WWE Royal Rumble 2021: Predictions & Analysis

There are very few wrestling events that I get childishly excited about these days, but the Royal Rumble is definitely one of them. It’s been said the world over by now, but it really is true that even a bad Rumble is still a lot of fun while you’re watching it. Having two Rumbles on the same show can be a bit exhausting these days, but also screw it, it’s a lot of fun, and I always have a blast, so I don’t care.

Enough rambling, more rumbling, let’s make predictions.

Asuka & Charlotte Flair(c) vs Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

You wouldn’t know it based on how they’ve been booked on TV this past month, but Asuka & Charlotte are actually the women’s tag champs. For some reason, WWE has decided to keep them miles apart from each other this month. Each woman has completely separate stories from each other, and only tangentially got involved with their challengers for this match.

When they won the titles, I think we all knew it was just so they could break up and feud for Wrestlemania, but apparently, until they’re ready to pull the trigger on that, WWE is just going to pretend they’re not even aware of one another. I’d like to be optimistic about this match and say that it has all the right competitors to be a good one, but this match will definitely get cut short. Since the pandemic era, WWE has tried to keep their PPVs to about 3 – 3 & 1/2 hours, we’ve got two Rumbles, which are both an hour-long, then four other title matches to deal with. That means that every title match (except for maybe one) will go short, so I’m not expecting much from this one.

In terms of a winner, I would prefer it if Jax & Baszler took the titles back, but I don’t see it happening until WWE are ready to start building the Charlotte/Asuka feud, which I doubt they are just yet. So I’m going to put Asuka & Charlotte Flair to retain, even if it is a stupid idea.

Sasha Banks(c) vs Carmella
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

This was a very odd build. For the first couple of weeks after TLC, it seemed like Banks was done with Carmella, but apparently, WWE realised last-minute that Sasha needed something to do this month, so just kept the feud going while everyone else in the division builds to the Rumble. The stuff with Reginald was pretty good if you ask me, but it didn’t do much to actually hype me up for this match, it was more of just an entertaining, but self-contained oddity.

As with their TLC match, I think this one will be good, but not very long. Banks already dispatched of Carmella with little difficulty last month, and I can’t see Carmella looking much better in this one. All I’m hoping for here is an enjoyable match that lasts about 12 minutes. In an ideal world, I’d like it to go longer, but as I’ve said, the two Rumbles mean that the other matches have got to go short.

As I’ve probably made apparent already, I think Sasha Banks is going to retain. There’s no value in Banks dropping that belt before Wrestlemania, especially not to someone that she’s already beat once before.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Goldberg
(WWE Championship)

Here we are again…

When this match was first announced, along with being disappointed, I also had the cockiness and was thinking there’s NO WAY they’d have Drew drop the title to Goldberg after building him up all year. Then I remembered that was precisely the same thing I thought last year when Goldberg beat The Fiend for the title.

It’s one of those rare cases where, whether or not I think this match is a good idea depends ENTIRELY on the result. If Drew wins, then it will be a great way to lend him some real credibility and bolster his stock even further going into Wrestlemania. However, if Goldberg wins, then it will be a terrible idea that proves that WWE doesn’t listen to its audience and only cares about selling nostalgia rather than creating new stars from the wrestlers we actually like.

I’m picking Drew McIntyre because I have to because I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror if I picked Goldberg. The worst part is, if Goldberg does in, I know that I’m not even going to have the energy to be pissed off about it, I’m just going to be disappointed.

Roman Reigns(c) vs Kevin Owens
(Universal Championship)
(Last Man Standing)

By far the best built non-Rumble match on this show, I am really quite excited to see this one.

Smackdown as a whole has been bloody great this past month, and this feud at the top of everything has been a massive part of why. The original build with Nakamura going long in the gauntlet match, only for Pearce to be forcefully slotted in the match was a great way to kick things off. In all honesty, I was kind of excited to see Roman vs Pearce, but the way they turned the story around was really well-done. Pearce pulled a fast one on Roman, which brought Owens back into the picture with a hell of a lot of fire.

From there, things have built perfectly. Reigns’ heat only seems to build week on week as he wanders around the place, getting to be cocky, snobbish and hilariously sarcastic to everyone he meets. What’s more, is when the face gets one over on him, it feels like a huge moment, like Reigns is getting put in his place, if only just momentarily. Owens’ promos about his tattoos and what this means to him have been so impassioned and genuine that you just have to cheer for him. I’ve said before about how Owens can talk so genuinely, and Reigns has turned out to be the perfect opponent for him.

This build has been so good that I briefly considered the possibility that Owens could win the title. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t make much sense for Roman to drop the title now, but the story with Owens has been so good, that it’s made me somewhat forget all of that logic. I’ve not gone all of the way off the deep end though, and I’m still picking Roman Reigns to win, I’m saying, if Owens won, I’d be pleased with it.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

Now we get to what we’re all here for, the Royal Rumble matches, and genuinely, I’m really struggling to predict a winner for both of these. It seems counter-intuitive given that there are 30 participants in the match, but we usually go into a Rumble match with one or two legit contenders for the win, however this year…there’s so many! As usual with these, I’m going to run down the handful of participants that I think are in with a shout, and explain a bit about why, before making my final pick.

Rhea Ripley- This is the one I’d probably be the most surprised about if it actually happened, but it’s pretty clear that Ripley is done in NXT. Her debut on the main roster seems to be imminent, and what better way to make a splash than winning the Rumble? She could feud with either Sasha or Asuka, and it would be a match I’d be very excited to see, but ultimately, this is the one I’d put the lowest odds on happening.

Bayley – While the match at Hell in a Cell was terrific, I think we were all a bit surprised when the Sasha/Bayley feud ended after just one match. Immediately there was speculation that they might save the rematch for Wrestlemania. While I think it’s a definite possibility, as the months have gone on, I think it’s become less and less likely. I don’t know what else Bayley could do at Wrestlemania, to be fair, but I think WWE will want something fresh for Banks at that show.

Charlotte Flair – This is probably the most straightforward pick out of what we’ve got, but I don’t think it’s the most likely. With Asuka & Charlotte as tag champs, if Charlotte won the Rumble, that would instantly cause the break-up and the feud. The only problem is it would be quite underwhelming. This isn’t a knock on Charlotte, but she won the Rumble last year, I don’t really want to see her win it again, especially when there are far more exciting options on the table.

Alexa Bliss – This has been incredibly weird, and not all that good, but at the same time, I kind of like the direction it’s going in. It’s hard to tell what the end-game is with the Fiend/Bliss relationship. For the most part, she’s just been a pawn in the feud between The Fiend and Orton, but over past few weeks, she’s been challenging Asuka for the title, breaking out on her own. I think it would be a colossal waste if she didn’t at least get to sniff a major title feud here.

Bianca Belair – For a while, Belair was the top contender for this match in my mind, and she might still be, I’m honestly not sure. After a bit of a slow start on Raw, she moved over to Smackdown, and it instantly became clear that she was a star in the making. While the finish to the Survivor Series tag match was crap, Belair was clearly the MVP of the whole match, and since she’s been feuding with Bayley, she’s been looking good week in, and week out, they even made that WWE Chronicle on her past, which is something they don’t do for just anyone.

This is a really tough choice. In my head, it’s between Bliss & Belair, and since they’re both on different brands, either one of them could theoretically win, then the other just gets their title match via the Elimination Chamber. I’ve genuinely gone back and forth several times while writing this section, but in the end, I’ve got to go with…Bianca Belair. I’m already second-guessing that decision, but I’ve got to make the pick at some point.

Men’s Royal Rumble

Truth be told, I’m actually thrilled that these Rumbles are so hard to predict because it means I’m going to be all the more invested in the match. Not having any idea what’s going to happen just gets me hyped up all the more, and that goes for the men’s Rumble as much as it does the women’s. Let’s run down the contenders.

Shinsuke Nakamura – Technically possible, because they’ve been pushing him quite hard this past month, but I doubt it’ll actually happen. It feels more to me like this is Smackdown’s way of building up more red-herrings in terms of people who could win the Rumble. They’ve been doing this with Cesaro & Dolph Ziggler too. I’m glad they’re doing it, it’s something that should be done every year, but I don’t think any of them are actually going to win.

Seth Rollins – This does depend on whether he’s ready to return after becoming a father (which is the reason I didn’t consider Becky for the women’s Rumble), but if he does come back, I’d say he has a shot at winning. While we have seen Roman vs Seth before, it was a long time ago, and the situation was quite different. Sure, they’re both heels, but you can change that a bit, since Seth will be coming off of a return, it wouldn’t be that weird to do a character shift.

Edge – I had a feeling Edge was going to be in the Rumble, but I thought they would’ve saved it as a surprise entrant. Either way, I think this is more likely a platform to sow the seeds for his Wrestlemania feud. No idea whether they want to do the third match with Orton, or maybe a marquee feud with someone like Styles, but either way, I don’t think he’ll be the winner of the thing. If he were to win, then I think Roman vs Edge would be the way to go, I just don’t see it happening.

John Cena – While reports from the dirt sheets say that there are no Wrestlemania plans locked in just yet, they are also saying that Cena is almost sure to have a match. So why not have him enter the Rumble and win it? Roman vs Cena would be a money match, even if we’ve already seen it, but I think Drew vs Cena could be one hell of a match too. The story can build around Cena trying to break Ric Flair’s imaginary world title record or something like that.

Big E – Since about Summerslam, Big E has been one of the top contenders to win the Rumble, but in recent months he’s gone down quite significantly in my odds. Now he’s got the Intercontinental Championship under his belt, I’d prefer it if he had a decent length reign with that, fighting a variety of opponents, rather than hot-shotting straight up to the world title. Not to say I’d be upset if he did win the Rumble, far from it, I just think that it’d be better for him to build for a while longer and maybe wait until Summerslam to challenge for the title.

Goldberg – So this was a possibility that I hadn’t considered until I saw it floating around online, and quite frankly, it terrifies me. If you’ve not seen it, people have been speculating that maybe Goldberg could lose to Drew earlier in the night, only to enter and win the Rumble. This would be a disaster, but I can 100% see WWE going through with it, especially with the report a few days ago that WWE is considering a ‘really scary’ finish to the Rumble that might piss off fans.

Daniel Bryan – As much as I can’t make all that solid of case for it, it just feels right. Admittedly, it’d pretty ironic that after being majorly snubbed from two Rumble wins in 2014 & 2015, that the Rumble he finally wins could be one in front of no crowd, but that’s life I suppose. Bryan’s expressed his desire to stop being a full-time wrestler over the next year – a position I think he’s more than deserving of – so I think giving Bryan one last big Mania match would be the best way to go, and a Rumble win is the perfect way to get there. Roman vs Bryan is a match that WWE has planned, but never actually executed over the past couple of years (cave for Fastlane 2015, but those were VERY different times), and they already sowed the seeds of it through November and December, it would seem weird not to commit to it now.

As I said, the case is still a bit shaky, and I’m by no means certain, but Daniel Bryan winning the Rumble just feels right to me, so I’m sticking to my guns and making it my official prediction.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think will happen at the Royal Rumble, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Monday, where I’ll be writing up my review!

Every WWE Raw & Smackdown Women’s Champion Ranked

While it certainly happened a lot later than we all would’ve liked it to, over the past 5 years, WWE has finally allowed women’s wrestling to take its place as the featured attraction we’ve always wanted it to be. While things still aren’t perfect, women’s wrestling is largely treated as being on par with – and sometimes greater than – whatever the men are doing.

While the depth of the women’s division is a huge factor in this becoming the case, a good indicator for how the women’s division has been treated in recent years is to look at the championships. Since the horribly named, horribly designed, and horribly horrible Diva’s Championship was abolished in 2016, there have been 11 different women to hold either the Raw or Smackdown Women’s Championship at least once. Today, I’m going to rank these women based on what they did during their time as champion.

There are a number of things that play into it. First of all, the pure numbers. How many times have they won a championship, and how many days did they hold it? However, you also have to consider other factors like the calibre of opponents they faced with the belt, or the more subjective factors, like were their storylines and matches any good? Then, lastly, I’ll throw in a little personal bias and we’ve got ourselves a list.

Let’s get ranking.

11 – Natalya

Number of Reigns: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 1
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 86

I honestly forgot Natalya had even won a women’s title, which isn’t a great sign.

Truth be told, I really can’t stand Natalya as a wrestler. I think her promo style is lifeless and boring, and I think her style in the ring is lacking any kind of special shine. Sure, she was one of the best wrestlers during the ‘Diva’s’ era, when there were very few legitimate wrestlers on the roster, but I think that time has passed her by and she can’t compete with the incredibly talented women of WWE today.

Unfortunately, Natalya’s time as champion was equally boring. She won the title from Naomi at Summerslam 2017 in a 10-minute match that was ok. She retained the title on Smackdown a few weeks later in a 7-minute match that was also just ok. Then Charlotte Flair stepped into the picture and the writing was on the walls. They had a match at Hell in a Cell where Natalya deliberately got herself disqualified, which will always be a super lame finish. Then, with Survivor Series on the horizon and a champion vs champion match against Alexa Bliss on the card, she lost the title to Charlotte clean as a whistle in 12 minutes.

Natalya had her rematch against Charlotte at Clash of Champions, lost, and that was that. Natalya would never sniff the title scene again. It did nothing to elevate Natalya, or even Charlotte, as she was already the biggest thing in the women’s division by that point. It didn’t even serve as a nice “thank you” present for Natalya’s decade of serivce to WWE because she was made to look weak and ineffective at almost every turn. None of her storylines were interesting and all of her matches were average in quality, not what you want from your top woman.

10 – Naomi

Number of Reigns: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 2
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 148

I feel bad putting Naomi this low because I remember really rooting for her at the time, but when you look at her time with the title, there really isn’t a lot to shout about.

In the build to her title win, Naomi was a good foil for Alexa Bliss. She’s very easy to love, and her personality clashed with Alexa’s in such a way that I enjoyed the build. Their match at Elimination Chamber should’ve been better than it was, but unfortunately, it was only given 8 minutes, which is not enough time to have the amazing match they were able to. However, it was ok, because Wrestlemania was on the horizon, and it was happening in Naomi’s hometown, so that’s where the real money match could happen, right?

No, of course it didn’t.

Sadly, Naomi suffered an injury and would have to relinquish her title after just 9 days, making it unlikely she would be able to compete at Wrestlemania 33 that year. As it happened, Naomi’s injury wasn’t too severe and she was healed in time for Wrestlemania, but it was so late that she has to be awkwardly crowbarred into the plans WWE had already made. This meant that instead of a big one-on-one match with Alexa, Naomi won the title for the second time in a Six-Pack Challenge. What’s worse is the match was only given 5 minutes and was slotted in between the two main events of the evening, so the exhausted crowd couldn’t have cared less.

Naomi’s second title reign was much longer, at 137 days, but it was no more interesting. She had a rematch with Alexa Bliss that was ok, and a 9-minute match with Charlotte that ended in a no contest. Then, things fell off a cliff and WWE decided they were going to push Lana as a title contender. Lana would have three matches with Naomi. One was a 7-minute snooze fest that consisted of Naomi desperately trying to get something out of Lana, and failing. The second was a 1-minute squash match, and the third was a 10 SECOND squash match. To put it plainly, it was shit.

Then she had a fairly boring feud with Natalya, lost the title and that was that.

As much as I love Naomi, she pretty much only avoids the bottom spot because she held her title for more days than Natalya. What sucks is that I don’t think many of the issues with her reign were her fault. Her matches were constantly being put in bad spots and being given nowhere near enough time on shows. Then, she got thrown in there with Lana, a competitor who even the best of the best would struggle to get a decent match out of.

Here’s hoping she gets a proper chance to shine in the years to come.

9 – Carmella

Number of Reigns: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 1
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 130

Carmella is another woman that I hope gets another chance to run with the title someday because her first go-around wasn’t as good as I believe it could’ve been.

Things started about as well as they possibly can start. Cashing in her first-ever women’s Money in the Bank contract, Carmella rode a wave of momentum into the start of her title reign. She’d cashed-in and taken the title away from Charlotte just two days after Charlotte had ended Asuka’s undefeated streak and pissed everyone off. The problems started to rear their heads right away, however, as her character started to lose the unique charm she had before winning the title. Almost immediately she fell into the template of any heel champion who won thanks to the green & gold briefcase, which didn’t make for exciting TV.

She beat Charlotte cleanly in the title rematch, which sounds like a good thing, but it actually felt pretty underwhelming, especially considering Charlotte left for a while almost immediately afterwards. Next, she entered a feud with Asuka, which seemed specifically crafted to make the unstoppable Asuka look like as much of a chump as is humanly possible. In every instance, Carmella only retained thanks to interference from James Ellsworth, a man who WWE presented as the single most pathetic human being to ever live. It was a nice twist the first time it happened, but quickly became played out and horrendously boring.

Before we knew it, the time had arrived for Carmella to lose the title. This is the most historically significant part of Carmella’s reign, but not because of anything Carmella did. When Charlotte beat Carmella & Becky Lynch to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship at Summerslam, it set in motion the chain of events that would lead to the insane rise of Becky Lynch. I’d love to Carmella’s role in the story some credit for this, but she really didn’t make a difference. It could’ve been any heel champion in that role and it would’ve worked out just the same. Charlotte still would’ve been unnecessarily crowbarred into the match, and Becky Lynch still would’ve ‘turned heel’ only for the fans to cheer her as they’ve never cheered anyone since Daniel Bryan in 2013/14. Carmella was just the spare part.

She rises a few places from the bottom purely through the virtue of having a couple of memorable moments under her belt, but there was sadly very little to enjoy during her one and only title reign.

8 – Nia Jax

Number of Reigns: Raw – 1; Smackdown – 0
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 70; Smackdown – 0

While the numbers aren’t in Nia’s favour, what she did during her run as champion was a lot better than I think many remember.

The story going into Wrestlemania 34 between Nia & Alexa was an odd one. They pressed pretty hard on the anti-bullying stuff, but it always felt pretty disingenuous. The writing wasn’t very nuanced and it felt like they were just trying really hard to make Nia into this amazing role model for little girls. Of course, having role models for little girls isn’t a bad thing, but when you try to force it with a woman like Nia, who is SO much better as a villain, it tends to fall flat. It wasn’t all bad though, the fact remained that Alexa Bliss was an incredible heel, so her work was good enough to make the sympathy roll Nia’s way.

The problem comes in with her matches. The Wrestlemania match was mostly just Nia beating Alexa down with her huge size advantage, which didn’t exactly make her seem like a sympathetic bullying victim. Still, the moment where she won the title was a good one, and the emotion on Nia’s face made the whole thing feel extremely heartfelt. The feud didn’t need to continue from there, but it did, and it was boring. Thankfully, once it was out of the way, we got to the highlight of Nia’s title reign, her match with Ronda Rousey.

Nia has never been the most incredible wrestler, in fact, I find very little to enjoy in the majority of her matches. Her match with Ronda Rousey, however, was an exception. It was, interesting, impactful and an all-round joy to watch. I finally felt like I was seeing Nia’s true potential, and it was an amazing showcase for Rousey too. Things ended in excitement as well, as Alexa Bliss would show up with the Money in the Bank contract she had won mere hours ago, and challenge for the title. A Money in the Bank cash-in is one of those events in wrestling that is always exciting, even when something you don’t like is happening because of it. Bliss won the title back from Nia and that was the end of it.

Her reign wasn’t all that long and didn’t make a lasting impact on the women’s division as a whole (hence why it’s low), but it did begin and end in rather spectacular fashion, which counts for something.

7 – Sasha Banks

Number of Reigns: Raw – 5; Smackdown – 1
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 106; Smackdown – 20+

By far the weakest ranking of any of the four horsewomen, Sasha has always got the raw end of the deal when it comes to title success. Sure, five title reigns is an impressive number, but when you consider that the longest of these reigns was a pathetic 34 days, you’ve got to realise something is wrong.

Her first three title reigns all came and went within the space of 5 months, as it was during her extended feud with Charlotte. These two would hot-potato the title like no-one ever had, with things averaging two title changes every month. The pattern that played out on our screens for half a year was that Sasha would win the title on an episode of Raw at some point during the month, then when the Pay-Per-View rolled around, Charlotte would win it back. I was an extremely odd decision that didn’t do a great deal to raise the stock of either woman, however, it did create a lot of good-great matches.

That’s the thing with Sasha’s title reigns. They were often short and somewhat pointless, but they were almost always surrounded by either good matches or good stories, which I personally value more than the pure numbers.

After Bayley debuted on Raw, Sasha would play a supporting role for the next 6-8 months, backing up Bayley in whatever her endeavours were. One such endeavour was a feud with Alexa Bliss, in which fortune would favour Sasha. The original plan for the match at Summerslam was to be Bayley vs Alexa Bliss, however, Bayley suffered an injury during the month, so Banks was substituted in as a replacement. As WWE always like to pull for shock value Sasha was given the title for no reason. I can prove that it was for no reason too, as Banks would lose the title back to Alexa just 8 days later on Raw.

Banks wouldn’t sniff the title scene again for almost three years, however, her alliance and subsequent heel turn with Bayley turned her fortunes around. Banks & Bayley had already banded together to claim tag team gold, and after the two had spent most of the year ruling the roost over on Smackdown, they set their sites on Raw Women’s Champion, Asuka. The storyline surrounding this was great. Although the duo has recently broken up as of the time of writing, their run as ‘schoolyard bully’ style heels has been one of the biggest highlights to come out of the WWE product this year.

The title win wasn’t perfect though, as it happened in a weird finish where Bayley put on a referee shirt and counted the pin, then a week later, Stephanie McMahon rescheduled the match, and Sasha won the title anyway. Next up was Summerslam, and there, Sasha continued her pattern of not being able to successfully defend a title and lost it back to Asuka. However, Bayley betrayed Sasha at the start of the autumn and this led to what has to be her strongest title win yet. As the reign is still less than a month old, I can’t really judge it very much, but given that she’s already successfully defended the title on Smackdown, it seems she may have finally shaken her curse and is in for a fantastic reign.

Ultimately, Sasha Banks did a lot of great things surrounding her time as champion, however, she held the belt so briefly in almost every title reign, that they don’t feel very meaningful or prestigious.

6 – Asuka

Number of Reigns: Raw – 2; Smackdown – 1
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 154+; Smackdown – 99

For many years, it felt like Asuka was yet another NXT star that got totally destroyed by creative on Raw & Smackdown, but eventually, it seemed like WWE came to appreciate what they have with her, and are finally running with it.

Asuka’s first title reign began in extremely grand fashion. Coming at the tail end of Becky Lynch’s feud with Charlotte Flair, Asuka found her way into a TLC match for the Smackdown Women’s championship. To put it simply, this match was excellent, and most certainly one of the best WWE produced that year. The finish came when Becky & Charlotte were atop a ladder, ready to grab the gold, when Ronda Rousey came down to the ring, pushing the ladder over and allowing Asuka to win her first title. Many would say this cheapened Asuka’s win, as she didn’t do it all herself, but given that the Becky/Ronda/Charlotte story was the hottest thing in the company during that time, I’d say it just amplified the spotlight.

Asuka had several strong defences against, Mandy Rose & Naomi, but her biggest was against Becky Lynch at the Royal Rumble. This was the night that Becky would eventually win the rumble and stake her claim for Ronda Rousey’s title, so for Asuka to get a 100% clean win over Lynch that night was HUGE. Sadly, things would end in disappointment, as Charlotte would beat Asuka for the title in March, as WWE wanted to promote the Becky/Ronda/Charlotte triple threat match at Wrestlemania as being for both belts.

Fast forward a year and a bit to 2020, and things in the world are going a bit mental, and WWE followed suit. Asuka won the Money in the Bank briefcase in a match that I’m still not entirely sure wasn’t some weird fever dream I had, and things seemed to be exciting going forward for Asuka. However, the next night, things took a shocking turn. The champion Becky Lynch appeared on Raw with Asuka’s Money in the Bank briefcase in tow, during a promo, she revealed that she was relinquishing the Raw Women’s Championship, and handing it over to Asuka voluntarily. After some moments of confusion, Becky Lynch would reveal she was pregnant in an extraordinarily heartwarming moment.

Asuka’s title reign following this wasn’t the strongest, but she did get clean wins at almost every turn. Sadly, her first title defence Nia Jax wasn’t one of these, as it ended in a double countout, but Asuka would later defeat both Nia Jax & Charlotte Flair clean as a whistle. In the summer, she entered a feud with the duo of Bayley and Sasha Banks which produced some great matches, even if there was a small case of overbooking here and there. Sadly, moving into the autumn, Asuka has almost vanished completely from WWE TV. She had a short match at Clash of Champions against Zelina Vega, defended the title on Raw in 2-minutes against Lana and then missed Hell in a Cell completely. Her reign is still going strong, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot going on for her right now.

5 – Alexa Bliss

Number of Reigns: Raw – 3; Smackdown – 2
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 396; Smackdown – 109

When the ‘women’s revolution’ kicked into gear around 2015, there were certain women that were virtually guaranteed for stardom. The four horsewomen come to mind for this, and others like Asuka & Nia Jax held qualities that WWE would very clearly value in a main event talent. Alexa Bliss wasn’t one of these women, but she went ahead and did it anyway.

Alexa Bliss wasn’t a huge star in NXT. Her biggest accomplishment on the yellow brand was being the most entertaining member of the Blake & Murphy tag team. This meant that when she was drafted to Smackdown in the 2016 brand-split, I don’t think I was alone in thinking she wasn’t going to go super far. However, Smackdown branded itself as the land of opportunity, and it proved time and time again in 2016 that it was true. Case-in-point: Alexa Bliss.

Bliss wasn’t treated as much of a threat to Becky Lynch’s title reign in 2016, but the somewhat lucky (but ultimately, clean) circumstances surrounding a tables match gave Bliss the title. Bliss then proceeded to show everyone that she could hang with the best. She cut promos like few other women could at the time and created a truly despicable heel persona. Her two reigns with the Smackdown Women’s Title aren’t very significant in the grand scheme of things, but they served as a platform for her to establish herself as a real player in the division by the time she moved to Raw.

After switching the Raw in 2017’s Superstar Shakeup, Bliss wasted no time establishing dominance, beating Bayley for the title at Payback almost immediately. This feud was critically panned for some horrible segments like “Bayley: This is Your Life” and a match at Extreme Rules where Bayley lost because she was scared of a stick, however, you can’t deny that Bliss looked dominant during all of this. Bliss moved onto a feud with Sasha Banks, losing via Count-out at Great Balls of Fire, before losing the title the next month at Summerslam.

It wasn’t over for Bliss though, as she won the title back just 8 days later. Her 2nd run with the Raw title would be her longest, and she beat a great variety of opponents during this time. Defending the title in all sorts of different matches, including five-ways and even the very first Women’s Elimination Chamber match. Bliss felt virtually untouchable during this period, but it’s worth mentioning that for various reasons – including Survivor Series & Royal Rumble getting in the way – Bliss didn’t defend the title at all during November, December or January during this reign, which is a large contributor to her dropping a few places on this list.

She would eventually lose the title to Nia Jax at Wrestlemania 34. She did win it back later that year, but it’s barely worth talking about, as she only won it so Ronda Rousey had a heel to destroy at Summerslam.

At the end of the day, Bliss is the biggest example of someone breaking free of their low expectations and turning themselves into a star. Although it’s been a good few years since Bliss won a singles title, she’s always a feature-player of WWE’s women’s division and will go down as one of the greats.

4 – Charlotte Flair

Number of Reigns: Raw – 4; Smackdown – 5
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 242; Smackdown – 189

I can understand how some may see this as an odd placement. It’s always felt like Charlotte has been CONSTANTLY sniffing around the title scene since her main roster debut. It’s true that she has the most title reigns out of everyone on this list, and her contributions to the women’s revolution in WWE can never be denied. However, when you actually look at the content of her title reigns, it’s not as impressive as you might think.

For one thing, despite having almost double the number of title reigns as Alexa Bliss, she’s spent less total days as champion by quite the margin. Arguably her best title reign was her first one, especially if you include her time as Diva’s Champion before the new women’s title was introduced. Winning the title in what was inarguably the best match of Wrestlemania 32, Charlotte was a ready-made star from that moment onwards. She continued to retain the title with the help of her father, putting away Natalya on several occasions (including a rehash of the Montreal Screwjob, because Bret Hart was in the building).

Come mid-2016, it was time for the brand split to begin anew, and Charlotte’s epic feud with Sasha Banks began. As I’ve already discussed, these two traded the title A LOT, bringing Charlotte’s total number of reigns with the championship to 4. After many excellent matches, Charlotte came away as the winner, cementing her place at the top of the food chain, only for Bayley to come sniffing at her heels. She successfully repelled Bayley at the Royal Rumble, but wasn’t so lucky in their rematch, losing the title for what – as of the time of release – would be the final time.

In 2017’s Superstar Shakeup, Charlotte was traded to Smackdown. It took her a good chunk of the year, but she would eventually win the Smackdown Women’s Championship in November, and here she would have an excellent run with it. She spent a large chunk of the reign feuding with Natalya again, which could’ve been better, but it ended on a high. Then, after tearing through Ruby Riott at Fastlane, she would face down with the then-undefeated Asuka at Wrestlemania 34, and she came out victorious. I and many others view this as a horrible booking decision, but for the purposes of this list, it works in Charlotte’s favour, as the match was amazing & the queen of WWE gained a huge amount of prestige from the win.

Then two nights later, Carmella cashed-in the Money in the Bank briefcase and she lost the title. This is where Charlotte drops some places, as despite winning the title four more times past this point, they were reigns with absolutely no substance.

She won the title back from Carmella at Summerslam, but lost it to Becky Lynch a month later, won the title from Asuka next March, but lost it just two WEEKS later at Wrestlemania 35 (in a match where her presence arguably took away from the quality). Following Wrestlemania, Charlotte beat Becky to get the title back (after Becky had already fought a match against Lacey Evans) and this time, she would lose the title in less than five minutes thanks to Bayley cashing-in her newly won Money in the Bank contract. October rolled around and it was time for Charlotte to win the title back – this time at Hell in a Cell – where she managed to hold onto it for a whopping 5 days before losing it back to Bayley.

During only one of those title reigns did she ever eke out a successful defence of the title, and even that felt more like a formality than a proper feud.

Charlotte seems to exist purely to lose titles to people to get them over. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can get quite tiresome after it’s been going on for so long, and really puts a downer on Charlotte’s status as one of the best.

3 – Ronda Rousey

Number of Reigns: Raw – 1; Smackdown – 0
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 231; Smackdown – 0

I’m sure the internet will want to crucify me for making this placement, and it looks like the numbers don’t support it. However, the cold, hard fact of the matter is that Ronda Rousey’s title reign did more for Becky Lynch, the women’s division, and even WWE as a whole than anyone outside of the company is ever willing to admit. The main event of Wrestlemania 35 would not have been a women’s match for the first time ever without Ronda Rousey’s involvement. There, I said it.

After putting on the best match of Wrestlemania 34, and a match at Money in the Bank that was far better than anyone expected, it was time for Ronda to be crowned champion like everyone knew was going to happen. Her dismantling of Alexa Bliss was expected and did the necessary job of establishing her as a very dominant champion. Plus, after Bliss had been a very despicable heel for the past couple of years, it was good to see someone properly pick her apart for a change.

Rousey dispatched of Bliss again at Hell in a Cell, and then the Evolution Pay-Per-View rolled around. The first (and to date, only) WWE PPV to run only women’s matches. You don’t need me to tell you how big a deal this was, and while it probably would’ve gone ahead anyway, Rousey’s huge star power was a big factor in bringing it to life. There, Rousey faced Nikki Bella, the woman who, to many, was the distillation of everything that was wrong with the ‘Diva’s era’ which held women’s wrestling back in WWE for over a decade. The match wasn’t incredible, but it was still good, and better than people like me thought it was going to be, and it established Rousey as a huge face of WWE’s women’s division.

Rousey was set to compete against Becky Lynch at Survivor Series, but unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately, if you look at the larger picture) Nia Jax broke Lynch’s nose and Charlotte Flair was swapped in instead. This lead to what I believe to be Rousey’s best one-on-one match she ever had in WWE. It told a brilliant story with some brilliant wrestling, and the DQ finish only built the desire to see the match happen again later down the line.

From November through until March Rousey tore through the Raw women’s division. She put away Mickie James, Natalya, Nia Jax, Ruby Riott & Dana Brooke in matches that weren’t a huge deal, but were a lot of fun. She also had some featured matches with both Sasha Banks & Bayley, both of which told extremely compelling stories and were a joy to watch.

Finally, there was the climax to her story, Wrestlemania 35. The build was flawed, but none of that was Rousey’s fault, and even though there were flaws, I still thought it was really cool, and a lot of fun. She took the loss and passed her title onto Becky Lynch in a Wrestlemania moment that will live on in time immemorial. The first women’s match to ever main event a Wrestlemania is a huge deal, and Ronda Rousey was a huge part of what made that possible. Not just through her name value, but through the work, she put in over her 8 months as champion to build up an aura of an untouchable badass, butting heads with a cool character like Becky Lynch to create lightning in a bottle.

2 – Bayley

Number of Reigns: Raw – 1; Smackdown – 2
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 75; Smackdown – 520

For the longest time, Bayley seemed like a hopeless case on the main roster. After being easily the biggest star the NXT women’s division had ever produced up until that point, Bayley absolutely floundered for her first couple of years on Raw.

Her first title win came and went in a flash. It held some good moments but is sadly only remembered for the bad. Beating Charlotte Flair on an episode of Raw in early February, Bayley defended the title on two occasions. The first was a rematch against Charlotte which is barely worth talking about, while the second was at Wrestlemania 33 in 4 way match against Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Nia Jax. The Wrestlemania match was fine, but it was far from the best thing on the show, so it’s sadly been forgotten by history. Then, before we knew it, Bayley had lost the title to Alexa Bliss. Then, in the rematch, Bayley lost again because she was scared of a stick. I’m never letting that go…unlike how Bayley let go of the stick.

For the rest of 2017 and all of 2018, nothing interesting happened with Bayley. The only thing I even vaguely remember from that time was Bayley screaming “You ain’t shit!” in Sasha Banks’ face, and then going to couples therapy with her. 2019 is when things started to turn around. Her & Banks became the first-ever WWE Women’s Tag Team titles…and then lost them a couple of months later. This wasn’t a good thing, but it turned into a great moment for Bayley just one month later at Money in the Bank, where she won the titular briefcase.

Bayley cashed-in that briefcase mere hours later, taking advantage of a worn-out Charlotte and crowned herself Smackdown Women’s Champion, and getting wildly cheered by the audience for the first time in ages. Bayley took that momentum and ran with it. Her face persona suddenly felt renewed and she capitalized on it by reigniting her old feud with Alexa Bliss, this time coming out on top. She defended the title again against Ember Moon at Summerslam, then again against Charlotte at Clash of Champions. Then, things looked like they were going to get a lot worse. In yet another rematch with Charlotte at Hell in a Cell, Bayley lost and was without a title once again…

…for 5 days.

To the shock & relief of many, Bayley regained the championship from Charlotte on Smackdown. However, that wasn’t all. She also turned heel for the first time in her WWE career. Helped by old friend Sasha Banks, the two of them thoroughly beat the shit out of Charlotte and began the most incredible run of Bayley’s career. Alongside Sasha Banks, Bayley created a heel persona that has been wildly entertaining to watch for almost a year now. Dubbing herself a role model and acting like an annoying school-yard bully (in the best way possible), Bayley has beaten everyone there is to beat.

Not only did she tear through ever women on the Smackdown women’s roster over a year, but she even went over to Raw and beat their champion while she was at it. She added to her collection by regaining the Women’s Tag Team Championships and helped Sasha Banks win (and then lose) the Raw Women’s Championship. Her sudden but inevitable betrayal of Sasha Banks came at the start of the Autumn, which led to her losing her title at Hell in a Cell, in one of the best matches on the show.

To put it simply, Bayley has been second only to Becky Lynch over the past year on WWE TV, and after Lynch left in the spring, she stepped up and proved that she could carry the entire company on her own if she needed to. For so long it seemed as if all hope was lost with Bayley, but the past year of her career has undone all of the damage and then some. She tore down every barrier in her way and created really entertaining television along the way, what more could you ask for?

1 – Becky Lynch

Number of Reigns: Raw – 1; Smackdown – 3
Total Days as Champion: Raw – 398; Smackdown – 216

A lot of times with these lists, I try to avoid the ‘obvious’ number 1 pick. I try to give a new perspective and offer a view you might not have considered. However, there’s absolutely no way I could argue anyone being ranked higher on this list than Lynch. When you look at the pure facts, there’s a pretty clear parallel to be drawn between Lynch & Bayley’s career paths. Starting out with a lot of lows, but eventually reaching incredible highs. What separates them is the fact that Lynch’s highs were so, SO much higher.

Becky’s first run at the gold wasn’t anything worth talking about. While she always can lay claim to being the first-ever Smackdown Women’s Champion, she only successfully defended the title once in that reign, and it wasn’t even on Pay-Per-View. Lynch lost the title to Alexa Bliss in 2016, and for almost two years, there was nothing worth talking about in regards to Becky Lynch.

2018 rolled around and it seemed like things weren’t going to turn around for her anytime soon. Then, on Smackdown she started winning on a fairly regular basis. She wasn’t involved in any major storylines, but she was having good-great matches and winning week in and week out, and the fans took notice. In the build to Summerslam 2018, Lynch was announced as Carmella’s opponents and people were very excited to see Lynch inevitably be crowned champion. Then Charlotte returned suddenly and was thrust into the match. People were not happy about this, but it would surely be ok as long as Becky still won, right?

Charlotte won…oh dear.

After the match is when history was made, as Becky Lynch attacked Charlotte in what was supposed to be a heel turn (no matter what Road Dogg claims). However, it was met by mammoth cheers from the crowds, who were sick of Charlotte ‘being shoved down their throats’ (even though, as we’ve already covered, she wasn’t, but that’s not the point). Becky completely transformed her look & persona into that of an absolute badass and people loved it, no matter how much she tried to insult them.

Lynch eventually won the title back from Charlotte. She would then successfully defend the title against Charlotte…three times in a row. It got a bit tedious after a while, but the matches were almost always great, especially their Last Woman Standing match at Evolution, which was a far better match than I gave it credit for at the time. During this reign, Lynch would continue to build her persona and get more and more over with the audience, but she was yet to reach her peak.

In the build to Survivor Series that year, Lynch was gearing up to fight Ronda Rousey in a champion vs champion match that everyone was very excited for. Here is where Lynch reached the white-hot level that she would maintain for the next 6-months or so. Lynch tore into Rousey at every available opportunity and could banter with the best of them. Lynch would school Rousey on the daily over on Twitter, and the pops just kept getting bigger and bigger. In a cruel twist of fate, however, we never got to see that match. A stray punch from Nia Jax broke Becky’s nose and caused her to have to pull out of the event, however, it would turn into a blessing in disguise, as the image of Becky standing up in the rafters, standing tall with a bloody face has lasted in the memory for a long time since.

Lynch was back in action very soon after Survivor Series and lost the Smackdown Women’s Championship to Asuka at TLC. However, there was no stopping Becky’s momentum by this point, especially with Wrestlemania 35 on the horizon. Lynch wasn’t just the most popular female wrestler in the company by this point, she was the single most popular wrestler, gender was irrelevant. She won the Royal Rumble that January in yet another epic moment for her career and the match was set between her & Ronda Rousey at Wrestlemania 35.

Then Charlotte showed up again.

The storyline in the build to this match wasn’t anywhere near as good as it could’ve been, but it was still great. Charlotte’s presence was unnecessary, but I don’t think it detracted too heavily from what was going on. In the end, that match would become the main event of Wrestlemania 35, and while I put a huge chunk of the credit for that on Rousey’s involvement, Becky Lynch was the wrestler who put that epic story on the table. So it was done, and Lynch walked out of Wrestlemania that year with BOTH the Raw & Smackdown Women’s Championships over her shoulders.

The next year belonged to Becky Lynch. She lost the Smackdown Women’s Championship fairly quickly, but she held onto the Raw Women’s Championship for very nearly 400 days and did loads of great things in that time. She had a feud with Lacey Evans that put Evans on the map, had a feud with Sasha Banks that re-established Sasha as one of the best, and had an extended feud with Asuka that made for rivetting TV. Even though she had to vacate the title, how she did it was still extremely memorable, announcing her pregnancy before passing the title on to Asuka.

Lynch has become a truly iconic wrestler over the past couple of years, giving us some incredible memories along the way. Whenever she returns (if she decides to do so) I’m sure her star will only rise even further with more amazing moments & matches.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this list. Please, let me know what you think of these women’s title reigns, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time next Saturday, where I’ll be covering WWE Survivor Series!

WWE Extreme Rules 2020: Every Match Ranked

The Horror Show at Extreme Rules is now over and…well, it didn’t really live up its name, did it? The only two ‘horrifying’ segments weren’t exactly anything horrible, either in terms of content or quality. Ultimately, Extreme Rules isn’t a show that will be remembered for much of anything, for better or for worse. There were some slightly weird booking choices here and there, but there was nothing on this show that I hated or made me angry. Of course, the other side of that coin is that there was nothing that blew me away either.

Let’s get to breaking down the matches.

7 – Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro def. The New Day(c)
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Tables)

Well, it was hardly the worst tables match I’ve ever seen, but I still didn’t enjoy it.

If you’ve ever heard me bitch about weapons matches before, then you know why I didn’t enjoy this one. There was way too much time in the match wasted faffing around with tables that ended up being totally unimportant to the match. There was at least one that they spent time getting out and setting up, only for it never to be used in a single spot. This wasn’t a particularly long match and a lot of the time just felt wasted.

The action when they weren’t setting up tables was fun to watch, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it. Not to mention, it’s stuff we’ve seen from both teams before. There were a couple of fun spots, I liked Kofi being flung face-first into an up-turned table and the finish ended up looking quite brutal with how hard Kofi went through the tables. I’m just a bit confused as to why Cesaro & Nakamura won.

I’m not going to complain too much as Cesaro & Nakamura both holding titles is definitely a positive in my book, but given how sparse the tag team scene is on Smackdown now, what’s the point? I can only imagine that they’re just going to keep feuding with The New Day for at least another few months.

6 – Kevin Owens def. Buddy Murphy
(Kickoff Show)

A pretty standard placement for a pre-show match here and the reasoning is just as simple. It was a good match, I enjoyed what I saw. The only reason it’s not higher is that it didn’t have any build and I wanted to see a lot more of it.

I know WWE has a show to promote and all that, but would it really hurt them to let their pre-show match go 12-15 minutes instead of 8? I feel like putting on a bloody good match will get people more interested in signing up to the network/buying the PPV than Booker T and JBL inanely arguing with each other will.

Regardless, Owens & Murphy put on a good show here, and I hope both guys get a lot more than this in the coming months.

5 – Seth Rollins def. Rey Mysterio
(Eye for an Eye)

I liked it, but I can’t help but feel like this was an anti-climax.

This definitely should’ve been pre-taped. I’m not saying it should’ve gone all the way, but it should’ve at least been something like with Orton vs Edge. Set it out like a regular match, but occasionally do something a bit more ‘cinematic’, because when you’re promoting that someone’s going to have their eye taken out, it needs to feel like a big moment, but this just felt underwhelming.

Looking at the positives first, we got a lot of enjoyable action here. As expected, Rollins & Mysterio had great chemistry, and they were able to give us a lot of quick action that had a fantastic sense of flow to it. Even when things slowed down for the weapons, or for eye-gouging, it still carried a lot of the momentum that they’d built up throughout the match. My only real criticism of this aspect is how it dropped off a lot towards the end and slowed right down. That might’ve not been a problem if they’d stuck the landing on the finish, but…

It was an anti-climax. Seth did everything in his power to sell it, and I admire him for trying so hard (throwing up was a good touch), but it just didn’t work. Seth pressed Rey’s eye into the corner of the steps – which we’ve already seen before – and it looked like Seth was about to do more, only for him to suddenly realise that his eye was out. Then the referee just started freaking out and called for the bell. We didn’t see anything and the spot where Rey’s eye was being pushed into the steps didn’t even look that brutal compared to some other stuff they’d already done. I think they put a fake eye for Rey to hold up to his real one, but it was almost entirely covered by his hand, so I can’t tell. Maybe if that had been more obvious, I would’ve been more on board.

I just think it’s one of those situations where, it’s an over-the-top and slightly cartoonish situation, so you may as well have just gone the whole way with it and given us a prosthetic or CGI look of Rey’s eye poking out. Even later in the show, they had Charlie be like ‘he’s not actually lost his eye, doctors are going to put it back in’ so now it feels even less impactful.

At the end of the day, it’s a tale as old as time: Enjoyable match, rubbish finish.

4 – Bray Wyatt def. Braun Strowman (I think?)
(Wyatt Swamp Fight)

This was a bit of weird one because it didn’t really fit in with all the other pre-tapes we’ve seen so far. While I think that the positives outweigh the negatives, I can absolutely understand why others would hate it.

We’ll start with the negatives since I think there were less of them. The biggest one that I noticed was that the lighting was just awful. I know that it’s supposed to be dark and unknown, but that doesn’t stop you from shining a small spotlight on it so we can at least see the action. The other major point is that the ending didn’t work for me. I didn’t for a second buy the fake-out with the credits (though points for trying) and the way it all closed out, are we supposed to believe that Strowman drowned? Again, well done on trying something new & creative, but it will all be for nought if he just shows up on Friday like he didn’t go through some kind of traumatic experience.

However, there was still plenty to enjoy. I know some people will probably criticise the match for this, but I thought that Bray’s monologue was great. It was a bit weird that they had Braun heavily breathing so close to the microphone, but Bray has such a way with words that I couldn’t help but be fascinated while he talked. He’s able to weave such a beautiful tapestry that I felt I understood his motivations now better than I did with a whole month of build.

I’m not entirely sure why there was a snake, or what the symbolism was there, but it worked for the horror aspect. As did Braun setting a guy on fire. Again, all of these ideas are inherently silly, so going over-the-top and cartoonish with them is how you make them great. The callback to the Braun & Alexa stuff was a nice little touch. It was something that I’d never considered injecting into the story, but once it came up, it made all the sense in the world. I wish they would’ve pressed harder with it to be honest with you, Bray continually trying to lure Braun in with things from his past could’ve been very interesting.

I’m glad Bray came out on top, and it seems than Braun vs Fiend is where this is headed. It’s the expected outcome, but that’s not a bad thing. At the end of the day, this wasn’t one of the best pre-tapes WWE have produced, but it was still way better than both of NXT’s attempts.

4 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Dolph Ziggler
(Extreme Rules, for Dolph Ziggler only)
(No Champion’s Advantage)

Heels are just so smart sometimes. It’s always so dumb when wrestlers are allowed to pick stipulations, but then they just pick something generic that benefits their opponent as well as them. You can pick ANYTHING, this is your opportunity to ensure you win yourself the title. Thank goodness Dolph Ziggler finally pulled his finger out of his arse and realised this. Admittedly, you could turn around and ask ‘why didn’t he just say something like Drew has to wrestle handcuffed & blindfolded’ which is a valid point from a kayfabe perspective, but that would’ve been pretty boring to watch, don’t you think?

A stipulation for this made for an interesting dynamic between the two. It was played for the obvious a couple of times, where Drew almost used a weapon but then didn’t; the table spot especially was an excellent way to play on our expectations. It also came through in more subtle ways. It meant that there was a lot more regular wrestling throughout this match, a lot of the focus was shifted away from the weapons. It avoided falling into the usual traps of weapons matches where they try too hard to make the weapons the focal point.

I think it’s incredible how consistently they’ve made Drew look like a beatable champion, without actually harming his ‘indestructible’ aura. With both Ziggler, Lashley & Rollins they’ve been able to put Drew in situations where his title reign is in severe jeopardy, only for him to overcome it and come away from it looking even more invincible than he did before. I know that seems like such an obvious idea, but I honestly can’t remember the last time WWE pulled it off properly with a face world champion, so I’m pleased it’s happening now.

There were still some slow points, but they ended up not mattering in the end, I felt it was outweighed by the compelling storytelling and exciting action. Not to mention Drew busting out one of the best Claymores I’ve ever seen. The timing, the impact, it was just so satisfying.

2 – Bayley(c) def. Nikki Cross
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

More, more, more! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, WWE’s women’s division is on fire right now.

First up, the Smackdown Women’s title match. I know we’d seen Bayley vs Nikki before, but that didn’t bog down this match in the slightest. Both wrestlers came right out of the gate with fast and exciting offence, and the pace didn’t slow very much as things progressed. Nikki was on a roll here, and it put me in mind of the style Cross gave us when he was fighting the likes of Asuka in NXT. She always threw caution to the wind and threw herself around like a ragdoll. She’s so much fun to watch when she’s let loose.

Bayley did fantastic work here too. She properly has the hang of the ‘smart heel’ style of wrestling, where she played a much more reactionary role in the style of the match. Where Nikki was going all-out and fighting in any way she could, Bayley was doing her best to turn it against Nikki Cross, picking her openings and then getting to work. Sure, it’s a fairly basic idea, but that’s often all you need to put together a great match. It gave the feeling that, despite her not being on offence as much as Nikki, she was in control of the match most of the time.

Towards the end, things broke down a bit more and got slightly more chaotic, a factor that absolutely works in this feud’s favour. I’ll get a bit more into it with the next entry, but this whole feud between Bayley/Sasha/Nikki/Asuka has been built on chaos, so it absolutely should be baked into the matches. Bayley gets another dirty win, but it doesn’t feel like a cop-out because of her character & the way the match had built to it; meanwhile, Nikki can come away from it with some dignity.

1 – Sasha Banks def. Asuka(c) (sort of)
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Hell yes, give me more of that chaos.

Let’s cut straight to the chase here, these two competitors put on a fantastic match. I’ll talk about the finish in just a moment, but everything leading up to it was superb. They created a story in the match where both women could wrestle pretty fast-paced styles, while it was still very obvious who the heel was. Sasha didn’t have to slow the match down too much to feel like the bad guy thanks to the attitude she put behind her moves. The only time the match ever properly slowed was when Sasha was applying that cool-looking submission hold, and since it was the only time the match ever slowed, it felt like a big deal and put Asuka on the back foot.

The constant trading and manipulation of holds between the two of them worked so well, and they did it at such a pace that it felt like momentum was constantly shifting between both women. Sometimes all you need to make your action compelling is to create the feeling that both competitors are truly evenly match, which is precisely what we got here. Asuka is in this weird position, where she’s a slightly goofy & lovable babyface that can absolutely dominate a match when she wants to, which played so well here, especially towards the end when things started to fall apart for Banks.

That’s as good a segway as any to talk about the finish. To put it simply, this finish not what I would’ve liked to have seen, but I’m not too mad about it happening. As I said, the whole build to these matches has been quite chaotic. Bayley & Sasha travelling across both shows has created the feeling that they’re picking too many fights and they’re having trouble fending them all off. Week in and week out, Bayley & Sasha end up cornered by the babyfaces, only to weasel their way out of it. So what do they do here? Exactly the same as they’ve always done.

Incorporating all the potential cheating elements that these women have in their back pocket was great. I loved the chaos of Bayley getting in the ring & slipping the title to Sasha, while, unbeknownst to them, Kairi had slipped Asuka the thing that lets her spit green mist. The fact that none of them worked was great at establishing just how well these women know each other’s styles.

However, Bayley putting on the referee shirt, counting the pin and giving Sasha the title was where it went a step too far. If you want to pull something like this off, everyone has to be on board. The wrestlers, the timekeeper & most especially the commentators. The fact that the timekeeper refused to ring the bell, the fact that Sasha didn’t seem to know if she’d really won and the fact that the commentators were totally clueless about the whole thing meant it all fell totally flat.

It creates a lot of intrigue going into Raw (which I imagine was its goal), and I’m not going to let it detract too much from my enjoyment of the match, but it was definitely an odd decision.

And that’s 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 @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Wednesday for the next instalment in my 100 Favourite Games series!

WWE Extreme Rules 2020: Predictions & Analysis

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

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

Anyway, let’s break down the matches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rey Mysterio vs Seth Rollins
(Eye for an Eye)

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

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

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

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

Braun Strowman vs Bray Wyatt
(Wyatt Swamp Fight)

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

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

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

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

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

Now here’s some good stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Worst Title Reigns That Followed a Money in the Bank Cash-In

The concept of Money in the Bank is one that’s inherently interesting and exciting. The idea that at any time, the briefcase holder could show up and claim their spot at the top of the company, totally changing the landscape of the WWE is something that will almost certainly never get old.

When the briefcase holder finally decided it’s their time to shine, it’s always a memorable moment, even when the wrestler in question is one the audience doesn’t particularly care for. While the action of a wrestler showing up and winning a title in shocking fashion has led to some of the most legendary WWE moments ever, the discussion surrounding it often only focuses on the win and not what came after it.

It’s all well and good crowning a new champion in memorable fashion, but the next day, work has to start on making that champion a good one; a task which has seen a surprisingly high failure rate. So that’s what I’m covering today, as, in this two-part post, I look back at what every wrestler to successfully cashed in the Money in the Bank contract did with the title after winning it. Starting with the worst.

To be clear here, I’m ranking these items on a couple of things. First, there’s the pure numbers, namely, the number of days they reigned as champion. I’m also looking at the overall quality of the titles reign. How were they booked as champion? How many great matches or interesting storylines did they take part in while holding the belt? Finally, there’s the critical matter of how that wrestler continued to be treated after losing their championship. Was their stock in the company raised to a level above what they were at before holding the briefcase? Or did they just sink straight back down to where they were or – in some cases – did they sink even further?

I’m also not counting Asuka in this list as her title reign is still ongoing and I don’t think it would be fair to rank it yet.

So, with that in mind, let’s get going with these rankings.

10 – Alberto Del Rio – 2011
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: Summerslam 2011
Won Title From: CM Punk
Days As Champion: 35
Lost Title At: Night of Champions 2011
Lost Title To: John Cena
World Titles Since: 3

When people think back to the summer of Punk and how it was utterly squandered by WWE before suddenly changing their minds and course-correcting in November, what people tend to focus on in regards to Summerslam 2011, is Kevin Nash. I can’t say I blame anyone for doing so because let’s be real here, it was 2011 and this is Kevin Nash, whose physical prime was in about 1987; I know that’s before he was famous but, in many ways, that’s the point.

Anyway.

What I’d like to look at here is the oft-forgotten clusterfuck that the WWE title went through following Kevin Nash’s attack on Punk as Alberto Del Rio cashed-in his contract and became champion. The move itself was a terrible one. Punk was arguably hotter than any superstar in WWE had been since the attitude era and to not give him the chance to have a run at the top in favour of the unproven Del Rio seemed like it was throwing money directly in the bin.

Realising this, WWE knuckled down and made Del Rio into a legitimate main-eventer who wowed crowds the world over.

…hmm? What? What is it? That didn’t happen? Well, what did?…you serious? Wow, ok.

The night following his win over Punk. CM Punk decided he would get justice for this crime by…not attempting to get a rematch and went after Nash. Instead, Del Rio successfully defended his title against Rey Mysterio is a pretty decent match (unlike Swagger, Del Rio was actually a respectable in-ring competitor). It seemed like WWE might actually be trying to make something of him.

Then, just over a month later, he lost the title to John Cena. I’d love to give more detail, but that’s really it. Nothing even remotely interesting surrounded it, Del Rio and Cena had a match, Cena won, job done.

That brings up an interesting point because, based on that, I imagine you’d think that this reign should be much lower down on the list. The thing is, Del Rio actually wins bonus points in the last category of my criteria because, despite being a shitshow, Del Rio did actually see his stock in the company raise significantly following this title reign.

He won the title back from Cena just two weeks later. Although he would lose it back to CM Punk rather quickly, he was still treated as a legitimate upper midcarder in the following years. He even saw two more fairly substantial reigns with the World Heavyweight Championship a couple of years later.

So, even though his actual title reign was awful, the longlasting effects of it were beneficial to Del Rio, so the whole endeavour has got to be given some credit. Not much, mind, but some.

9 – Randy Orton -2013
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: Summerslam 2013
Won Title From: Daniel Bryan
Days As Champion: 28
Lost Title At: Night of Champions 2013
Lost Title To: Daniel Bryan
World Titles Since: 2

When I was first putting the research together for this list, I had honestly anticipated Orton’s title reign to be among the top. In my mind, he had cashed in at Summerslam and then held the title all the way through to next year’s Wrestlemania, but that’s actually not the case.

Instead, after Orton teamed up with Triple H to ruin Daniel Bryan’s crowning moment, Orton was immediately thrown into a rematch with Bryan at the next Pay-Per-View, Night of Champions. At this show, Bryan won the title back…for about 23 hours. It transpired the next night on Raw that the referee, Scott Armstrong, had performed a fast-count (sort of) for Daniel Bryan’s successful pinfall attempt. Even though it was made very obvious that Triple H had paid Armstong to do this deliberately, it was used as grounds to strip Bryan of the title.

Now, you might have noticed there that I only spent a single sentence talking about Orton’s reign. That’s because it’s roughly how important it was to all of this. Despite, being dubbed “the face of the WWE” he was just being used as a surrogate for Triple H, who wasn’t an active wrestler at the time.

While the number of world titles Orton won after this is just two, don’t let that fool you. Orton was already a certifiable megastar in WWE and had firmly secured his spot as a future legend for the company. After (eventually) winning the WWE title back thanks to various people being paid to screw over Daniel Bryan, he held it all the way through until Wrestlemania 30, where Bryan would reach the crowning moment of his career (for real this time).

Orton was a fantastic foil, but as it stands, all of that is moot in regards to his place on this list, because the fact is, the title reign following his Money in the Bank cash-in was a total non-factor in just about every conceivable way.

8 – Alexa Bliss -2018
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Cashed In At: Money in the Bank 2018
Won Title From: Nia Jax
Days As Champion: 63
Lost Title At: Summerslam 2018
Lost Title To: Ronda Rousey
World Titles Since: 0

The main problem with this reign is that it actually came at the end of Alexa Bliss’ first run at the top, instead of the beginning. Had this whole thing happened in reverse, this would probably be top 5 material because Alexa Bliss’ run at the top of BOTH the Smackdown & Raw women’s divisions throughout late 2016, 2017 and early 2018 were fantastic.

Bliss had been conquered at Wrestlemania 34 earlier that year by Nia Jax after seeing well over a year dominating WWE’s women’s division, so when she won the briefcase, it seemed odd, especially in the face of brilliant up-and-comers like Ember Moon. We didn’t have to wait long to find out what WWE’s game was though, as later on that night, Bliss would interfere in the Jax/Rousey match and cash-in her contract.

This seemed to be done for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Nia was not popular and, despite being a face, fans did not really care for her as the Raw Women’s Champion. The second was that WWE wanted to hold off on crowning Ronda as champion until Summerslam, but that was 2 months away, so they needed a story to tide themselves over in the meantime. So, why not revisit the Wrestlemania feud between Nia and Alexa? What’s that? Because we’re all sick of it? Pfft, who gives a shit?

As it stood, Alexa did a fine job as champion, by this point in time, she had an evident grasp on her heel persona and was as brilliant with it as she always was. The match the pair had at Extreme Rules was pretty decent too, thanks to a bunch of chaos injected by Ronda Rousey and Mickie James’ presence at ringside.

The main problem with this reign is that there was no drama to it because we were all just waiting for Ronda to win the title at Summerslam. I’m not saying that was a bad thing, I seem to be one of the only wrestling fans that enjoyed Rousey’s run as champion, along with believing she’s a great wrestler, but whatever. My point is, there was never any goal for Bliss’ title run other than to stall for time until Summerslam.

As I mentioned at the beginning, despite having many reigns as Raw & Smackdown women’s champion, this reign happened right at the end of that period, and as such, she’s only moved down the card since. She’s currently doing a fantastic job as one-half of the tag team champions. Still, she in no way benefitted long-term from holding the briefcase after everything else she’d already accomplished.

7 – Jack Swagger -2010
(World Heavyweight Championship)

Cashed In At: Smackdown 30th March 2010
Won Title From: Chris Jericho
Days As Champion: 79
Lost Title At: Fatal 4 Way 2010
Lost Title To: Rey Mysterio
World Titles Since: 0

JACK ONE TWO.

Honestly, I hate that theme so much, but it’s going to be in my head for the next week, and I may as well try and take you down with me.

All the other title reigns I’ve covered so far on this list have all been bad because of some sort of exceptional circumstances or completely bonkers booking decision that was made by WWE that ruined the whole thing. This title reign isn’t like that. While it’s still relatively short, clocking in at just under 3 months, it’s a hell of a lot longer than any other reign I’ve covered so far. There wasn’t any weird or stupid booking that occurred during it, and he didn’t lose the title in any kind of unusual way. So what makes it so bad?

Well, it’s actually quite simple. The thing that made this title reign among the worst on this list was Swagger himself. I hate to say this because his current work in AEW is delightful, but he just wasn’t ready in 2010. He had a good look to him, and he even had a legitimate amateur wrestling background to boot. Unfortunately, he was yet to find a personality or in-ring style that clicked with audiences.

As a direct consequence of this, there was usually very little interest in any of his major title feuds. He got some solid wins under his belt against the likes of Chris Jericho and even a clean Pay-Per-View victory over Randy Orton. The problem is that those matches were crap. The veterans did what they could for Swagger. However, the more he wrestled, the more obvious it became to everyone watching that he hadn’t built up the ability to carry a world title and it’s no surprise that none of his PPV title defences ever got the main event spot. Combine this with a personality that had little-to-no charisma, and it became clear that this wasn’t going to work.

It’s a shame because something like this is the whole point of what I believe Money in the Bank should be. It’s a rocket to strap to someone’s back to give them the chance to prove that they’re world championship material. Unfortunately, using it on untested wrestlers is always going to lead to some failures, and this was the case with Swagger.

6 – Dolph Ziggler – 2013
(World Heavyweight Championship)

Cashed In At: Raw 8th April 2013
Won Title From: Alberto Del Rio
Days As Champion: 70
Lost Title At: Payback 2013
Lost Title To: Alberto Del Rio
World Titles Since: 0

Ziggler’s cash-in is one of those moments that you could use to singlehandedly justify the existence of the Money in the Bank concept. I’m a sucker for watching a crowd go absolutely mental for something and the moment Ziggler’s music hit on 8th April 2013 is one of the biggest, most excited reactions I’ve ever heard from a wrestling crowd.

Unfortunately, that night is about where the good times stopped. However this time, it wasn’t directly WWE’s fault. Ziggler was initially set to defend the title at the Extreme Rules Pay-Per-View that May. Sadly, that match would never happen as Ziggler suffered a concussion at a Smackdown taping and was taken off of TV for a month to recover.

When he made his return, he reignited his feud with Alberto Del Rio, the man he had won the title from and their match at Payback was a surprisingly well-told story that was able to successfully execute the rare “double turn”. Del Rio ruthlessly targetted Ziggler’s head (playing off of the concussion angle), and Ziggler pressed on, resilient as ever, reversing the face/heel roles going into the match.

As good as this was, it was also the end of Ziggler’s title reign. A rematch was scheduled for the next Pay-Per-View (Money in the Bank, funnily enough) and Ziggler’s entourage, consisting of AJ Lee and Big E Langston, turned on him and cost him the match. After this, Ziggler abandoned his world title pursuit in favour of getting revenge on his former friends.

Ziggler would have a small handful of world title matches in the years since, but he’s never been in with a chance of actually winning. While his cash-in has undoubtedly immortalised him in the minds of modern fans, the unfortunate events that followed it did nothing to elevate his long-term standing in the company.

5 – Rob Van Dam – 2006
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: ECW One Night Stand 2006
Won Title From: John Cena
Days As Champion: 22
Lost title At: Raw 3rd July 2006
Lost Title To: Edge
World Titles Since: 0

This is a case is just a bit sad, more than anything else. This is because if things had gone as they were originally planned, this probably would’ve landed towards the top end of the list. Sadly, as it often does, real-life got in the way and put a premature end to this story.

RVD’s cash-in at ECW One Night Stand is one of the better cash-ins we’ve ever been greeted by. Taking place at the second version of the event, this match was actually a full-length affair due to RVD announcing his intensions to cash-in on Cena in advance of the event. It was the kind of beautiful chaos that reminded us all of the good ol’ ECW days, resulting in the man who was arguably ECW’s biggest star during its lifetime winning WWE’s grand prize.

Things started off in promising fashion. Heyman reinstated the ECW Champion and gifted it to RVD, making him a double champion. RVD retained the title against Edge at the Vengeance Pay-Per-View and then retained the ECW Championship against Kurt Angle just two nights later in a pair of quality matches. Things were going well, and RVD was riding a wave of momentum. Unfortunately, things were about to come crashing down.

In the early hours of 3rd July, RVD and fellow ECW alumni Sabu were pulled over by police for speeding on the highway. While they were being questioned by the police, the car was searched, they were found to be in possession of hash and were arrested. This was a direct violation of WWE’s Wellness Policy and was technically a firable offence. They weren’t fired, however, a triple threat match where RVD defended the WWE title against John Cena and Edge was immediately scheduled for Raw that night where Edge walked away as the champion. The following night on ECW, RVD lost his ECW Championship to the Big Show, and he was promptly suspended for 30 days.

It’s impossible to know how far RVD would’ve gone with the title had this incident not occurred, but if the first few weeks were any indication, it probably would’ve been something really memorable. As it stood, RVD would leave WWE in 2007 and would only return for brief stints in the midcard in the years following. As such, he never reached the world title scene again.

4 – CM Punk – 2008
(World Heavyweight Championship)

Cashed In At: Raw 30th June 2008
Won Title From: Edge
Days As Champion: 69
Vacated Title At: Unforgiven 2008
World Titles Since: 6

After being moved to Raw in the 2008 draft, CM Punk immediately made his presence felt on the red brand by taking advantage of a laid-out Edge (courtesy of Batista) to crown himself World champion for the first time in his WWE career. Almost immediately, things didn’t look to be favouring the new champion. Less than a month into his reign, Punk was forced to defend his title against Batista. While he did retain the championship, it was only via Disqualification after Kane appeared and attacked both men.

A rematch was scheduled for the next night on Raw, which had a near-identical outcome, as the match ended in a no contest, allowing Punk to retain once again. This led to an odd situation in which Batista turned his hunt towards John Cena’s WWE Championship (for seemingly no reason at all), and JBL targetted Punk’s title instead. This admittedly went better for Punk, as he was able to get a pinfall win over JBL at Summerslam, although it must be said that there was little exciting or unique about the match, due in part to the fact that it was buried under much bigger matches.

So far, so standard for WWE in the late 00s right? Well, you’re not wrong, and if Punk had actually lost his title in a match, then this might have jumped up several spots on the list. However, WWE managed to make it so much worse than it needed to be.

Going into Unforgiven, CM Punk was set to defend his championship in a 5-man championship scramble, featuring Kane, Batista, Rey Mysterio and JBL. Unfortunately, Punk never got to the match as earlier in the night, he was attacked by Randy Orton’s Legacy stable and was deemed unable to compete, thus forfeiting the championship. While this might have made sense if Punk had suffered some sort of legitimate injury and couldn’t take part in the match, that wasn’t the case, Punk was perfectly healthy and even wrestled the next night on Raw.

Instead, for whatever reason, WWE saw fit to simply take the title off of Punk for basically no reason, coming up with the lamest of excuses to do so in kayfabe. Punk had a rematch with the eventual winner of the championship scramble, Chris Jericho (who was announced as Punk’s replacement), the next night on Raw. He lost, and that was that. The weirdest part about all of this is that Punk wouldn’t even attempt to seek revenge on Orton for this until 2011, where he suddenly remembered it and used it as the basis for their Wrestlemania 27 feud.

Without taking into account the way it ended, this championship reign would’ve been slightly below average at best. Still, when you take into consideration that Punk never even got the chance to lose the title in the ring, the whole thing becomes an absolute joke. Amazingly, it would take another 6 years of this kind of treatment for Punk to walk out of the company.

3 – Edge – 2005
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: New Year’s Revolution 2006
Won Title From: John Cena
Days As Champion: 21
Lost Title At: Royal Rumble
Lost Title To: John Cena
World Titles Since: 10

You know what they say: first’s the worst…almost.

With the hindsight of the greatness that Edge would go on to achieve throughout his career, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that Edge’s first title reign was just another glorious accomplishment in his long list of career highlights. Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is quite different. As iconic as his cash-in was, very little of interest would follow, and it wouldn’t last very long.

The “live sex celebration” became a very memorable moment in WWE history for obvious reasons, but it wasn’t actually any good. What followed it was a pretty decent micro-feud where Edge put away Ric Flair in a TLC match of all things. However, following that, the man Edge had stolen the title from, John Cena, came knocking and it was all over.

Cena was already growing a bit of reputation as the guy who wins every title match regardless of whether it’s actually a good idea, a trend was not about to be bucked. Cena had his rematch against the Rated R Superstar less than a month after he lost the title and if you need to me to tell you who won, then clearly you haven’t been paying attention.

Cena would go on to main event Wrestlemania 22 against Triple H, while Edge got himself into a feud with Mick Foley. While this feud and the match that came from it were brilliant, it wasn’t the world title match that we had all hoped Edge would be partaking in that year. In the years since New Years Revolution 2006, WWE has framed the moment of Edge’s first cash-in as the real moment he seized the main event scene in WWE by storm. In reality, it would take at least another six months for him to get a world title reign that aligns with the legendary status his career is held to today.

2 – Brock Lesnar – 2019
(Universal Championship)

Cashed In At: Extreme Rules 2019
Won Title From: Seth Rollins
Days As Champion: 28
Lost Title At: Summerslam 2018
Lost Title To: Seth Rollins
World Titles Since: 1

When it comes to elevating a wrestler, that was obviously never the intention with this one. Brock Lesnar is inarguably the biggest megastar of WWE’s modern era, and there was literally no way possible that his stock could be elevated any higher than it already was. Instead, Brock’s acquisition of the briefcase and subsequent title reign served the singular purpose of creating an excuse to have a full-length rematch of Brock Lesnar vs Seth Rollins, which had lasted a mere two minutes at Wrestlemania 35 earlier in the year.

The match in question turned out to be a great one. Rollins fared exceptionally well against a version of Lesnar who was very clearly “on” that night at Summerslam. It was easily the match of the night and reminded people of what a brilliant wrestler Rollins is, during a time where character stagnation and letting out his frustrations at the fans on Twitter was causing audience investment in him to plummet.

That said, the result was a title reign that was, quite frankly, pointless. It consisted of just two matches, the cash-in where Lesnar won the title and the rematch at Summerslam where he lost it. While I don’t doubt the fact that the Rollins/Lesnar rematch was the right move for Summerslam, I don’t think the Money in the Bank briefcase was even remotely required to achieve that. As has been shown countless times in the past, the only justification you need for Lesnar getting a title shot is Lesnar showing up on Raw and declaring he wants one.

As I said, this entry gets a higher entry than Sheamus’ purely because it was more successful in executing its primary goal. That said, it was still a waste of the Money in the Bank concept and deprived another wrestler of the opportunity of a lifetime.

1 – Sheamus – 2015
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: Survivor Series 2015
Won Title From: Roman Reigns
Days As Champion: 22
Lost title At: Raw 14th December 2015
Lost Title To: Roman Reigns
World Titles Since: 0

Traditionally, the purpose of the Money in the Bank briefcase is to take a wrestler who hasn’t quite got their breakthrough into the main event scene yet and strap a rocket to their back to turn them into a verifiable megastar. So I don’t think it’ll be much of a surprise that Sheamus’ title reign landed last on this list when you consider that its entire purpose was to get someone else over. That someone else being Roman Reigns.

The thought process behind this title reign was a simple and surprisingly clever one. The audience at large were still staunchly against Roman Reigns as the face of the WWE, favouring more versatile wrestlers such as Dean Ambrose or Kevin Owens. So the conundrum for WWE was simple, how do they make everyone happy about Roman Reigns winning the WWE title? Enter Sheamus.

Sheamus tends to be quite a polarising wrestler, but the most prominent opinion of him amongst fans (myself included) is that he’s got a lot to offer the company as a tough midcard wrestler. However, as a main-event competitor, he’s always been quite underwhelming. So the idea was simple. If Sheamus wins the WWE title, then everyone will hate that, so when Roman Reigns wins the title from him, everyone will love it.

As cynical and shortsighted of a plan as it was, it absolutely worked. Although the match between the pair at 2015’s TLC event – where Sheamus retained the title – wasn’t all that great, the rematch the next night on Raw (featuring Vince McMahon as a special guest referee) went down an absolute treat as fans screamed their approval when Roman Reigns ended Sheamus’ run at the top.

While this title reign did technically serve its intended purpose, that purpose was an inherently flawed one that not only failed to give Sheamus any kind of longlasting credibility as a main event level competitor, but didn’t even create any longlasting goodwill for Roman Reigns. By the time 2016 rolled around, the audience was back to their Roman loathing ways, booing him out of every arena he entered.

Everything about this title reign was an absolute failure and a complete waste of the briefcase.