WWE Elimination Chamber 2021: Every Match Ranked

The first of two pointless stops on the road to Wrestlemania is behind us, and whether or not you liked this show depends on what you focus on. The majority of the matches were pretty good in terms of in-ring action, they all had something going for them. However, there were several booking decisions that I thought were either questionable or straight-up bad.

My main takeaway was the gigantic gap in quality between the storylines on Raw & Smackdown right now. Smackdown is kicking Raw’s arse creatively right now and has been for some time. If you want proof of that, you just need to look at the landscape for Wrestlemania. Smackdown has their top men’s title match sorted out in Reigns vs Edge, and while it’s yet to be confirmed, they’re pretty clearly building to Bianca vs Sasha. Then, on the Raw side, things are an absolute mess. Asuka was originally announced on the pre-show to be facing a mystery opponent after Lacey Evans was forced to pull out of the match only for it to never be mentioned on the main show, so we’ve got no idea what’s going on there. Then you have the several moving parts around the WWE Championship that could go any number of ways.

You’ve got one show with a clear creative direction and one that doesn’t know up from down, which is ridiculous considering they’re run by the same company.

Enough stalling, let’s look at the goings-on from last night.

6 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Daniel Bryan
(Universal Championship)

This was extremely disappointing.

I was excited going into this show, as I thought that there was room for some fantastic storytelling. I was hoping we would get a performance from Bryan worthy of himself from 2014, where he’d go in a massive underdog and put up a fight greater than the odds thought was possible before ultimately falling at the last hurdle. Instead, we got a match that was just…nothing, really. I’m not saying they should’ve gone 20 minutes, I’m not going to be that demanding, but would it be unreasonable to ask for 8? Not the one and a half we got.

It didn’t even tell that interesting of a story. I never at any point bought Daniel Bryan could win, so the drama of him catching Reigns in the Yes! Lock just didn’t land for me. That’s not just because I’m jaded either; take Bryan vs Lesnar from 2018 as an example. We all knew there was no way Bryan would win that match, but when he kneed Lesnar in the face and went for that cover, I BELIEVED it was possible. This match just didn’t earn that level of investment. It blew its load too early, and by the time Bryan passed out in the guillotine, I’d lost interest.

Now, if this was the start of a slow build to Reigns vs Bryan at Wrestlemania, I’d be on board with that, but given that WWE has announced Reigns vs Edge for Mania, that’s not happening. It’s not impossible Bryan gets added to the match, but I highly doubt that will happen. Instead, it’s probably going to blow off at Fastlane, wasting a money match WWE could’ve saved in their back pocket for a bigger show.

5 – John Morrison def. Mustafa Ali, Ricochet & Elias
(Winner gets added to the United States Championship Match)
(Kickoff Show)

This match is like a distillation of all the potential talent WWE has wasted. That’s the real problem with this match, the action was all good, I just didn’t care. I feel horrible saying that because all of these wrestlers are insanely talented, but WWE has pissed it all away with terrible booking over the past few years. You then hear reports that apparently Vince “sees nothing” in wrestlers like Aleister Black & Shayna Baszler, and it absolutely boggles the mind how this man even got to the position he’s in today.

Now I’ve got that off of my chest, this was a fun 4-way match, and given that the winner was always going to be the fall guy in the US title match, I think John Morrison was a good pick for that role.

4 – Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) def. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)

This match was a little formulaic in several ways, but I still think it was an enjoyable watch.

I expected the rift between Bianca & Sasha to form more clearly during this match, so I was surprised to see that it didn’t really happen. I can see where the jumping-off point for it is, but the two women were on the same page and quite a joy to watch for the majority of the match. That’s not surprising given how great we know they both are, but in another time, I would love to see these two have an extended run as a tag team. Their connection feels so genuine (probably because it is), and their in-ring styles mesh wonderfully – all the more reason to be excited about the Wrestlemania match.

As I said in my predictions, the champions retaining was definitely the right call. Involving the tag titles in Bianca & Sasha’s upcoming feud would just be a needless complication, and I’d rather see Nia & Baszler do something interesting on their own at Wrestlemania. The finish was a bit odd, but it was a creative way to protect the faces. I don’t know where this thing with Reginald is going, but I’m liking it, for the time being, I only hope it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

3 – Riddle def. Bobby Lashley(c) & John Morrison
(United States Championship)

It happened so slowly I barely even noticed, but I’ve really come around to liking Bobby Lashley now. Ever since he stopped talking and/or kissing Lana all the time, he’s slowly been getting better and better. Now he’s this absolute destroyer of a man who wrecks everyone who comes his way, and it’s brilliant.

That said, he wasn’t the start of the show here. His dominance in the early portion of the match gave way to Riddle & Morrison really going at it around the middle. Neither of these men have got much of a chance to display their full potential since coming to Raw (or coming back, in Morrison’s case), and I think this is the best version of both these men we’ve seen in a while. Morrison played his role perfectly, although it does raise the question of how this match was supposed to go before Keith Lee pulled out.

As things got into the final sections, there was plenty to enjoy. The action had a pace I enjoy, and all three men had their ‘almost’ moments coming up the finish. MVP’s crutch being Lashley’s downfall was a nice touch and a believable way to topple someone so seemingly monstrous as Lashley. I didn’t think they would pull the title change, but I’m glad Riddle is getting something worthwhile now. I don’t know where they’re going to go with it. As long as he doesn’t immediately lose it on Raw tonight, I’ll be happy.

2 – Daniel Bryan def. Jey Uso, Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn & King Corbin
(Winner gets a Universal Championship Match)(Elimination Chamber)

While I don’t think either chamber match last night were among the best, they were definitely still worthy versions of the stipulation. Honestly, I think you could reverse the order I’ve ranked these and still think it was reasonable. I just think the other chamber match had a better middle section.

The action in this match was pretty much all great. Bryan & Cesaro were absolutely the correct choices to start things off, and their battle kept that early portion of the match interesting. Sami Zayn was easily the star of the show early on, his stuff before the match was as great as always, and his contributions once he actually entered the match were the scheming heelish beats we’ve come to know and love from the man.

Once Corbin & Zayn were out of the way is when I think things got really good. Having three faces going up against a single heel could’ve been a bit awkward, but it was paced really well and felt more like Jey Uso putting together a gameplan than overcoming any odds. The spot with Owens’ arm in the chamber door was something we hadn’t seen before and quite brutal when you think about it. This definitely feels like the end of Owens being involved with Reigns & Uso, which is a bit of a shame because he’s been terrific, but I’m also looking forward to seeing what he does next.

The final three was excellent. As much as I wanted Cesaro to win, he had a fantastic showing here. His work against Bryan was technical mastery, and he worked well (albeit briefly) against Jey. As I’ve said, I don’t think Bryan was the right pick to win, but the fashion in which he did it certainly gives me nothing to complain about. This underdog style of wrestling is what I (and I think many others) love him for, and this was just like the old days.

1 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. AJ Styles, Sheamus, Jeff Hardy, Kofi Kingston & Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)
(Elimination Chamber)

AND

The Miz def. Drew McIntyre(c)
(WWE Championship)
(Money in the Bank Cash-In)

This was my preferred chamber match out of the two purely because I thought it was more consistently entertaining.

The mix of different styles in this match worked well, and we moved through some different phases are people came in. Things were a bit slower to start off with between Hardy & Orton, but as soon as Drew got in there, things picked up significantly. Kofi did better than I thought he was going to as well, eliminating Orton, which was quite a surprise. I’m sure many of us were expecting The Fiend or Alexa Bliss to get involved with Orton somehow, so to see him just get eliminated so quickly like that was quite the surprise, especially as it would be another 15 minutes before anyone else got eliminated.

Once everyone was out of their pods, there was plenty of fun to be had. Drew facing off against Sheamus was great, and I hope they’re not done with each other yet, even if they wait until after Wrestlemania. Styles got a better showing than I was expecting too, and that spot with Omos ripping the back off of the pod was another unique thing and fit Styles well. Speaking of Styles, that finish was something else, easily one of the best Claymore kicks I’ve seen, ending things with a bang.

The main headline, though, happened after the match, where Bobby Lashley came down, wrecked Drew, which Miz used as an opportunity to cash-in Money in the Bank and win the world title. I’m slightly torn on this.

In a bubble, I’m happy to see Miz get another world title run; he definitely deserves it. However, this isn’t 2017 Miz, the best heel in the company. This is 2020/21 Miz, who has been booked like a chump for over a year. He & Morrison have been portrayed as the most ineffective wrestlers on the planet. They haven’t been able to beat anyone, even when it’s 2 on 1. It just seems like such a leap to make.

However, I’m pretty confident Miz is just a transitional champion. They showed hints of collusion between Miz & The Hurt Business, and the deal was almost certainly giving Lashley the first shot at the title. I’ll honestly be surprised if Miz is still champion come Wrestlemania, and there’s absolutely no way he’s walking out of that show with the title. I think Lashley is going to win that title soon – something I’m definitely in favour of – it’s just a matter of whether he gets it a Fastlane and drops it to Drew at Mania, or Drew gets it back at Fastlane, only to drop it to Lashley at Mania.

It’s all still up in the air and a bit of a mess, but I’m interested to see where it goes.

WWE Hell in a Cell 2020: Every Match Ranked

We’re out the other side of hell and…it was alright, wasn’t it? The three cell matches were all very enjoyable, but the undercard lacked any real spice or intrigue. It’s the kind of show where people will remember key moments, but the majority of it will be lost to time.

I really don’t have anything else to say here, so let’s rank the matches!

7 – Elias def. Jeff Hardy via Disqualification

If the reports are accurate that Vince sees Elias as a future top star on Raw, he’s got a funny way of showing it.

There was very little substance to this match. It was 7 minutes long, but it may as well have been 30 seconds for all the noteworthy things that happened during it. The action the two men produced was fine, but you could tell neither of them was trying very hard, and I can’t say I blame them given the crap finish they were working towards. As for the DQ finish, what can I say? It’s your standard WWE non-finish to needlessly extend the feud to pay off on Raw in a few weeks because Pay-Per-Views just build to TV rematches these days.

It also makes Hardy look like a jerk. I know Elias got the guitar out and was going to use it, but for Hardy to use it as a foreign object in plain view of the referee is just a heelish thing to do. The commentators loosely tried to justify it, but I couldn’t help but agree with the heels in that scenario.

6 – R-Truth(c) def. Drew Gulak
(24/7 Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

There was a 24/7 championship match on this show, but not a Raw women’s championship one…think about that.

Sure, this was a throwaway 5-minute match, but at least we got some fun character stuff at the start. The inconsistency with which R-Truth remembers Lil’ Jimmy is a thing is quite startling these days, but it gave us a fun opening to this match. Bless Drew Gulak for always giving angles like this his all, I honestly think he could be a fantastic comedy wrestler if he was given the time to flourish. Sadly, I can’t help but sit here and remember the start of the year where it looked like he was going to big places with Daniel Bryan.

Now he’s taking rollup losses for the joke belt on the preshow, and then making a joke about how John Cena sucks. Which is fine, I guess, but he should have better.

5 – Bobby Lashley(c) def. Slapjack
(United States Championship)

Well, it was nice thinking Retribution might be going somewhere while it lasted.

Seriously, did Ali spit in Vince McMahon’s face or something? Every storyline with any big potential he’s had immediately goes to shit and gets tossed to the side. I’m not ready to write Retribution off just yet, there’s still time to turn this around, but I’m already starting to give far less of a shit than I did a month ago. I don’t understand why they’re losing and being put on the run so often this early into their time. To protect the Hurt Business? Why? What plans do you have for them? It’s not like you’re going to push anyone other than Lashley as a top star from that group and he can recover from a few quick losses.

Better yet, if you’re so desperate to have Lashley protected, just don’t put Retribution in a match with him. That is an option, there are so many other people they could fight, hell, even within the Hurt Business there are three other guys that you’re always keen to hand losses too. There were just so many other ways out of this situation that it makes the whole thing like a deliberate effort to make Retribution look like chumps.

4 – The Miz def. Otis
(Otis’ Money in the Bank contract is on the line)

Small note, why did commentary keep saying the match was “for the Mr Money in the Bank”? That’s got to be the worst possible way you could’ve phrased that.

This may have been ranked as the fourth-best match of the show, but don’t let that fool you into thinking I liked it. As I said in my predictions, there was no chemistry here. These two have particular wrestling styles, and they didn’t work when pushed together in the ring. The only reason this match ranked this high is that it’s the first one that felt like an actual match, and we got two significant status-quo changes out of it.

First of all, Tucker’s betrayal, it’s ok, I guess. I like that they clarified that he didn’t do it for Miz’s benefit, he just did it cos he’s sick of Otis’ shit, which, yeah…I’d probably get tired of him after a while too. It’s something interesting for both guys to do, but I’m not optimistic that it’ll go anywhere interesting. As for Miz with Money in the Bank, it’s hard to see where he’ll slot in. Unless he’s going to lose it to someone of higher status, I highly doubt he’s winning a world title anytime soon.

The only scenario I can see it happening, is if Edge wins the title from Orton at Mania, and Miz comes in to ruin the moment the next night on Raw, but that’s a stretch. Ultimately, I think it’s just going to go down as another waste of the briefcase, as there hasn’t been a fair use of it since 2016.

3 – Randy Orton def. Drew McIntyre(c)
(WWE Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

It was a slow-paced, Randy Orton Hell in a Cell match that relied on slow builds to big spots, and I didn’t hate it. This is a miracle.

Now, it wasn’t incredible, and it was definitely my least favourite of the matches these two have had, but I was never really bored during the half an hour runtime of the thing. Maybe the build of this feud has just been good enough to keep me interested, or maybe my tastes have changed over the past year, who can say? All I know is I was engaged the whole time.

The match definitely had the aura of brutality I think it needed. It can be hard in the modern era to make a Hell in a Cell match feel truly horrible without blood, but heaviness with which these two men attacked each other did the job for me. The stuff on top of the cell made the whole thing quite tense, and there was definitely a tremendous sense of intrigue thanks to the fact that I genuinely had no idea who was going to win.

While I would’ve preferred Drew to keep the title, I don’t think he’s in any way been damaged by losing Orton here. For one thing, it was a violent match where he looked like a badass and took one hell of a beating. However, he’s beaten Orton twice already, he’s still got plenty of legitimate claims to come back into the world title scene eventually. As for the immediate future, I’m not sure, I think another Pay-Per-View match would be a bad idea, but I could potentially see a rematch on Raw that gets interrupted by Drew’s next big feud. Hell, if they’re basing Survivor Series around The Undertaker, it could even be the deadman himself.

The problem is that I don’t see who else on Raw could challenge Orton. The Fiend seems like the obvious choice, but given that Orton is definitely holding that title until Mania, I’m not sure that would be such a good idea. Kevin Owens wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I’m sure he’s been built up enough for that kind of feud right now, especially not for a big 4 show. That pretty much just leaves Keith Lee, unless AJ Styles is planning on turning face, which he isn’t.

2 – Sasha Banks def. Bayley(c)
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)

As expected, this match was incredible. Honestly, if you said to me that this was your number 1, I wouldn’t argue with you in the slightest, it’s mostly just down to personal preference as to why this is number 2.

When it comes to action, this match is the highlight of the night. There were some concerns that the match hadn’t been built quite as well as it could’ve, but you wouldn’t know that from the final product. These two women were able to perfectly capture the sense of betrayal and hatred that exists between the two of them in just a few choice moments. The way Sasha punted Bayley’s chair out of the ring as the cell lowered was all that was needed to establish the tone, and they ran with it from there as far as they possibly could.

The action was great, Sasha carried that chip on her shoulder to give every move she made a little extra sting, and it felt a lot heavier because of it. Bayley meanwhile balanced her cowardly heel side, and vindictive predator side well, responding to Sasha’s offence with pathetic whimpering, but relishing the times where she took control. It made sure the flow of the match was near-perfect and made the most of all the factors they had in play.

I didn’t think Sasha would win the title straight away like this, but I’m very glad it did, it made the match feel like a complete story, rather than chapter 1. They’re definitely going to be having a rematch sometime soon, but I’m not sure if that will involve some more trading of the belt. It’s one of those feuds that’s hard to speculate on, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

1 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Jey Uso
(Universal Championship)
(Hell in a Cell)
(I Quit)

This was a masterpiece of storytelling.

I loved the match at Clash of Champions, and I wasn’t sure telling the same story again would be as effective, but man, they blew my expectations out of the water, this was beautiful.

It was a little light on action. There was some fun back-and-forth stuff in the first half, but the headline here is the second half of the match, where the action took a backseat to this fantastic story. We’ve seen the bond The Usos have with Roman over the years, they’ve worked together plenty of times before, and this story really impressed the importance of family in their culture. I felt the bond between these three men, even though they were beating the piss out of each other, the whole story felt real because we know that the familial bond is real.

Reigns’ acting was world-class. The way in which he ran through disappointment, frustration and remorse as he tried harder and harder to put Jey away. What was brilliant about it is that you could tell it wasn’t remorse over beating Jey senseless, it was remorse over the fact he knew he wasn’t going to stop beating Jey. Heyman’s small contributions were perfect too, the expressions on his face as things got more and more heartbreaking, the way he told Adam Pierce “He won’t listen to me!” as the violence reached its peak sold that moment so entirely.

Then there was the climax of the match. The way Roman broke down into tears as Jimmy laid over the unconscious body of his brother, what an image that was. Then there was the touch of Jimmy using his real name to try and get through to Roman, just that line of him saying “It’s Josh” is so powerful, and made the whole thing hit an emotional peak. Then, Roman put the final nail in the coffin, proving once and for all that he’s gone past the point of no return and has no intension of looking back, as he reveals his tears were all a ruse to drop Jimmy’s guard and get the result he wants.

The image of Roman flanked by Afa and Sika, holding the title aloft is the most powerful image of them all. Knowing all the hurt and heartbreak that Roman caused, and the dirty way in which he pulled it off, this is the best Roman Reigns has ever been (even better than his time in The Shield), and I can’t wait to see more of it.

And 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 @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday, where I’ll be running down the best Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simspsons!

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!

WWE Elimination Chamber 2020: Every Match Ranked

The final PPV before Wrestlemania (I fucking hope) is finally in the books and…yeah, it was alright, I guess. It pretty much exactly met my expectations, most of the matches that I thought would be good were good and the ones that I thought would be boring were boring and in the end, I think the show came out at about 50/50 in terms of quality and ultimately, I don’t think it was a necessary stop on the way to Wrestlemania.

Let’s look at the matches then.

8 – The Viking Raiders def. Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins
(Kickoff Show)

Remember every pre-show tag team match from the past two years? Yeah, this was one of those only slightly shorter.

It honestly blows my mind who in WWE took a look at the Viking Raiders and thought “yeah, let’s have Hawkins & Ryder get in loads of offence against them”, so what if they’re former Raw Tag Champions? I bet most people didn’t even remember that was a thing until I just said it right then. I don’t want to be that guy who sits around and moans about how Raw & Smackdown “bury” NXT talent, but I think the sheer lack of interest whoever’s running Raw is showing the Viking Raiders is an absolutely huge waste.

Yes, I know, they won the match, but this should’ve been a 2-minute squash at best, but whatever, not like anyone’s going to remember or care about it by the time Raw airs.

7 – Sami Zayn & Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro def. Braun Strowman(c)
(Intercontinental Championship)
(3 on 1 Handicap)

Oh…well ok then.

I don’t quite know how to feel about this if I’m honest. I mean, the match was an absolute bore, hence why it’s placed this low but in terms of the result, I can see both sides. On the one hand, it’s a disaster for Strowman, not just the result, but how he looked throughout the match too. This is a man we’ve seen get up from just about anything, he spent months getting beaten down by Roman Reigns and continuously getting back up, for God’s sake, this is the guy who was in the back of an ambulance as it crashed, at speed, into a wall and WALKED AWAY, but apparently, Nakamura stomping him in the corner 2 minutes into the match is enough to keep him down.

I mentioned in my predictions that any result other than Strowman winning would be a massive anti-climax and to a certain extent, I stand by that. The whole match felt so desperately like it was building to Strowman coming back and wiping the floor with all three of them, but that never came to pass. Instead, they did that weird-ass looking suplex/kick to the head that honestly looks so weak and Sami Zayn won the Intercontinental Championship.

Now…

Sami Zayn winning the Intercontinental Championship is a good thing, of course it is. Zayn’s been so undervalued for so long and to see him finally win a title is brilliant. However. I think Strowman retaining would’ve been a better option, especially if the result of this is just going to be Strowman squashing Zayn at Mania, which it probably will be. Maybe I’m wrong and if this turns into a really entertaining heel reign as champion then I’ll hold my hands up and admit it, but I’m not optimistic.

6 – Aleister Black def. AJ Styles
(No Disqualification)

It pains me to do this, it really does, but this match sucked.

While I understand the no DQ stipulation was necessary to tell the story they wanted to tell, but it totally screwed the match in terms of quality. I know that these two could put on a fever-pitched classic if they were given the opportunity, but instead, this started slow and got slower as it went on. It wasn’t all boring, I did enjoy the focus on the leg because it makes perfect sense when fighting a guy like Black and it led to a rather tense spot as Styles locked in the Calf Crusher.

This match certainly wasn’t helped by a completely dead crowd. I understand why though. They’d just watched a rather tiring Chamber match and they were waiting for The Undertaker to show up, but it definitely detracted from my enjoyment of the match and likely contributed to the slow pace. Speaking of The Undertaker, although his appearance was predictable, it was still exciting and was absolutely the right move for both the story and the general context of both guy’s strength on the current roster.

While I would’ve liked Black to win without any assists, it wasn’t feasible when Styles had to be kept strong for The Undertaker. I’d rather they hadn’t booked this match at all, but since they did, I think this was the best way to get out of it. Doesn’t make it interesting to watch though.

5 – The Steet Profits(c) def. Seth Rollins & Murphy
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

I’ll be honest, I was quite disappointed with how this one turned out.

After their entertaining showing at Super ShowDown, I was expecting this match to build off of that and put on a really fun tag match, but instead, I don’t think it ever quite got going. Things were nice and fast out of the gate and I thought that everyone involved here had a strong sense of character and it made all of the story beats – including Viking Raiders showing up to deal with AOP – quite entertaining and I continue to become more and more involved in this story as a whole.

After Rollins & Murphy took control towards the middle, I thought we were building to somewhat of an explosive final 5 minutes once Ford got the hot-tag, but it just didn’t happen. There were hints of it in there, but I didn’t find any of the action all the engaging and then Kevin Owens showed up (with some top-notch acting to be fair) and the whole match just sort of stopped to focus on that instead. The finish that came immediately after it felt quite sudden too and I was left feeling quite deflated by the end of it all.

4 – Shayna Baszler def. Sarah Logan & Ruby Riott & Natalya & Liv Morgan & Asuka
(Winner faces Becky Lynch at Wrestlemania)

Ok, we can all breathe a sigh of relief, they didn’t fuck it up.

Probably the only thing on this show to actually matter, this match did everything we wanted it to do for Shayna Baszler. She wiped the floor with absolutely everyone and looked like a monster in the process, a lot of the offence she got in looked absolutely brutal and I’m not entirely sure Liv Morgan is ever going to be able to walk again after Baszler damn near caved her head in at certain points.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most entertaining match to watch. Riott & Natalya started off well enough, but everything they were doing is stuff we’ve seen in Elimination Chamber matches seemingly hundreds of times before and I can’t say I was all that engaged by it. Then, once Baszler got in and had dispatched of everyone, we just had to watch her shouting at the people in the pod for what felt like forever and I just lost interest. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve gotta have a bit of that to help Baszler look great, but it dragged on for way too long and it’s not like anyone would care if the clock ran down a little faster. I was hoping we’d get a little bit more between Baszler & Asuka at the end, but I’m ok with it going shorter than it could’ve because you don’t want to give that away right now when it could be a big match later down the line.

Although I have my complaints, I’m happy with how this all turned out. It’s a rare case with WWE, where I’m fine with forgiving something not quite as good right now because I’m confident it’s going to lead to something really great in a month or so.

3 – Andrade(c) def. Humberto Carrillo
(United States Championship)

You know, it’s only just dawned on me exactly how long this feud has been going on. No wonder they’re putting on matches like this after so much time together.

After many months of not quite understanding who Carrillo is, the stuff with Garza has helped Carrillo grow a bit of an edge to him as a character and I think it’s helped his in-ring style too. He felt a lot more hard-hitting here and I’m finally getting behind him more as a character than I have been in previous encounters.

This lead to what I thought was quite an entertaining match. It started out fast and furious and it really got the crowd involved for the length of the match. Things slowed in the middle but I think it kept the action fresh for when things eventually began to accelerate again. The finish was a little weird, but I do have a soft spot for spots with constant roll-ups and it’s a rare treat that one of them actually gets the win. I perhaps would’ve preferred a clean finish, but this gives Carrillo a decent enough excuse to get himself in on whatever multi-man affair happens around Mania, so I think it’s fair enough.

2 – The Miz & John Morrison(c) def. Lucha House Party & Heavy Machinery & Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode & The New Day & The Usos
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Elimination Chamber)

Once again, this was about as good as I was expecting it to be, which is pretty nice.

Usos vs New Day was easily the best choice to start things out and it kept the action going for long enough until the ring started to fill up. Each subsequent team that entered each added something new to the action, I was surprised that Lucha House Party looked as good as they did and once Miz & Morrison got involved, it added a lot of great heel work into the action. Heavy Machinery are also on an absolute tear right now. I’m still not entirely behind them as characters, but as wrestlers, I totally get it now.

There were downsides though. For one thing, I don’t think there was enough good use of the time between entrants. There seemed to be a big spot when a team first enters and just before the next team enters, but a lot of the time in between was spent milling around or with some rather boring action, it would’ve been nice to see some actual interesting wrestling while waiting for more entrants.

When I say “interesting wrestling” I don’t mean more dives off the top of the pod because, by my count, there were five of these in this match (six if you count Ziggler being thrown off by Tucker) and it’s just not an impactful spot anymore. Speaking of, Dorado’s Moonsault from the top of the chamber looked cool, although the setup was a bit weird as all of the wrestlers were watching him climb around and we all just had to pretend not to notice until he was in position.

Once things got down to the final three business really picked up and I had a lot of fun watching the action. Miz & Morrison did exactly what they needed to do, picking their spots to get the eliminations at the perfect moments and the final battle between them and The Usos was a magnificent little sequence that whetted my appetite for more of it in the weeks and months to come.

Overall, it won’t go down as one of the best chamber matches ever, but for what it was I really enjoyed it, especially towards the end when the pace accelerated exponentially until the finish.

1 – Daniel Bryan def. Drew Gualk

Oh, so we’re treating Gulak like a real wrestler now? Took you long enough.

This was such an interesting match to watch because it’s not the kind of style we see very often in WWE anymore. This mat-based style of wrestling walks such a fine line between being tense & interesting and slow & boring, luckily, this landed on the better side of that line. It was never a match that was never going to pop a modern American crowd, but I still think it did wonders for Gulak’s credibility.

I really got into the story being told here and I just loved how Gulak seemed to have just about everything in Bryan’s arsenal scouted. It gives the impression of him being the thinking man’s heel, winning matches through actually being smart, rather than cheating. Bryan filled his role here perfectly too, being surprised by Gulak’s competence early on but slowly feeling him out and adapting to his style, eventually getting to the point where Bryan could also counter whatever Gulak was throwing his way.

The finish was brilliant too because it didn’t make Gulak look weak, despite the fact he tapped. The way Bryan so smoothly slipped into the LeBelle lock gives me in the impression that Bryan learnt Gulak’s game and adapted, while Gulak stuck to his gameplan and couldn’t quite out-think Bryan once he started innovating. I’m not sure where this will lead, but I just hope it’s somewhere, I think WWE have stumbled upon a really interesting story here and they shouldn’t let it slip through their fingers.

And there you have it! Those are my thoughts on Elimination Chamber 2020. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and please let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back this time on Saturday where I’ll be running down my favourite Virtual Reality games!