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 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 Survivor Series 2020: Every Match Ranked

Survivor Series doesn’t really feel like a big 4 anymore, does it?

The show last night was fine, and there were a handful of enjoyable matches, but the whole thing is going to be forgotten about by the end of the week. They didn’t even bother keeping track of which show won this year, which shows you how much of a shit WWE seem to give about the main gimmick of the Pay-Per-View.

Before I start talking about the matches though, I do want to touch on The Undertaker’s final farewell, because I really liked it. I know it wasn’t much when you think about it, but it’s all a character like The Undertaker really needs. Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure why we had to sit through 10 minutes of other legend’s entrances only for them to immediately vanish and never be seen again, but this felt like the ‘series wrap’ on The Undertaker we needed.

After Wrestlemania 36, there was no indication that it was Taker’s last match until the Last Ride documentary came out in the summer, so I liked that we had this. We got that final chance to say goodbye to The Undertaker, and perhaps more importantly, for The Undertaker to say goodbye to The Undertaker. You can criticise the last few years of his career, as the man himself has, but the fact remains that The Undertaker is my favourite wrestler of all time, and is arguably the reason I’m a wrestling fan in the first place. Maybe I’ll do a longer piece about it one day, but for now, I’m glad I got the chance to say goodbye.

Anyway, onto bitching about bad booking!

7 – Team Raw (Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, Lacey Evans, Peyton Royce, Lana) def. Team Smackdown (Bianca Belair, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Natalya, Bayley)
(5-on-5 Elimination Tag)

I just don’t understand what the goal was here, no-one benefitted from the way this was booked.

The opening section of the match – before any eliminations happened – was pretty enjoyable wrestling if a little basic. It threw off the trope of one or two competitors getting eliminated early and allowed everyone at least a little bit of time in the ring. However, once the eliminations started coming, things fell apart. I don’t mind Bayley being eliminated first, because quite frankly, she took one hell of a beating leading up that point, however, then Natalya tapped out Peyton Royce with a Sharpshooter so bad that even The Rock would think it laughable. From there, the dominos kept falling as Natalya & Lacey Evans were dropped with just one or two moves each.

Then, we got inarguably the best section of the match, as Team Smackdown did everything in their power to topple Nia. Admittedly, I don’t really like how Nia was booked as a Strowman-level monster here, but it worked for this specific part of the story. Morgan & Riott trying to take her down was very compelling, and a bit heartbreaking when they eventually failed. Then, Bianca went on an absolute tear and I was properly enjoying the match again. Bianca looked like a superhero as she fought off both Baszler & Nia, and Baszler’s elimination was perfect.

But then…BUT THEN…

The finish happened, and now we have to talk about Lana because I genuinely don’t understand what the intention of this booking was. Was it supposed to make us cheer Lana? Because if it was, it utterly failed. I don’t care who’s talking down to her, having her spend the whole match stood on the stairs pouting like a pissy schoolgirl who’s just been told to tuck in their shirt doesn’t endear me to her. On top of that, her winning by accident doesn’t make me like her either. If she had just done something in that final section where she actually caused the double-countout, then it might’ve worked, but the fact is she did literally nothing and then celebrated like she carried the whole team. That’s not someone I want to cheer, and based on the story that was told up until this point, I think cheering her was what WWE wanted.

6 – Bobby Lashley def. Sami Zayn
(United States Champion vs Intercontinental Champion)

Well, this match wasn’t necessarily bad…it just wasn’t very interesting.

The heel vs heel dynamic didn’t work in this match, and I think the reasons are twofold. One was that commentary did not give us a clear narrative. They kept going back and forth on who they were presenting as the marginalized underdog, and who they were presenting as a dishonourable cheat. For the first half of the match, the face commentators were condemning The Hurt Business being around and oppressing Zayn, but as the match progressed, they changed their mind and decided that Sami deserves it because he’s a bit of a jerk.

Two was the fact that both teams tried to heel it up in different ways. Sami was being braggadocious and cowardly, while The Hurt Business was being oppressive and threatening. It meant that I didn’t like either guy and didn’t want them to win. The action in the ring was largely fine, but the match highlights the flaw with crowbarring in a gimmick PPV like this. It would’ve been so easy to avoid this problem, but because WWE already has plans in place for December, they booked themselves in a corner here and it led to a mess of a story.

5 – The Miz won the Dual-Brand Battle Royal
(Kickoff Show)

This may have been a meaningless battle royal, but it was a pretty fun meaningless battle royal.

As always with these kinds of matches, the early stages were full of short exchanges and quick eliminations, then once we started to boil down the competitors, things got more action-packed. Amazingly, almost everyone in the match got a chance to shine, Murphy went on a tear and I liked his small battle with Ziggler & Roode; Nakamura was fairly consistent throughout, making an impact when he was needed; Hardy & Elias touched on their feud again with a small exchange; Chad Gable reminded us that he’s really good at suplexes, and Dominic Mysterio was the MVP of the whole thing.

The way in which The Miz won was pretty easy to see coming, but it was still a good way to do it. Personally, I would’ve preferred to see Dominic get the win, but I certainly can’t argue with keeping Mr Money in the Bank looking strong.

4 – Team Raw (AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, Keith Lee, Sheamus, Riddle) def. Team Smackdown (Jey Uso, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, King Corbin, Otis)
(5-on-5 Elimination Tag)

Well, I knew Team Raw would finally pull it together in this match, but I certainly didn’t expect to see a sweep. It’s the kind of move that I thought I’d be annoyed about, but in reality, who does it hurt? The fact is, the Smackdown team really don’t suffer much from this loss. Seth took the pin voluntarily, and he’s about to take some time off anyway; Corbin can get his ass kicked time and time again, but still come back from it fine; Otis was easily the MVP for his team and only lost because it was 5 on 2, and Jey has this loss play into his story with Roman. The only person you could argue will suffer from it is Owens, but he wasn’t doing anything noteworthy anyway, so I don’t think it’s a big deal.

Once again, the action was fairly basic, but it was still good. There was a consistent pace and it allowed everyone to get a chance to shine. Splitting the eliminations between everyone meant that all of Team Raw looked to be on the same level, and while Keith Lee didn’t get to be the sole survivor, getting the final pin is definitely a good way to go about it. Weirdly, I found myself enjoying Otis’ performance the most in the match, especially when it was down to 5-on-2. However, Jey Uso also did a brilliant job as the final man.

I can’t wait to see them all start beating the crap out of each other on Raw tonight.

3 – The Street Profits def. The New Day
(Raw Tag Team Champions vs Smackdown Tag Team Champions)

Here we have ourselves an uncomplicated, high-quality tag team match.

As opposed to the mid-card titles, where the heel vs heel dynamic ruined the match, this one definitely benefitted from face vs face, as it allowed both teams to mix up their styles a bit. New Day definitely took a more heelish role in the match and I’d honestly forgotten just how good they are at it. Xavier started putting a little extra impact on his moves to make them more hard-hitting, and Kofi’s taunting from ringside was fantastic stuff.

Street Profits knew just the right way to respond to all of it though, and they turned all of New Day’s shots into comebacks for them. They spent a large part of the match getting down, but by the end, the Profits felt like a team of equal quality who completely deserved their win. As always with these kinds of matches, when it broke down towards the later stages in when the match reached its peak. The working of Ford’s rib kept the result constantly in doubt, especially when he couldn’t cover after the splash.

Having Street Profits use a different finisher worked wonders for them too, as it showed their ability to adapt when their opponents throw their plans to the dogs. After spending half the year feuding with the same teams, this was a breath of fresh air that reminded me just how amazing Street Profits are when they’re at their peak.

2 – Sasha Banks def. Asuka
(Raw Women’s Champion vs Smackdown Women’s Champion)

In my predictions, I made no secret of the fact that I wasn’t looking forward to this match due to having seen it a bunch over the summer. However, these two put a lot of work in, and it paid off because this match felt very different to the ones from earlier in the year. Part of this is thanks to the fact that Bayley wasn’t lurking to cost Asuka the match at every opportunity, but also the style they wrestled was very different.

I often struggle to get invested in technical, mat-based affairs, but putting it right at the start of the match pulled me in because of how different it felt. What’s more, is they were able to move through this phase pretty quickly without it feeling rushed. It’s the kind of thing that makes me wish more wrestlers had submission finishers, so we could get stuff like this. The match lulled a bit around the middle, but I don’t mind because things picked up again by the end. The final 5 minutes were very enjoyable and showed a big chunk of what each woman has to offer, which in Asuka’s case is very refreshing given her recent history.

As for the finish, it’s not what I wanted to see, but I don’t think it was the worst. I definitely didn’t want to see either woman tap, especially Asuka, so this seemed like the decent middle ground that didn’t harm the loser too much. It’s the product of the PPV booking WWE into a corner again, and the performers made the best of what they had.

1 – Roman Reigns def. Drew McIntyre
(WWE Champion vs Universal Champion)

In this era of smaller guys working technical, faster-paced matches, it’s easy to forget how fun it can be to watch two jacked dudes beat the piss out of each other for 20 minutes.

The match started out VERY slow, but it was slow with a purpose. The pacing and staring they did with each other created a very tense atmosphere that carried large chunks of the match. I spent the whole opening segments just waiting for the first massive strike to land, but they kept me on the hook with it for a while. The early exchanges were able to hold and build the tension into the explosion we saw later in the match. My interest did fade a bit around the middle with all of the rest-holds, but once things started to build up again, I was sucked right back in.

Once those big strikes started to land, business really picked up. Drew was absolute fire when he started his comeback, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen the man move so fast and they did a perfect job of teasing the Claymore for about 15 minutes of the match. Despite Roman overbearing on huge chunks of the match, it always felt like a matter of time before Drew turned it around on him, and as things reached the climax, they knew exactly how to play with those ideas.

The finish seemed entirely designed to make Drew look incredible in defeat. Roman put him through a table and Speared him through the barricade and Drew still kicked out. Then Roman hit another Spear, at which point I was sure it over, only for Drew to kick out again. On top of that, they made sure to protect the Claymore like nothing else, the only time Drew hit it was when the referee got knocked from the ring, which meant Roman never had to kick out of it, which was brilliant. Jey’s interference was definitely the right choice, given the number of people that could’ve shown up, it brought a resolution to the story set up earlier in the night and gave Drew all the sympathy in the world when he eventually took the pin.

It’s the classic WWE trope of booking themselves into a corner, but then escaping it far better than anyone thought possible. Roman looks like a strong champion and Drew still looks like a near-unbeatable champion despite taking the loss.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. 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 Friday, where I’ll be running down the best multiplayer modes in video games!

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.