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!

NXT Takeover: In Your House: Every Match Ranked

NXT Takeover had been and gone yet again and…well it wasn’t the best Takeover ever, was it? Admittedly, even a sub-par Takeover is still a damn good show, but I don’t think I’ll be alone in calling it the worst Takeover of the past few years. I feel Takeovers are the kind of shows that depend on a crowd for a lot of their heat, more so than other shows. There are a couple of matches that I’ll discuss in just a moment, where I think the performances were noticeably lesser than they usually would be in front of a full live audience.

That said, there was still plenty to enjoy, including what might be my favourite WWE match of the year so far. Let’s break it down, shall we?

6 – Mia Yim & Tegan Nox & Shotzi Blackheart def. Candice LaRae & Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez

This match didn’t feel like a Takeover match in the slightest.

As I said in my predictions, unless it’s a fight between factions and 6-person tag match isn’t something that should be featured on a PPV (or equivalent). It just doesn’t feel like that big of a deal. It’s good that these women got a chance to show their stuff, but given how many people were involved, everyone was fighting to be seen. NXT touted that their women’s division was “the deepest in the world” several times last night, a valid claim, but it’s entirely pointless if they don’t work out a good way to feature it on their biggest shows. Takeovers have always been about the biggest feuds, and most important matches and NXT needs to start building to more than one big women’s match for each show.

The action in the match was alright, but I didn’t think it was anything overly exciting. I liked how big of a role Shotzi Blackheart got to play in the match. With her being the newest star in the match, I was happy to see her getting show her stuff notably more than anyone else involved. Nox and Kai, unfortunately, feel like they’ve lost the heat from their feud a bit now. Whenever they were together in the ring, the intensity that I felt during their initial feud was seemingly gone. That might just be a factor of all the women involved with the match, so I hope it comes back when this splits into singles’ feuds again.

5 – Adam Cole(c) def. Velveteen Dream
(NXT Championship)
(Backlot Brawl)

It’s official, NXT just doesn’t understand what made all the other on-location matches great.

First thing’s first, the look of this match was absolutely horrible. The way they’d rigged up the lighting with the car headlights and massive spotlights meant that every shot they were in it was much too bright, with glare on the lenses making it hard to follow what was going on. Then, whenever they went outside of those lights, it was way too dark, so it was still hard to follow the action. This wasn’t helped by the hyperactive camerawork. Nevermind the fact that they cut to a different shot roughly every five seconds, but every shot was ridiculously shaky and even out of focus at some points during the match. I can understand what they were going for with the chaotic nature of the match, but it just made it difficult to watch.

Even if there wasn’t a problem with the cameras, I didn’t care much for the action. It was your standard WWE ‘hardcore’ match, which meant a lot of slowly meandering around the place, occasionally stopping to hit each other with something. Dream didn’t feel like he was playing the same character tonight either. I don’t mind him adding a more intense facet to things, but Dream is a character with a VERY distinct style, and it didn’t feel like he stayed true to it last night.

As much as I harped on about how Dream had to win in my predictions, I don’t think Cole retaining is the end of the world. It’s undeniable how amazing of a champion Cole has been, my only worry is that we’re very close to running out of challengers. I assume that Dexter Lumis is next in line for a title shot, given his involvement in this match, so I imagine he’ll be the one to finally slay the king, but if he doesn’t, then we could be at risk of this getting stale.

4 – Keith Lee(c) vs Johnny Gargano
(North American Championship)

This is the match that I think suffered the most from now crowd.

Gargano is the type of character that draws a great deal of the drama and story of his matches from the crowd. This regularly makes for some excellent matches, but now he’s taken his character in a new direction, and one of the critical tools in his arsenal is suddenly gone. I don’t think Gargano suited the slower, more methodical heelish style very well at all. Especially when he’s going up against a guy like Keith Lee, I don’t have any interest in seeing him ‘wear down’ a limb. I wouldn’t call the match boring at any point; however, it didn’t feel like it ever kicked into a higher gear that makes Takeover matches amazing.

There were a couple of points in the match where it looked like things were about to ramp up and get great, but they never did in the end. I praise Gargano for experimenting with his style, but this was a match where he was undoubtedly the underdog. I think the match could’ve worked a lot better if Gargano had started off by manoeuvring circles around Lee, only for Lee to have to try and slow Gargano down or match-pace with him. That way Gargano could’ve continued to wrestle his more fast-paced, exciting style without screwing up the face/heel story the match was trying to tell.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Even though I don’t think Gargano was at his best last night, he was still very good and was able to play off of Lee’s swagger and style to significant effect. I think he showed signs of the effective heel character he could become if he goes down the route Seth Rollins did in 2014/15. I’m not entirely sure where his character goes from this point, but I remain optimistic that Gargano can learn from this match and create something great for next time.

3 – Finn Balor def. Damian Priest

Balor has seemed so much more comfortable since coming back to NXT. I’ve not loved his promos where he’s been talking like someone who read the Wrestling Observer once and thinks they know it all, but in the ring, he appears to be back in his element.

This match didn’t blow me away, but it was definitely an enjoyable bout. The styles of these two meshed well, and I think they had some really nice chemistry. The element of the steel stairs constantly being a factor in the match was a nice way to tell a simple story and it helped break up the big sections where Priest would be slowly picking Balor apart. Balor was able to switch back to a face style while maintaining the more hard-hitting feel he gained since arriving back in NXT. It feels like Balor is really relishing in the freedom the black & gold brand has given him.

This didn’t feel like the star-making match I feel like it was designed as for Priest though. I do think he came away from this with his stock in NXT raised, but not nearly as much as it should’ve been. I’d be curious to know what the explanation is behind having Balor winning. I guess we’ll see if it was worth it depending on what he does next, but I still think this should’ve gone to Priest. Looking good in defeat absolutely helps him build himself up, but looking good in victory would’ve done it so much more.

2 – Karrion Kross def. Tommaso Ciampa

This is what a star-making performance is supposed to look like.

This wasn’t a long one, but it didn’t need to be. It had a job to do, so it got in, did it and got out, sometimes that’s all you need. It got a bit of everything in there too. The opening had lots of intensity to it as both men fought for control and one Kross got a handle on things, you got the feeling that it was just a matter of time until Ciampa was finished. I hope they find a way to play on this a bit more in the coming months because there’s the potential for a really good story of Ciampa having to look inwards to see how he was so quickly dispatched of by Kross.

It wasn’t just a glorified squash match though, because there were a couple of fun back-and-forth sections. Ciampa’s last comeback spot especially got my blood pumping with how freakishly fast he seemed to be able to execute something. These arguably helped Kross look even better than if it was a straight-up squash match because now it feels like his victory was more hard-fought than it otherwise would’ve been. It wasn’t as easy as all his other wins so far, he actually had to work for it. More importantly, we saw that when he does attempt to work for it, very few will be able to stand in his way.

This was a great way to establish a new feature player in the men’s division, and right now, it feels like a championship reign for Kross is very much a matter of ‘when’ instead of ‘if’.

1 – Io Shirai def. Charlotte Flair(c) & Rhea Ripley
(NXT Women’s Championship)

Match of the year, I’ll call that right now. I loved this match.

As I touched on in my predictions, all three women here have a firm grasp of their characters and exactly what their motivations are going into this match. There was so much heat going into this thing, and they absolutely made use of all of it. Contrary to how I thought the match would go, all three women were involved in pretty much all of the action. There were very few moments where one woman petered out of the ring but even when they did, it wasn’t for very long. It meant that the pace of this one could move at a fever-pitch from start to finish, which is the kind of match that I absolutely love.

All of the dynamics between the women got played upon here. I really got the sense that Rhea was just out for revenge on Charlotte and paid much less mind to Io, which eventually cost her the title. Charlotte, meanwhile, was at her heelish best, doing everything in her power to get Io and Rhea to fight each other and anytime there was an opening for Charlotte to get the advantage, she pounced right on it. Then you had Io who was fighting desperately and viciously the whole way through. She gave the impression of someone who didn’t care who she was fighting, she was going to do everything she could to get the title.

There were so many fantastic moments that to list them all would do a disservice to this incredible match. My personal favourite moment was when Charlotte and Rhea decided they were just going to spend two minutes absolutely wailing on each other with some really stiff looking punches and kicks. At first, I genuinely thought that tempers were flaring between the two women, but it eventually became clear that they were trying something different to tell the story of how much they hated each other; it definitely worked.

In the end, the night belonged to Io Shirai though and I’m thrilled that things turned out this way. I initially thought she didn’t have a place in this story, but she instead became a vital part of it, and now she’s finally got the championship. Hopefully, Charlotte sticks around in NXT long enough to have a one on one rematch at the next Takeover because that will undoubtedly be another top-tier match. Even if she doesn’t, the NXT women’s division has so many spectacular wrestlers in it right now, that I don’t think Io will be hard-pressed to find good challengers anytime soon.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this review. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back this time on Saturday, where the wrestling just doesn’t stop! As I’ll be giving you my predictions for Backlash.

NXT Takeover: In Your House: Predictions & Analysis

AEW has shot their shot, now it’s time for NXT to fire back. This should be a loaded one.

Like always, looking at the card for this Takeover has me very excited. I honestly think that NXT had suffered significantly more than Raw, Smackdown or AEW since we’ve been forced into empty arena shows. So much of NXT relies on the performers at Full Sail feeding off one of the most dedicated crowds in modern wrestling and it feels like everyone’s performance has been lacking something since the fans were forced out. Of course, this is happening all across wrestling right now, but for some reason, the issue really stands out to me when I watch NXT.

That said, all of these matches have ‘match of the year’ potential as far as I’m concerned, so I sincerely hope this show blows me away like almost every Takeover from the past few years has.

Mia Yim & Tegan Nox & Shotzi Blackheart vs Candice LaRae & Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez

I mean, it’s good that the women’s division is finally getting more representation on Takeovers than just the one title match but…was this really the best way to go about it? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’ll be an entertaining match but, unless it’s a fight between duelling factions, 6-person tag matches always feel really unimportant.

As for the competitors, I like them, but I can’t see how this will do much in benefitting any of their stories. I know the Yim vs LaRae feud is still pretty fresh right now, and I would’ve preferred a one on one match between these two rather than a fairly pointless match that just gets everybody involved for no real reason. Nox and Kai remain firmly opposed, but after their match in January, the shine has come off the apple somewhat in regards to their feuds, and I don’t really fancy seeing it again. Blackheart, on the other hand, is a wrestler that I can’t get enough of, so more of her, please.

As for picking a winner, it’s pretty tricky purely because it’s such an unimportant match. It’s not like anything significant will be gained for the victors. It probably won’t even be mentioned on Wednesday. I’m going with Mia Yim & Tegan Nox & Shotzi Blackheart, purely to balance out the face/heel wins that I’ve predicted throughout the other matches.

Finn Balor vs Damian Priest

While it’s impossible to deny that Finn Balor has been given a fantastic new lease on life since joining NXT, he seems to have ended up floating around without a purpose more than I’d have hoped. Until a few weeks ago, Balor had basically no role on the show. While I’m happy that he was finally given a solid storyline in the form of searching for his attacker, I’m not sure this match will do anything to help his position in NXT long-term.

Damian Priest, on the other hand, can pretty much only gain from having this match. He’s been teasing a slow and steady rise to the top for about 6-8 months now and just being a part of a big match with Balor should give him some form of a boost, even if it isn’t the biggest. I’m not sure what kind of match these two will produce either. I’ve always found Balor’s style hard to define, it’s a bit hard-hitting, but also quite technical and there’s a lot of high-flying stuff in there too. Meanwhile, Priest focuses more on the quick but brutal style of offence that people like Aleister Black use to great effect, so as long as these two guys click in the ring, we should be in for a treat.

As for a winner, I think it’s got to be Damian Priest. Unless there are plans for Balor to chase the NXT title anytime soon, then I don’t think there’s anything to be gained from Balor winning. Priest is still an up-and-comer with all the potential in the world to be a star and NXT are usually good at valuing their fresher stars over the established guys on the brand. Speaking of…

Tommaso Ciampa vs Karrion Kross

If you need any indication as to how much NXT are investing in Kross, just watch his entrance. It’s a veritable rock-opera that takes the mystique and cool factor of Aleister Black’s entrance and turns it up as high as it can possibly go. Like most people who show up in NXT, I know basically nothing about any of Kross’ previous work, but I’ve heard only good things, so I’m excited to see what he can do in his first big match.

Looking at Ciampa, his return has been pretty underwhelming all things considered. WarGames was a fantastic standout performance for him, but then he lost Cole in his big title match. That was fine, as it led to the final payoff (hopefully) to the Gargano/Ciampa series which was…actually quite boring. I know this divided opinion somewhat, and it was by no means an awful match, but it didn’t bring the excitement out of me like all of their previous encounters had.

I don’t think that’s going to change following this feud with Kross either. He’s said several times that he never wants to leave NXT (and will basically quit wrestling if anyone forces him to) so the only thing left for him to do for the foreseeable future is put over the younger guys. It will undoubtedly help NXT has a whole, that much is undeniable, but I think it could cause people to lose interest in Ciampa pretty quickly.

If I hadn’t already made it clear, I’m confident that Karrion Kross is going to walk away from this one as the winner. Unless someone unexpected costs Kross the match, then I see absolutely no value in Ciampa winning this one.

Keith Lee(c) vs Johnny Gargano
(North American Championship)

So Gargano vs Ciampa also gave us the brand new heel Gargano. Something that would’ve been awesome if it had happened a couple of years ago but now…eh. The promos he’s been cutting with LaRae have been alright. What he’s actually been saying has been good enough, although the presentation of it is a bit weird. The main problem I have with it is that he doesn’t feel like he’s doing anything unique as a heel. When he was skirting the line between the two early last year, it was incredibly compelling, but now it just feels like he’s doing heel things for generic heel reasons. Keith Lee, meanwhile, is still the greatest human ever. Everything about him is just absolutely lovable, and nothing will ever make me stop rooting for the guy.

These two have very different in-ring styles, but I think it they’ll mesh well in this match. Gargano’s style is one that I don’t think needs to be altered all that much now he’s a heel, it’ll still make for a fantastic match where he’s able to look like an arsehole the entire time. Conversely, Lee’s power and agility will work wonders against Gargano’s frantic style, so I think this is going to be an exciting match to watch.

This is probably the one I’m struggling the most with in terms of picking a winner. After beating Ciampa and taking his character in a new direction, it would make sense for Gargano to get the belt and do something interesting with it. However, Keith Lee is still wildly popular, and I don’t think we’re even close to seeing everything he can do with the title. It’s a tough call, but I’m leaning more towards Keith Lee retaining. As much as I think Gargano could benefit from holding the title, I don’t think it’s in any way essential, especially considering he’s already won it once before. Plus, I really like Keith Lee, you guys.

Adam Cole(c) vs Velveteen Dream
(NXT Championship)
(Backlot Brawl)

When it comes to feuds that have suffered thanks to the pandemic, I really think this one does it. Everything was primed and ready for Dream to take the title from Cole at Tampa Bay, it would’ve felt like a proper culmination of the story. Then, the real world intervened, and that match was put on hold. So now, the NXT creative team had to scramble to put together another two month’s worth of story to get us here. The promos have been pretty good, which is to be expected given who’s involved, but the elements like the first match ending in a DQ have been uninspired and hurt the story in the long run.

In regards to what this match will be like, I’m not optimistic if I’m being honest. Were we going to get a straight wrestling match then I’d be anticipating a match of the year, but it’s not. I’ve tried my best to avoid any spoilers, but from what I’ve heard, it’s going to be an arena with cars. I’m not sure if there’s going to be an actual ring in there, or if it’s going to be more like an Iron Circle match (I hope it’s the former). For the most part, these pre-taped matches have been awesome, but NXT has produced the only one I didn’t like so far (Gargano vs Ciampa), so I’m a bit worried my opinion of this one will come out similar.

Velveteen Dream has undoubtedly got to win this. I think Cole has been a spectacular champion, but his time is over now. Not only has he already beaten almost every face NXT has to offer, but this just feels like Dream’s time. I felt it when the Tampa Bay show was still a thing, and NXT isn’t the kind of place to change all of their plans on a whim. With the added stipulation that Dream will never get another shot at the title if he loses too, there’s nothing to be gained from him losing. The only possibility is if he’s joining Raw or Smackdown soon, but that would be a colossal mistake on WWE’s part. I desperately hope he gets to have a stellar run with the NXT title first.

Charlotte Flair(c) vs Rhea Ripley vs Io Shirai
(NXT Women’s Championship)

Now, this is something I can really get excited about.

I mentioned it in my Wrestlemania review, but Ripley vs Charlotte is easily my favourite pure-wrestling match of the year so far. Their chemistry in the ring is outstanding. Both women have such a firm grasp on their characters that it made for a brilliant watch. So this match looks to top the efforts of the Wrestlemania match by throwing in an element of chaos known as Io Shirai.

While Shayna Baszler was running strong over the NXT women’s division, Shirai felt like she had her legs cut out from under her. She was a brutal heel wrestler in a division that was already dominated by one of the best heel wrestlers in the business, so she felt somewhat out of place. Now, she has more of a chance to shine. While it’s true that she still has to contend with a strong heel champion, they’re distinctly different types of heels. Charlotte is the stuck-up “I’m superior to you” kind of heel, while Shirai is the “I’m going to try and kill you” kind of heel. All three of these characters are so perfectly conflicting, and it’s created some strong heat going into this match.

I imagine we’re going to get a little bit of everything in this match. It’s a triple threat, so it’s sure to have plenty of fast-paced action, but there’s also going to be room for slower, technical-based moments. I imagine Ripley and Charlotte will pick up right where they left off at Wrestlemania, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what Charlotte and Shirai can do together when given a proper platform to show their stuff.

I’m reasonably confident in picking Charlotte Flair to retain the title in this one. I think the end-goal of this feud will be for Ripley to get the title back, getting a huge win over Charlotte and making her even more of a star than she was before, but I think that has to happen in a one-on-one match. To solidify Charlotte’s reign as champion, she has to get a strong-looking win here, probably by pinning/submitting Io Shirai. As much as I’m not happy about Io being sacrificed to help boost the Flair/Ripley storyline, I think the eventual payoff will be worth it.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think is going to happen, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure to come back here on Monday, where I’ll be giving my review!

WWE Wrestlemania 36: Predictions & Analysis

Ok…ok. Let’s all just take a second to breathe…

We all nice and calm? Yes? Good. Now WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!

I mean, obviously, we know what’s going with the world as a whole, but as to what WWE are doing with this show…I honestly don’t have the words. First, there was talk of it getting postponed until June, then they announced they were going to do it from the Performance Center with no crowd, then suddenly it was a two-night event and now it turns out it’s technically already happened because they TAPED it last week and NOW there’s a whole bunch of confusion over who actually is and isn’t wrestling on the show. A bunch of reports came out about Asuka, The Miz & Cesaro all refusing to wrestle, but apparently, that might’ve been WWE leaking some fake info to throw people off the scent? I honestly have no idea what going on, but it sure it WILD.

The real kicker is that despite all of this craziness, I can’t help but feel incredibly underwhelmed.

I know, of course, it’s not WWE’s fault. No-one could’ve seen this coming and given the circumstances, there is honestly no “right way” to go about this. Running the show at the PC has its downsides, but rescheduling for June, when we don’t know if the current global crisis will be over by then is arguably just as bad of a decision. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m not nearly as excited for this show as I was a month ago and I honestly don’t think it’s going to be as good as it could’ve been. Again, not WWE’s fault in the slightest, but it’s still true.

Still, I’m not going to go in with the mindset of hating it, I’m going to do my best to give it a chance since, on paper, almost all of these matches promise great things. It’s true that the lack of a crowd will take something major away from the matches, but they could still be fun to watch.

So let’s get predicting.

OH and just to clarify, I haven’t seen any spoilers from last week’s tapings of this show because that would defeat the point.

Aleister Black vs Bobby Lashley

Oh goodie, it’s a “we need to fill two nights” kind of match.

It’s hard to be critical of a match like this because we’re all well aware that it wouldn’t be happening if the current situation wasn’t as it is; or at the very least, we would’ve got some build to it if the circumstances were normal.  I think it could be a pretty good match, Lashley can pretty selectively put on surprisingly good matches so if everything comes together between these two we might be spending Monday talking about how we were pleasantly surprised by this one.

Aleister Black has got to win though, for the same reasons he’s had to win every PPV match he’s had over the past year or so. I’m really hoping that this match ends the “match for the sake of giving Black a win” phase of his story and we actually give him something with a bit of meat to it next. Still, as far as high-profile wins go, I think beating Lashley is a good one.

Elias vs King Corbin

Ironically, this is a match I’m pretty certain would’ve happened regardless of the circumstances and yet I care so much less about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Elias and Corbin’s ok, but I’m just not buying the animosity between these two. The upside of Corbin’s character is that all he has to do is say a few mean words and you can understand the other guy wanting him to take him down a few notches, but I really think that both of these guys could’ve been doing something a little more interesting. Then again, we’re not getting another Corbin vs Reigns match, so I guess I should be happy about it.

I’m pretty certain King Corbin is going to win this one. He’s spent the past few months losing to Roman Reigns over and over again and it’s not like WWE have ever cared about building Elias up as a legitimate star. I imagine Elias will use Gronk’s help to get one over on Corbin after the bell, but I’m fully expecting the actual win to go to Corbin.

Otis vs Dolph Ziggler

I really didn’t think this would get this far, but good on everyone involved for making it work.

I’ve made it clear before that I’m not really digging Otis as a personality, I think he falls just on the wrong side of silly for me. That said, I’ve actually been relatively invested in this storyline, I think it’s been well-written for the most part and has served its purpose of building Heavy Machinery up and stopped them from being “just another tag team” which so many pairings are right now.

I’m not overly invested in the outcome of this one, but I think if they get the level of shenanigans right, then I’ll come away from it having an enjoyable time at the very least. I’ve got to go with Otis on this one though, otherwise, this whole thing will have been for nothing in my view, it’s not like Dolph Ziggler needs the win and after this whole saga, I think we all just want to see the happy ending where the guy gets the girl…and then the girl’s friend starts beating the shit out her.

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

I mean…ok?

I know there have been plenty of weird decisions made in the build to Wrestlemania this year, but this strikes me as one of the weirdest. At least when Andrade was in the match I could say it made some amount of sense and if he got injured then fair enough on finding a replacement but…why Austin Theory?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Theory, I think he’s a great wrestler, but out of everyone on the whole roster they could’ve picked to fill this role…why him? There’s no rationale behind this as far as I can tell and I don’t just mean in storyline, I mean in general. Admittedly, I certainly can’t think of anyone better to put in that spot, but it still feels weird.

Regardless of the strangeness surrounding it, I’m pretty confident this will be a good match. I have very little negative to say about any of these 4 men when it comes to their in-ring work and provided this gets a decent amount of time, this could be the sleeper hit of the weekend. The Street Profits should win this one because Theory & Garza winning would be stupid and they’d probably only hold the belts for about a week.

The Kabuki Warriors(c) vs Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

Alexa Bliss! I remember her.

I don’t mean to poke fun, but it really feels like Alexa has been away from the ring for ages now thanks to various injury scares and it’s almost like I’ve forgotten who she is to some extent. Her character is in this weird limbo where she hasn’t quite found her feet as a face yet outside of being Nikki Cross’ friend because everyone loves Nikki Cross.

Once again, I think the match will probably be a really fun one to watch, but I can’t say I’m all the invested in it. The Kabuki Warriors feel like they’ve been champions forever and I totally forgot that Bliss & Cross are actually who they won the titles from in the first place. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw some form of character surprise here, with someone turning on their partner, although I couldn’t pick who. I don’t have any reason or justification behind that claim other than a gut feeling though, so who knows?

Picking a winner is a bit of dilemma too because I don’t feel like there’s much else for Asuka & Kairi to do with the titles. Which is extra weird when you consider they haven’t been defended for ages because Asuka’s been tied up with Becky and Shayna since January. On the other hand, I also don’t see any value in Bliss & Cross winning the titles back from the women they originally lost them too. I might be overthinking this, but I’m going with Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross to win the titles since Bliss has only recently returned to the ring. In addition to this, I can see Asuka & Kairi getting much more prominent roles as singles competitors to take on Shayna throughout the summer. I also think that Alexa’s already done all there is to do as a single star (at least until there’s a new crop of female talent on Raw & Smackdown), so the tag belts feel like the right move for her & Nikki Cross right now.

The Miz & John Morrison(c) vs The Usos vs The New Day
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Ladder Match)

Now, THIS is the kind of thing that gives me life. Crowd or no crowd, crazy ladder spots always look cool…assuming this match really is happening…

I honestly don’t know what else to say about this match other than it’s got a 99.9% chance of being brilliant. We already know that The Usos & The New Day have some of the greatest in-ring chemistry currently in the WWE, so you pile on top of that ladders upon ladders AND a wonderfully heelish tag team for both of them to be trying to take down and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a brilliant match.

Not only will it be a brilliant watch, but I’m also pretty even when it comes to picking a winner. I don’t think it will be The New Day and they’re the former champions, but between the other two teams, I think it could go either way. On the one hand, Miz & Morrison are still pretty hot as a team right now and they haven’t had a long enough reign to really show their true potential for what they can do with the belts in the modern-day. Then on the other, you have The Usos, who feel like they’ve been inches away from taking back the Tag Titles ever since they returned late last year. In the end, I think I’m going to have to go with The Miz & John Morrison because I’m picking a lot of face wins and a lot of title changes on this show, so this is a nice heelish win (probably achieved through sneaky methods) to balance things out.

Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins

How long has this match been building now? Since about Survivor Series?

I’m not complaining too much, as I actually think Rollins’ heel turn and character change has been very entertaining for the past few months, but this feud has in some way been a part of Raw for so long that it’s going to feel weird without it. Assuming this is their only match…which it almost certainly won’t be, but that’s not important.

This match seems like a sure-fire hit to me. Both of these guys are brilliant wrestlers who seem to know each other quite well and I’m sure they’ll put on something fantastic to watch. I imagine they’ll be shenanigans galore involving AOP, Viking Raiders & Buddy Murphy in one way or another, but I don’t think it’ll take anything away from the match. Ultimately, the only thing that could potentially drag this match down is the same thing that could potentially ruin every match for the next two nights, which is the lack of a crowd.

This is one of the matches I’m least confident about picking a winner for. Both guys haven’t had many major wins recently and both arguably need them. I think Owens has the potential to be one of the biggest babyfaces in recent memory if his rise is booked well enough, but on the other hand, I think WWE are really high on Rollins’ new gimmick right now and I fully expect him to be the first challenger for the WWE title following Wrestlemania. I genuinely went back and forth on this one so much, this is actually the second time I’ve had to rewrite this section this week because of how much I’ve been flip-flopping. I’m going with Kevin Owens, I think he’s got the most to gain from this win and it’s not like it will hurt Seth all that much to lose after the year he’s had. Not to mention, with one member of AOP being out of action again, it seems like his group might be falling apart sooner than expected.

Sami Zayn(c) vs Daniel Bryan

Yes, yes, ALL the way yes, hook this match directly into my veins.

Since I first started watching NXT in late 2014, this is the match I’ve wanted to see. If you’ve ever read any of my wrestling-based posts before then you’ll know how much I adore Daniel Bryan as a competitor and I feel a very similar way about NXT Sami Zayn. Now, admittedly, this isn’t NXT Sami Zayn, but I still think it’s going to be just as great, if not better. I was very much against Zayn winning the title from Strowman last month, but seeing the direction his character has gone in since winning it and how truly insufferable he’s become, I take it all back, this is brilliant.

There’s so many moving parts in this story too. I had no idea that Bryan vs Gulak would lead to them forming this student/mentor relationship, where the veteran Daniel Bryan is the student, but by God is it entertaining. Then there is the additional factor of Nakamura & Cesaro as “The Artist’s Collective” which is as good of a name as I suppose and we’ve got ourselves 5 of the greatest in-ring technicians of this generation involved in this match.

I’m also quite in the air about the winner. Zayn’s barely had a cup of coffee with the belt and given how amazing of a character he’s been, it’d be a shame for him to lose the title so soon. Then again, that’s also what I thought about Strowman’s run with the title and look what happened there. Not to mention Daniel Bryan with the Intercontinental Championship will inevitably lead to another run similar to Seth Rollins’ time with the title a couple of years ago where every match he has with it is amazing. I’ve also realised that Bryan winning the IC title is pretty much the only logical way to progress this story Bryan has going on with Gulak right now. So for all of those reasons, I’m picking Daniel Bryan to win this one.

Bayley(c) vs Sasha Banks vs Lacey Evans vs Tamina vs Naomi
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
(Elimination Match)

I’ve not been a fan of how the Smackdown Women’s title has been treated so far this year. This match is just another mark that goes to show how bad of a job WWE has done of building the Smackdown women’s roster to a point where there’s a legitimate contender for Bayley come Wrestlemania; especially when she’s been tearing the house down as a character for well over 6 months now.

If this gets given a good amount of time (and with two nights, it bloody well better) I think this could be a lot of fun. Multi-wrestler matches are always able to keep up a much more frantic pace and the elimination stipulation adds for lots of story potential in order to keep everything ticking over nicely. Four out of five of these women are good-to-great wrestlers and I’m optimistic at what they could put together here given the opportunity.

When looking towards the result, that’s a little more tricky. I think there are two competitors with a pretty good chance and one more with an outside chance, those women being Bayley, Sasha Banks and Naomi respectively. Bayley vs Sasha is something we’ve all been begging to see for literally years, but since her big return last September, Sasha’s got no major wins at all. So here’s how I think the final three will go down:
– We’ll be left with Bayley, Sasha and Naomi
– Bayley & Sasha will try to double team Naomi, but she’ll break through it
– Some sort of situation will happen where Naomi lays Sasha out, but Bayley immediately shit-cans her out of the ring, leaving Bayley and an unconscious Sasha in the ring
– At which point, Bayley will pin Sasha to eliminate her, going on to use some sort of underhanded tactic to defeat Naomi too.

I’m picking Bayley to retain for a couple of reasons. One, because I think she’s doing fantastic as champion and I don’t want to see it end. Two, I’m predicting a lot of title changes on this show, especially with the major men’s and women’s titles and this is the only one I can see not changing hands. Finally, if a Sasha face turn is where this is leading, then I think it makes more sense for Sasha to be chasing the belt for the next couple of months instead of Bayley and Bayley deliberately eliminating Sasha from this match will give her some legitimate beef to build off of.

Rhea Ripley(c) vs Charlotte Flair
(NXT Women’s Championship)

When Charlotte Flair won the Royal Rumble, I (and I think many others) was a little worried that we were going to end up with Charlotte vs Bayley, a match we’ve seen plenty of times by now and don’t need to see again. However, rather uncharacteristically, when faced with two bad options, WWE managed to pick a third option that was better in literally every way and now Rhea Ripley gets to be the absolute star she deserves to be.

As much as I ragged on WWE for mishandling the Smackdown women’s division, the NXT & Raw women’s division have both been on fire for a long time now and that goes double for NXT. Over Survivor Series weekend, Ripley went from a fairly popular babyface to the single most over wrestler on the NXT roster and her title win against Baszler last December is easily one of my favourite WWE moments from last year.

I don’t think Ripley could’ve got a better opponent than Charlotte either. Not only is Charlotte a masterful technical wrestler, but her character and attitude are the polar opposite to everything Rhea Ripley is known for. It creates this perfect underdog story where the rough-around-the-edges personality of Ripley is attempting to prove that she’s on the level of arguably the most successful female wrestler of all time.

I’m picking Rhea Ripley to win here because she just HAS to. Not only is she still incredibly over with the NXT fanbase, but she’s riding such a strong wave of momentum that losing to Charlotte could be catastrophic to her career trajectory. On top of that, how weird would it be if Charlotte was NXT Women’s Champion? I know we’re supposed to see NXT as an equal third brand now, but I just can’t picture Charlotte holding that title and going up against wrestlers like Dakota Kai, Bianca Belair and Io Shirai on a monthly basis, as brilliant as that would probably be.

John Cena vs The Fiend Bray Wyatt
(Firefly Fun House Match)

Well, not a bad consolation prize for Wyatt, admittedly.

In a twist that I don’t think many saw coming, this feud has weirdly benefitted from the lack of a crowd these past few weeks. Wyatt’s always had a much more sinister delivery style, but the total silence of the room he’s in adds so much to that feeling that it genuinely felt extremely creepy. Cena’s done a brilliant job – like he always does – of building up the hype for this match too. He’s playing more into Wyatt’s promo style and presenting himself as a slightly edgier version of himself than normal too. The verbiage Cena’s been using recently as he runs down Wyatt is a little bit of pulling back the curtain, but I think it works for the story that they’re trying to tell.

I honestly don’t know what this match is going to be like, but I feel confident in saying that it’ll be a good one. Wyatt’s brought something unique to the ring every time he’s wrestled as The Fiend and Cena hasn’t put on a bad match since about 2015, so I’m confident they can pull this one-off.

The Fiend Bray Wyatt has to win here. I know I stressed that it was vital for Ripley to win, but I’d argue Wyatt getting the win over Cena is even more important. After being made to look like a total chump against Goldberg at Super ShowDown, The Fiend is on the cusp of going the way of every other unique wrestling character from the past decade. That is to say, absolutely nowhere for the rest of time. If Wyatt loses to Cena, then it’s over, not just for The Fiend but for Wyatt as a whole in the WWE, there’s simply nowhere else for him to go. HOWEVER, a win over Cena will be the perfect way for The Fiend to regain his credibility and it might just be enough for WWE to pull out of this nosedive they’ve taken the character on since February. So this one really needs to happen.

The Undertaker vs AJ Styles
(Boneyard Match)

I’m looking forward to this one, but I’m also a little bit wary of it.

When The Undertaker wrestles a match these days, it’s impossible to tell whether it’s going to be a total shitshow (see Taker vs Goldberg) or surprisingly great (see Taker & Roman vs Drew & Shane) but this is AJ Styles we’re talking about and he can carry just about anyone to a 4-star match. I mean come on, if he can carry Shane McMahon to a surprisingly great Wrestlemania match, he can do the same with The Undertaker, no problem. That said, the idea of a “Boneyard Match” seems a bit weird and one of those situations that’s only happening because of the circumstances. I remain optimistic that it’ll be something unique and interesting, but I’m mostly expecting it to be reminiscent of the House of Horrors; a nice little oddity, but not all that good.

The story for this one’s been a little bit weird as it’s mostly just consisted of Undertaker repeatedly laying AJ out and many people have been criticising this for making people not care about the match, but I wholly disagree, all I ever needed to be fully invested in this match was the sentence: “The Undertaker versus AJ Styles.”

I’d love to say AJ will get the win here, but there’s simply no way that’s happening. There’s no way AJ is going to be getting another world title reign anytime soon and let’s be honest, that’s the only other place to go after you beat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. The Undertaker is going to walk away with the win here following what was hopefully a really good 20-minute match.

Edge vs Randy Orton
(Last Man Standing)

Another match taking place on-location and I don’t exactly see how this one is going to work. Are they just going to have a ring in a different place from the PC? Or is this actually going to be taking place in someone’s backyard or something? At least with the Boneyard Match, I can picture the kind of atmosphere they’re going for, but this seems a little odd.

That said, it’s Edge’s big return match, so I’ve got very little to complain about. Just looking at that match graphic still fills me with excitement at Edge finally being able to return to the ring. As I didn’t become a wrestling fan until 2013, Edge was already retired by the time I start watching and it’s exciting to be a part of a brand-new match of his that actually stands a chance of being pretty good, unlike many other returning legend’s matches.

I know, it’s a weapons match, involving Randy Orton, which are usually my two biggest turn-offs when it comes to a big match, but there’s so much intensity between these two and such a brilliant story, that I honestly think this could be one hell of a match. Not to mention, since this is Edge’s big return match, I’d say odds are pretty good he’s going to go all-out to prove he’s still got it, which I’m sure he does. Edge is going to win this one because come on…how could he not?

Goldberg(c) vs Braun Strowman
(Universal Championship)

Welp, there goes everything I’d already written about this match.

Despite the question decisions leading up to it, I was actually quite looking forward to Goldberg vs Roman Reigns. I thought it had some real star power behind it and had an outside chance to be a really fun match, in a car-crash sort of way. However, circumstances change and Roman Reigns pulled out of the match due to health concerns(which is 100% a fair decision and people having a go at him for it are just being arseholes. The man had a leukaemia scare last year you heartless wankers).

So now, with about as much ceremony as you’d expect given the situation, Braun Strowman has been inserted in to fight Goldberg instead and…ok? Maybe if WWE were in a position to give us some build for this then I’d be more excited to see it, but as it stands, just seeing these two guys slapped next to each other and being told to fight doesn’t do anything for me. I could sit here and speculate over whether or not I think this will be a good match, but I don’t think much more effort will go into this than the usual Goldberg affair.

As for a winner, I guess it could be seen as up in the air a bit. Goldberg was very obviously supposed to lose the title here to Roman, so they might just go through with that, plus WWE love to “surprise” us with the last-minute replacement winning (although, since they do it almost every time, it’s not much of a surprise). There’s also the fact that I doubt Goldberg will actually be able to lift Strowman up for a Jackhammer, but they can work around that. Despite all that, I’m still going with Goldberg to retain. Once all this is over, Roman is winning that Universal title one way or another and we’ve already seen Roman vs Braun far too much for it to be exciting. There’s also the fact that WWE has shown zero evidence that it’s ever been willing to get behind Braun as a top guy (even though they should) they’ve had so many opportunities over the past three years and they’ve backed away from it every single time.

I certainly wouldn’t be upset if Braun won the title, but I’m still leaning towards Goldberg retaining at the right move here.

Becky Lynch(c) vs Shayna Baszler
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Ohhh, it’s so close I can almost taste it and it tasted wonderful.

This is easily the match I’m most excited in seeing on this show, mostly because of how long it’s been rumoured and how long we’ve had to wait to see if it was actually going to happen, but here we are and I’m hyped.

While many people have seen their interesting waning in Becky Lynch recently, I entirely disagree with that viewpoint. After dispatching of Asuka I think she’s taken a really interesting character turn of not taking any threat seriously and I love that. She’s spent a year on top of the Raw women’s division and has beaten literally everybody, why should she take this upstart seriously? If the match leans into this story as well, then I think we could be in for a brilliant story-heavy match, which tend to be the kinds of matches were Baszler really shines. Her heel-work is outstanding and in order for the audience to buy-in to her big time, she needs to let it flow in every way possible.

As you can probably tell from how much I’m gushing, I think this match is going to be great. Both of these women have already proven themselves time and time again to be two of the best women’s wrestlers on the planet – Shayna in NXT and Becky over the past 18 months on Raw & Smackdown – and seeing them clash like this is bound to be something special and is likely to launch the Raw women’s division into a new era.

As you’ve probably guessed, that “new era” entailed Shayna Baszler taking Becky down and walking away with her championship. Not only would a loss here be potentially devastating for Baszler’s career, knocking her down way too soon in the same way Asuka got knocked down at Wrestlemania 34, but also if Becky did retain, where would she go from here? There’s no-one left for her to fight, even if they did a shake-up, the only wrestler from Smackdown on her level that she hasn’t had a high-profile match with yet is Bayley and she’s tied up in a different storyline. We need fresh matchups and fresh faces at the top of the Raw women’s division to prevent it from stagnating this year and having Shayna at the helm will be the perfect way to do that. Not to mention it could lead to an Okada-Esque downward spiral for Becky that could make for a very interesting story.

Brock Lesnar(c) vs Drew Mcintyre
(WWE Championship)

I honestly didn’t think we were ever going to see this. For the past year, I’ve felt like WWE were never going to get behind Drew like they should. He kept taking really major losses to guys like Ricochet and Dolph Ziggler when he really needed to be winning on a regular basis. Then suddenly, 2020 began and it’s like something totally switched in the minds of creative and they decided Drew needed to be the biggest badass the world has ever seen. Beating Orton & Styles in a triple threat match, eliminating Lesnar from the Royal Rumble and then winning the damn thing after Roman seemed the sure-fire winner and suddenly he’s the most legit title contender Brock’s had in years.

For the longest time, I’d believed Drew was at his best when he was a heel who could destroy just about anyone, but since he’s turned face I’ve been so much more into him as a character because aside from being a wonderful man in real life, he’s transformed into this tough-guy, good-guy that gets what he wants seemingly through sheer force of will and I’m totally behind him now.

I think this will be a great match too. When Brock’s enjoying working with someone, he will go all-out to put on a good match with them, just look at his matches with Styles, Bryan & Rollins for proof of that and from what I’ve seen between these two interacting on TV and what Drew’s been saying in interviews, it’s clear Brock is loving working with Drew. I’m expecting this to be a mega-hoss fight in the best possible way, we’re going to see these two men try to destroy each other in just about every way possible and I think it’s going to be amazing.

I’m always hesitant to pick against Brock, especially considering Vince can lose interest in his pet-projects at any moment, but I’m sticking to my guns and saying Drew Mcintyre is coming away with the title here. Everything about the build to this match just feels like it’s his moment and I really hope it comes to fruition. I don’t often get patriotic, but if this Wrestlemania gives us the first-ever UK-born WWE Champion, it will have a place in my heart forever.

So there you have it! Those are my predictions for the hot-mess that will likely be Wrestlemania 36! Let me know what you think is going to happen, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. As this event is running over two nights, I’m going to wait until Monday and review both nights as a whole, ranking every match across both nights in one big article. So I hope to see you there!