WWE Royal Rumble 2021: Every Match Ranked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about making Charlotte look strong in defeat…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 – Edge won the Men’s Royal Rumble

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

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

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

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

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

1 – Bianca Belair won the Women’s Royal Rumble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Royal Rumble 2021: Predictions & Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Goldberg
(WWE Championship)

Here we are again…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Royal Rumble Match

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men’s Royal Rumble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Match of the Year 2020

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

10 – Men’s Royal Rumble – Royal Rumble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Wrestlemania 36: Predictions & Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s get predicting.

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

Aleister Black vs Bobby Lashley

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

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

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

Elias vs King Corbin

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

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

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

Otis vs Dolph Ziggler

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

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

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

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

I mean…ok?

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

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

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

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

Alexa Bliss! I remember her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins

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

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

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

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

Sami Zayn(c) vs Daniel Bryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Undertaker vs AJ Styles
(Boneyard Match)

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

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

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

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

Edge vs Randy Orton
(Last Man Standing)

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

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

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

Goldberg(c) vs Braun Strowman
(Universal Championship)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Royal Rumble 2020: Every Match Ranked

The Road to Wrestlemania is officially underway and if it’s going to be anything like this show last night, it’s a road I’m very excited to be going down!

Everyone who’s ever used the internet has said it at some point over the past week, but Royal Rumbles are always so much fun to watch and this year was no exceptions, with two Rumble matches that were among the better ones as far as I’m concerned. Even better than that is that the Rumbles weren’t the only thing to write home about, as many of the other matches on the show were quality watches too.

Let’s not waste any more time getting into it and breakdown Royal Rumble 2020 match-by-match!

8 – Roman Reigns def. King Corbin
(Falls Count Anywhere)

No prizes for guessing this one would be last.

Quite simply, this match had everything that I hate about Falls Count Anywhere matches all rolled into one. The action was extremely samey the whole way through (the portaloo spot notwithstanding) as almost the whole thing consisted of Reigns & Corbin wandering around, occasionally hitting each other and throwing each other into the nearest, vaguely solid object.

Even when Roode, Ziggler & The Usos showed up, I still didn’t find myself getting excited, the spot where one of The Usos launched themselves from one of the stands was cool looking, but given that none of the four men involved in that spot were actually a part of the match, I just couldn’t find a reason to care. Also, the camerawork was just plain awful, I don’t know whether the cameramen were being told to shake the camera vigorously throughout all the action, or whether they were just bad at their jobs, but I almost got motion sickness from watching the action at one point.

It certainly wasn’t the most boring match ever and I’d rank it above the match that these two had at TLC, but that’s not exactly saying much. At least the right man won

7 – Sheamus def. Shorty G
(Kickoff Show)

Not much to say on this one, other than it was a lot more competitive than I was expecting it to be. I have no idea where creative are going with this storyline for Sheamus, but I’m happy to wait and see where it goes and that included not having much worth saying about this match. It’s nice that Shorty G wasn’t just annihilated like I thought he would be, but I honestly think watching him get slaughtered by Sheamus might’ve been a bit more fun to watch.

Like almost any pre-show match, it was perfectly acceptable, but not something I’m going to be talking about for very long after the fact.

6 – Andrade(c) def. Humberto Carrillo
(United States Championship)
(Kickoff Show)

Much like Sheamus vs Shorty G, this match was perfectly fine and the only reason this one goes above that match in my rankings is because it lasted slightly longer.

The dynamic between the two was quite different to Sheamus & Shorty G’s though, as these two men have very similar in-ring styles and it felt much more like the new kid on the block trying to get a feel for one of the older fighters, in order to find a weakness. Unfortunately for Carrillo, that weakness never presented itself and while I wouldn’t say Andrade dominated him in this match, he certainly seemed to get a lot more offence in than Carrillo did.

This match wasn’t as exciting as the match these two had at TLC last month, but I still thought it was a decent showing for a pre-show match where, ultimately, everyone knew the outcome going in.

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

I think this is the match that I was the most pleasantly surprised by because, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t expecting much going in.

Bayley’s Pay-Per-View matches this past year have, for the most part, been rather underwhelming and I’m still not much of a Lacey Evans fan, but I think the two did a great job at putting on a well-paced and enjoyable match. For one thing, Lacey’s daughter is ADORABLE and her smile just seemed to instantly brighten my mood, but I also thought there was a lot of good action between the two.

I wouldn’t have thought Lacey could work that well as a face, but I found myself getting behind her as the match went on, thanks in large part to Bayley’s great ability to work as a heel. Watching this match it’s clear just how much Evans has come on as a wrestler, especially when you compare it to something like her matches against Becky Lynch from last May.

Admittedly, this wasn’t some super exciting match to set the world on fire, but I think these two women did an admirable job and made me finally see the potential in Lacey Evans’ new character direction, and more generally as a performer, so I’d rate that a success.

4 – Charlotte Flair won the 30 Woman Royal Rumble Match

With each year that goes by, I think the women’s Royal Rumble match keeps getting better and better. As WWE hires more and more credible female competitors, it no longer feels like the match is relying on the nostalgia pops and thread-bare action in order to get the crowd interested, finally putting it on par with the booking philosophies of the men’s incarnation of the match.

For the past two years, the downfall of the women’s Royal Rumble has been the first half but that wasn’t a problem here because I thought the first half of this match was the best portion of the whole thing. I wouldn’t have thought that Bianca Belair would be the one to get the rub of dominating the early portions but I absolutely loved how it played out. There was a good mix of everything in there, from the serious to the comical and it kept the action flowing at a good pace.

From when Charlotte entered through until Shayna Baszler showed up wasn’t all that interesting, but I still had a good time seeing people like Beth Pheonix & Shotzi Blackheart showing up and briefly kicking arse, even if blood somehow started POURING out of the back of Beth’s head.

While I’m a bit disappointed Shayna Baszler didn’t win the match, I’m not mad about it. While she is absolutely a ready-made star, I can understand why people think it might be a bit too early to give her a rub like winning the Royal Rumble and, let’s be honest, Charlotte was always going to have to win one of these eventually. Not to mention that sequence towards the end where Baszler just decided she’d had enough of this shit and eliminated EVERYONE still in the ring in space of about a minute was great to watch.

While it wasn’t perfect, it was undoubtedly the best of the women’s Royal Rumble matches we’ve had so far and I can honestly say I’d happily watch it again and have a good time doing so.

3 – Becky Lynch(c) def. Asuka
(Raw Women’s Championship)

This is one of those situations where I think a disinterested crowd took away from a match that was a lot better than the reactions it was getting. I don’t blame the crowd, however, if I had already gone through 3 hours of action and knew there was a Royal Rumble match immediately after this one, I’d try and conserve my energy too, but it doesn’t stop it taking away from the match somewhat.

Still, there was a lot of solid wrestling to this match and I don’t think we should let a muted crowd take away too much from that fact. These two have clear chemistry in the ring together and if I’m being entirely honest, I wouldn’t mind seeing another clash between them in front of a more lively crowd. Asuka did a good job of striking a balance between heelishly slowing down the action but keeping things relatively exciting and tense as she worked her magic.

Meanwhile, Becky did was Becky does and it was as much fun to watch as it always is. She’s so good at making herself look just about beatable, before striking out with the comebacks and sneaking away with the win. I especially liked the finishing sequence where both women were escaping each other’s submission manoeuvres and I’m happy that Becky finally got her win back.

2 – The Fiend Bray Wyatt(c) def. Daniel Bryan
(Universal Championship)
(Strap Match)

Told you they’d make it work.

If I’m being honest, I was starting to lose faith that we’d ever see a really great Fiend match, his character didn’t seem to leave much room for competitive matches, however, I was thankfully proved wrong last night as I thought this was a great way to go about it.

Strap matches usually tend to restrict the performers in the ring, but that wasn’t the case here as they were able to get some really impressive action in and still feature the strap heavily in most of their spots. Throughout the match, I really got the feeling that Daniel Bryan was finally able to get a feel of The Fiend and had plenty of counters prepared for the erratic offence The Fiend threw his way.

It was a little slow to start, but that was necessary to get the damage in on Bryan and lend a lot more drama to his comeback, which definitely worked. Every now and then Bryan would get a little advantage over The Fiend and each time he managed it, he kept the momentum going for just a little bit longer. Unfortunately, the fact that it was extremely obvious going in that Bryan wasn’t going to win sapped a bit of the drama out of the final LeBell Lock, but I still came away from the match having had a great time watching some great wrestling, so I can’t complain.

 1 – Drew McIntyre won the 30 Man Royal Rumble Match

Well, I sure didn’t see that one coming.

This was very clearly a Rumble of two halves and I think that both halves were as entertaining as each other, but in different ways. The first half where Brock was eliminating everyone was so fun to watch, it could’ve lost its novelty pretty quickly, but there was enough variation in both the entrants and the method by which they fought that kept it entertaining and it was clear from his face that Brock was having a great time, which helps LOADS.

My personal favourite moment in that first half was when Shelton Benjamin came out and Brock greeted him as an old friend because we knew that turn was coming, but Brock was so uncharacteristically cheery that I couldn’t help but chuckle. The drama was there too, with Kofi, Big E and Rey did their best to take on the Beast, it’s a bit disappointing that Kofi didn’t get his moment, but when the three of them prepared an attack on the outside, I felt the drama of it. Also, honourable mention to Brock bopping to MVP’s music.

Eventually, Drew came out at 17 and things went off the chain. Ricochet giving Brock the low-blow was a nice bit of poetry and the Claymore Drew hit to eliminate Brock was brilliant and Brock sold it like death to boot. As the ring filled up with people we got the more standard Rumble action and thanks to the calibre of the guys involved it was all great stuff.

Edge’s return was brilliant, even if a lot of us sort of knew it was probably going to happen. I became a wrestling fan not too long after Edge retired, but I’ve seen so much of his stuff since then and that look on his face as he walked out – pumped and ready to fight, but also on the brink of crying tears of joy – that hit me right in the feels and it was a wonderful moment. On top of that, he got a great showing, Spearing everyone in sight and giving us a cheeky little Rated RKO reunion for our troubles.

As I mentioned in my predictions, while Roman wasn’t the person I necessarily wanted to win, I would’ve been happy if he did and I’d come to accept the fact that it was just how it was going to happen. So when Drew threw Roman over the top and won I was genuinely shocked and overjoyed. I never would’ve picked Drew to win, but now the prospect of Drew vs Brock is in front of me I am GAGGING for it, make that man the first-ever UK-Born WWE Champion, I need that in my life.

As far as a Royal Rumble match goes, this was a resounding success on all fronts and it easily up there with many of the better Rumble matches to ever take place.

And that’s it! Those are my thoughts of Royal Rumble 2020! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back on Saturday where I’ll be running down Doctor Who Series 5!