WWE Summerslam 2020: Every Match Ranked

…well, I sure didn’t see that coming.

Summerslam is now behind us, and I’m sitting here, looking back on the show the next morning and thinking to myself…yeah, that was a pretty bloody good show. Sure, there wasn’t a match of the year candidate on the show, but there doesn’t always need to be. At the end of the day, there was only one match out of the eight that I didn’t like, and even that had some stuff to like about it. Every other match was good-to-great in quality, and I’m very happy I invested my time into watching it.

Now, to the rankings!

8 – The Fiend Bray Wyatt def. Braun Strowman(c)
(Universal Championship)
(Falls Count Anywhere)

It showed hints of greatness, but ultimately, it fell flat.

Let’s talk about the positives first. Firstly, The Fiend is Universal Champion again, this is a great thing, which also means Braun’s title reign is over, this also a great thing. Secondly, Roman Reigns is back, and to that, I give a big HELL YES. Smackdown has sorely missed Roman Reigns this summer, and I don’t think I realised just how much I missed him until he was back. On top of that, it looks like he might have a new ass-kicking attitude, which gets a big thumbs up from me as that has always been the best version of Roman Reigns. Of course, this does probably mean that The Fiend is going to have to lose to Roman pretty soon after winning the title back, but honestly? I don’t care. I said it in the build-up to Wrestlemania, and I’ll say it again now, I am all-in on another Roman Reigns world title run, I think it could be great.

Now, unfortunately, I have to talk about the actual match which…well, it was trash. It didn’t help that I wasn’t overly interested in the story anyway, but this didn’t do much to build that interest either. It was a pretty standard from what we’ve come to expect in WWE when two ‘big-guys’ go head-to-head. It was slow, not nearly as hard-hitting as you would think, and ultimately, pretty dull. I know The Fiend is a fascinating & unique character, that I love, but we’ve got to take a hard look at his history of matches and admit to ourselves that the character’s wrestling style isn’t entertaining. His best match was against Daniel Bryan, which I don’t think should even count because it’s Daniel effing Bryan, so of course it was great.

Still, Roman Reigns is on the horizon, which makes things look a bit more optimistic.

7 – Apollo Crews(c) def. MVP
(United States Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

I feel like I’m repeating myself every single month, but this was standard pre-show action.

It did have a bit of an extra kick this time, as there was a proper story surrounding the match, but the action didn’t push any boundaries in terms of what we’ve come to expect from pre-show matches. It served as a good showcase of Crews’ talents and a reminder that he’s a good wrestler who’s deserving of the US title. It didn’t really do anything for MVP, but it didn’t need to, his credibility comes from being a mouthpiece nowadays, not a wrestler.

Crews retaining was definitely the right decision in my books, and based on something that was teased for Raw, I’m hoping a feud with Aleister Black in on the horizon, which should be killer.

6 – The Street Profits(c) def. Andrade & Angel Garza
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

Fun tag-team action from two teams that know each other quite well by this point.

I did like this match, but I thought it could’ve done with a bit more. 8 minutes did not seem nearly enough for this match, especially with the story it was trying to tell. I know WWE doesn’t give a shit about their tag division, but they could at least make it look like they care a bit. The story surrounding Andrade & Garza was paid lip service to in the finish, but that’s about it. The two of them have been showing tension almost all year, with things never changing in any way. Some weeks they’ll work together perfectly, other weeks they just can’t get along, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Honestly, by this point, even if they do finally break-up, I’m past the point of caring about it.

Like I said though, the action in the match was fun to watch, Andrade & Garza kept the pace going, even when they were doing the ‘work over the face’ thing, and once Ford made the hot-tag to Dawkins, the pace stayed pretty steady. Also, Kevin Owens was great on commentary, first of all, shouting “Look at all my friends!” really aggressively – in reference to the people on the screens of the Thunderdome – was utterly hilarious. However, his best line was after the match, where Ford was celebrating with him, and Owens said to him “You turned in midair! Did you know you did that?” – referencing the move Ford did to win the match – which was a line that caught me off guard and was delivered such a perfect way, that I giggled about it for a good couple of minutes.

5 – Bayley(c) def. Asuka
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

This was arguably the best match these two have had so far, and yet it felt like they were holding back for the sake of the story.

There’s very little new to be said about the kind of matches these two can put on. They know each other exceptionally well, and it shows in matches like this. The match didn’t worry about overbearing us with Bayley beating-down on Asuka. Bayley spent much more time on offence, sure, but it didn’t feel like they were just setting up the story for the second match later in the night. Instead, Asuka had to play the plucky babyface, who picked her spots and made impactful moves when they counted.

The finish was predictable, but I don’t mind something being predictable when it’s the right move for the story. Sasha being Bayley’s key to victory is in-line with everything they’ve been doing together for the past year(ish) and sets things up perfectly to go horribly wrong later in the show. I think that Bayley being the one to hold onto her title is the right thing too. Not only is she great with it, but if we are finally going to get going with the Sasha/Bayley stuff, having Bayley being the heel holding the title is the perfect way to go.

4 – Asuka def. Sasha Banks(c)
(Raw Women’s Championship)

My thoughts on this match are very similar to the previous one. However, I thought this match was a lot more exciting, told a better story, and was all-around cleaner than the previous one.

I think the reason for the different feel to this match is straightforward. Bayley vs Asuka was the first half of the story, Sasha vs Asuka was its conclusion. There’s a more significant aura of excitement surrounding this second match because of what the first one set up. It doesn’t feel like they’re holding back here, instead, they’re pulling together to take the story to its natural conclusion.

The story of the match was able to capture the feeling of Asuka coming in, already beaten-down, without boring us with watching Sasha pick Asuka apart for the opening 5 minutes. They went the much more entertaining route and told that story through Asuka wrestling a much faster match, instead of waiting to pick her spots as she did with Bayley, she went in with a proactive strategy and did her best to never let Sasha take control. This led to a match with a much nicer sense of flow as it built steadily and satisfyingly to the finish.

As myself and many others predicted, Bayley would try to get involved, but her involvement would indirectly cause Sasha to lose the match. I like the way they did it though. With the way things went down, there’s an argument to be had over whose fault it was. Yes, if Bayley hadn’t gotten involved, Sasha wouldn’t have been in that position to get stuck in the Asuka lock. However, because Asuka merely reversed Sasha’s attempt to take advantage of the distraction Bayley caused, you could say that it’s Sasha’s fault. I don’t think that’ll have too much of an impact on the story going forward, but I think it’s a good tool for making sure it didn’t look like Asuka was just lucky.

3 – Mandy Rose def. Sonya Deville
(No Disqualification)
(Loser Leaves WWE)

If there’s any match that I wish had an extra 5 minutes, it’s this one. Not because it suffered from a lack of time, but because I was really enjoying it and wanted to see more.

As was to be expected from two women who know each other as well as these two do, they totally clicked in the ring, their chemistry was incredible to watch. The structure of the match was pretty simple, but I think that helped to tell the story. Sonya is so good as the heel who really just wants to hurt their opponent. She’s not cocky, because she doesn’t have to be, sure, she’s constantly taunting Rose, but that’s not out of disrespect, it’s out of a desire to cause pain & misery, a role that Deville just gets. Rose played off it to perfection, she crawled around the ring like someone who was really suffering emotionally, which did more for the story than a month of promos ever could.

As we got to the middle of the match, things became more balanced, both women went back-and-forth getting their licks in. I like that Mandy was the one to go for the weapons first. She’d played quite a reactive role in the feud up until this point, but this gave me the impression of someone who was doing what had to be done. The spot where she hurled chairs at Sonya, who was deftly dodging them was great fun too. The finish was, clean, simple, and exactly what it needed to be. Rose finally broke free of Deville’s oppression and absolutely went to town on her, those series of knees to the face felt really cathartic, and the perfect wrap-up to the story.

I don’t know what’s going to happen to Deville now. I haven’t heard any reports saying she’s planning to take time off, but who knows? Maybe she’ll go away for a while. Personally, I’d love to see her show up to get in Io Shirai’s face on NXT, but that’s fantasy booking. I think something like Raw Underground would be a better fit for her style. Plus, Deville vs Baszler…now there’s a match made in heaven. As for Rose? I honestly hope she picks up one of the women’s titles sometime soon, I’m really digging her as a wrestler now.

2 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)

No, I’m not kidding. It was a 20-minute, slow-paced Randy Orton match…and I actually liked it. I’m just as surprised as you are.

As a stark contrast to Wyatt/Strowman, I think the fact that I was highly invested in the story coming into the match helped my enjoyment greatly. Not only did it mean that I was in a better mood, and more willing to give it a chance, but it meant that when the match leaned heavily on the story-based moments, I was invested. If I didn’t care about the story, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes at Orton slipping in and out of the ring at the start, but because I did care, I saw it as a continuation of the game Orton’s been playing with Drew all month. I know the idea that ‘if I’m invested in the story, I’ll be more likely to enjoy the match’ is one of the most basic pro-wrestling concepts, but you’d be surprised how often WWE seems to forget.

The slow pace worked in this match’s favour, as it gave the impression of two wrestlers really trying to study and figure out each other’s game plan. Neither man was wrestling a reactionary style, they were both trying to do everything in their power to execute their plan. It led to the momentum swinging back-and-forth like a motorised pendulum, and while the pace never accelerated, the build in the drama meant the tension is what carried my excitement.

The finish annoyed a lot of people, and I’m in two minds of it. I see the perspective that it’s a cheap way to end a world title match, and it makes Drew look like a chump who barely scraped by. However, I’d argue it’s the opposite. I won’t deny that ending things with a Claymore would’ve been a lot more satisfying, but I don’t think anyone believed that this was going to be the end of the Drew/Orton feud, I think it’s going until at least Hell in a Cell. By countering the RKO into a win like that, I think it makes Drew look exceptionally smart, as he’s found a way to turn Orton’s greatest weapon to his advantage. If Drew keeps pulling stuff like this, he will have essentially nullified Orton’s main tactic for matches and will force him to innovate, which could lead to some very interesting spots.

Admittedly, a lot of this is based on potential future gain, so it could all go tits-up, but what can I say? I’m in a good mood after the show last night, so I’m going to play the optimist.

1 – Seth Rollins def. Dominik Mysterio
(Street Fight)

Similar to Cole vs McAfee from Takeover, this was never a match that would be carried by action. This was a match that was all about the story and the drama. The story in question that carried this match was told excellently, which is why I rank this match so highly.

Going into it, I was already behind Dominik as a face. Maybe it was just because of the shock of it, but sometimes, watching a heel absolutely murder a guy is enough to make me root for the guy being murdered. This match did the smart thing and continued playing to that trend. The feeling was always that Dominik was out of his league. No matter who his father was, he was a relative rookie going up against a multi-time world champion, so they did the smart thing and built the match around that fact. The action made it very clear that Dominik could not hang in the ring with Rollins, he would get the advantage every now and then, but it was mostly through fluke than through expertise.

The narrative of Dominik not wanting his father to get involved was perfect too. I think this was the key thing that pulled me firmly over to Dominik’s side. It’s that true ‘heart-of-gold’ style of babyface, where he wants to prove that he can do it alone, even when he doesn’t stand a chance. Yes, some of that’s down to his naivete, but it’s so rare we get a wrestler in WWE that’s truly uncorrupted. It’s why we gravitated towards Sami Zayn & Johnny Gargano during their initial NXT runs, and it’s why I’ve found myself gravitating towards Dominik now.

Sure, Seth Rollins got the win, but that doesn’t matter, because this match got Dominik over in my eyes. I am now fully behind Dominik in whatever he does next (probably a tag match with his father), and I am excited to watch him grow as a performer over the next couple of years. I honestly can’t remember a time were WWE has (deliberately) got someone over so firmly in my eyes like this, it’s wonderful.

And there you have it! That’s a full weekend of wrestling coverage! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of Summerslam, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Wednesday, where I’ll be releasing the GRAND FINALE of my 100 Favourite Games of All Time series!

WWE Summerslam 2020: Predictions & Analysis

The biggest party of the summer is upon us! Only, it’s not much of a party this year, is it? To think back in March we were all expecting fans to be back in time for this show…

WWE’s been a bit of a mixed bag over the past month or so. I’d argue Raw has had a pretty decent hit-rate week-to-week, with a lot of fun storylines. Smackdown, meanwhile, is definitely better than it was a couple of months ago, but it’s still not great. Still, I think WWE has put together a show with a lot of potential, the main event matches especially are looking pretty tasty.

Let’s break down the matches.

Mandy Rose vs Sonya Deville
(No Disqualification)
(Loser Leaves WWE)

Honestly, it’s amazing that we’ve had to wait this long for a payoff to this feud. It’s not like WWE has carefully spent time building to this match either, they just straight-up dropped the storyline for a couple of months before suddenly remembering about it in July. As it stands though, I’ve been enjoying this one a lot. I think shifting the focus of the story slightly was the right idea. Otis is wildly entertaining, but his presence is no longer necessary in this feud, so I’m happy that the recent instalments have focused just on the animosity between Rose & Deville.

As for the quality of the match, I honestly don’t know, but I’m optimistic. Deville has been on fire since turning heel, and she’s quickly becoming one of my favourite wrestlers in WWE’s women’s division. Rose, meanwhile, I think is a far better wrestler than many fans think she is. I think we’re so used to 00s-10s WWE’s style of ‘gimmick centred around attractiveness = bad wrestler’, I don’t believe that to be the case with Rose. These are two women who know each other incredibly well, so I have no reason to doubt the fact that they’re probably going to kick some ass.

I can’t quite decide who’s going to win though. When it was hair vs hair, I thought Mandy was an easy pick, but now the stipulation’s changed and I don’t see where this is going. I don’t believe there have been any reports that either woman is legitimately thinking of leaving or even taking a hiatus. I suppose the loser could go to NXT, or maybe even Raw Underground, you could argue those would count as ‘leaving WWE’. It’s a tough call, but I’m going to stick with what I think the story was leading to anyway, which is Mandy Rose coming out on top. I just hope there’s something interesting planned for Deville going forward because I want to see her do so much more.

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

This match feels incredibly familiar. I wasn’t quite sure why at first, but then I remembered that this feud has been going on, on and off, since Wrestlemania.

As such, I’m not sure there’s much more that can be said about it. Bianca Belair has been doing great work, and I’m glad Zelina Vega is getting to show some skill outside of a managerial role, but it’s only tangentially related to this match. At the end of the day, this is a match containing four incredibly talented performers, and I have no doubt there will be plenty to enjoy once it’s all said and done.

In terms of a result, I think there are two ways it could go. The fact that Andrade & Garza can’t seem to get along has been running for months now, so I’m pretty confident that will play into the result of this match. They could pay it off by having them come together and finally win the tag titles, which I think has a decent chance of happening. Street Profits have been champions for roughly 6 months now, and changing the titles just for the sake of it is precisely the kind of thing WWE would do with its tag titles.

Alternatively, the pair could finally fall apart and start beating the crap out of each other, allowing The Street Profits to retain. I think this is more likely, and also more beneficial. If the two of them launch off into a singles feud, I hope that it’ll give Angel Garza a more prominent platform to get himself over, something I believe he is more than capable of. Meanwhile, The Street Profits can keep doing what they’ve been doing, which, for the most part, has been very entertaining.

Apollo Crews(c) vs MVP
(United States Championship)

I’m of two minds with this match. On the one hand, I think there are a lot of wrestlers who need the opportunity at the US title a lot more than MVP. Not to mention, I think a lot of wrestlers would put on a better match with Crews. That said, MVP has been crushing it on the microphone so far this year, and he’s pretty much the only reason I have any interest in this feud. Between this feud with Crews and his semi-takeover of Raw Underground alongside Lashley & Benjamin, I think we could be praising the entertainment value of MVP for a long time to come.

As to what I think the match will be like, you can pretty much just copy/paste whatever I said during my Extreme Rules predictions. Except this time, I expect we’ll actually get to see the match, rather than it be surprise announced on the show that it’s not happening (I know it was because Crews was ill, but still).

My prediction is the same too, I think Apollo Crews is going to retain. Admittedly, I do see value in putting the title on MVP, and I won’t complain if it happens, but keeping on the younger guy in Crews feels like the right way to go. I think I spent so long not caring about Crews that I forgot how good he can be, so now I’d like to see him carry this on for as long as possible.

Dominik Mysterio vs Seth Rollins
(Street Fight)

We all knew this was going to end up here, and yet for some reason, I was still surprised when this match was announced.

I know I wasn’t much of a fan of the eye-for-an-eye match at Extreme Rules, but I think the build of this story has been great. I’m still not entirely sure why guys like Black & Carrillo are wasting their time with it, but the stuff between Rollins and the Mysterios has been fantastic fun to watch. I was expecting to have a difficult time getting used to Dominik showing up and fighting every week on Raw, but the writing team did a great job in getting me invested in him. Admittedly, it was through the method of having Rollins & Murphy beating the crap out of him, but what can I say? I’m invested.

The match itself is a bit uncertain though, purely because we have no idea what Dominik is like as a wrestler. He might have taken to the sport miraculously quickly and will blow us all away, but there’s an equal possibility that he’ll be really green. As such, I’m not if a weapons match was the right choice for his first match. The positives are that it allows for plenty of interference, so the pressure isn’t all on Dominik to help carry the thing, plus, a slower pace will work better with his relative inexperience. The problem is that it takes two very skilled performers to make a slow-paced weapons match work, which means he could be in trouble. Also, I don’t like weapons matches, but that’s beside the point.

I could theoretically see this one going either way, but I’m reasonably confident in picking Dominik Mysterio. Rollins has won the entire feud up until this point, so I think it’s only appropriate for this to be the time for him to take the loss. If Dominik is going to be sticking around as a permanent fixture of the Raw roster, then giving him a big win like this right out of the gate is an excellent way to build him up. I know people are arguing there’s a believability issue with Dominik beating someone as big of a star as Rollins, but if Rey gets involved, then I don’t think that’ll be a problem.

Braun Strowman(c) vs The Fiend Bray Wyatt
(Universal Championship)
(Falls Count Anywhere)

How is THIS the match I care the least about? On paper, it’s an absolute winner, both of these guys have a history, and both of them have significantly evolved since 2016 when they were together. Yet, this story has been running for roughly 4 months now, and I’m bored with it. I can see what they were trying to accomplish with getting Bliss involved, and I commend them for trying to switch things up in regards to the heel/face alignments. The thing is, I don’t think it’s been very well executed. This is a war between a destructive monster and a brutal psychopath, why are they sitting around arguing all the time?

I used to love Braun Strowman around 2017/2018 because he’d come in full of adrenaline and absolutely demolish anyone or anything in his path. It was much the same with The Fiend, he was this seemingly invisible force of destruction that would tear his opponents to shreds. This should be the most straightforward story in the world to tell, all you have to do is slowly escalate the violence week on week. Have it reach the point where their conflict starts to intrude upon every aspect of Smackdown until management has to step in to try and put a stop to it, only for them to keep causing mayhem anyway. It’s the kind of story that, somehow, WWE don’t tell very often, and with characters like these, it would be an absolute blast to watch. The final segment on Smackdown proved my point on that front, it was by far the best part of the whole feud, and this whole story should’ve been full of cool stuff like that.

When it comes to the match, I’m not sure what I’d prefer. On the one hand, they’ve already had two very drama-focused matches, so part of me wants to see a much more action-focused match. Then again, maybe doing another drama-focused match is the way to go? Bray is a world-class in-ring storyteller, so if anyone could make it work, I’d say it’s him.

The result is a tough one, so I’m just going with what I’d prefer, which is The Fiend Bray Wyatt to win the title. To be blunt, Braun’s title reign has been crap. He’s been boring as a character and none of his matches have been any fun to watch. Sure, The Fiend having the title again may create some problems down the line, but I honestly don’t care at this point. If we’re going to have anyone hold the title until Roman’s ready to come and take it, I’d rather it be Bray than Braun.

 

Sasha Banks(c) vs Asuka
(Raw Women’s Championship)

AND

Bayley(c) vs Asuka
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Bundling these two together because their stories are essentially one and the same.

So, there’s plenty of theories as to how this whole story with Banks, Bayley & Asuka could turn out, which is why I’m so invested in it right now. There are a bunch of different options, all with their own exciting storyline potential.

First of all, what I don’t think will happen: Bayley & Sasha BOTH retaining. I feel confident that Asuka is walking out of Summerslam with at least one of those titles, the question now remains, which one? Or perhaps even both? I seriously considered the ‘both’ option, and I very nearly made it my final decision, but I think it would create some problems. While it’s become almost a cliche to say it at this point, I think we’re headed to a break-up of Bayley & Sasha, which would mean that they’re going to be feuding with each other in the near future. While I agree with the sentiment that it’s a feud that doesn’t need the title, I think it would unquestionably be enhanced by having a title on the line.

So, which title will it be? Here’s my pitch.

Bayley takes the hit for her friend and has her match against Asuka first, and it plays out mostly how you would expect it to. The two of them have a fun match for 12-15 minutes, then things go into overdrive, and the shenanigans ensue. I don’t know the specifics of it, but Sasha does her thing, screws over Asuka and Bayley escapes with her title. Then, a little later on in the night, it’s time for Asuka vs Sasha. Already we’ve got a great story to tell in the match as Asuka is starting on the back foot in a major way. Things boil to a climax where, somehow, someway, Bayley costs Sasha her title, letting Asuka walk away with the Raw Women’s Championship.

Whether Bayley does this through deliberate sabotage, an accidental miscommunication or simply inaction, something is going to happen that causes Sasha to lose her title. From there, you’ve got a whole bunch of directions to take it. You can either do the break up there and then, or you can let the tensions simmer for a little while, through the pair’s defence of the tag titles at Payback.

It’s an ambitious theory, I’ll admit, and I can’t wait to see how horrifically wrong I am, but let me have my fun, dammit.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Randy Orton
(WWE Championship)

I cannot believe that I’m sitting here in 2020, excited for a Randy Orton world title match.

I know I wasn’t a fan of Orton vs Edge at Backlash, but I’ll be damned if Randy Orton hasn’t become one of the most entertaining characters on all of WWE TV right now. I don’t know what it was, but something lit a fire under his ass, and he’s become more motivated, animated and downright exciting than he’s been for years. He’s entertaining to the point where I’m sitting here thinking that if he won the world title on Sunday, I’d be perfectly ok with it; even when he’s taking the title away from my beloved British wrestling hero, Drew McIntyre. NOW, to clarify, just because I’d be ok with it, doesn’t mean it’s what I want to happen, I would still prefer Drew to retain, however, if it happens I won’t be mad about it. There’s just something about the idea of Orton vs Edge for the WWE title that gets me very excited indeed.

I honestly don’t know what to expect from this match. I have no idea how the styles of these two men will mesh in the ring, whether it will be a slow burner, or fast and furious, I really couldn’t tell you. However, I’m choosing to take the optimists route and say that I think it’ll be something we’ll look back on fondly at the end of the year. Maybe not a match of the year contender, but definitely something we’ll have been glad to have invested our time in.

Now…I’ve got to pick a winner, and I’m really struggling. Every logical bone in my body is telling me, Orton. Looking at his story since Wrestlemania, it makes all the sense in the world and, as I said, Orton vs Edge III still needs to happen…but I just can’t do it. This a decision made almost entirely by my heart rather than my head, but I’m picking Drew McIntyre to win. He’s had an absolutely cracking reign as WWE Champion, and I’d very much like to see it continue.

WWE Extreme Rules 2020: Every Match Ranked

The Horror Show at Extreme Rules is now over and…well, it didn’t really live up its name, did it? The only two ‘horrifying’ segments weren’t exactly anything horrible, either in terms of content or quality. Ultimately, Extreme Rules isn’t a show that will be remembered for much of anything, for better or for worse. There were some slightly weird booking choices here and there, but there was nothing on this show that I hated or made me angry. Of course, the other side of that coin is that there was nothing that blew me away either.

Let’s get to breaking down the matches.

7 – Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro def. The New Day(c)
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Tables)

Well, it was hardly the worst tables match I’ve ever seen, but I still didn’t enjoy it.

If you’ve ever heard me bitch about weapons matches before, then you know why I didn’t enjoy this one. There was way too much time in the match wasted faffing around with tables that ended up being totally unimportant to the match. There was at least one that they spent time getting out and setting up, only for it never to be used in a single spot. This wasn’t a particularly long match and a lot of the time just felt wasted.

The action when they weren’t setting up tables was fun to watch, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it. Not to mention, it’s stuff we’ve seen from both teams before. There were a couple of fun spots, I liked Kofi being flung face-first into an up-turned table and the finish ended up looking quite brutal with how hard Kofi went through the tables. I’m just a bit confused as to why Cesaro & Nakamura won.

I’m not going to complain too much as Cesaro & Nakamura both holding titles is definitely a positive in my book, but given how sparse the tag team scene is on Smackdown now, what’s the point? I can only imagine that they’re just going to keep feuding with The New Day for at least another few months.

6 – Kevin Owens def. Buddy Murphy
(Kickoff Show)

A pretty standard placement for a pre-show match here and the reasoning is just as simple. It was a good match, I enjoyed what I saw. The only reason it’s not higher is that it didn’t have any build and I wanted to see a lot more of it.

I know WWE has a show to promote and all that, but would it really hurt them to let their pre-show match go 12-15 minutes instead of 8? I feel like putting on a bloody good match will get people more interested in signing up to the network/buying the PPV than Booker T and JBL inanely arguing with each other will.

Regardless, Owens & Murphy put on a good show here, and I hope both guys get a lot more than this in the coming months.

5 – Seth Rollins def. Rey Mysterio
(Eye for an Eye)

I liked it, but I can’t help but feel like this was an anti-climax.

This definitely should’ve been pre-taped. I’m not saying it should’ve gone all the way, but it should’ve at least been something like with Orton vs Edge. Set it out like a regular match, but occasionally do something a bit more ‘cinematic’, because when you’re promoting that someone’s going to have their eye taken out, it needs to feel like a big moment, but this just felt underwhelming.

Looking at the positives first, we got a lot of enjoyable action here. As expected, Rollins & Mysterio had great chemistry, and they were able to give us a lot of quick action that had a fantastic sense of flow to it. Even when things slowed down for the weapons, or for eye-gouging, it still carried a lot of the momentum that they’d built up throughout the match. My only real criticism of this aspect is how it dropped off a lot towards the end and slowed right down. That might’ve not been a problem if they’d stuck the landing on the finish, but…

It was an anti-climax. Seth did everything in his power to sell it, and I admire him for trying so hard (throwing up was a good touch), but it just didn’t work. Seth pressed Rey’s eye into the corner of the steps – which we’ve already seen before – and it looked like Seth was about to do more, only for him to suddenly realise that his eye was out. Then the referee just started freaking out and called for the bell. We didn’t see anything and the spot where Rey’s eye was being pushed into the steps didn’t even look that brutal compared to some other stuff they’d already done. I think they put a fake eye for Rey to hold up to his real one, but it was almost entirely covered by his hand, so I can’t tell. Maybe if that had been more obvious, I would’ve been more on board.

I just think it’s one of those situations where, it’s an over-the-top and slightly cartoonish situation, so you may as well have just gone the whole way with it and given us a prosthetic or CGI look of Rey’s eye poking out. Even later in the show, they had Charlie be like ‘he’s not actually lost his eye, doctors are going to put it back in’ so now it feels even less impactful.

At the end of the day, it’s a tale as old as time: Enjoyable match, rubbish finish.

4 – Bray Wyatt def. Braun Strowman (I think?)
(Wyatt Swamp Fight)

This was a bit of weird one because it didn’t really fit in with all the other pre-tapes we’ve seen so far. While I think that the positives outweigh the negatives, I can absolutely understand why others would hate it.

We’ll start with the negatives since I think there were less of them. The biggest one that I noticed was that the lighting was just awful. I know that it’s supposed to be dark and unknown, but that doesn’t stop you from shining a small spotlight on it so we can at least see the action. The other major point is that the ending didn’t work for me. I didn’t for a second buy the fake-out with the credits (though points for trying) and the way it all closed out, are we supposed to believe that Strowman drowned? Again, well done on trying something new & creative, but it will all be for nought if he just shows up on Friday like he didn’t go through some kind of traumatic experience.

However, there was still plenty to enjoy. I know some people will probably criticise the match for this, but I thought that Bray’s monologue was great. It was a bit weird that they had Braun heavily breathing so close to the microphone, but Bray has such a way with words that I couldn’t help but be fascinated while he talked. He’s able to weave such a beautiful tapestry that I felt I understood his motivations now better than I did with a whole month of build.

I’m not entirely sure why there was a snake, or what the symbolism was there, but it worked for the horror aspect. As did Braun setting a guy on fire. Again, all of these ideas are inherently silly, so going over-the-top and cartoonish with them is how you make them great. The callback to the Braun & Alexa stuff was a nice little touch. It was something that I’d never considered injecting into the story, but once it came up, it made all the sense in the world. I wish they would’ve pressed harder with it to be honest with you, Bray continually trying to lure Braun in with things from his past could’ve been very interesting.

I’m glad Bray came out on top, and it seems than Braun vs Fiend is where this is headed. It’s the expected outcome, but that’s not a bad thing. At the end of the day, this wasn’t one of the best pre-tapes WWE have produced, but it was still way better than both of NXT’s attempts.

4 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Dolph Ziggler
(Extreme Rules, for Dolph Ziggler only)
(No Champion’s Advantage)

Heels are just so smart sometimes. It’s always so dumb when wrestlers are allowed to pick stipulations, but then they just pick something generic that benefits their opponent as well as them. You can pick ANYTHING, this is your opportunity to ensure you win yourself the title. Thank goodness Dolph Ziggler finally pulled his finger out of his arse and realised this. Admittedly, you could turn around and ask ‘why didn’t he just say something like Drew has to wrestle handcuffed & blindfolded’ which is a valid point from a kayfabe perspective, but that would’ve been pretty boring to watch, don’t you think?

A stipulation for this made for an interesting dynamic between the two. It was played for the obvious a couple of times, where Drew almost used a weapon but then didn’t; the table spot especially was an excellent way to play on our expectations. It also came through in more subtle ways. It meant that there was a lot more regular wrestling throughout this match, a lot of the focus was shifted away from the weapons. It avoided falling into the usual traps of weapons matches where they try too hard to make the weapons the focal point.

I think it’s incredible how consistently they’ve made Drew look like a beatable champion, without actually harming his ‘indestructible’ aura. With both Ziggler, Lashley & Rollins they’ve been able to put Drew in situations where his title reign is in severe jeopardy, only for him to overcome it and come away from it looking even more invincible than he did before. I know that seems like such an obvious idea, but I honestly can’t remember the last time WWE pulled it off properly with a face world champion, so I’m pleased it’s happening now.

There were still some slow points, but they ended up not mattering in the end, I felt it was outweighed by the compelling storytelling and exciting action. Not to mention Drew busting out one of the best Claymores I’ve ever seen. The timing, the impact, it was just so satisfying.

2 – Bayley(c) def. Nikki Cross
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

More, more, more! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, WWE’s women’s division is on fire right now.

First up, the Smackdown Women’s title match. I know we’d seen Bayley vs Nikki before, but that didn’t bog down this match in the slightest. Both wrestlers came right out of the gate with fast and exciting offence, and the pace didn’t slow very much as things progressed. Nikki was on a roll here, and it put me in mind of the style Cross gave us when he was fighting the likes of Asuka in NXT. She always threw caution to the wind and threw herself around like a ragdoll. She’s so much fun to watch when she’s let loose.

Bayley did fantastic work here too. She properly has the hang of the ‘smart heel’ style of wrestling, where she played a much more reactionary role in the style of the match. Where Nikki was going all-out and fighting in any way she could, Bayley was doing her best to turn it against Nikki Cross, picking her openings and then getting to work. Sure, it’s a fairly basic idea, but that’s often all you need to put together a great match. It gave the feeling that, despite her not being on offence as much as Nikki, she was in control of the match most of the time.

Towards the end, things broke down a bit more and got slightly more chaotic, a factor that absolutely works in this feud’s favour. I’ll get a bit more into it with the next entry, but this whole feud between Bayley/Sasha/Nikki/Asuka has been built on chaos, so it absolutely should be baked into the matches. Bayley gets another dirty win, but it doesn’t feel like a cop-out because of her character & the way the match had built to it; meanwhile, Nikki can come away from it with some dignity.

1 – Sasha Banks def. Asuka(c) (sort of)
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Hell yes, give me more of that chaos.

Let’s cut straight to the chase here, these two competitors put on a fantastic match. I’ll talk about the finish in just a moment, but everything leading up to it was superb. They created a story in the match where both women could wrestle pretty fast-paced styles, while it was still very obvious who the heel was. Sasha didn’t have to slow the match down too much to feel like the bad guy thanks to the attitude she put behind her moves. The only time the match ever properly slowed was when Sasha was applying that cool-looking submission hold, and since it was the only time the match ever slowed, it felt like a big deal and put Asuka on the back foot.

The constant trading and manipulation of holds between the two of them worked so well, and they did it at such a pace that it felt like momentum was constantly shifting between both women. Sometimes all you need to make your action compelling is to create the feeling that both competitors are truly evenly match, which is precisely what we got here. Asuka is in this weird position, where she’s a slightly goofy & lovable babyface that can absolutely dominate a match when she wants to, which played so well here, especially towards the end when things started to fall apart for Banks.

That’s as good a segway as any to talk about the finish. To put it simply, this finish not what I would’ve liked to have seen, but I’m not too mad about it happening. As I said, the whole build to these matches has been quite chaotic. Bayley & Sasha travelling across both shows has created the feeling that they’re picking too many fights and they’re having trouble fending them all off. Week in and week out, Bayley & Sasha end up cornered by the babyfaces, only to weasel their way out of it. So what do they do here? Exactly the same as they’ve always done.

Incorporating all the potential cheating elements that these women have in their back pocket was great. I loved the chaos of Bayley getting in the ring & slipping the title to Sasha, while, unbeknownst to them, Kairi had slipped Asuka the thing that lets her spit green mist. The fact that none of them worked was great at establishing just how well these women know each other’s styles.

However, Bayley putting on the referee shirt, counting the pin and giving Sasha the title was where it went a step too far. If you want to pull something like this off, everyone has to be on board. The wrestlers, the timekeeper & most especially the commentators. The fact that the timekeeper refused to ring the bell, the fact that Sasha didn’t seem to know if she’d really won and the fact that the commentators were totally clueless about the whole thing meant it all fell totally flat.

It creates a lot of intrigue going into Raw (which I imagine was its goal), and I’m not going to let it detract too much from my enjoyment of the match, but it was definitely an odd decision.

And that’s it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Wednesday for the next instalment in my 100 Favourite Games series!

Money in the Bank 2020: Every Match Ranked

Woah…ok. That sure was a night of wrestling.

It’s easy to forget given the…something…that was the main event, but there were actually proper wrestling matches on this show, and almost all of them were pretty good. The lower number of matches than usual did feel a bit weird, especially when some of them didn’t get to go very long, but much like the two-night Wrestlemania, I think it was actually a good idea. Things felt like they were paced a lot better because of it and my interest never wained in the show because it didn’t drag on for an hour longer than it needed to. Sure, I would’ve prefered it if more high-profile talent got a spot on this show, but I’m thankful that they didn’t stuff this show with guff.

So, let’s get on with the matches.

7 – Bobby Lashley def. R-Truth

Oh yeah, Bobby Lashley is a thing…how did I forget about him?

Not a whole lot to say with this one. Truth and MVP’s promo was kinda fun but not really all that intriguing, I guess it probably would’ve been a bit better if I knew anything about basketball, but that’s my problem. As for the bait-and-switch, I’m ok with it, since I don’t think MVP vs R-Truth would’ve been all that great.

Admittedly, this match wasn’t anything special either, but I certainly didn’t hate it. When you get matches like this that are just slightly extended squashes, you have to look at them through a different lens than you look at a regular match through. I think Truth’s antics of trying to escape kept this thing going through Lashley’s relatively uninteresting offence.

That said, it was still a standard squash match, so I can’t bring myself to put it any higher than this.

6 – Bayley(c) def. Tamina
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

I really wanted to be optimistic about this one, but it just didn’t work.

It had it’s moments, mostly involving Bayley heeling it up, but the match ended up being quite slow for the most part and wasn’t able to carry the 10 minutes it got. I wish I could be positive about Tamina here, but there really wasn’t anything to like from her here. Her wrestling style is that of your standard “big-guy” in wrestling only she seems to have even less mobility than many of her counterparts. She can do a good superkick though…so there’s that I guess? Bayley didn’t seem to be at her best here either. I enjoyed her taunting Tamina throughout, and that aspect of her character has remained consistent, but something about her in-ring stuff just felt a bit flat to me; not to mention one of the worst knee-bars I’ve ever seen.

As for the finish, it’s about what I expected. It would’ve been nice to see a bit more of something between Sasha and Bayley (if that’s where we’re headed…it bloody well should be). Although, I understand that subtlety isn’t exactly WWE’s strong suit and they’re probably looking to keep this building until Summerslam, so maybe it’s a bit early. If Tamina does carry on pursuing this title, I can only hope it’s in the form of a multi-woman match, because I really don’t fancy sitting through another singles match between these two.

5 – Jeff Hardy def. Cesaro
(Kickoff Show)

You know, given that they spent a month hyping up his return, I really would’ve thought they’d have put this match on the main show…

As it stands, I enjoyed this one. Admittedly there’s not really all that much to say about it, as it generally filled the role of being a slightly above average TV match than anything else. I don’t wonder with matches like this whether I would’ve enjoyed it more if there was a crowd to react to stuff, even if I feel I’ve gotten used to the lack of background noise by now. I don’t really know what else to say here, there was no story going into this match since Cesaro and Sheamus have now disassociated from each other.

It was an enjoyable match from two great wrestlers, and I’d love to see more of this from both of these guys going forward.

4 – Braun Strowman(c) def. Bray Wyatt
(Universal Championship)

The fact that the lack of a crowd means we can very clearly hear the wrestlers talking in the ring is something that I don’t think has been taken advantage of nearly as much as it could’ve been up until now. Bray Wyatt was the perfect character to play to this, and he did an excellent job. From his ramblings to commentary and the camera during his entrance, to his comments to Braun throughout the match, Wyatt was able to tell the story absolutely perfectly.

I wasn’t actually all that interested in the story going into this one, but thanks to the work done between the two of them in the ring, I came away more invested than I came in. The injection of the puppets was the only thing that didn’t quite land for me. I know they’re supposed to be Wyatt’s tools for indoctrinating people into the funhouse, but they’re so disconnected from what Wyatt and Strowman had in 2015/16, that they felt a bit out of place. Everything else was really well done though, from Bray’s pleading with Braun, to Braun’s tricking of Wyatt, making him believe that he had actually convinced him to come back. In a way, this even justified the decision to had Funhouse Bray wrestle the match rather than The Fiend.

When it comes to the action, it wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was entertaining enough and served the story like it was supposed to. This wasn’t much of a competitive match, which tends to be where Wyatt shines best, so there was only so much interest it could have. That said, his more reactionary role in the pacing made for a more compelling story.

3 – The New Day(c) def. Lucha House Party, The Forgotten Sons, The Miz & John Morrison
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)

Multi-team tag matches are always great.

This match followed the simple, yet effective, formula that most matches of this elk do. That being it started out pretty slow, with standard action between the two legal men, throwing in the occasional tag and double-team move. Then about 5 minutes in all hell breaks loose and the following 10 minutes of the match is a barrel of fun.

Lucha House Party ended up being the MVPs of this match if you ask me, one of them was almost always involved in the action, and they did a really good job of it too. This kind of chaotic and fast-paced match is perfect for their style, so everything they did felt very natural and compelling. Miz & Morrison were great too. It wasn’t quite as overt as it was in their previous matches, but they filled their role of picking their spots and only getting involved when they stood a chance of gaining the advantage to great effect.

The Forgotten Sons were, unfortunately, who I was most disappointed. They got a few notable spots in there, but nothing all that consequential. They’re one of those rare cases where I don’t think we saw their full potential in NXT and I was really hoping that we’d start to catch glimpses of it here. The New Day was great though, and I think the match was structured in such a way so that you really felt they deserved the win by the end. Kofi took a battering like he always does, and Big E ran through the whole thing with a head of steam in the way that only he can.

I’m not entirely sure where the feuds will go from here. My guess would be a regular two on two match between New Day and Miz & Morrison just to finally put the cap on that, but The Forgotten Sons may get that featured spot instead. Either way, I think we’re in for a good match at Backlash.

2 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. Seth Rollins
(WWE Championship)

Ok, when it comes to regular wrestling matches, this was far-and-away the best match on the show, but come on…

It seems Money in the Bank is just going to be the show where Seth Rollins had a brilliant singles match for a world title, his brilliant match with Styles was at last year’s show too. Given how dominant a champion Drew has been over the past month, there was a risk that making this too much of a competitive match might take away from some of that aura, but I think they did a great job of balancing it. Drew felt like he was in control for large swathes of the match and even in his more vulnerable moments, he never felt diminished because of it.

Rollins meanwhile has done an amazing job of making his fast-paced, high-flying offence – a style that typically only works for faces – into something quite methodical and heelish. The sequence where he did a bunch of flying knee strikes to Drew on the outside, in particular, felt very heavy and brutal, even though it’s usually a crowd-popping and exciting move.

Everything in this match worked to the benefit of both men. Rollins shows once again how he’s able to continually adapt and evolve his style for what his role is, and he genuinely looked like a credible threat to Drew’s championship. Meanwhile, Drew was able to look vulnerable without ever looking weak, and the handshake at the end solidified him as the top guy on Raw. Partly because it makes him look noble and honourable, but Rollins accepting it gives Drew a boost too, because Rollins’ whole point in this feud was his belief that Drew wouldn’t be able to handle leading Raw.

Combine all of that stuff with a sizable helping of exciting back-and-forth action, and you’ve got yourself a match of the year candidate right there.

1 – Otis and Asuka won the Money in the Bank Ladder Matches

Ok…ok. Let’s all take a breath…now let’s break this thing down.

First thing’s first, this whole thing was so incredibly dumb, but it was also absolutely brilliant. Let’s be honest here, the idea of a race through an office block to grab a prize on the roof is an absolutely ridiculous concept, so leaning all the way into that ridiculousness was the perfect way to play this match.

Things started off silly as Asuka did a dance on the balcony before leaping off of it onto all of the other women, meanwhile, the men fought in the gym, a sequence which featured Corbin being absolutely traumatised when he accidentally broke one of the mirrors. Then Asuka got into an elevator and seemingly danced the whole way up in it as the men ran past a bathroom, in which Brother Love was taking a piss for some reason.

Next up, then men fought into an elevator, which opened in the exact same place where the women had just started fighting. Some great spots included Asuka and Aleister Black doing shifty eyes like they’re in a Scooby-Doo cartoon before sneaking off. Meanwhile, Otis got carried away, cheering along with Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!” kicks and also…there was a clown…I don’t know why there was a clown, but the was a clown.

Moving on, the women fought their way into a conference room that, for some reason, had a fake Money in the Bank briefcase hanging from the ceiling. After all the other women were laid out, Dana Brooke, for some reason, thought that the briefcase above the conference room must be the real one, despite every advert for the past month saying it would be on the roof. At this point, Stephanie McMahon appeared in one of the worst editing jobs I’ve ever seen (it didn’t even slightly look like Stephanie was actually in the room with Dana) to tell Dana that the real briefcase was on the roof.

We then revisit AJ Styles, who’s hunting down Rey after Rey left him trapped under a set of weights in the gym and we get a rare bit of continuity in WWE as AJ becomes traumatised by a photo of The Undertaker. Which makes sense when you consider The Undertaker buried AJ alive last month…you would’ve thought that would’ve come up a bit sooner, but oh well.

Then we get to the stupidest, but also the best part of the match. As Paul Heyman was sat down at a table full of food, both the men and the women ran into the room and stared each other down. Otis then picked up a sandwich and started having a fit. Everyone else in the room put on their best melodramatic “oh shit” faces until Otis called for a food fight and chaos ensued. Some of the highlights of this segment include Rey Mysterio being choked out by Shayna Baszler, then literally squashed by Nia Jax and the music being absolutely perfect. That isn’t the end of the food stuff though, as Otis went into the kitchen and found a row of pies laid out. At which point, MOTHERFUCKIN’ JOHNNY ACE rolls in on a scooter and takes a pie to the face.

Dana then manages to slip on a wet floor (we never see her again in the match after this) and Nia throws Shayna into a wall, we’d never see Shayna again in this match either. The men have managed to fight their way into the main conference room, and after a small skirmish, Styles and Bryan stumble into an office that just so happens to have Vince McMahon writing on a clipboard. Styles and Bryan then look at each other like school children that have been caught messing around and leave the office with their tails between their legs. After that, another skirmish happens where Corbin comes out on top and declares “I’m going to the roof!” to absolutely no-one.

We finally get to the roof, and this is where things get a bit more tense and series. The women get to the roof first, and there aren’t any major ladder spots on the roof, just vague fighting and attempting to prevent each other from climbing the ladder. After Asuka and Lacey fought on the ladder for a weirdly long time, Asuka was climbing to the top. Corbin appeared and tried to stop her from grabbing the briefcase for some reason. Seriously, WHY did Corbin give a shit about Asuka winning the women’s briefcase? The men’s briefcase was RIGHT THERE, if he had just left Asuka alone, he could’ve won the match in seconds. Anyway, Asuka kicked him in the face and retrieved the briefcase.

We’re not done yet, though, as now the rest of the men emerged onto the roof. Corbin decided that the best course of action would be to launch both Mysterio and Black off of the roof (I know there was actually a crash pad about 10 feet down, but they shot it to look like they went off the roof). The men fought for a bit and eventually Styles and Corbin found themselves at the top of the ladder, the briefcase came off of the hook with both of them holding it until Elias of all people showed up and smashed Corbin in the back with a guitar. That left AJ with the briefcase and the win, right? WRONG. Instead, AJ managed to fumble the briefcase, which knocked it perfectly into Otis’ hands. Seriously, they showed the slow-motion replay, and it’s the most perfect fumble I think I’ve ever seen.

GOD, this was brilliant. The Boneyard and Funhouse matches were great because of their uniqueness and the cleverness of the writing and filming involved. This was great in the way that it’s so bloody stupid I can’t help but love every second of it.

As for the winners, as much as I would’ve preferred Shayna to win, giving it to Asuka is still a great choice and I hope they make something good of it. In regards to Otis, it’s certainly not who I would’ve picked, but given that this was a comedy match, why not have the comedy wrestler win it? I don’t think he’ll ever actually get to cash-in as I stand by my belief that there is no world championship in his future. However, right now, I can’t help but smile at it. Like the match as a whole, it’s incredibly dumb, but also beautiful.

That’s all folks! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this article, please let me know what your thoughts on the show are, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back this time on Saturday, where I’ll be releasing the second part of my Minecraft Updates list!

The Best Opening Matches in WWE Pay-Per-View History

“If you can’t go on last, go on first”

The opening match of any wrestling show is arguably the most important of the whole night, while the main event is almost always the biggest, most important match of the show that everyone will be talking about the next day, the opening match is what sets the tone for the show going forward and often decides whether or not any given individual will keep watching the show the whole way through. As such, there have been plenty of absolute barn-burners and all-time classic matches that held the prestigious spot of being the first thing the live audience got to see.

To be clear here, I am not counting pre-show or dark matches in this list as these are usually put on before the full crowd has even entered the building and a large portion of the home viewing audience haven’t switched on. I’m instead referring to the first match to take place on the main portion of a WWE Pay-Per-View. This also means NXT Takeovers don’t count because let’s be honest, that wouldn’t be fair.

With that clarification made, let’s take a look at the best of these show openers.

10 – Daniel Bryan vs Dolph Ziggler – Bragging Rights 2010

Trust me, this isn’t the last time Daniel Bryan is going to appear on this list.

While the concept of Bragging Rights was one that would eventually bleed over into the annual Survivor Series event – and be much better off for it – looking back at the history of the two incarnations of the event, there was only ever one great match between the two of them and this was it.

Although the IWC (myself included) have all gotten a bit bored with Dolph Ziggler as a wrestler, there was once a time where he was one of the only bright stars in a sea of boring characters and dull wrestling matches. In fact, with the exception of CM Punk, it’s arguable that Bryan & Ziggler were the only two “internet darlings” in the company at the time so naturally, a clash between the two of them was always going to be something special.

What this match is, is two brilliant wrestlers that have flamboyant and exciting wrestling styles going at each other in a match that very rarely lets up to catch its breath. There are some slightly wonky elements, with Vickie Guerrero’s presence at ringside occasionally causing a break in the action and a weird non-finish where Ziggler got a three-count because the referee didn’t see Bryan’s foot on the rope, only for the decision to be waived off and the match continued.

Luckily, none of those issues stopped the match from having a healthy serving of quick back-and-forth action and near falls to ramp up the excitement and get the crowd on their feet for a show that, in the grand scheme of things, really wasn’t much to write home about.

9 – Brock Lesnar(c) vs Seth Rollins –   Wrestlemania 35
(Universal Championship)

This was more of a great moment than a match, however, a bell did ring, so it counts.

Wrestlemania 35 was a show full of crowd please, triumphant moments for the babyfaces and it made sure to spread them evenly throughout the show, this meant that when the show was just starting, we already had ourselves an exciting moment. After the US National Anthem played and Hulk Hogan was…there, Paul Heyman stormed to the ring and declared that if Brock Lesnar wasn’t going to be in the main event, then he was going to have his match now and get an early night.

It’s easy to forget now, but at this point, just about everyone was fully behind Seth Rollins as a babyface who was ready to slay the beast and finally take the Universal Championship away from Lesnar. WWE managed to not only pull it off brilliantly but do it in perhaps the most exciting way possible, with Lesnar beating down Rollins before he made a sudden comeback to pin the beast and win the title in just two and a half minutes.

Paralleling the moment from Wrestlemania 31 where he swiped the WWE Championship from under Brock Lesnar’s nose, Wrestlemania 35 opened up with Rollins swinging world title gold above his head in a moment that had me on my feet with excitement at home.

8 – The Miz(c) vs Seth Rollins vs Finn Balor – Wrestlemania 34
(Intercontinental Championship)

Triple threat matches on WWE PPVs can be a bit hit and miss depending on the participants involved. These kinds of matches need to be fast-paced and varied in their action, so when you’ve got a bunch of slow, lumbering guys in there it just doesn’t work, luckily, the three men in this match were quite the opposite. Rollins & Balor were allowed to completely let loose here, flying all over the place, keeping the excitement flowing the whole time.

The Miz couldn’t keep up with the pace of the other two, but he didn’t need to. Instead, The Miz was the perfect person to provide much more grounded action, stopping the whole thing from spiralling out of control with non-stop dives. The action between the three men had a nice sense of flow, with each combination of men in the ring had a slightly different feel to their fighting style.

There was a nice helping of storytelling in there too as The Miz attempted to renounce his evil ways (even if it didn’t last) sparing us from any interference by The Miztourage. As well as Balor & Rollins being so determined to one-up each other that at several occasions it almost allowed The Miz to slip away with the win. That didn’t happen though as eventually Seth Rollins came out the victor and spent the rest of 2018 in what I believe – from an in-ring standpoint at least – was the best year of his career so far.

7 – The Usos(c) vs The Wyatt Family – Battleground 2014
(WWE Tag Team Championships)
(2 out of 3 Falls)

A match that has been largely forgotten by time here and I can’t exactly say I blame people for that, I sure as shit can’t remember a single other thing that happened at Battleground 2014.

Looking back at 2014 today feels like looking into an alternate dimension, it’s all the wrestlers we know and love today, but not quite as we know them; case in point, The Usos. By mid-2014 I was fully into the world of WWE and I very vividly remember not giving much of a shit about The Usos. Their “tribal chanting” thing sat on the wrong side of goofy to me and, in all honesty, I didn’t see their appeal as wrestlers at all. This was the match that woke me up to the fact that these guys might actually be the amazing tag team we’ve seen over the past few years.

Pretty much everything I love about modern tag-team wrestling features in this match, the early stages where one team isolates the other didn’t last too long and once the match descended into chaos, it ebbed and flowed in such a way that allowed for natural peaks and troughs in the action that aligned with my energy levels as a viewer. The 2 out of 3 falls stipulation did wonders for the pace, allowing the action to slow all the way down at certain points before slowly building the energy and excitement up again.

I highlighted The Uso’s performance, but Harper & Rowan’s contributions to the match cannot be understated either. I know it’s common knowledge now, but at the time I didn’t realise how brilliant of a wrestler Luke Harper could be and Erick Rowan served his purpose as a slower big-guy too. The chemistry between the two teams was near-flawless and it’s one of those situations where everything came together to create a match that had just about all you could want from pure tag team wrestling.

6 – Bad News Barrett(c) vs Dean Ambrose vs Dolph Ziggler vs Daniel Bryan vs R-Truth vs Luke Harper vs Stardust – Wrestlemania 31
(Intercontinental Championship)
(Ladder)

Wrestlemania needs more of these, I mean, what else is the Cruiserweight title for these days?

Multi-man ladder matches are always pretty solid bets to get a crowd excited, but this one went above and beyond in terms of pure entertainment value. Everyone in this match served their own unique role that contributed to the break-neck pace of this match. You had Barrett coming in as the heel champion, Ambrose as the hungry challenger that isn’t afraid to get violent, Ziggler a face-technician that can bump like no-one else, Bryan who was making his big return and was beloved by everyone, Truth who was the comedy, Harper who was an all-rounder that could fill any role he needed to in the match and Stardust…who…well, let’s not talk about that.

When you’ve got such a huge variety of characters & wrestling styles colliding like this it’s always going to be an interesting watch and the action in this match was constant. There was very little room to breathe, but the amount of variety of people constantly coming in and out of the ring meant that it constantly felt like the match was being refreshed and doing something different. Just about everyone got a moment where they almost won the match and they were scattered through the match in just the right way to keep the tension rolling over with every single spot.

Speaking of spots, there’s just about every kind of ladder match spot you could want. We had people doing dives onto people and ladders; ladders would be sung around and smack people in the face; there was a big dive onto a sea of people and there was even a brutal looking powerbomb from the ring, to the outside, through a ladder. The finish was extremely crowd-pleasing, with Ziggler & Bryan fighting it out on the top until one of them fell to their doom and it kicked off Wrestlemania 31 with a massively crowd-pleasing win in the form of Daniel Bryan claiming his first reign with the Intercontinental Championship.

5 – Daniel Bryan vs Bray Wyatt – Royal Rumble 2014

While this match is generally remembered as a great one, I think the feud surrounding it is incredibly strange. This feud happened slap-bang in the middle of Bryan’s ascension to the top of WWE and was very much during the phase where WWE was trying everything they could to make sure it didn’t happen. After Bryan suffered yet another disappointing loss to Randy Orton, he found himself under attack from The Wyatt Family. For some reason, CM Punk decided he’d help out and they got the win…so feud over right? Well, apparently not as Wyatt continued their assault, focusing on Bryan as CM Punk had to deal with The Shield.

This led to a 3 on 1 match at TLC where Bryan got destroyed and eventually a slightly interesting, but also slightly bungled, storyline developed where Bryan seemed to join the Wyatt Family. While the moment where Bryan finally broke free from Wyatt was fantastic and led to arguably the best “Yes!” chant in history, it was a bit weird how the entire thing just consisted of Bryan & Bray losing to The Usos for 3 weeks.

Regardless of that, it brought us to this match. A match that was fantastic.  Bray’s style at the time was less of the slow & brutal that we see with The Fiend nowadays, instead, being a lot more frantic and fast-paced; he would still take his time when he got the opportunity to pick his opponent apart, but there was a much greater feeling of urgency to things. This played perfectly for Bryan’s style which was also pretty fast but focussed more on being plucky than being heavy-handed.

On top of the action being top-notch, they hit on some great story beats referencing the entirety of their rivalry up until that point. It had so many of those little touches that we only ever expect to see in NXT Takeover matches these days. Not only did this match help the rise of Bryan’s popularity amongst the fanbase, but it also put Bray Wyatt on the map in terms of the fans seeing him as a brilliant wrestler that could hang with all of their indie darlings.

4 – The New Day(c) vs The Usos – Hell in a Cell 2017
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Hell in a Cell)

Easily one of the best feuds of the past five years, this match was just one of the series of incredible bouts these two teams put on throughout 2017 and into early 2018 and this was arguably the best of the bunch.

By this point in 2017, The New Day and The Usos had wrestled each other on TV & PPV countless times and at face value, it would seem like that’s a recipe for disaster. Normally in WWE, when a feud lasts as long as this one did, people get bored of it and their later matches are met with indifference regardless of how good they actually are (see the Reigns vs Corbin feud from late 2019/early 2020 for proof of this). So, these two teams had to find a way to get p[eople to turn their heads and care about the fact that they’re fighting on PPV for the 4th time in the past year. Luckily, they were absolutely up to the task.

Up until this point in their feud, the two teams had done a great job of making each match feel slightly different in terms of its flow and rhythm, while still keeping up incredible action that got fans onto their feet. After rocking pre-shows and midcards for the better part of 6 months, these two teams were finally rewarded for their stellar work by getting the opportunity to create absolute magic, climaxing their now legendary feud in a Tag Team Hell in a Cell match for the ages.

Needless the say the action was damn-near flawless. Every movement in the match felt like it had so much thought and purpose behind it from the competitors. I often decry weapons matches as being boring, but the two teams here put the tools at their disposal to good use, scattering weapons in as exclamation points for the match, but never making them the focal point. Every inch of the cell was used to full effect and we saw some genuinely new and innovative spots like The New Day trapping one of the Usos in the corner of the cell by building a mini-prison out of kendo sticks. The Hell in a Cell stipulation is one that I think had been extremely played out at this point, but these guys did a fantastic job of finding fresh and interesting things to do with it.

The drama was also through the roof. From the moment the bell rang and the two teams start absolutely wailing on each other, there was so much intensity that absolutely did the epic scale of their feud justice. There were some truly ludicrous kickouts (in a good way) and the final segment where Xavier Woods tried his damndest to fend off both Usos while handcuffed is just brilliant and forged a sense of respect between the two teams that has lasted for years after the fact. Not to mention cemented both of these teams as two of the best tag teams on the planet.

3 – Kurt Angle vs Rey Mysterio – Summerslam 2002

See? I have watched wrestling outside of the past decade. Admittedly, it would’ve been hard to justify missing out what is undoubtedly an all-time classic Summerslam match.

Rey Mysterio had been in WWE for less than a month at this point and while the majority of the audience at the time knew who he was from his time at the forefront of WCW’s Cruiserweight Division, this was his first major opportunity to make a huge impact on the WWE and show that he was here to stay and hadn’t missed a beat since the WCW days. So, if you’ve got a highly-skilled technical wrestler who needs an opportunity to look great showing off everything they can do, who do you put them with? How about the greatest technical wrestler of the generation? Enter Kurt Angle.

Angle was coming off the back of an excellent feud with The Rock and The Undertaker going into Summerslam 2002 where he had often found himself the butt of the joke. He still got ample opportunity to look like a legitimate competitor, but the match at Vengeance treated him more like a third wheel, where his character elements are what really made him shine. So, this felt like a bit of a reset for his character, a newcomer had just shown up and handed him a loss and it was going to be his job to teach Mysterio a serious lesson, using his entire arsenal of fantastic wrestling.

It was a very simple story but it’s all the match needed. Mysterio was looking to prove himself against one of the best, while Angle was looking to protect his position in the company against a newcomer. What they put together in the match can only be described as a technical masterpiece. I used the term “back-and-forth” in my reviews a lot but this match really was the epitome of the term, as outside of Mysterio’s flurry at the beginning, neither man spent more than 90 seconds or so getting in offence at any single point in the match. There were constant counters, reversals and all kinds of interesting escapes that showed the full spectrum of what both men were capable of in the ring.

While it’s arguable that Mysterio should’ve won as he was the debuting superstar, as we can now say with the power of hindsight, the loss didn’t affect Mysterio’s star power at all in the long-run and the sheer quality of the match was enough to convince all of the fans who were still unconvinced that Mysterio was a top-tier competitor.

2 – Bret Hart vs Owen Hart – Wrestlemania 10

Even though Wrestlemania 10 ended with Bret Hart toppling Yokozuna to become WWF Champion, the moment that was ultimately be most remembered from that night is his loss in the opening contest to his brother Owen.

There was a lot of hype surrounding this match at the time of Wrestlemania 10. Things had been slowly building since the previous November, where Owen became distracted after accidentally knocking his brother off of the Apron in a Survivor Series elimination tag match, causing him to get eliminated. Owen would continuously ask his brother to face him in a match, but Bret kept refusing, not wanting to fight his brother. Eventually, Owen took matters into his own hands and attacked Bret at the Royal Rumble 1994 after the duo lost to The Quebecers.

After both Lex Luger and Bret Hart were declared joint winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble, a coin was tossed and it was determined that Luger would get his match with Yokozuna first at Wrestlemania 10, with Bret fighting the champion later in the night. In order to make it fair, Bret was forced to wrestle another match earlier on in the night and Owen was selected as his opponent.

As you’d imagine from wrestlers the calibre of Bret and Owen, two wrestlers who quite literally grew up training together, this match was virtually flawless. While it doesn’t look as flashy or as exciting as the kind of “masterpiece” matches we’ve come to expect today, I didn’t feel any less invested in this match than I do any NXT title bout. The psychology of the match is simple but incredibly effective as both of the brothers seem to have an answer for just about everything the other can throw at them. It’s so clear that they know each other in the ring better than any other wrestler ever possibly could.

The sly brutality of Owen as he maliciously targets Bret’s injured leg is just wonderfully horrible, made all the better by the way he seems to showboat after every little advantage he gets over Bret. He knows that no-one thinks he’ll be able to beat Bret and he’s relishing every moment he can show people how wrong they are. Then, he only went and bloody won the thing. Catching Bret out and rolling him after following Bret’s attempt at a Hurricanrana, Owen walked away with the shocking win, putting Bret on the back foot for his title match later in the night and triggering a feud with Bret that extended into the summer and brought us some equally brilliant matches.

Wrestlemania 10 is remembered fondly as a Mania with several iconic moments, but when it comes to pure-wrestling, nothing else that happened on the night could top this match.

1 – Daniel Bryan vs Triple H – Wrestlemania 30

Who would’ve guessed that a Triple H match would’ve been the one to top this list?

As I’ve covered before, Wrestlemania 30 is the best incarnation of the show of shows to happen over the past decade (and is also my personal favourite Wrestlemania) and a huge part of that is down to this fantastic opening contest. The story of the rise of Daniel Bryan going into Wrestlemania 30 is still one that’s relatively fresh in the minds of WWE fans the world over and this match was where we would finally see whether or not WWE were serious about giving the fans what they wanted.

Every second of this match was meticulously crafted to milk every last drop of drama and intensity out of the storyline. From the moment the bell rings, the crowd are a huge factor of what makes this match so brilliant. The sight of the crowd going nuts as Triple H and Bryan stare each other down in so incredibly emotional knowing everything that went into it and they are on tenterhooks for absolutely every moment of this match.

The opening few minutes of this match are absolutely fire as Bryan comes out of the gate with the kind of babyface intensity that makes him the most lovable babyface ever before the pace switches and there’s a good 8 minutes or so of Triple H dominating the match and doing everything in his power to put Bryan away. That would normally be boring, but a combination of pacing, variety and Bryan’s selling ability made it gripping stuff to watch. Bryan scattered in a couple of hope spots throughout to keep things ticking over too. The moments where Triple H drops Bryan down on the announce table, or the ring apron, or even locks in the Yes! Lock plays the live crowd and everyone watching at home into the hands of the drama of the match. Even watching it back now I still feel that pit of despair, with the thought that maybe Triple H really is going to win and all our dreams will be crushed.

Once Bryan breaks free of the beat down, the match moves at a mile a minute. Once again, the intensity shoots through the ceiling and the whole match becomes a fever-pitch, back-and-forth contest that doesn’t let up for a moment. Every strike from both men feels weighty and impactful, both in the physical and dramatical sense of the phrase. Even on a rewatch I find myself falling for every near fall and every kickout, remembering the desperation in every fan’s mind at the time, just praying that Daniel Bryan got his time to shine.

The sheer explosion of emotion from both the crowd and Bryan himself when he blindsides Triple H with the Running Knee and gets the pin is absolutely euphoric and makes this a match that I was always connect with emotionally and was the perfect opener for the biggest show of the year.