Wrestlemania 37: Every Match Ranked

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

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

14 – Randy Orton def. The Fiend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Case in point…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 – Kevin Owens def. Sami Zayn

As expected, these two put on a great match.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 – Cesaro def. Seth Rollins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Elimination Chamber 2021: Predictions & Analysis

Well, that PPV cycle sure went quick. The Royal Rumble feels like it was just a week ago, and I could’ve sworn this PPV was scheduled for next weekend, but that shows what I know, I guess. The bright side is that this time of year always has me excited for wrestling shows, even if the TV isn’t the best.

This show is a bit of an interesting one because it’s pretty much entirely wheel spinning. Usually, Elimination Chamber will at least set the stage for a Wrestlemania match or two, but this one really has no bearing on the Mania card. I know both of the titles are up for grabs, but if you think either of them are going to change hands on Sunday, then you’re clearly new to wrestling. On top of that, no number 1 contenders are being decided; the only possibility is that Edge will come and confront the champion he wants to face at Wrestlemania, but even that already feels like a done deal.

That said, I really like the Elimination Chamber. It’s not WWE’s best gimmick match by a long shot, but I think (2020 notwithstanding) the past few years have produced a lot of really great chamber matches, and this year promises to add to that.

NOTE: About the Asuka vs Lacey Evans match. WWE still seems to be advertising it as happening, but if it’s true that Lacey is pregnant (which just about everywhere seems to be reporting she is) that match won’t be going ahead. I’m not sure what WWE are going to do about it, but given that I don’t think it’s taking place, I’m not going to predict it. I don’t know who WWE would put up as a replacement, it wouldn’t surprise me if they just didn’t bother, but either way, I think Asuka will still be champion by the end of the night.

Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) vs Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

Remember when the women’s tag division had actual tag teams to challenge the champs and not just some pairings thrown together on a whim? No, me neither, which is sort of the problem with the whole endeavour right now.

While it’s not been anything incredible, the build has been fairly enjoyable week-to-week, mostly thanks to the overall high quality of Smackdown so far this year. It’s not without problems, though, mainly how the build has focused around Bianca’s uneasy alliance with Banks and that Bianca is definitely going to challenge Sasha at Mania. Jax & Baszler have once again been kicked to the curb a bit in favour of the feuds involving the ‘bigger stars’.

That said, I’m hopeful this will be a good one. This should get a decent amount of time thanks to the lack of matches booked for this show, and three of the four women are among WWE’s best. I’d imagine WWE would be eager to showcase Bianca especially following her Rumble win.

I think it’s a pretty solid lock that Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler are going to retain. They may lose the titles only to get them back when Sasha & Bianca fall out, but they literally just did that with Charlotte, so I don’t see the point in doing it again. I think it’d be much better for Sasha & Bianca to fall out here, and we get going with their Wrestlemania build properly. I’m interested to see how that build goes because Bianca is 100% the face that everyone will be behind, but I don’t think it’d be a good idea to turn Banks heel again this soon. Hopefully, WWE will be smart enough to let Banks skirt the line between heel & face a bit, as she’s more than capable of doing it. Either way, having the women’s tag titles involved would just needlessly complicate things, so keep them on the champs for now.

Bobby Lashley(c) vs Keith Lee vs Riddle
(United States Championship)

This build has been messy as all hell.

Riddle’s been chasing Lashley for quite a while now, even running the gauntlet of The Hurt Business and fighting them off at every opportunity. So it seems really weird for Keith Lee to suddenly step in on his scene like this. I mean, sure, why shouldn’t he? And I love Keith Lee, so I’m not going to complain too much; it just seems like a real dick move to pull on Riddle. The Hurt Business has continued to be the best part of Raw the past couple of months, giving us some much needed entertaining promo segments on a Raw that is currently an absolute chore to get through every week.

I’m looking forward to the match, though. I wasn’t huge on Lashley for a while, but I’ve come around to him now he’s got a faction backing him up and just needs to rely on destroying fools. Riddle & Lee are both excellent, so I can only imagine the chemistry they’ll have in the ring. Additionally, the triple threat factor means that this match should be a lot of fun with a fast pace and high-impact action.

I can see the result going all three ways if I’m honest with you. Putting the belt on Keith Lee would be something I’m in favour of as he’s not been featured very well in recent months, but it might feel a bit out of nowhere for him to suddenly show up and win the title. Riddle winning the title is a possibility too, he’s been chasing The Hurt Business for ages now, and it’d seem a bit cruel for him to not get it here. Ultimately though, I’m going with Bobby Lashley. In a situation like this, picking the champ to retain is always a safe bet, and I think by keeping the belt on Lashley, the door is open for Lee to take the title in a singles match at Mania.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Randy Orton vs AJ Styles vs Sheamus vs Jeff Hardy vs Kofi Kingston
(WWE Championship)
(Elimination Chamber)

Generally, I’d go through each of the participants for a match like this and give my thoughts on their chances in the match, but there’s really only one outcome here.

In a clear example of the fact that WWE has no idea who Drew’s going to face at Mania, they’ve thrown this match together on a whim, and while it’s pointless, it will probably be very good. There’s the right mix of hard-hitters and high-flyers in this match, and I think we’ll get a lot of varied action as the thing progresses.

The only real problem here is that I don’t have all that much to say about it. The build’s been very short and okay, I guess; gauntlet matches are pretty fun. All that’s really left to talk about is the winner, and as I’ve already made obvious, I’m picking Drew McIntyre to retain. The dude just beat Goldberg clean, so there’s no way they’d have him suddenly drop the title to Jeff Hardy on a b-show PPV. Not to mention the fact that they’ve already put together the Wrestlemania promo package, which shows both Drew & Reigns holding their titles.

The only person I thought had any potential to take the title was Orton, but it’s clear that he’s going to be dealing with The Fiend at Mania, so that rules him out. Styles already lost his shot in December, and while they’re all former world champions, Sheamus, Hardy & Kingston have not been booked on a main-event level at all over the past year and don’t fit the title at the moment.

Kevin Owens vs Jey Uso vs Daniel Bryan vs King Corbin vs Sami Zayn vs Cesaro
(Elimination Chamber)

AND

Roman Reigns(c) vs The Winner of the Elimination Chamber Match
(Universal Championship)

This is the chamber match that I’m far more excited to see because – with one exception – I adore all of the talent involved, and it’s sure to be a blinder of a match. What’s better is the result of this one isn’t super obvious, so I can go through it person by person.

King Corbin – While Corbin is one of those people that could be catapulted into the main event out of nowhere at any time, it’s not going to happen here. He’s been booked like a chump in the latter half of the past year, and with Reigns on top, there’s no room for another main-event heel.

Sami Zayn –Zayn’s work of late has been fantastic, even if I don’t think it’s going to lead anywhere. The conspiracy theory stuff allows Zayn to get the best out of himself and do wonderfully entertaining things like handcuffing himself to barricade for half of Smackdown. That said, I don’t think it’s going to lead to a real main-event push, and, as I said before, while Reigns is the champion, no other heel is getting a look in.

Jey Uso – Jey’s story with Roman was one of WWE’s better stories of 2020, but it feels like it’s reached a status quo for now, at least until Jimmy returns from injury. While it would be entertaining to watch, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained from Uso fighting Reigns again. They could do a finger-poke of doom thing, but that would make everyone very angry, so no.

Daniel Bryan – Now we’re getting into the people I think might win. Bryan & Reigns started building a feud around November, but it got dropped out of nowhere, and they never returned to it. It seemed like it was going to be the Mania match, but now Edge has won the Rumble, and it seems pretty likely he’s going to fight Roman at Mania instead. Bryan would be a good strong win for Reigns, and it’d be perfect for the underdog story of having to go through a Chamber match before fighting Reigns.

I just don’t quite see it. If it’s going to lead to a Mania match (which it might), then I’d be in favour of it, but I don’t think that’s the direction WWE want to go, and given how big of a match Reigns vs Bryan is, I don’t think they’d give it away on a b-show like this.

Cesaro – One of the most surprising aspects of 2021 so far is that fact that Cesaro has actually been getting somewhat of a sustained singles pushed. He’s beaten Daniel Bryan clean twice now, and word was he was originally going to get the ironman spot in that gauntlet match in January. As such, I think he’s in with a shout of getting this one-and-done shot the title on this show. Having Cesaro gut it out in the Chamber, put on an exciting but ultimately unsuccessful showing against might be a brilliant way to build him up even further.

Kevin Owens – The final leading contender here, and this would definitely make the most narrative sense. Owens has addressed the fact that he was totally screwed out of the win at the Rumble, and you’d think that would mean there’s still a loose thread to pull on here. On top of that, Owens has all the momentum in the world, and it would be a shame to see it dropped all of a sudden.

I’m struggling to make my pick here. As I said, Owens seems like the obvious choice, but I’m not so sure. While there is that loose thread to pull on, I just don’t see what can be gained from Reigns beating Owens again. It may be a great performance for Owens, but I don’t think it’ll benefit him any more than the Last Man Standing match did, and Reigns doesn’t look all that great beating a guy he’s already beat twice before, even if it was dirty.

I’ve decided I’m going to go with what I want to happen instead, and I’m picking Cesaro to win the Chamber match. It might not lead to anything huge for the guy, but I think it could be an extremely entertaining story and let Cesaro show that he can hang in the main event, like so many of us have known for years. He’s not going to win, though, and come the end of the night, Roman Reigns will still be Universal Champion.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you think is going to happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Monday for my review of the show!

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!