WWE Royal Rumble 2021: Every Match Ranked

As I said on Saturday, the Royal Rumble this year was an event I was very excited about, and I’m thrilled to say that it didn’t disappoint. Once again, the stage looks set for Wrestlemania with some matchups that I’m looking forward to seeing on the horizon, hopefully with crowds to make it all the better.

Anyway, I just want to get talking about these matches, so here are my rankings.

6 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Goldberg
(WWE Championship)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that Drew retained, but not in the excited way that I should be, I’m just glad I didn’t have to experience to utter disappointment and anger that would’ve been Goldberg winning the title. I was invested in the match, but not for the right reasons.

As you’d expect, this match was the same as just about every match Goldberg has had since he returned. Both men hit some signature moves, there were a couple of surprising kickouts, then one last signature move put the nail in the coffin. As soon as Drew kicked out of the Jackhammer, I knew he was winning, and I just don’t think it’s all that fun to watch two men hit a bunch of finishers for two minutes before a pin.

As I said, happy for Drew, don’t care about the match.

5 – Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler def. Asuka & Charlotte Flair(c)
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

Talk about making Charlotte look strong in defeat…

What was the point in giving these two the titles? No-one’s come out of it looking good. Baszler & Jax won the titles back in the lamest fashion, needing THREE separate interferences to finally put Charlotte away. It perpetuates this idea that the fans have had for years that WWE treats Charlotte far better than the rest of their women’s roster. Meanwhile, Asuka was cast entirely aside to tell this story, despite being Raw’s top champion in the women’s division.

The match was fine, but given that Baszler, Jax & Flair were all going to be heavily featured in the Rumble, it was clear they were saving the bulk of their energy. This whole situation just makes me feel bad for Asuka. She was one of the best things going in the entire company during spring & summer of 2020, and since autumn, she’s been treated like she’s nothing. It boggles my mind, and I can only pray that she gets something better heading into Wrestlemania, and doesn’t have to drop the title to Charlotte beforehand…

4 – Sasha Banks(c) def. Carmella
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

I really don’t have anything to say about this one, it was a decent match with an obvious outcome. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, but given that they had a very similar, and much better match last month, I didn’t really care.

3 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Kevin Owens
(Universal Championship)
(Last Man Standing)

I was cautiously optimistic about this one in my predictions. The feud had been built damn-near perfectly over the past month, and it had all the promise in the world. However, it was also a Last Man Standing match, which are often very slow, sometimes dull affairs. Thankfully, this match mostly avoided that.

The opening section wasn’t super engaging, but there was at least the novelty of seeing the two men fighting between the screens of the Thunderdome, it was a unique visual. The match also didn’t hold off on going for the big spots straight away, and I thought this might’ve been a short one when Reigns threw Owens off the stands into the tables. Thankfully, the match continued to build for there, and I really got into it. Reigns hitting Owens with a golf cart was a shocking moment, and it was framed perfectly so that you didn’t see it coming until the last second.

The whole section backstage was a great section of Owens getting his own back after Reigns schooled him throughout the match’s early section. The forklift spot was another great one and was the second time the match tricked me into thinking it was the finish. As things moved back into the arena, the excitement continued to build, and yet another false-finish with the spear through the barricade kept me gripped into the finish.

The best false-finish was the handcuffs, and I genuinely thought Owens was about to win the title, but the ref bump put paid to that. Then…there was the botch with the handcuffs. A new ref came down as Heyman tried to unlock Reigns’ handcuffs, but Heyman just couldn’t do it, so the new ref got to a count of about 7, but had to stop because Roman was still cuffed and couldn’t get up. It did ruin the finish’s pace, but it was also quite funny, so it didn’t detract from my enjoyment as much as it probably should’ve.

While I was hoping Owens would win, Reigns’ retaining is almost certainly the right move, I quite like how strong they’re presenting his Guillotine chokehold, and given what he’d already gone through, it makes total sense that Owens’ body would give up the ghost by that point. A really good match and a strong retention for the champ.

2 – Edge won the Men’s Royal Rumble

For the past few years, I’ve noticed that the Rumbles don’t have filler entrants anymore, and I think that has increased the overall quality of the matches significantly. You look at Rumbles like 2013 & 2014, and so many of the entrants are people like 3MB, Los Matadores and complete jobbers who have no chance in hell of winning or doing anything of interest. That’s just not the case anymore, WWE’s talent roster is deep that everyone who comes in is a great wrestler who can leave an impact on the match and I think that’s why every Rumble since about 2016/2017 has been a lot of fun to watch (even if we hated the winner).

The match set forth its primary story straight away and it really worked. The heels filling the ring and beating down Edge put the odds against him straight away (as if coming out #1 wasn’t enough), and it made that comeback story feel all the sweeter. The first half of the Rumble wasn’t super eventful after the Edge/Orton stuff died down, but there were enjoyable spots and a healthy dose of surprises as the ring built up with competitors. Carlito is always a welcome sight, and Damian Priest made one hell of an impact, which I hope translates to being featured on the main roster from now on.

The second half was where things really heated up, and there was action all over. Riddle got to last a surprisingly long time in the match and him & Bryan coming to blows every now and then was great fun to watch. Lashley squaring off with Big E was something I got far more into that I was expecting to, and I would quite like to see a full-length match between the two of them now. Christian showing up was absolutely perfect, and nothing will make my heart swell more than Edge & Christian hugging as active wrestlers once again.

I went into this not too keen on Edge winning the thing, as I thought Daniel Bryan winning would’ve been a far better story, but by the time Edge was pointing at the sign, I was all-in on seeing him fight for a title at Mania. I’m not sure which champ he’s going to fight either. Roman would make more sense from a heel/face perspective, but also, there’s not really anyone else on Raw for Drew to fight at Mania. There’s even the remote possibility that Orton somehow gets the title and we get Edge vs Orton 3 at Mania instead.

Either way, this was a thoroughly enjoyable Rumble with a satisfying conclusion, and I am hyped for Wrestlemania this year.

1 – Bianca Belair won the Women’s Royal Rumble

This was one of the best Royal Rumble matches of all time. Not quite the best, there is a small handful I think are better, but not many.

The pacing on this was unbelievably good, almost in spite of itself. For the first 14 entrants (almost half the match) there was only 1 elimination, but it made the first half feel so lively. Bayley, Naomi & Bianca carried the bulk of the action as outstanding wrestlers POURED into the ring like you wouldn’t believe; Toni Storm, Shotzi Blackheart & Shayna Baszler, just to name a few. The first half of this Rumble was so much stronger than the men’s because there was so much more going on in terms of both story & action. While wrestlers like Bianca & Bayley were wrestling like there was no tomorrow, Billie Kay was running around ringside trying to win over anyone and everyone who joined the match. Billie is gifted when it comes to comedy is wrestling as this was a wonderful through-line, that actually continued when she got in the ring with Peyton Royce & The Riott Squad.

Then Rhea & Charlotte got in the ring, and shit got serious. Rhea looked like such a beast from the moment she entered, there was just something about her presentation and the way she kicked the shit out of everyone that screamed star-power. As much as I had picked Belair in my predictions and I was thrilled to see her win, in my heart, I was rooting for Ripley, and she went on a tear. Charlotte did the same, and I know I bitched about Charlotte’s presentation earlier, but I thought it was really good in this match and paid off well.

The 24/7 title stuff was a bit weird, but it suited Alica Fox and didn’t last too long or over bare on the match. The last run of entrants added a lot to the match. Carmella got a good mini-story with Reginald, Alexa Bliss managed to look good despite being eliminated really quickly as everyone mobbed her as soon as she got in. Lana FINALLY got one over on Nia & Shayna in a satisfying moment, and Nia didn’t injure anyone, which is always a plus. Also, Natalya was there, I guess.

What really put this match over the top though, was the final 3, which was utterly flawless. I was genuinely out of my seat as Charlotte, Rhea & Bianca faced off – the same three women who were in each other’s face over the NXT Women’s Championship last year. I wanted both Rhea & Bianca to win, and them ganging up on Charlotte was the most pleasing thing of all. They teased us just enough with the potential of Charlotte shit-canning them both to make it very satisfying when they finally got rid of her.

Then we had Rhea & Bianca face off in the final two. Two women who both stood a really good chance of winning the match, who told a brilliant story together back in NXT, facing off in a match-within-a-match for about 3-4 minutes. They did a fantastic job of teasing some false-finishes and played with the fact that we genuinely had no idea which one of them was going to win in the best possible way.

When Bianca finally won, it was a tremendous emotional climax and felt so very deserved. Not only because of the great work she’s done week-to-week recently, but because of how damned hard she fought for it in this match. Unlike Edge, who took a backseat here and there in his Rumble, Bianca was always amongst the action, with her & Naomi especially putting on a great show constantly battling.

It’s a masterclass in making a new star, and I can’t wait for her to put on the performance of a lifetime at Wrestlemania against (hopefully) Sasha Banks.

So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comment below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday where I’ll be covering my favourite Fall Guys levels!

WWE Royal Rumble 2021: Predictions & Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Goldberg
(WWE Championship)

Here we are again…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men’s Royal Rumble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Match of the Year 2020

Much like every company (and every person) in 2020, it’s been one hell of a year for WWE, with a lot of ups and downs. However, it led to many things we’ve never seen before, some stuff we never thought we’d see in a WWE ring and a lot of bloody good wrestling. So, as we sail off into a new year which surely HAS to be better than this one, let’s take a look back at some of the best matches WWE gave us in 2020.

10 – Men’s Royal Rumble – Royal Rumble

Putting a Royal Rumble on the match of the year list almost feels like cheating, because even a lousy rumble is at least a little bit good. However, I think this one did enough unique things that it deserves to be spoken about.

Rumbles often have a bit of a through-line story to them, especially when there’s a story surrounding who enters first, however, normally in that instance it’s about that wrestler being an underdog. So here, we finally got a chance to see what it would be like if that formula got turned on its head. Brock dominating the first half of the match was brilliant, I know some people say it went on for too long, but I entirely disagree, it was perfect. Not only was it something new, but it gave us so many great little moments between Brock & various competitors, and the little moments are what make a lot of the best rumbles so good.

On top of all that, it led to what was possibly the largest crowd reaction of the year (not exactly a high bar, but whatever) when Drew eliminated Brock from the match. From there we got loads of really fun Rumble antics that hit all the beats you want from a match like that. We got a bunch of fun action as the ring filled up, until what was ACTUALLY the biggest crowd reaction of the year when EDGE returned to wrestle for the first time in 9 years. Then, as the match drew (heh) to a close, we got another brilliant final four-segment between Orton, Edge, Roman & Drew that gave me a result I wasn’t expecting but was very happy about.

The past few years have been absolutely brilliant for rumble matches, and it makes me all the more excited for 2021’s version of the match, whatever form it takes.

9 – WALTER(c) vs Ilja Dragunov – NXT UK 29th October
(United Kingdom Championship)

Live crowds weren’t the only thing we missed out on this year, thanks to the UK’s restrictions, NXT UK was off the air for a large chunk of the year. However, once it came back, they did as much as they possibly could to make up for all the time they missed.

Truth be told, there isn’t really anything complicated about why this match is so good. It’s not a technical masterpiece or an epic story, it’s just two men beating the absolute stuffing out of each other for twenty minutes, and it blew me away. WALTER wrestled a ferocious style at the best of time, it’s what made his matches against Dunne and Bate so incredible to watch, but when he’s up against a guy like Dragunov who, despite his smaller size, can hit back just as hard, it’s compelling in the weirdest way possible. Almost like a car crash, in that, you just can’t quite bring yourself to look away.

Despite the brutal style, they still did a great job making Dragunov someone I wanted to cheer. I don’t watch NXT UK’s weekly show very often, so I wasn’t very well informed of the story going into this match, but I got all I needed to from watching the match itself. He was able to mix his strong strikes with that kind of plucky underdog style of creating openings and pulling out ‘hope’ spots; a factor that is greatly aided by the fact that WALTER is bloody massive. There’s a reason you have to write his name in all-caps, after all.

This match was a brilliant showcase of the best of what the division has to offer, which was desperately needed after the show had been off our screens for many months.

8 – Bayley(c) vs Sasha Banks – Hell in a Cell
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

Bayley and Sasha are just really good at wrestling each other.

Their NXT matches are, in my opinion, the two very best women’s matches the world has ever seen (and in the conversation for best overall) and they haven’t missed a beat since those encounters, even with the heel/face roles reversed. In fact, I’d argue the reversal of the roles was to this match’s benefit, as it created a very different feeling match. Sasha can draw love from any crowd by simply selling like she’s being murdered with every move she takes. At the same time, Bayley spent 2020 producing the best heel-work seen in the company all year, to the point where the super-babyface NXT Bayley genuinely feels like a completely different person.

Hell in a Cell matches are usually not for me, they’re the very height of slow builds to high spots we’ve seen plenty of times before, but in this match, the competitors didn’t let the weapons detract from the action. Other cell matches would grind the match’s pace to a halt so the wrestlers could set up a spot, only to immediately go through the motions to do the next one, in this match, the weapon spots were primarily set up during the auction. There were a few points where things had to slow down, but they were few and far between, and the match’s wrestling action spoke for it more than the weapon spots.

That said, what weapons spots there were had a significant impact. The thread of Bayley using the chair that came back towards the end was classic storytelling done to near-perfection, and it helped the match build to its climax. Sasha winning wasn’t was I was expecting going in, but with hindsight, it was definitely the right conclusion. I’ve become so used to WWE dragging out stories for way longer than they needed to, that I forgot how great it feels when the big win happens when it feels like it’s supposed to. It rounded off a great match which a wonderful emotional moment that left me with very positive feelings.

7 – The Undertaker vs AJ Styles – Wrestlemania 36
(Boneyard Match)

I was really worried this was going to be crap. The few times in the past WWE had tried cinematic matches, they’d been awful, or cheap imitations of what other companies had already done. However, when the world felt like it was ending, WWE pulled out all the stops and created some genuinely amazing pre-taped stuff this year. The Money in the Bank match isn’t on this list, but it was a little bit out there, and genuinely hilarious with the bits they filled it with, and it showed that when WWE employees are allowed to be creative, they can create some magic. Speaking of…the boneyard match.

It reminded me of some of the more epic fight scenes from movies, but with a difference. The thing is, in a movie, a fight scene is just one part of the overall story, there’s usually so much more going on around it that the scene is either short or constantly cut away to see what the other characters are going. However, in a wrestling match, the fight IS the story, so we got 24 minutes of two men fighting like their lives depended on it.

The build was a little bit goofy, but in the match itself, both men leaned all the way into it, and it made it work. AJ became the most hatable human in the world and Undertaker had the badass vibes we haven’t seen from him in a while. With the hindsight of knowing this is Undertaker’s last match, it gains a whole other layer too. The way he fights like an old gunslinger on his way out of the door, the way he acts so visibly tired in some points, and even the way he talks to Styles as he puts him in the ground. It’s not the send-off I expected, or even wanted for Taker, but it really works.

It was the kind of match that I was genuinely on the edge of my seat during it because it was something I’d never seen before. Every new twist popped me in some way, and at the end of the day, it left me with a massive grin on my face, and I can’t ask for more.

6 – Roman Reigns(c) vs Jey Uso – Hell in a Cell
(Universal Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)
(I Quit)

There’s been a lot going on with Roman Reigns this year. After it looked like we were in for another run with face Roman at the top following Wrestlemania, the unfortunate circumstances forced him to take time off from WWE and miss out on that opportunity. We all knew he’d come back at some point, and I was looking forward to seeing him around again, but little did I know just how great it would be. After years of asking for it, we’ve finally got to see what Roman Reigns can do as a heel, and it’s absolutely fantastic. He has this aura of indestructibility around him that makes him the kind of figure you always want to pay attention to when he’s on-screen.

A considerable part of building this aura was his story with Jey Uso, where he showed himself to be genuinely ruthless in a way we haven’t seen from anyone in WWE for a very long time. Jey Uso is the kind of guy that I don’t think anyone ever saw as a single star, that’s not to say he didn’t have the potential to do well. It’s just his identity (and looks) as a wrestler are tied so heavily to his brother, it seemed impossible for them to do anything outside of the tag team division. This was precisely the right story to prove that belief wrong, though.

This match at Hell in a Cell is the best part of this story. The Cell is largely irrelevant, and to be entirely honest, so is most of the actual wrestling action. What matters here is that the story that was told was one of the most compelling WWE have told in years. Every element simply worked. Roman wanting to assert his dominance as the leader of the family, Jey desperate to prove himself, Jimmy wanting to make sure his brother didn’t get hurt and Heyman standing by to put the exclamation point on everything, along with being the personification of Roman’s betrayal of his old ideals.

The way Roman would put Jey down with such ease, only to watch Jey struggle to his feet. He would gain the advantage here and there, but it never lasted long. It was clear that Roman was the far superior wrestler, but Jey just wouldn’t say die, which ended up being his undoing. We got to see just how much of a bastard Roman has become, not just in the way he brutalized Jey, but in the way he pretended to break down crying, only to emotionally manipulate his cousins into letting their guard down.

It struck the right balance of drama so that it didn’t feel over the top, it just felt real, and I felt the emotional weight of every moment of it. It didn’t just establish Roman as an absolutely horrible person, but it elevated Jey’s standing to the point where he’s now seen as a credible singles competitor. Everybody wins.

5 – Drew McIntyre(c) vs Seth Rollins – Money in the Bank
(WWE Championship)

There really isn’t any complexity to this one, it’s just a bloody great wrestling match.

Drew McIntyre’s ascension in 2020 has been one of the more positive stories of this dark year. I’ve already talked about his Royal Rumble win, but once he actually had the title over his shoulder, the pressure was on to deliver. We all knew he had it in him, it was just a matter of whether or not it would be able to shine in his feuds. Thankfully, WWE knows what they’re doing sometimes and knew that Seth Rollins was the perfect person for Drew’s first major feud as champion.

This match let us see all sides of what Drew could (and would) give us as WWE Champion. He was able to look beatable, without looking weak, he was able to look tough without seeming too dominant, and most importantly, he could wrestle like hell and hang with the best. Both competitors came together perfectly to create a match that was an absolute joy to watch. When Rollins lets loose, there are honestly few better in WWE and McIntyre rose to his level particularly on that night.

Rollins adapted his fast & flashy high-flying offence into something slightly slower and hard-hitting. Instead of bouncing all over the place with some fast-paced flying knees, he slowed them down and made them more impactful when he smashed Drew in the face with them. It worked to Drew’s more brutal style and created the sense of a real fight that kept me engaged in the action from start to finish.

4 – Rhea Ripley(c) vs Charlotte Flair – Wrestlemania 36
(NXT Women’s Championship)

While Ripley’s star has faded slightly from what it was at the beginning of the year, the fact that she was able to have the best singles wrestling match of Wrestlemania against one of the best women’s wrestlers in the history of the sport is something that will forever keep her a star in the eyes of everyone inside and out of WWE.

This was the match I was the most hyped for going into Wrestlemania, and it didn’t disappoint. As the opening match for night 2, it set the tone perfectly for the rest of the show. It’s easy to roll your eyes at Charlotte these days after she was pushed so hard for so long, but we can’t forget that when it comes to pure wrestling ability, she’s in the discussion for best women’s wrestler of all time. Charlotte pulled out all the stops in this match, and Rhea matched her beat-for-beat. This match felt so explicitly crafted to make both women feel perfectly matched for one another, and Rhea came out of it looking like a star, even in defeat.

The action was so fluid and satisfying at all moments, with Rhea slipping into the role of the hungry underdog, while Charlotte looked down her nose at Rhea as the veteran. Charlotte underestimated Rhea in the opening segments but quickly learnt what she was capable of, which was all the story that was needed to turn this into one of the best matches of the year.

3 – Keith Lee(c) vs Dominick Dijakovic – NXT Takeover: Portland
(North American Championship)

While NXT is still an excellent wrestling product these days, it definitely feels like the golden era is over now. For the past couple of years, NXT has dominated my ‘match of the year’ lists, but as you’ve seen, it’s been pretty barren this year so far. I think it has suffered greatly from the lack of live crowds – perhaps more so than any other major promotion – so I guess it makes sense that one of their better matches would come before we were all locked down.

Keith Lee is a rocket waiting to take off. From his performance at Survivor Series 2019 all the way through 2020, you can feel the stardom that awaits him when he’s finally allowed to run free, and this remains one of his finest works. Interestingly, it took me a hell of a long time to get on board with Dominick Dijakovic (now Retribution’s T-Bar). For the longest time, I just didn’t understand what was so special about him, he was just another big guy, right? Wrong, very, VERY wrong.

Turns out, he’s a big guy moves like a cruiserweight and can put on fast-paced, exciting and bombastic matches with a wide range of opponents. Lee & Dijakovic clicked like you wouldn’t believe in this match, they were absolutely perfect for each other. Rather than focusing entirely on power, the early stages of this match focused more on the two competitors out-manoeuvring each other to get the upper hand, only busting out their feats of strength when they had the upper hand. Then, once the opening was out of the way, they slammed their feet down on the accelerator and started to destroy each other for our entertainment.

This match stunned me in how amazingly fast it was, yet it still managed to convey the two men’s power and brutality. All of the biggest moments came and went in a flash, and yet they left such an impression on me that I can still picture some of the spots almost a full year later. Lee seems like he’s going to reach the spot her deserves at some point over the next few years, and I hope Dijakovic does the same because he deserves so much more than what he’s currently getting.

2 – The Fiend Bray Wyatt vs John Cena – Wrestlemania 36
(Firefly Funhouse Match)

The only reason this isn’t number 1 because it wasn’t technically a match. Truthfully though, I believe it to be one of the best things WWE has ever aired.

When The Fiend lost to Goldberg, there was a lot of worry about how the character would be treated going forwards. This was the hottest property in the company all year, and it seemed like it was going to be squandered. Then, the character set his sights on righting the wrongs of the past, not just of himself, but of the company. Focussing on Wrestlemania 30 for this feud, and how Cena definitely shouldn’t have won was a brilliant way to frame the animosity between these two that hasn’t been done to this great effect before. Cena leaned all the way into it as well and came across like quite an embittered man about the whole thing, something Wyatt preyed upon.

I don’t even know how to go about breaking down how brilliant this whole thing was. It was a complete and total character assassination of, not only John Cena but the whole WWE system of hand-picked stars to carry the company. It’s a miracle that it was ever even allowed to air on a WWE product given that included lines such as puppet Vince McMahon saying “it’s such good shit”, a line used by Jon Moxley to mock Vince after he left the company. It broke down every aspect of John Cena’s career and highlighted how much of a farce it was, and how deeply flawed it was. While it didn’t directly address many of the topics at hand, it doesn’t take much backstage knowledge of WWE to understand the implications of stuff like nWo Cena, tearing down not only Cena but also Hogan’s history of keeping people down for no good reason.

The Firefly Funhouse match didn’t just blur the lines between fiction and reality, it straight-up shattered that line and used every broken piece of the line to create the finished product. It’s the kind of thing that I never thought I’d see on a WWE product and may never get the chance to see it again and I utterly adored it.

1 – Charlotte Flair(c) vs Rhea Ripley vs Io Shirai – NXT Takeover: In Your House
(NXT Women’s Championship)

While, in all honesty, the Firefly Funhouse match was probably my favourite thing to happen this year, this is a list about proper wrestling matches, and on that front, nothing this year came close to this match.

I don’t think NXT made the most of having Charlotte Flair as their champion. It’s not entirely their fault, as they were somewhat handcuffed by the fact that Raw still wanted to use Charlotte on a weekly basis without even referencing the fact that she was NXT Champion. Either way, there was definitely a feeling of wasted potential when it came to an end. That said, they sure as hell did their best to get as many amazing performances out of it as possible. I’ve already covered her Mania match with Ripley, but on top of that, we saw a great match against Io Shirai on NXT and this match, which is one of the best triple threat matches I’ve ever seen.

Shirai was definitely coming into this match with momentum, but I really didn’t think she stood a chance of winning the title. I’m glad that I was wrong about this, but I honestly thought NXT had missed the boat with her thanks to her rise coming right in the middle of Shayna Baszler’s run of dominance. The match’s story was definitely with Rhea & Charlotte following their Wrestlemania encounter, but Io Shirai burst into the feud and made sure her voice could not be ignored.

This patch was paced to near perfection, and never let up. It used the triple threat factor to its advantage and never let there be a moment where nothing was happening. Rhea felt like a vicious underdog who was looking to recover from her Mania loss, Charlotte fought like a woman fuelled by her hatred of anyone that wasn’t her, and Io came in like a house on fire, tearing down any and every obstacle in her way.

It had everything I want from a headline NXT match: Drama, action, excitement and ending out on both a surprise and a high-note. I think it says something about how fantastic NXT is that even in a year where I consider NXT’s performance to be sub-par, it put on some of the best damn matches in the entire company, in 2020.

WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs: Every Match Ranked

That’s a wrap on WWE Pay-Per-Views for 2020, and you know what? I think it’d been a bloody good year for the project on the whole. Sure, it’s far from the best year WWE has ever had, and weekly TV has rarely been anything to shout about, but their PPV output has been consistently great. I don’t usually do a PPV ranking, but I think it’d be fun to look back on WWE in 2020 come January.

That said, I can definitely see how this show may not have been to everyone’s taste, as much as I enjoyed it. However, the one thing you can’t deny is there’s no way we’re going to forget about it anytime soon, which is more than can be said for a lot of WWE PPVs, even the good ones.

Still, even on a good show like this, not everything was excellent, so let’s get ranking.

7 – Daniel Bryan, Big E, Otis & Chad Gable def. Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura

I mean, it’s an 8-man tag match that was announced two hours before the show and went less than 10 minutes, what do you want me to say?

Quite simply, it’s 8 men who could easily main event any show, any place, any time if they were invested in properly…and Otis. However, given how little time they had and how it was just a match for the sake of a match (something Vince apparently hates, but whatever).

It was ok, but I don’t care.

6 – Randy Orton def. The Fiend Bray Wyatt
(Firefly Inferno)

This match was either great or terrible, depending on what aspects you want to focus on.

As a wrestling match, it was trash. Most of the spots were quite contrived, and there was basically no actual wrestling action to speak of. This is fine for the story they were trying to tell, but the booking was so weird that I’m not sure it really makes up for it. As much as I wanted The Fiend to win, I can see past the fact that he didn’t, but to have the show end on such a shocking, yet somehow downbeat note was odd. Orton lit The Fiend on fire, presumably killing him…Orton posed for some reason and…that’s it, fade to black. It felt like there should’ve been some form of final exclamation point on the whole thing. After all, every horror movie ends with the revelation that the killer is still alive.

All of that said, as a visual spectacle, it was incredible. From the moment The Fiend summoned the fire, it was quite the rollercoaster ride. Yes, the spots were contrived, but when they looked as cool as some of them did, who the hell cares? The trail of fire leading to Orton sitting in the rocking chair was brilliant, and the final spot of The Fiend attacking Orton despite still being on fire was great.

As for where Bray goes from here, I honestly have no idea. I hope this means we don’t see The Fiend for a while now, maybe Bray could believe he’s ‘free’ of The Fiend for a while before slowly falling back into his grasp. That’s just one idea though, and Bray’s an extremely creative man, so I’m sure he’ll be able to spin something interesting from it.

Like I said in the intro, maybe not the best match ever, but it was certainly memorable.

5 – Asuka & Charlotte Flair def. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c)
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

I guess now we have to sit around and wait for a sudden but inevitable betrayal, yet again.

As much as an NXT call-up would’ve been more exciting, bringing Charlotte back now is the right move. While I’ve been the first to blame WWE’s booking for the horrible state the Raw women’s division is currently in, it’s hard to deny that they’ve been lacking a certain quantity of star power (that wouldn’t be a problem if they actually invested in some of the mid-card women for more than three weeks at a time, but whatever). Hopefully, having Charlotte back will give the division more focus on TV week-to-week, and we can get back to how great Asuka was over the summer.

This match was a lot of fun. This is one of those cases where this is only ranked low because other matches were better, not because this one was in any way bad. As weird as it is for Asuka & Charlotte to suddenly be hugging and friendly, I’m willing to let it slide to see where the story goes, which has surely got to be a Mania match between the two. As much as I wish Jax & Baszler would be able to continue their reign, I highly doubt this is the end of their run. Asuka & Charlotte have got to break-up at some point, and I would expect they’ll regain the titles in the wake of that.

Either way, these teams had great chemistry, and Charlotte was able to slide right back into a spot where it felt like she belonged. Thumbs up from me.

4 – Sasha Banks(c) def. Carmella
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

See? I told you Carmella was a good wrestler if you gave her a chance.

This match wasn’t perfect. In fact, I thought it started a bit dull, however, once they hit about the midpoint, business really picked up. From there, this was an entertaining back-and-forth match that played to the strength of both women. Carmella made Banks look vulnerable at several points without necessarily out-wrestling her, while Banks played the opportunist, taking advantage of every opening Carmella gave her. Carmella was able to translate her new persona into a match very well, and the one spot of outside interference came at just the right moment to help the match.

My only real issue is where Carmella goes from here. It wouldn’t surprise me if they went for another match between these two, but given that the Royal Rumble is on the horizon, it wouldn’t surprise me if the title isn’t even defended on that show. There have just been so many cases where WWE immediately get bored of a rejuvenized character, and within a couple months they become just another face in the crowd. Truthfully, I don’t want that to happen to anyone, but Carmella has so much promise right now that I hope they find something good to do with her away from the title.

Sasha, meanwhile, is on a roll and will continue to be on that roll until at least Wrestlemania. If she’s going to keep putting on matches like this one, then I’m definitely ok with that.

3 – The Hurt Business def. The New Day(c)
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

A brilliant match that needed more time than it got.

This is one of those instances, like New Day & Usos, where these guys just clicked in the ring. They played with the standard tag team match tropes, but never lingered on anything for too long, and once the action got going, it never stopped. Unsurprisingly, Cedric Alexander was a huge boon to the action, and his sequences against Kofi were undoubtedly my favourite of the whole the match. The others still pulled their weight though, with Benjamin pulling out arguably his best performance since his WWE return.

The only real downside here was the fact that the match only got 10 minutes. I really enjoyed what I saw, but when it ended, I felt like it wasn’t enough. I’m confident that this feud is far from over and that’s a good thing because I absolutely want more from these two teams. If WWE let those guys go out there and wrestle for 15-20 minutes, I think we could easily be looking at a match of the year contender that sky-rockets the stock of everyone in The Hurt Business.

Speaking of, as much as I predicted The New Day, I’m glad The Hurt Business won, and I think it was the right call. New Day aren’t going to suffer from any loss they take and right now. The Hurt Business are the hot property at the moment. I look forward to seeing what they can do with the gold and how it helps all of them out long-term.

2 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. AJ Styles & The Miz
(WWE Championship)
(Tables, Ladders & Chairs)

In my predictions, I was cautiously optimistic about this match. I worried slightly that the stipulation would hold the match back, but I trusted the two performers involved to pull out a great one, and I was not disappointed.

It took a little while to grab my attention, but once I’d settled into the match, I had a very good time. To the surprise of no-one, Drew & AJ had great chemistry in the ring, and they made good use of the stipulation. WWE seems to finally be able to strike a balance between weapons being an essential factor in the match, without completely throwing everything else out of the window. The match built nicely to its climax, even though that climax ended up being quite the curveball.

There are ups and downs to The Miz cashing in. On the downside, it’s yet another year that the Money in the Bank contract has been utterly wasted. Out of the past four years, only one of the men’s Money in the Bank holders has won the title, and even then, it wasn’t great. 2016 was the last great cash-in that actually meant something, and by now the contract feels hugely devalued. However, in a bubble, it was great and made this match way more exciting. It’s always been hard to make convincing false finishes in matches like this, but they pulled it off here. With the constant up and down of people on ladders, there were points when I genuinely believed all three men were about to win.

Ultimately, Drew retaining was the right move. After the reports from Raw, I was worried they were going to hot-shot the title to boost the ratings, but thankfully that wasn’t the case, and we still have the strong champion we all love.

1 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Kevin Owens
(Universal Championship)
(Tables, Ladders & Chairs)

Maybe the best one-on-one TLC match ever.

This match was structured so well. Most matches that I love gradually speed up as they go on. The slower starts lead to frantic and nail-biting conclusions, but this match did the opposite. This match started at a breakneck pace, with Owens bringing all kinds of fury to the fight, it got me pumped and invested immediately so that I didn’t lose interest when the match gradually slowed down. It’s such a simple technique, and yet the gradual deceleration of the pace gave the whole thing a fierce feeling to it and told the story of these two guys trying to destroy each other excellently.

The action was great too. Once again, weapons were used to enhance the match, rather than completely focusing on them. With Drew/AJ, as much as I liked it, I still felt it would’ve been better as a regular singles match, however, with this match, I felt that the hardcore stipulation was an integral part of the story being this good. Uso’s involvement felt a bit bullshit at some point, but it aided in telling the story and softened the impact of Owens losing. Even though Reigns retained (which I maintain was the right call) Owens looked like a such a hero from his performance here thanks to how he kept getting back up after going through table after table and only falling short thank to his opponent’s underhanded tactics.

I have no idea if there are any long-term plans for Owens here (I’m not optimistic), but he is now in so much of a better position than he was going into December, it would be a shame not to capitalize on it in some way.

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 comment below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday, where I’ll be running down my favourite WWE matches from 2020!

WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2020: Predictions & Analysis

Hey, remember Survivor Series? No, me neither.

I always find myself far less excited for TLC than I do most other Pay-Per-Views, and this time I don’t think it’s WWE’s fault. I honestly like the look of the card, especially the two world title matches, I think it’s just a time of year where I care a lot less about a WWE PPV. Not only is it almost Christmas, but the Royal Rumble is only about a month away, and I’m far more excited thinking about that than I am about a bunch of predictable title retentions. It’s times like this where I really begin to think that a PPV every month isn’t always the best idea, at least, from a storytelling standpoint.

Either way, there are matches, I have opinions, so let’s get predicting.

The New Day(c) vs The Hurt Business
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

Wait a minute, this isn’t Street Profits vs Andrade & Garza…I didn’t even know such a thing was possible.

Speaking more seriously, I’ve actually been vaguely enjoying this feud. The New Day are The New Day, even without Big E, and even when they’re given fairly crap promos, they still sell it well. Meanwhile, The Hurt Business are actually quite fun to watch when they’re not squashing Retribution for no apparent reason. They have a kind of serious aura surrounding them, and MVP can sell them fantastically. Not to mention, this is the first PPV title match in ages for both Benjamin & Alexander.

As long as WWE resist the temptation to overbook this, I think we might be in for a treat with this one. The New Day’s wrestling ability has never been in any doubt, and as much as it’s been easy to forget, Alexander is an outstanding technical wrestler. Admittedly, I’ve not been wowed by Benjamin since his return, but the guy is no slouch so who knows? Maybe this will be the performance that reminds us all how great he can be.

It’s weird, I joked in the intro about the title matches all being quite predictable, but this is the one exception. I could honestly see this going either way. The Hurt Business have been on a roll since Lashley won the US title and there’s definitely some good that could come from them holding a bunch of championships like this. That said, it’s hard to bet against The New Day. As I’ve said before they are the ‘default’ setting for the tag division, and there’s certainly nothing to be lost from having them continue to hold the titles.

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

So…we’re not getting a payoff to the Lana thing? I really don’t get WWE’s attitude towards her. We keep hearing reports that people backstage really like her and see her as a potential top star, but they never actually let her wrestle, or even finish a story. Either way, it gives us a good old ‘mystery partner’ situation, and those are always fun.

I really don’t like Asuka’s booking of late. Ever since Summerslam, she’s felt like such a non-factor in the Raw women’s division, and that doesn’t seem right for the woman who was one of the main highlights of WWE during the spring & summer. I get that WWE doesn’t have the deepest women’s division out there right now, but was there seriously no-one they could build up as a contender for Asuka’s title? They sleep on people like Peyton Royce & Dana Brooke then feel the need to do weird storylines like this because ‘there are no credible stars’. It just seems like a problem they made for themselves.

Still, the mystery partner, who is it? The way I see it, there are two main possibilities. Firstly, there’s the woman who has been weirdly absent from TV for a considerable chunk of this year for seemingly no reason at all, which is Charlotte Flair. For someone who fans apparently say they ‘shove down our throats’, they’ve had absolutely nothing for her since she lost the NXT title. Reintroducing her here just before we head into Wrestlemania season would undoubtedly be a good call. I’d be down for Asuka vs Charlotte 2. Other than that…I guess it could be Rhea Ripley? She’s felt like she’s had one foot out of the door of NXT for half the year, and it’s not like the NXT women’s division need her anymore with all the talent they’re holding. Raw would definitely benefit from her presence.

Either way, I think Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler are going to retain, which is why I’m leaning towards Charlotte Flair as the mystery partner. If it’s Ripley, then you risk her looking bad if she immediately loses, unless she does some massive swerve. However, if it’s Charlotte then you can easily create a story of her not getting on with Asuka and losing because of that, not to mention, this kind of loss wouldn’t hurt her in the slightest.

The Fiend Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton
(Firefly Inferno)

My excitement for this match depends on a couple of things.

Firstly, if this is going to be a pre-recorded match, then I’m all-in on it. WWE has knocked it out of the park with those kinds of matches this year, and I’d be thrilled to see another one come our way on Sunday. However, if this is just a regular inferno match with a fancy name, then count me out. I didn’t think this was going to be much of a classic in terms of the action, but if it’s an inferno match, then all of that goes even deeper into the bin. It remains to be seen, but those are my thoughts on the stipulation.

As for the story, I think it’s got a decent amount of legs. The Fiend seems to wildly switch his focus between winning titles and writing Bray Wyatt’s wrongs, but I definitely think that these kinds of stories are better. The match between Orton and Wyatt at Mania 33 may have been a stinker, but the story building up to it was some mental fun, and this has been no different. It’s been interesting to see such a brutal character like Orton be put on the back foot like this. All year he’s been the one dominating his opponents in the build, so a shift in dynamic was the right choice.

I’m a little torn on this one because I think this might not be the only match in this feud. I know the Royal Rumble is next month, and Orton will probably be in that, but I just can’t shake the feeling that this is a multi-month feud. Either way, I’m going with The Fiend Bray Wyatt to win. The Fiend always wins these gimmick matches of his, and I don’t see what could be gained from Orton winning. Orton has reached the status where he can believably square off with anyone regardless of his recent history, as where The Fiend is WAY more fragile, and definitely shouldn’t be losing these kinds of matches.

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

So a lot is going on here, and I’m not sure how much of it I enjoy.

Firstly, I’m glad Carmella’s back, and I’m glad they’re treating her like a credible threat again. As much as her face persona was a lot of fun, it seemed to be artificially limiting her, but now the image of her riding R-Truth’s back as he’s chased by half the locker room is far from my mind when I see her. The problem, though, is I’m not sure how far this can go, at least not in the immediate future. While I don’t like to be blunt, there’s no way Carmella is winning this, and what does she do once Sasha is done with her? I assume we’re going to get at least one more month of this feud, but WWE has never been great at booking their women’s mid-card.

Those concerns aside, I think this could be a really good match. I know Carmella is never really in the conversation for the best women’s wrestlers right now, but I think she’s better than many believe. With this fresh injection of a new persona too, we could be in for quite the treat of the match. As I said though, Sasha Banks is definitely walking away with the title. It’s possible Carmella could get a cheap DQ win or something, but there’s no way anyone is taking that title from Banks before Mania.

Roman Reigns(c) vs Kevin Owens
(Universal Championship)
(Tables, Ladders & Chairs)

I love matches like this. They’re the kind of feuds that I never would’ve thought of if you’d ask me what I wanted to see, but now it’s been presented to me, I’m really looking forward to seeing it.

Roman has been perfect since his return, and this feud is no exception. The attitude with which he carries himself makes him the most hatable person in the world and having Paul Heyman at his side only boosts his aura of indestructibility. As such, it makes him the perfect opponent for Owens’ current character. He’s a little removed now from his anti-authority persona, but he still carries that rebellious edge that you just can’t help but love, he’s the kind of person who always speaks so genuinely, and it really resonates with me.

I’m also very excited about the match. As with any WWE gimmick match, there is a possibility that it leans too heavily on the gimmicks and ruin it, but all of the gimmick matches over the past few months have struck a good balance, so I have faith. On top of that, I think a weapon focus might be beneficial to this one. Reigns’ current style is ferocious, and Owens’ build makes him the perfect tough-guy to put in a barbaric match like TLC. Not to mention, Owens has been more than happy to take some crazy bumps in the past, so I think that there’s a high probability that this will be the match we’re all raving about come Monday.

As much as I’d like this one to be a bit more of a toss-up, Roman Reigns is going to win, because it’s Roman Reigns. That’s not the insult it perhaps was a few years ago though, Roman is the perfect guy to sit at the top of the ladder on Smackdown right now, and I would be thrilled to see his title reign go on well into 2021. It’s a shame because I really like Owens, but Roman’s just the right guy to go with at the moment.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs AJ Styles
(WWE Championship)
(Tables, Ladders & Chairs)

Ever since Drew first won that title, this was the feud I’ve been waiting to see. It’s no secret these days that Styles can have a good match with just about anyone, and there’s something about these two guys that just clicks in my head.

Despite being one of the biggest ‘indie’ darlings in history, Styles has always seemed to fare far better as a heel in WWE than a face, at least from a character perspective. When he talks as a face, I don’t always get behind him (his title reign through 2018 was a great example of this) but when he talks as a heel, I always listen, and I always find him annoying and despicable in precisely the right way. Meanwhile, Drew has recovered excellently from his Survivor Series loss to the point where you’d barely even remember it happened. After the feud with Randy Orton for so long, it feels like a breath of fresh air to see him free to do something new, with someone exciting.

As before, there’s a risk that they lean too heavily on the gimmick here, but I’m optimistic. Styles is one hell of an innovative competitor, and Drew can definitely keep pace with him if they want to go for a faster match. The in-ring styles of these two can be quite different at times, but I think the quality of this match will come from how both men adapt to the other, especially with weapons involved.

However, I find myself once again faced with a straightforward decision when it comes to picking the winner. While I don’t think it’s entirely impossible that Styles could win the title as a surprise, I definitely think Drew McIntyre to retain is the far safer bet. He only won the title back recently and is coming off of a significant loss to Roman, not to mention that all of the current dirt sheets are reporting that all talks for Wrestlemania have Drew going in as champion. Not to mention, I really like Drew, and I want him to hold that title for as long as possible.