WWE Summerslam 2020: Predictions & Analysis

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

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

Let’s break down the matches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dominik Mysterio vs Seth Rollins
(Street Fight)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

AND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Extreme Rules 2020: Predictions & Analysis

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

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

Anyway, let’s break down the matches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rey Mysterio vs Seth Rollins
(Eye for an Eye)

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

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

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

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

Braun Strowman vs Bray Wyatt
(Wyatt Swamp Fight)

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

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

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

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

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

Now here’s some good stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Backlash 2020: Every Match Ranked

In the annals of history, when we look back on the year that was 2020, Backlash will undoubtedly be proclaimed to be…a show, that happened.

I don’t know what else to say during this bit, I didn’t enjoy this show. There wasn’t any match that I particularly hated, but I only truly enjoyed one of them, and even that match I’ve got a healthy dose of complaints about. I don’t think it helps that we’ve had three major shows in less than a month, so I’m just quite fatigued when it comes to wrestling. Maybe I would’ve liked this show more if I’d seen it with greater distance from AEW & NXT’s shows, but as it stands, I’m just not interested in main-roster WWE right now.

Still, I watched the show, so I must review it, here are my rankings of the matches.

UNRANKED – The Street Profits & The Viking Raiders go on an adventure

I don’t usually cover this kind of stuff since it wasn’t actually a match. However, given that it was far and away, the best thing on the show…and was MAD…I feel like I have to.

Much like many of WWE’s other pre-taped ‘cinematic’ segments that have aired in recent months, there was far too much going on here to cover it all, but I thought it was a lot of fun. For context, I’ve hated the Raiders/Profits segments on Raw up until this point. I thought they fell onto the wrong side of goofy, made the Raw tag titles look like a joke and wasted some of the best talents currently on Raw. The thing is when you look at this segment, that is all still true, however, looking at it in a bubble, it was a well-written comedy segment that I enjoyed.

The weird flashbacks Ivar kept having, the bowling ball in the nuts, the telekinetic turkey leg…it was so stupid I couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy myself. It even told it’s own little story, where the violence between the two teams just kept escalating to the point where they realised there wasn’t even any point in them fighting anymore. Then they had one of their Japanese wrestlers show up with a bunch of ninjas…which I’ll admit, is a bit problematic, but they overplayed the stereotype so hard that it just about came across as satire.

Personally, I hope the payoff to all this is that they realise they all just really enjoy hanging out and playing games against each other. They never have a tag title match and just become friends who hang out and do stupid stuff.

7 – Asuka(c) vs Nia Jax ended in a Double Countout
(Raw Women’s Championship)

This means we get to see this match again…oh joy…

There was nothing to enjoy here. Asuka getting all over Nia as soon as the bell rung was a nice way to open things, but it quickly lost all momentum once Nia got on offence. I wish I could like Nia as a wrestler, I really do, but nothing she does excites me at all. It’s like someone took the worst parts of Big Show & Kane’s styles and rolled them into a single wrestler.

Unfortunately, Asuka didn’t play well off of Nia either. There was potential in the way that Asuka was constantly locking Nia into holds to try and find some chinks in the armour, but it didn’t last long enough or make enough of an impact to be compelling. As for the finish, I’d love to sit here and be outraged about it, but it’s not the first time WWE has done a finish like this, and it absolutely won’t be the last. All it really does is make me think of the other promotions and how they would handle a situation like this a lot better than WWE always seem to.

6 – Braun Strowman(c) def. The Miz & John Morrison
(Universal Championship)
(2 on 1 Handicap Match)

So, have you ever seen a handicap match before? Because if you have, then you’ve seen this match.

I really don’t have much to add to this, because it really was the most bog-standard, paint-by-numbers handicap match you’ve ever seen. Strowman started out looking strong and shrugging off both guys, then the heels used their numbers advantage to wear Strowman down for a bit. Then Strowman made a comeback and murdered them both, winning the match while barely breaking a sweat.

This whole feud has been so incredibly pointless. It’s horrible that this is the best the writers could come up with for Strowman’s first world title run. It’s not over yet, though, so I hope we can get something more interesting in the coming months.

5 – Apollo Crews(c) def. Andrade
(United States Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

Again, what is there to say? This was a pre-show match that was exactly how you’d expect a pre-show match to go.

It was ok, there was nothing terrible about it, but there wasn’t anything interesting either. On any other show, I’d have ranked this dead-last, but welcome to Backlash.

Owen’s involvement was a bit weird. I find it quite upsetting that Seth Rollins – who lost at Wrestlemania – got a world title shot, while Kevin Owens – who won at Wrestlemania – gets to be the least important person in a US title feud between Andrade & Apollo Crews. It incredibly strange booking, but if the end result is getting that title onto Owens so it can actually be treated like a big deal again, then I’m ok with it.

4 – Sheamus def. Jeff Hardy

Given that the Extreme Rules logo this year is in Jeff Hardy’s colours, I don’t this feud is over.

This was a decent match. It didn’t surpass my expectations, but I still came away from it feeling relatively satisfied by what I saw. I think the way they played the roles in the match was the right way to go about it, with Sheamus controlling the pace, for the most part, forcing Hardy having to play a more reactionary role. It suffered a bit purely because I’m not very interested in the story. Each to their own tastes, but watching a man throw his own pee in another man’s face isn’t exactly the kind of thing I find compelling.

I’m not surprised that Sheamus won; however, I am surprised that he won clean. I don’t know if they’re going to try to use this to make a point about Hardy’s condition, but if the feud is going to continue (which it really looks like it is), then I’m not sure Sheamus winning clean was the best way to serve that. The problem now is that, if Hardy continues to go after Sheamus, then it just looks like he’s a sore loser, while if Sheamus keeps ragging on Hardy, then it feels hollow because he’s already beaten him, there’s nothing left to prove.

We’ll just have to wait and see, but it was a bit of confusion decision.

3 – Bayley & Sasha Banks(c) def. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross & The IIconics
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

A fun match that ended way too soon.

Why is Kayla so determined to drive a wedge between Bayley & Sasha? Every time the two of them have a match, Kayla comes up to them and asks “Are you two gonna fight yet, or what?” Given that all the other teases that tensions between them have been so subtle, this one is a really odd thing to keep shoving in the audience’s face.

WWE finally decided they’re actually going to do a proper triple threat tag match this time, with one person from each team legal at once; none of this ‘only two legal competitors allowed’ nonsense they’ve been pushing for years. Low and behold, it made for a much better match. It never felt like this match was just ‘going through the motions’, there was always a point every action, and the pace remained consistently exciting throughout.

The only problem, as I mentioned in the opening sentence, it was way too short. Just as I felt like it was about to kick into that higher gear and get really fun, Sasha swooped in and got the win and, just like that, it was over. While I did enjoy what I’d seen up until that point, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get more.

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

Well, I’ll be damned, a match that surpassed my expectations. Admittedly, my expectations didn’t start very high, but they were still surpassed.

This was a good culmination of the new brutal attitude that Lashley has gained over the past month and actually did a damn-good job of making both guys look pretty strong. Lashley displayed his new killer-instinct by jumping Drew with the Full-Nelson before the bell, which started the whole thing off with a head full of steam. It did slow down a bit as the match progressed, but there was a decent little story being told of Drew fighting up from underneath and coming out of it looking fantastic.

What drags this match down is the dumb finish. I get that you might want to protect Lashley somewhat after this fresh heel-turn, but the last thing we needed to see here was Lana. She came out and started telling the referee that he cheated…which isn’t how ANYTHING works. Does Lana think the referee is a part of the match? Is that the story they’re trying to tell here? That Lana just doesn’t understand how wrestling works at all?

Hopefully Drew will move on to a new opponent now and he can be separated for the absolute clusterfuck that’s about to go down between Lashley, Lana & MVP.

1 – Randy Orton def. Edge

So…the general consensus online is that this was a fantastic match and has ‘match of the year’ potential and I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. I’ve watched this match twice now to see if there was something I missed the first time. Admittedly, I did like it better the second time, but I still don’t think it was anything special.

I have ranked it as the second-best match on the show, but honestly, that’s more of a statement on how lacklustre Backlash was than anything else. I liked parts of this match, but I have so many problems with it too.

The best bit was easily the opening 15-minutes or so (while we’re on the topic, 45 minutes was too damn long for this thing). There was a semblance of a story being told with Edge having a crisis of confidence and Randy wrestling circles around Edge. It even felt like it was building really nicely to something with how Edge started to make a bit of comeback and was finding his groove.

Then, around the middle of the match, the pace totally died. The two men moved into a bunch of holds that weren’t quite rest-holds but also weren’t overly impressive. I get what they were going for as they were vying for position and trying to get one over on each other, at first I even bought into it and was feeling the rhythm of it. Then it just went on…and on…and on, and by the time they finally started doing moves again, I’d lost interest.

Speaking of moves. Spamming a bunch of finishers isn’t entertaining wrestling, and that’s what the final 10 minutes of this match were (save for the roll-up spot). I know that in places like NJPW and AEW, there is a lot of finishers and a lot of kickouts, but there’s a distinct difference in the way that they do them. Compare the endless finisher kickouts in a match like this, to those in Okada vs Omega (any of them), and you’ll see what I mean. In NJPW, each finisher holds weight and substance, each one has had a mini-build to it within the match, there is a whole bunch of other exciting and impactful moves in between each one. It makes each kickout feel exciting. Then, look at Orton vs Edge, where they would do a big move, kickout of it, lay around selling for a minute and then they moved right on to the next big move.

One of those styles tells a compelling story that keeps the pace of the match ticking over. The other style is boring as piss, kills the pace of a match dead and does nothing to tell a story. Again, I understand what they were going for with them digging into their own personal history and pull out a bunch of those moves…but it wasn’t well-executed.

I understand that I’m alone in having a negative view of this match and I really tried to appreciate this match for what it was, but this just wasn’t me. It was a style of wrestling that I’ve never liked, and I wasn’t invested enough in the story going in to overlook it and enjoy it for what it was.

…and that was the best match that happened at Backlash.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, feel free to tell me all about my wrong opinions, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here next week, where I’ll be running down some of the best ever competitive Pokemon!

WWE Backlash 2020: Predictions & Analysis

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

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

Jeff Hardy vs Sheamus

…and this isn’t it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edge vs Randy Orton

Fuck this.

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

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

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

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