’s had, and the work he’s done in this feud specifically. The situation surrounding the Punt Kicks and Drew’s reaction to them have made him look like a bloody superhero, and while I doubt fans will be back in arenas anytime soon when they are, they will roar in support for the guy. Orton’s been on an absolute tear too, he’s turned all the motivation into some genuinely thrilling TV, and he even found the time to put over Keith Lee in the middle of it all.

I don’t know how this match is going to go down, but personally, I hope they turn the brutality up to maximum. This is one of those situations where I think a slow-paced, weapons-based match is actually exactly what the story needs. Whether it’ll be fun to watch depends on how well that story is told, but based on their previous work, I’m optimistic.

However, there’s the small matter of the result. I really don’t know. Once again, I feel like the smart money says Orton, but I just can’t see it. There’s something about the visual of Drew being thrown in the ambulance that just doesn’t sit right with me, especially given what he’s already been through this month. I don’t know how it’ll go down, but my gut is telling me that Drew McIntyre is going to retain. I’d like it to be clean, but if we’re going a bit out-of-the-box, maybe this is when Edge returns to attack Orton and set up a Hell in a Cell match.

There’s a whole world of possibility, but I’m going with my gut and picking Drew.

Roman Reigns(c) vs Jey Uso
(Universal Championship)

In today’s episode of “What?! Hell yeah! ….what?” we have one of The Usos fighting for a world title. This was very much a case of not knowing how badly I wanted something until I got it. The truth is if you want to establish the edge that this new version of Roman has, what better way to do it? The old Roman Reigns was all about honour, respect & family, so why not devise a scenario where he gets to beat the shit out of all three at once?

The build to this has been incredible. The touch of Heyman & Roman being the ones to get Jey into the 4-way match was perfect, and it’s created a scenario where we’re just waiting for Roman to utterly destroy Jey. The writing team have done a great job of letting all that tension simmers in the background while Roman & Jey deal with other problems. It’s been said by plenty of people by now, but the shot of Roman’s face dropping from a smile into a menacing stare as Uso turned his back was masterful acting.

All of those factors are going to make for a truly tragic tale when Roman Reigns turns Uso into a bloody smear on the canvas come Sunday. This is probably the most predictable match of the night, but it’s with good reason. Getting Roman to properly annihilate Jey will establish the monster that Roman is now. The kind of guy that doesn’t care about doing things ‘the right way’ anymore, and just goes with what works. It’s the version of Roman we’ve wanted to see for years, and it’s finally here.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, please let me know what you think is going to happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure to come back early next week for my review of the show!

WWE Summerslam 2020: Every Match Ranked

…well, I sure didn’t see that coming.

Summerslam is now behind us, and I’m sitting here, looking back on the show the next morning and thinking to myself…yeah, that was a pretty bloody good show. Sure, there wasn’t a match of the year candidate on the show, but there doesn’t always need to be. At the end of the day, there was only one match out of the eight that I didn’t like, and even that had some stuff to like about it. Every other match was good-to-great in quality, and I’m very happy I invested my time into watching it.

Now, to the rankings!

8 – The Fiend Bray Wyatt def. Braun Strowman(c)
(Universal Championship)
(Falls Count Anywhere)

It showed hints of greatness, but ultimately, it fell flat.

Let’s talk about the positives first. Firstly, The Fiend is Universal Champion again, this is a great thing, which also means Braun’s title reign is over, this also a great thing. Secondly, Roman Reigns is back, and to that, I give a big HELL YES. Smackdown has sorely missed Roman Reigns this summer, and I don’t think I realised just how much I missed him until he was back. On top of that, it looks like he might have a new ass-kicking attitude, which gets a big thumbs up from me as that has always been the best version of Roman Reigns. Of course, this does probably mean that The Fiend is going to have to lose to Roman pretty soon after winning the title back, but honestly? I don’t care. I said it in the build-up to Wrestlemania, and I’ll say it again now, I am all-in on another Roman Reigns world title run, I think it could be great.

Now, unfortunately, I have to talk about the actual match which…well, it was trash. It didn’t help that I wasn’t overly interested in the story anyway, but this didn’t do much to build that interest either. It was a pretty standard from what we’ve come to expect in WWE when two ‘big-guys’ go head-to-head. It was slow, not nearly as hard-hitting as you would think, and ultimately, pretty dull. I know The Fiend is a fascinating & unique character, that I love, but we’ve got to take a hard look at his history of matches and admit to ourselves that the character’s wrestling style isn’t entertaining. His best match was against Daniel Bryan, which I don’t think should even count because it’s Daniel effing Bryan, so of course it was great.

Still, Roman Reigns is on the horizon, which makes things look a bit more optimistic.

7 – Apollo Crews(c) def. MVP
(United States Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

I feel like I’m repeating myself every single month, but this was standard pre-show action.

It did have a bit of an extra kick this time, as there was a proper story surrounding the match, but the action didn’t push any boundaries in terms of what we’ve come to expect from pre-show matches. It served as a good showcase of Crews’ talents and a reminder that he’s a good wrestler who’s deserving of the US title. It didn’t really do anything for MVP, but it didn’t need to, his credibility comes from being a mouthpiece nowadays, not a wrestler.

Crews retaining was definitely the right decision in my books, and based on something that was teased for Raw, I’m hoping a feud with Aleister Black in on the horizon, which should be killer.

6 – The Street Profits(c) def. Andrade & Angel Garza
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

Fun tag-team action from two teams that know each other quite well by this point.

I did like this match, but I thought it could’ve done with a bit more. 8 minutes did not seem nearly enough for this match, especially with the story it was trying to tell. I know WWE doesn’t give a shit about their tag division, but they could at least make it look like they care a bit. The story surrounding Andrade & Garza was paid lip service to in the finish, but that’s about it. The two of them have been showing tension almost all year, with things never changing in any way. Some weeks they’ll work together perfectly, other weeks they just can’t get along, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Honestly, by this point, even if they do finally break-up, I’m past the point of caring about it.

Like I said though, the action in the match was fun to watch, Andrade & Garza kept the pace going, even when they were doing the ‘work over the face’ thing, and once Ford made the hot-tag to Dawkins, the pace stayed pretty steady. Also, Kevin Owens was great on commentary, first of all, shouting “Look at all my friends!” really aggressively – in reference to the people on the screens of the Thunderdome – was utterly hilarious. However, his best line was after the match, where Ford was celebrating with him, and Owens said to him “You turned in midair! Did you know you did that?” – referencing the move Ford did to win the match – which was a line that caught me off guard and was delivered such a perfect way, that I giggled about it for a good couple of minutes.

5 – Bayley(c) def. Asuka
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

This was arguably the best match these two have had so far, and yet it felt like they were holding back for the sake of the story.

There’s very little new to be said about the kind of matches these two can put on. They know each other exceptionally well, and it shows in matches like this. The match didn’t worry about overbearing us with Bayley beating-down on Asuka. Bayley spent much more time on offence, sure, but it didn’t feel like they were just setting up the story for the second match later in the night. Instead, Asuka had to play the plucky babyface, who picked her spots and made impactful moves when they counted.

The finish was predictable, but I don’t mind something being predictable when it’s the right move for the story. Sasha being Bayley’s key to victory is in-line with everything they’ve been doing together for the past year(ish) and sets things up perfectly to go horribly wrong later in the show. I think that Bayley being the one to hold onto her title is the right thing too. Not only is she great with it, but if we are finally going to get going with the Sasha/Bayley stuff, having Bayley being the heel holding the title is the perfect way to go.

4 – Asuka def. Sasha Banks(c)
(Raw Women’s Championship)

My thoughts on this match are very similar to the previous one. However, I thought this match was a lot more exciting, told a better story, and was all-around cleaner than the previous one.

I think the reason for the different feel to this match is straightforward. Bayley vs Asuka was the first half of the story, Sasha vs Asuka was its conclusion. There’s a more significant aura of excitement surrounding this second match because of what the first one set up. It doesn’t feel like they’re holding back here, instead, they’re pulling together to take the story to its natural conclusion.

The story of the match was able to capture the feeling of Asuka coming in, already beaten-down, without boring us with watching Sasha pick Asuka apart for the opening 5 minutes. They went the much more entertaining route and told that story through Asuka wrestling a much faster match, instead of waiting to pick her spots as she did with Bayley, she went in with a proactive strategy and did her best to never let Sasha take control. This led to a match with a much nicer sense of flow as it built steadily and satisfyingly to the finish.

As myself and many others predicted, Bayley would try to get involved, but her involvement would indirectly cause Sasha to lose the match. I like the way they did it though. With the way things went down, there’s an argument to be had over whose fault it was. Yes, if Bayley hadn’t gotten involved, Sasha wouldn’t have been in that position to get stuck in the Asuka lock. However, because Asuka merely reversed Sasha’s attempt to take advantage of the distraction Bayley caused, you could say that it’s Sasha’s fault. I don’t think that’ll have too much of an impact on the story going forward, but I think it’s a good tool for making sure it didn’t look like Asuka was just lucky.

3 – Mandy Rose def. Sonya Deville
(No Disqualification)
(Loser Leaves WWE)

If there’s any match that I wish had an extra 5 minutes, it’s this one. Not because it suffered from a lack of time, but because I was really enjoying it and wanted to see more.

As was to be expected from two women who know each other as well as these two do, they totally clicked in the ring, their chemistry was incredible to watch. The structure of the match was pretty simple, but I think that helped to tell the story. Sonya is so good as the heel who really just wants to hurt their opponent. She’s not cocky, because she doesn’t have to be, sure, she’s constantly taunting Rose, but that’s not out of disrespect, it’s out of a desire to cause pain & misery, a role that Deville just gets. Rose played off it to perfection, she crawled around the ring like someone who was really suffering emotionally, which did more for the story than a month of promos ever could.

As we got to the middle of the match, things became more balanced, both women went back-and-forth getting their licks in. I like that Mandy was the one to go for the weapons first. She’d played quite a reactive role in the feud up until this point, but this gave me the impression of someone who was doing what had to be done. The spot where she hurled chairs at Sonya, who was deftly dodging them was great fun too. The finish was, clean, simple, and exactly what it needed to be. Rose finally broke free of Deville’s oppression and absolutely went to town on her, those series of knees to the face felt really cathartic, and the perfect wrap-up to the story.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to Deville now. I haven’t heard any reports saying she’s planning to take time off, but who knows? Maybe she’ll go away for a while. Personally, I’d love to see her show up to get in Io Shirai’s face on NXT, but that’s fantasy booking. I think something like Raw Underground would be a better fit for her style. Plus, Deville vs Baszler…now there’s a match made in heaven. As for Rose? I honestly hope she picks up one of the women’s titles sometime soon, I’m really digging her as a wrestler now.

2 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)

No, I’m not kidding. It was a 20-minute, slow-paced Randy Orton match…and I actually liked it. I’m just as surprised as you are.

As a stark contrast to Wyatt/Strowman, I think the fact that I was highly invested in the story coming into the match helped my enjoyment greatly. Not only did it mean that I was in a better mood, and more willing to give it a chance, but it meant that when the match leaned heavily on the story-based moments, I was invested. If I didn’t care about the story, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes at Orton slipping in and out of the ring at the start, but because I did care, I saw it as a continuation of the game Orton’s been playing with Drew all month. I know the idea that ‘if I’m invested in the story, I’ll be more likely to enjoy the match’ is one of the most basic pro-wrestling concepts, but you’d be surprised how often WWE seems to forget.

The slow pace worked in this match’s favour, as it gave the impression of two wrestlers really trying to study and figure out each other’s game plan. Neither man was wrestling a reactionary style, they were both trying to do everything in their power to execute their plan. It led to the momentum swinging back-and-forth like a motorised pendulum, and while the pace never accelerated, the build in the drama meant the tension is what carried my excitement.

The finish annoyed a lot of people, and I’m in two minds of it. I see the perspective that it’s a cheap way to end a world title match, and it makes Drew look like a chump who barely scraped by. However, I’d argue it’s the opposite. I won’t deny that ending things with a Claymore would’ve been a lot more satisfying, but I don’t think anyone believed that this was going to be the end of the Drew/Orton feud, I think it’s going until at least Hell in a Cell. By countering the RKO into a win like that, I think it makes Drew look exceptionally smart, as he’s found a way to turn Orton’s greatest weapon to his advantage. If Drew keeps pulling stuff like this, he will have essentially nullified Orton’s main tactic for matches and will force him to innovate, which could lead to some very interesting spots.

Admittedly, a lot of this is based on potential future gain, so it could all go tits-up, but what can I say? I’m in a good mood after the show last night, so I’m going to play the optimist.

1 – Seth Rollins def. Dominik Mysterio
(Street Fight)

Similar to Cole vs McAfee from Takeover, this was never a match that would be carried by action. This was a match that was all about the story and the drama. The story in question that carried this match was told excellently, which is why I rank this match so highly.

Going into it, I was already behind Dominik as a face. Maybe it was just because of the shock of it, but sometimes, watching a heel absolutely murder a guy is enough to make me root for the guy being murdered. This match did the smart thing and continued playing to that trend. The feeling was always that Dominik was out of his league. No matter who his father was, he was a relative rookie going up against a multi-time world champion, so they did the smart thing and built the match around that fact. The action made it very clear that Dominik could not hang in the ring with Rollins, he would get the advantage every now and then, but it was mostly through fluke than through expertise.

The narrative of Dominik not wanting his father to get involved was perfect too. I think this was the key thing that pulled me firmly over to Dominik’s side. It’s that true ‘heart-of-gold’ style of babyface, where he wants to prove that he can do it alone, even when he doesn’t stand a chance. Yes, some of that’s down to his naivete, but it’s so rare we get a wrestler in WWE that’s truly uncorrupted. It’s why we gravitated towards Sami Zayn & Johnny Gargano during their initial NXT runs, and it’s why I’ve found myself gravitating towards Dominik now.

Sure, Seth Rollins got the win, but that doesn’t matter, because this match got Dominik over in my eyes. I am now fully behind Dominik in whatever he does next (probably a tag match with his father), and I am excited to watch him grow as a performer over the next couple of years. I honestly can’t remember a time were WWE has (deliberately) got someone over so firmly in my eyes like this, it’s wonderful.

And there you have it! That’s a full weekend of wrestling coverage! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of Summerslam, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Wednesday, where I’ll be releasing the GRAND FINALE of my 100 Favourite Games of All Time series!

WWE Royal Rumble 2020: Every Match Ranked

The Road to Wrestlemania is officially underway and if it’s going to be anything like this show last night, it’s a road I’m very excited to be going down!

Everyone who’s ever used the internet has said it at some point over the past week, but Royal Rumbles are always so much fun to watch and this year was no exceptions, with two Rumble matches that were among the better ones as far as I’m concerned. Even better than that is that the Rumbles weren’t the only thing to write home about, as many of the other matches on the show were quality watches too.

Let’s not waste any more time getting into it and breakdown Royal Rumble 2020 match-by-match!

8 – Roman Reigns def. King Corbin
(Falls Count Anywhere)

No prizes for guessing this one would be last.

Quite simply, this match had everything that I hate about Falls Count Anywhere matches all rolled into one. The action was extremely samey the whole way through (the portaloo spot notwithstanding) as almost the whole thing consisted of Reigns & Corbin wandering around, occasionally hitting each other and throwing each other into the nearest, vaguely solid object.

Even when Roode, Ziggler & The Usos showed up, I still didn’t find myself getting excited, the spot where one of The Usos launched themselves from one of the stands was cool looking, but given that none of the four men involved in that spot were actually a part of the match, I just couldn’t find a reason to care. Also, the camerawork was just plain awful, I don’t know whether the cameramen were being told to shake the camera vigorously throughout all the action, or whether they were just bad at their jobs, but I almost got motion sickness from watching the action at one point.

It certainly wasn’t the most boring match ever and I’d rank it above the match that these two had at TLC, but that’s not exactly saying much. At least the right man won

7 – Sheamus def. Shorty G
(Kickoff Show)

Not much to say on this one, other than it was a lot more competitive than I was expecting it to be. I have no idea where creative are going with this storyline for Sheamus, but I’m happy to wait and see where it goes and that included not having much worth saying about this match. It’s nice that Shorty G wasn’t just annihilated like I thought he would be, but I honestly think watching him get slaughtered by Sheamus might’ve been a bit more fun to watch.

Like almost any pre-show match, it was perfectly acceptable, but not something I’m going to be talking about for very long after the fact.

6 – Andrade(c) def. Humberto Carrillo
(United States Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

Much like Sheamus vs Shorty G, this match was perfectly fine and the only reason this one goes above that match in my rankings is because it lasted slightly longer.

The dynamic between the two was quite different to Sheamus & Shorty G’s though, as these two men have very similar in-ring styles and it felt much more like the new kid on the block trying to get a feel for one of the older fighters, in order to find a weakness. Unfortunately for Carrillo, that weakness never presented itself and while I wouldn’t say Andrade dominated him in this match, he certainly seemed to get a lot more offence in than Carrillo did.

This match wasn’t as exciting as the match these two had at TLC last month, but I still thought it was a decent showing for a pre-show match where, ultimately, everyone knew the outcome going in.

5 –  Bayley(c) def. Lacey Evans
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

I think this is the match that I was the most pleasantly surprised by because, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t expecting much going in.

Bayley’s Pay-Per-View matches this past year have, for the most part, been rather underwhelming and I’m still not much of a Lacey Evans fan, but I think the two did a great job at putting on a well-paced and enjoyable match. For one thing, Lacey’s daughter is ADORABLE and her smile just seemed to instantly brighten my mood, but I also thought there was a lot of good action between the two.

I wouldn’t have thought Lacey could work that well as a face, but I found myself getting behind her as the match went on, thanks in large part to Bayley’s great ability to work as a heel. Watching this match it’s clear just how much Evans has come on as a wrestler, especially when you compare it to something like her matches against Becky Lynch from last May.

Admittedly, this wasn’t some super exciting match to set the world on fire, but I think these two women did an admirable job and made me finally see the potential in Lacey Evans’ new character direction, and more generally as a performer, so I’d rate that a success.

4 – Charlotte Flair won the 30 Woman Royal Rumble Match

With each year that goes by, I think the women’s Royal Rumble match keeps getting better and better. As WWE hires more and more credible female competitors, it no longer feels like the match is relying on the nostalgia pops and thread-bare action in order to get the crowd interested, finally putting it on par with the booking philosophies of the men’s incarnation of the match.

For the past two years, the downfall of the women’s Royal Rumble has been the first half but that wasn’t a problem here because I thought the first half of this match was the best portion of the whole thing. I wouldn’t have thought that Bianca Belair would be the one to get the rub of dominating the early portions but I absolutely loved how it played out. There was a good mix of everything in there, from the serious to the comical and it kept the action flowing at a good pace.

From when Charlotte entered through until Shayna Baszler showed up wasn’t all that interesting, but I still had a good time seeing people like Beth Pheonix & Shotzi Blackheart showing up and briefly kicking arse, even if blood somehow started POURING out of the back of Beth’s head.

While I’m a bit disappointed Shayna Baszler didn’t win the match, I’m not mad about it. While she is absolutely a ready-made star, I can understand why people think it might be a bit too early to give her a rub like winning the Royal Rumble and, let’s be honest, Charlotte was always going to have to win one of these eventually. Not to mention that sequence towards the end where Baszler just decided she’d had enough of this shit and eliminated EVERYONE still in the ring in space of about a minute was great to watch.

While it wasn’t perfect, it was undoubtedly the best of the women’s Royal Rumble matches we’ve had so far and I can honestly say I’d happily watch it again and have a good time doing so.

3 – Becky Lynch(c) def. Asuka
(Raw Women’s Championship)

This is one of those situations where I think a disinterested crowd took away from a match that was a lot better than the reactions it was getting. I don’t blame the crowd, however, if I had already gone through 3 hours of action and knew there was a Royal Rumble match immediately after this one, I’d try and conserve my energy too, but it doesn’t stop it taking away from the match somewhat.

Still, there was a lot of solid wrestling to this match and I don’t think we should let a muted crowd take away too much from that fact. These two have clear chemistry in the ring together and if I’m being entirely honest, I wouldn’t mind seeing another clash between them in front of a more lively crowd. Asuka did a good job of striking a balance between heelishly slowing down the action but keeping things relatively exciting and tense as she worked her magic.

Meanwhile, Becky did was Becky does and it was as much fun to watch as it always is. She’s so good at making herself look just about beatable, before striking out with the comebacks and sneaking away with the win. I especially liked the finishing sequence where both women were escaping each other’s submission manoeuvres and I’m happy that Becky finally got her win back.

2 – The Fiend Bray Wyatt(c) def. Daniel Bryan
(Universal Championship)
(Strap Match)

Told you they’d make it work.

If I’m being honest, I was starting to lose faith that we’d ever see a really great Fiend match, his character didn’t seem to leave much room for competitive matches, however, I was thankfully proved wrong last night as I thought this was a great way to go about it.

Strap matches usually tend to restrict the performers in the ring, but that wasn’t the case here as they were able to get some really impressive action in and still feature the strap heavily in most of their spots. Throughout the match, I really got the feeling that Daniel Bryan was finally able to get a feel of The Fiend and had plenty of counters prepared for the erratic offence The Fiend threw his way.

It was a little slow to start, but that was necessary to get the damage in on Bryan and lend a lot more drama to his comeback, which definitely worked. Every now and then Bryan would get a little advantage over The Fiend and each time he managed it, he kept the momentum going for just a little bit longer. Unfortunately, the fact that it was extremely obvious going in that Bryan wasn’t going to win sapped a bit of the drama out of the final LeBell Lock, but I still came away from the match having had a great time watching some great wrestling, so I can’t complain.

 1 – Drew McIntyre won the 30 Man Royal Rumble Match

Well, I sure didn’t see that one coming.

This was very clearly a Rumble of two halves and I think that both halves were as entertaining as each other, but in different ways. The first half where Brock was eliminating everyone was so fun to watch, it could’ve lost its novelty pretty quickly, but there was enough variation in both the entrants and the method by which they fought that kept it entertaining and it was clear from his face that Brock was having a great time, which helps LOADS.

My personal favourite moment in that first half was when Shelton Benjamin came out and Brock greeted him as an old friend because we knew that turn was coming, but Brock was so uncharacteristically cheery that I couldn’t help but chuckle. The drama was there too, with Kofi, Big E and Rey did their best to take on the Beast, it’s a bit disappointing that Kofi didn’t get his moment, but when the three of them prepared an attack on the outside, I felt the drama of it. Also, honourable mention to Brock bopping to MVP’s music.

Eventually, Drew came out at 17 and things went off the chain. Ricochet giving Brock the low-blow was a nice bit of poetry and the Claymore Drew hit to eliminate Brock was brilliant and Brock sold it like death to boot. As the ring filled up with people we got the more standard Rumble action and thanks to the calibre of the guys involved it was all great stuff.

Edge’s return was brilliant, even if a lot of us sort of knew it was probably going to happen. I became a wrestling fan not too long after Edge retired, but I’ve seen so much of his stuff since then and that look on his face as he walked out – pumped and ready to fight, but also on the brink of crying tears of joy – that hit me right in the feels and it was a wonderful moment. On top of that, he got a great showing, Spearing everyone in sight and giving us a cheeky little Rated RKO reunion for our troubles.

As I mentioned in my predictions, while Roman wasn’t the person I necessarily wanted to win, I would’ve been happy if he did and I’d come to accept the fact that it was just how it was going to happen. So when Drew threw Roman over the top and won I was genuinely shocked and overjoyed. I never would’ve picked Drew to win, but now the prospect of Drew vs Brock is in front of me I am GAGGING for it, make that man the first-ever UK-Born WWE Champion, I need that in my life.

As far as a Royal Rumble match goes, this was a resounding success on all fronts and it easily up there with many of the better Rumble matches to ever take place.

And that’s it! Those are my thoughts of Royal Rumble 2020! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back on Saturday where I’ll be running down Doctor Who Series 5!

 

The Best of WWE in the 2010s

After getting sad about everything bad in WWE over the last decade, let’s pick oursleves up and talk about the best.

As we’ve covered, there’s been plenty to be upset about when it comes to WWE this past decade and given the IWC’s tendency to focus in on the negatives, it can be easy to trick yourself into thinking the 2010s were all bad for WWE, however, given that you’ve read the title of this article, I doubt it will surprise you when I say that this was not the case.

No matter how bad you think WWE has been over the past ten years (and for the record, I don’t think it’s been that bad) a broken clock is still right twice a day and some truly great things have come from Mr McMahon’s playhouse in the 2010s and here are what I think are some of the best.

9 – The New Day: Afterthoughts to World Champions

Imagine telling someone in 2014 that Big E Langston, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods would turn a Gospel Church gimmick into one of the greatest factions in company history.

By all accounts, The New Day should never have worked, like so many other factions that were thrown together in WWE for seemingly no reason, they debuted on TV with all the momentum of a wet fart and precisely no-one cared. It seemed like a way for WWE to give three men they had nothing for, something to do (because let’s be honest that’s what it was).  Little did anyone know, they’d secretly struck gold.

The New Day would come out at smiling babyfaces, spouting the virtues of “The Power of Positivity”, which naturally is something all wrestling fans have an aversion to, so it was quickly booed out of every arena. Instead of annoyingly pushing on as babyfaces despite the fact no-one cared, the decision was made to shift the characters. All of a sudden, The New Day would find every way possible to steal any and every win they could, culminating in them winning the Tag Tag Championships from Cesaro & Tyson Kidd in late spring 2014.

From there on, things completely took off for the New Day, their positivity was now an ironic sentiment that they used to hide the fact that they cheated all the time, then claiming they won because they believed in themselves and other nonsense. As the months went on it turned out that these three men had some of the best on-screen and creative chemistry of any wrestlers in decades and every night they’d come out and cut promos that were genuinely funny on a level that we hadn’t seen in WWE since The Rock.

They then experienced the best kind of face turn any wrestler or faction can receive, a face turn simply because the fans just couldn’t stop cheering them. Their accomplishments speak for themselves: Longest reigning Tag Team champions in WWE history, 5 Tag Title reigns over the past 4 years and plenty of great matches and memorable moments.

This brings us to Kofi Kingston, who had one of the most unexpected and brilliant rises in years. The way the fans got behind Kofi and forced WWE’s hand to no only put the WWE Championship on him, but give him a decent sized run with it is something that we very rarely see in wrestling today and it was what happened with The New Day this decade that made it possible and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of the other memebers of the group reached the same point some time in the coming years.

What’s most impressive about The New Day though, is it took 3 guys who were probably never going to get very far in WWE as singles competitors and turned them into megastars that will be remembered forever in WWE. Xavier Woods and Big E were not in good positions in the WWE heircachy before The New Day came along, but now they’re synonymous with the current product and I can confidently claim that if there was no New Day, Kofi Kingston would never have got the WWE Championship run he’d always deserved.

An act that never got stale, and plucked three men from footnotes in WWE history to staples of the company, The New Day will certainly go down as one of the greatest factions in wrestling history.

8 – The Summer of Punk

And the year or so that followed it, but that’s not as catchy of a header.

You can think whatever you like of CM Punk’s 2014 exit from WWE, that’s not what we’re here to discuss, we’re here to talk about his greatest moments. Before CM Punk came along, it seemed like the smaller, more indie-rific stars would never truly get a chance to shine in WWE, no matter how much we cheered for them and booed the alternatives, WWE would always be a place for the John Cenas and Triple Hs of the world. Enter CM Punk.

Punk captured fans hearts with his in your face, to the point style of promos, weather as a heel or a babyface, Punk could work any crowd to feel any emotion whenever he wanted, combine this with exceptional in-ring talent and you’ve got one hell of a powder keg waiting to blow.

If Punk had received any old push from WWE management, there’s a chance his star would’ve faded far too quickly and whatever heel character he had at the time wouldn’t have maintained at the top of the card for as long as it did. Then he announced his intentions for Money in the Bank 2011. One fateful night on WWE Raw, CM Punk announced that on July 17th 2011, the night of that year’s Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, his WWE contract expired, and he intended to leave with the WWE Championship.

This story was already blending kayfabe and reality in a way we hadn’t seen in a long time, as Punk’s contract was legitimately coming to an end on that date and he legitimately hadn’t decided yet whether or not he was going to re-sign. This was all well and good, but then something historic happened, to end an episode of Raw the next week, Punk sat at the top of the ramp and aired all of his frustrations with WWE in a part-work, part-shoot promo. This move turned many heads in the fandom and many fans who had stopped watching WWE due to its staleness were pulled back into watching thanks to this promo.

Low and behold, come Money in the bank 2011, Punk defeated Cena after a fantastic match, blew a kiss to Vinnie Mac and left WWE with the Championship…for 8 days. It’s an unfortunate truth that the aftermath of this moment was booked anywhere near as well as it should’ve, but the fact remains that it made an enternal star out of CM Punk, so much so that after being removed from our screens for over 5 years, people are still clamoring for his return.

CM Punk provided us with some of the most entertaining WWE TV we’d seen in years at that point and his success opened the door for so many others (who we’re going to talk about in a bit) to reach even greater success than Punk did. No matter what your opinion of him today is, you can’t deny that what he did in 2011 was absolutely fantastic.

7 – Depth of Talent

WWE has more wrestlers under there employ currently than ever before, a number that has skyrocketed specifically in this decade and as much as it creates problems like wasted talent that I highlighted in my “worst” article, it can also be of great benefit to the company.

While things like character work and promo ability can be debated, when it comes to atheltic ability, the WWE roster has never been as talented as it is right now. If WWE got their shit together, using the talent they’ve built upon their roster over the past ten years, they could put on the single best wrestling show in history; and I genuinely believe that. I could sit here and list countless names like I did in the previous list and I’ll be talking about specific examples further on in the list, but I genuinely believe that this is the most talented roster WWE has ever had.

There’s such a huge variety of wrestlers that they have under their belt that there really is something for everyone. You want muscle-bound superheroes who fight for what’s right? Have Roman Reigns. You want guys who can do so many flips you can’t help but be impressed? Ricochet’s got you covered. You want monsters who will destroy anyone in their path? Braun Strowman will hit the spot. You want the best technical wrestlers the world has ever seen? AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, take your pick.

Almost every WWE PPV is a plethora of variety in wrestling, no matter what you like, there’s something for you. If you want to poke holes in the current WWE product, there are plenty of ways to do so, but one thing that you absolutely cannot fault is the wrestlers themselves.

6 – AJ Styles: Mr WWE

Speaking of that talent, let’s look over one of this decade’s biggest, and most unexpected success stories.

For so many years AJ Styles was the exact opposite of a WWE guy. He spent the largest chunk of his career making waves for TNA as the most talented person there, before eventually leaving the company and making his way over to New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he would instantly become a star. Styles led the Bullet Club and had 2 reigns with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. So when it was announced in Janurary of 2016 that AJ Styles had signed a contract with WWE, meer hours after he had wrestled at NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 10 it absolutely blew everyone away.

I didn’t have much of an idea who Styles was at the time, but I quickly learnt how big of a deal this was and it’s safe to say that I was losing my shit just as hard as anyone else when he showed up in the 2016 Royal Rumble match. No-one was quite sure what kind of career Styles would have in WWE and if the man himself is to be believed, Vince only intended for him to be a mid-carder from the outset.

Ever one to push boundaries though, Styles forced those in charge to take notice of how unstoppably talented he was. A heel turn ended up being the best thing for him as it gave him all the momentum in the world going into one hell of a match with John Cena at Summerslam 2016, where he beat Cena clean as a whistle. Then it happened, against all of the odds, AJ Styles, Mr TNA, won the WWE Championship at Backlash 2016, in a move I don’t think many people expected, at least not so soon after his arrival.

Styles continued this run of success over the next few years winning the United States Championship before winning the WWE Championship a second time, holding it for over a year and being plasted on the front of posters, production trucks and video games in the process. AJ Styles is the story of exactly what can happen when WWE want to stick it to their compeitition in the best way possible. Sure, you could take Mr TNA and make him a joke on your product, or you could take Mr TNA and turn him into Mr WWE and that’s exactly what Styles is now, in the best way possible.

5 – John Cena: Jobber to the Future Stars

Another thing that I don’t think anyone could’ve seen coming at the start of this decade, is the fact that John Cena is now virtually non-existent in WWE. Having gone full Hollywood (and doing pretty well for himself in the process), over the past few years Cena has barely had a presence in WWE, not even having an official match at Wrestlemania 35.

The benefit of this transition, however, is that when Cena does show up to have a match, it’s a big deal and whoever he wrestles is bound to get a great rub, win or lose. Even more so than that, Cena’s in-ring style has changed so subtly over this decade, that it took us all a moment in 2015/2016 to realise that he’s putting on incredible matches all of a sudden. Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan . All of these matche he’s had with those guys over the past number of years have been absolute classics, especially his matches with Styles.

What’s even more amazing (and unbelievable to our 2010 viewer) is that he put all of those guys over. Admittedly he got his wins back from Owens in a major way, but that first match when Owens shockingly pinned Cena was all that was needed to launch him to the prominent status he holds today. This happened with all of the younger talent he’s wrestled since about 2015, Cena would put them over in a high profile match and it would raise that guy’s stock more than any world title win ever could and even when he did get his wins back, it didn’t matter in the long run because a star was already made.

If Cena’s going to be sticking to this one or two matches a year thing, I hope that when he does show up, this is the Cena we continue to see. Everytime he shows up it feels like a big moment and there are so many guys in WWE that could really use his magic touch.

4 – Daniel Bryan: The Best Wrestler in the World

I’ve made this claim many many times on this blog and it’s something I genuinely believe. You don’t even need to go as far back as the American Dragon, or his Ring of Honor days to see it (although they certainly help) you just need to go back to the summer of 2010 and watch from there.

Many people (myself included) claim that the WWE way of doing things can hamper performers in many ways, from a characte perspective and even in the ring there are so many times watching WWE’s product that I feel like things could be better for such-and-such person if they weren’t so constricted, just look at Jon Moxley for living proof of that. Daniel Bryan didn’t suffer from this though, well he did a bit at first, but Daniel Bryan did something which no-one else has really been able to do, at least not to his level, which is take the limitations of the WWE system and use them to his advantage.

“Limitation breeds creativity” is a phrase I’ve heard a number of times when it comes to creating art and that’s exactly what Daniel Bryan did with the limitations he was given. He moved and changed his character to fit the WWE way of doing things without compromising who he was as a wrestler, he was able to feel like a perfect fit for the WWE product, while still connected with the fans on an astronomical level, so much so that when he hit a brick wall that he couldn’t change enough to get through, the WWE fanbase shouted as loud as they could and changed WWE to make way for him.

I gave CM Punk a lot the credit earlier for the shift to the indie style of wrestling because he was the first to do it, but Daniel Bryan’s contributions to this cause cannot be understated either. Daniel Bryan smashed his way through the titanium wall WWE seemed to put in front of him and in doing so, cleared the way for the whole style of wrestling in WWE to fundamentally shift to what was seen in 2010 as a very “indie” style.

Two of my favourite moments involving the WWE Championship this past decade were thanks to Daniel Bryan, when he won the title at Wrestlemania 30 is was the most incredible feeling in the world, this amazing and lovable man has finally reached the highest point it’s possible for him to reach in his career. Then there was the sad affair of his forced retirement thanks to injuries, which was truly heartbreaking, but luckily it has a happy ending.

Daniel Bryan’s return speech is something that still makes me tear up and the line “If you fight hard enough for your dreams, eventually your dreams will fight for you” is the most motivational sentence I think I’ve ever heard. So imagine thinking that less than a year later he would be one of the most detestable heels in the entire industry. Daniel Bryan’s 2018 heel turn was an unexpected stroke of absolute genius, not did it let him work a more mat-based technical style that he’s absolutely exceptional at, but it provided us with what, to my mind at least, is the best world title reign we’ve seen since CM Punk’s 434-day reign in 2011/2012/2013.

Bryan has never remained static as a wrestler, his ability to constantly reinvent himself as a character while sticking true to his in-ring style and performing it all to absolute perfection is something that very few in the industry even come close to, let alone WWE. I could probably do a whole article about why I believe Daniel Bryan is the best wrestler in the world right now, but we don’t have that much time and this is only entry number 3. So to cut it short, he’s really freaking good and this decade has been all the example you need as to why.

3 – Brock Lesnar’s Return

When I was putting these two lists together, I couldn’t decide where to put Lesnar’s return because it had so many highs and lows to it, so in the end, I decided: why not both? In my “Worst of WWE” post, I talked about all of the crap that came from Lesnar’s return, but it’d be remiss of me to go without mentioning the many positives that came from it to.

Firstly and perhaps most importantly, is the fact that we got a lot of great matches from him. While it’s true that Lesnar’s put on no small amount of stinkers since his 2012 return there are an equal amount of fantastic bouts to go alongside them. His matches across the decade against guys like Cena, Punk, Bryan, Styles and so many others have all been barnburners that show just how valuable of an asset Lesnar is to WWE.

On top of that, there is the simple fact of “moments”. Lesnar is perhaps the best wrestlers for creating these moments because he has a feel to him that no other wrestler on the planet has. Wrestlemania 30, Summerslam 2014, Wrestlemania 31, Survivor Series 2016 and Wrestlemania 35, all of these are moments that have left a lasting impression on me and are some of the best/most shocking moments in wrestling from the past decade. You could argue that these moments are all down to the person that Lesnar was facing at the time, but that’s just not true, in fact, I’d argue the exact opposite: that these moments were only possible because it was Lesnar doing them.

Lesnar has been so consistently booked as an unstoppable monster that there came a point where, for a good 5-6 years, he felt truly undefeatable, which is a feeling that no other wrestler has had in decades. The fact of the matter is, when Lesnar loses, it’s a HUGE deal and whoever does it is instantly a star and there isn’t anyone else like that in WWE, not anymore.

Fans have spent this whole decade begging for WWE to be consistent in their booking, but the truth is there was a prime example of that staring them in the fact the whole time and his name is Brock Lesnar.

2 – NXT

I mean come on, there’s no way you can have a “best of WWE” list and not have NXT somewhere in the top 3.

At the start of the decade, NXT was nothing more than a bad reality TV show where some of the best independent wrestlers of the time (and David Otunga) were humiliated on a weekly basis and I think if you’d have told anyone that over the decade, NXT would become the most consistently brilliant wrestling promotion on the planet, they would’ve reported you to some sort of mental institution. At yet, here we are at the end of 2019, looking back at the best WWE matches of the decade and almost all of them come from the brand of yellow and black.

Despite switching from reality show to wrestling promotion in late 2012, most people didn’t take much notice until 2014, when the brand’s first special event “NXT Arrival” took place, featuring fantastic matches between the likes of Ardian Neville, Bo Dallas, Paige, Emma, Sami Zayn and Cesaro. That roll continued with what would become quarterly events known as NXT Takeover, where the best wrestlers NXT had to offer (which were more often than not, the best indie stars of the time that WWE had bothered to sign) had the best matches they possibly could and it was always pure gold.

Not only were the matches always top quality but the storylines usually matched that quality, with feuds like #DIY vs The Revival, Bayley vs Sasha Banks and Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnn Gargano that truely defined this decade in WWE. It’s clear that NXT is a creative environment, where both wrestlers and writers are allowed to work at their full potential to craft nuanced, long-term storylines that we haven’t had on Raw or Smackdown in ages.

While several NXT stars have failed to live up to their potential when called up to the main roster for one reason or another, NXT has provided us with main-stays of the current product, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Drew Mcintyre, Big E; just to name a few.

NXT has given us some of the best wrestling from this past decade, proving that the “WWE Style” doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing, because as much as we all like to deny it, NXT is the WWE Style and the show has proven the all-time classic stories and matches that style can produce and will continue to produce for years to come.

1 – Women’s Wrestling

It could never be anything else, could it?

While it’s absolutely true that all of the major wrestling companies in the world could still be doing more to legitimise their women’s divisions, comparing how female wrestlers were treated in WWE at the start of the decade to now is the kind of improvement I’m not anyone ever thought we’d see from a Vince McMahon led company.

At the very first WWE Pay-Per-View of this decade, Royal Rumble 2010, there was only one women’s match broadcast on the show and it lasted 20 seconds of a three-hour show and this was by no means an outlier, it is an accurate presentation of how WWE treated the female wrestlers under its employ for well over a decade. WWE would hire models and teach them basic wrestling moves, while the legitimate athletes were barely allowed to show their skill and were treated pretty much as eye-candy.

By the time 2014 came around, the WWE audience were starting to get sick of it all, people were starting to demand that female athletes in WWE be taken seriously and it was (unsurprisingly) NXT that heeded that call and built a women’s division full of the greatest women’s wrestlers on the planet. Paige, Emma and the four horsewomen were among the first female wrestlers in over decade that were allowed by the company to prove to the world that they’re just as good, if not better than any male star in WWE. But it still wasn’t enough.

Despite getting glimmers of great matches on the main roster throughout 2014, it was clear the company still had no intentions to make any meaningful changes, so as WWE fans always do, they got louder. At the Fastlane 2015 Pay-Per-View between Nikki Bella and Paige, a match that had all the potential to be a show-stealer, got a mere 5 minutes worth of screen-time; this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Within 24 hours, the #givedivasachance movement had begun and the whole wrestling world puts its foot down and let the company know that this shit wasn’t going to fly anymore.

The change was perhaps a bit slower than we would’ve liked, but sure enough, it happened. While the initial clusterfuck of Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks all getting called up at once causing a 3 on 3 on 3 feuds was, well…awful. Soon after that, the company started to focus on these competitors as singles stars and from that point onwards, there was no stopping them.

Every woman who came through WWE from then on made sure they made as much noise as possible, putting on fantastic matches and making sure they could not be ignored. Soon female wrestlers were main-eventing Pay-Per-Views, getting their own Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank matches and just generally having their feuds and storylines treated exactly the same as any other in the company.

In 2018 we had the first-ever all-women Pay-Per-View in Evolution, which was an absolute hit and a fantastic show, Becky Lynch became the single most popular star in the whole industry and the most prestigious spot in the WWE calendar, the main event of Wrestlemania featured a women’s match for the first time ever.

Like I said at the start, the war is not won yet, but this decade proved that major change can happen in wrestling if we just stop the big companies from getting away with their bullshit for long enough. Genuine, massive and long-lasting change has been established in the way WWE treats its female athletes, which is something that cannot be understated and it is undeniable that it’s the best thing to have happened in WWE this past decade.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, please let me know what you thought of WWE this past decade either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back on Saturday for my predictions for WWE TLC!