Man, the end of summer/start of autumn has been absolutely packed with wrestling. Between WWE, NXT & AEW from August through October, there will have been 6 Pay-Per-Views in the space of 10 weeks, which is a lot of wrestling. That number would be even higher if I dedicated myself to watching NJPW on a regular basis, but I think if I did that I’d burn out completely.
Focusing on WWEland today, it’s the one night of the year where every championship is on the line. Funnily enough, this has actually become a big deal again, since there are now 9 titles on WWE’s main roster. If anything, I’m worried that several of the matches aren’t going to get the time they need to breathe.
Asuka(c) vs Zelina Vega
(Raw Women’s Championship)
You’ve got to be kidding me. The Raw Women’s title, the title that main-evented Wrestlemania not two years ago, is on the kickoff show?
This is an absolute disgrace. These are titles that are supposed to be on-par with the men’s world titles, and this is how it’s getting treated? Especially while Street Profits vs Andrade & Garza, a match we’ve seen about 12 times since the spring, gets to be on the main show. Even if you put aside what an insult it is to the prestige of the title, you’ve got Asuka, one of WWE’s most popular acts right now, slumming it on the part of the show nobody watches. My main problem though is that this is Zelina Vega’s big moment, her chance to show the wider audience that she’s actually been a great wrestler this whole time. I’ve always railed against WWE’s refusal to let Vega wrestle regularly, and now they’re finally giving her a shot but doing their damnedest to bury it.
Usually, I’d say I’m excited about this match, but given that it’s been relegated to the kickoff show, I doubt it’ll get any longer than 8 minutes. I’m sure we can all expect a paint-by-numbers face vs heel match where we don’t get to see anything remarkable; because all that time WWE spent patting themselves on the back about how progressive they are was all just empty words.
Asuka will retain, and I’ll continue to be grumpy about the placement of this match.
The Street Profits(c) vs Andrade & Angel Garza
(Raw Tag Team Championships)
I cannot even pretend to care at this point. Seriously, who still gives a shit about this match? These two teams have been feuding on and off since Wrestlemania, and they’ve not done a single unique or interesting thing with it. If you’ve ever wanted proof that WWE doesn’t care about tag team wrestling, this should be all the proof you’ve ever need. Nothing has changed with any of these teams this year, Andrade & Garza are still flipping between working perfectly as a team and hating each other’s guts week-on-week with no explanation, and I don’t have the capability to care about any of it anymore.
Andrade & Angel Garza to win, because they don’t, what has been the point of all of this? Meanwhile, I’m going to sit here and pray to every God anyone’s ever believed in that WWE find a new tag team to fight for the titles.
Oh, I guess Retribution could get involved, but after their laughably bad debut on Monday, I wouldn’t care if I never saw them again.
Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro(c) vs Lucha House Party
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
I’ve come around on Lucha House Party in recent months. Now WWE has tried to book them as something other than a generic pack of luchadores there’s something quite charming to their performance. Of course, this means that WWE is teasing a break-up because WWE doesn’t know how to write a story for a tag team other than making them hate each other. Nakamura & Cesaro are working well as tag champs, I think they could end up with a dynamic similar to that of The Bar, which was one of my favourite tag teams while they were together.
Picking winner is a tough call. I’d say the smart money is on the champions retaining, but I’m going to be picking a lot of champions to retain throughout these predictions. As I highly doubt WWE would put every title on the line, only to have everyone retain, I’d say this is the match most likely to have the titles change hands. So I’m going with Lucha House Party to balance things out.
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) vs The Riott Squad
(Women’s Tag Team Championships)
I was hesitant when Jax & Baszler first paired up. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jax, and I thought Baszler was the kind of character that only works when dominating on her own. However, this tag team seems to have brought a lot of positive stuff out of both women. I like the dynamic of two people who aren’t exactly friends, but they have a mutual understanding that they work well together in the ring. The match at Payback between them, and Banks & Bayley was really good, and it showcased what a pair of ass-kickers these two can be.
Hopefully, that is a pattern that will continue into this match. The Riott Squad are good, but I don’t have much reason to be invested in them right now. It looked like they might’ve been doing something interesting with Liv Morgan as a singles competitor for a little while, but now they’ve just slapped her back with Ruby. Of course, if the alternative was not even being on TV, then I’m glad they’re getting a spot on a show like this, but that still doesn’t mean I’m overly interested in their antics.
I think the match will be an enjoyable one, but Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler are definitely coming out on top. Jax & Baszler have only just won the titles, and they feel like the kind of team that needs to tear through the entire division before we even think about taking the titles off of them.
Bobby Lashley(c) vs Apollo Crews
(United States Championship)
I feel like I’ve already said everything I can possibly say about this feud. It’s another that’s gone on for too long by this point. However, unlike Profits vs Andrade & Garza, this is a story that has actually had a few twists and turns along the way to make things interesting.
I’m not sure what to make of Alexander joining The Hurt Business. Right now, it’s fine, because he’s the hot-button topic of the day, but I have a feeling he’s more likely to fade into a role similar to Benjamin, where he’s just kind of…there. That’s my main worry with The Hurt Business, is that it’s just a vehicle to get Bobby Lashley over, with little regard for the others. Regardless of my speculation, that has minimal bearing on this match, which could be a lot of fun if it’s given the time. There’s a good dynamic between Lashley & Crews’ styles, plus, there’s room for a whole host of outside shenanigans to make this a wild ride.
I’m pretty confident in picking Bobby Lashley to win though. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Crews could win the title back, but I honestly don’t see the point. Crews had a good run with the belt, but if Lashley wants to stick around as a force to be reckoned with on Raw, he needs to keep that title for a while.
Bayley(c) vs Nikki Cross
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)
This feels very placeholder. Two stories are surrounding this match, both of which have very little to do with Bayley & Cross being in direct conflict.
Firstly, there’s Bayley & Sasha’s feud. I don’t want to pass any judgement on it yet, because it’s still in its infancy, but I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. If anything, I wish Bayley didn’t have to defend her title on this show so we could focus 100% on building it. I doubt many would disagree with me when I say that a Hell in a Cell match next month is where things are headed between the two, so I’m hoping to see Sasha show up and bite back at Bayley, either on Sunday or next week on Smackdown.
Then there’s the storyline between Bliss & Cross. There’s a lot of theories floating around as to what exactly The Fiend did to Bliss’ mind, and quite honestly, your guess is as good as mine in this instance. Either way, I’ve enjoyed the way they’ve been telling it. For someone with such an expressive face, I’m surprised how well Bliss has been able to pull off the vacant expression that comes with her reaction The Fiend’s name, and Cross has been playing off of it well. I get the feel from Cross of someone’s who’s concerned for their friend, but also desperate to progress their own career and focus on their title match.
Ultimately, I think the situation surrounding Alexa Bliss will cause Cross to lose focus on Sunday and allow Bayley to retain. People can sit around and cry about how Bayley vs Sasha ‘doesn’t need the title’, but I’ve never agreed with that mentality. The Bayley vs Sasha feud is a massive story on its own, but the title adds another layer of depth to things and turns it into the main-event rivalry it should be.
Jeff Hardy(c) vs AJ Styles vs Sami Zayn
I mean…do I really need to say anymore?
Let’s break this down. We’ve got Jeff Hardy, a wrestler with endless charisma and an in-ring style that pushes him to constant do crazy stuff, especially when ladders are involved. We’ve got AJ Styles, one of, if not the very best technical wrestler of this, or any other generation who can pull a 4-star or better match out of his arse whenever he wants to. We’ve got Sami Zayn, an incredible wrestler with an explosive style and some of the best character work I’ve seen in WWE all year. Finally, we have a whole lot of ladders, surely you don’t need me to do the maths on this one?
As much as I was disappointed that Zayn couldn’t continue his IC title run in the spring, I was pleased with what we ended up with instead. Between Bryan, Styles, Riddle & Hardy, there’s been a lot to enjoy from the IC title scene this summer, even if it barely ever got onto a PPV. This match just looks to be a continuation of that, the pieces are still floating around right now, but once we’re past this match, I’m expecting a lot of great singles matches in this division.
It’s a little harder to predict this match, though. I don’t think it’ll be Styles, he’s already had his run, and his loss against Hardy was a good way to put a cap on it. Zayn winning the title back is a possibility, but I feel like it might be overplaying the hand. Plus, I’m not sure backstage will be wanting to put a title on Zayn after he took time off for COVID (even if WWE said they wouldn’t punish people). As such, Jeff Hardy retaining makes the most sense in my mind. The whole story since his return has been about his second chance, so holding that title until at least the end of the year feels like the right way to go.
Drew McIntyre(c) vs Randy Orton
This feud as really solidified Drew’s title reign for me. I think that, no matter what happens going forward, Drew is a made man for life in WWE after the run he’s had, and the work he’s done in this feud specifically. The situation surrounding the Punt Kicks and Drew’s reaction to them have made him look like a bloody superhero, and while I doubt fans will be back in arenas anytime soon when they are, they will roar in support for the guy. Orton’s been on an absolute tear too, he’s turned all the motivation into some genuinely thrilling TV, and he even found the time to put over Keith Lee in the middle of it all.
I don’t know how this match is going to go down, but personally, I hope they turn the brutality up to maximum. This is one of those situations where I think a slow-paced, weapons-based match is actually exactly what the story needs. Whether it’ll be fun to watch depends on how well that story is told, but based on their previous work, I’m optimistic.
However, there’s the small matter of the result. I really don’t know. Once again, I feel like the smart money says Orton, but I just can’t see it. There’s something about the visual of Drew being thrown in the ambulance that just doesn’t sit right with me, especially given what he’s already been through this month. I don’t know how it’ll go down, but my gut is telling me that Drew McIntyre is going to retain. I’d like it to be clean, but if we’re going a bit out-of-the-box, maybe this is when Edge returns to attack Orton and set up a Hell in a Cell match.
There’s a whole world of possibility, but I’m going with my gut and picking Drew.
Roman Reigns(c) vs Jey Uso
In today’s episode of “What?! Hell yeah! ….what?” we have one of The Usos fighting for a world title. This was very much a case of not knowing how badly I wanted something until I got it. The truth is if you want to establish the edge that this new version of Roman has, what better way to do it? The old Roman Reigns was all about honour, respect & family, so why not devise a scenario where he gets to beat the shit out of all three at once?
The build to this has been incredible. The touch of Heyman & Roman being the ones to get Jey into the 4-way match was perfect, and it’s created a scenario where we’re just waiting for Roman to utterly destroy Jey. The writing team have done a great job of letting all that tension simmers in the background while Roman & Jey deal with other problems. It’s been said by plenty of people by now, but the shot of Roman’s face dropping from a smile into a menacing stare as Uso turned his back was masterful acting.
All of those factors are going to make for a truly tragic tale when Roman Reigns turns Uso into a bloody smear on the canvas come Sunday. This is probably the most predictable match of the night, but it’s with good reason. Getting Roman to properly annihilate Jey will establish the monster that Roman is now. The kind of guy that doesn’t care about doing things ‘the right way’ anymore, and just goes with what works. It’s the version of Roman we’ve wanted to see for years, and it’s finally here.
So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, please let me know what you think is going to happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure to come back early next week for my review of the show!