8 Times the Wrong Wrestler Won the Royal Rumble (and who should’ve won instead)

While the Royal Rumble is always an exciting time of year, and generally, the match itself is always enjoyable regardless of the winner, sometimes it can be hard to get around the fact that Rumbles are by and large remembered by their winners. This is fine for the most part, but there have been a few instances throughout history where thinking back, the winner seemed somewhat disappointing in the grand scheme of things.

Sometimes, when a Rumble winner is initially disappointing, it’s turned into an interesting story, and the whole thing works out in the long run, but that isn’t always the case. Thankfully, the 2021 Rumble winners seem to be excellent choices; however, in these instances, we’re going to discuss today, the person who won the Rumble either didn’t need it, failed to make any kind of impact in the long run, or was just a horrible choice compared to an alternative.

However, I’m not going to point out problems without suggesting solutions, so I will also cover who I believe should’ve won the Rumble match instead of the real winner, and we can have some fun speculating.

8 – Bret Hart & Lex Luger – 1994

A draw. The match ended in a draw.

Granted, the Rumble was still in its early days back then, so they could get away with more experimental stuff, but could you imagine how pissed off we’d all be these days if the Rumble ended in a draw? We’d be outraged and would mock it for decades to come, yet we all just seem to have accepted this one.

If I were to speculate, I think the reason this is the case is that Wrestlemania 10 ended up being a terrific show that told a pretty interesting story. However, no one ever gives a shit about Lex Luger’s role in that story. Seriously, whenever I hear anyone talk about this situation, it’s about how great Bret’s story was of wrestling Owen in the opener before coming back to defeat Yokozuna in the main event. Luger just gets completely forgotten.

Who should’ve won instead?

Bret Hart, on his own.

If you removed Luger from the occasion entirely, the whole story becomes so much better. You still make Bret wrestle Owen in the opener, and that match goes exactly the same way as it did in real life. The only difference is that you don’t have Luger wrestling Yokozuna earlier in the night, which means that come the main event, you have a fresh Yokozuna going up against Bret Hart, who not only put on a great match earlier in the night but lost.

You couldn’t ask for a better underdog story, and it would’ve added that extra layer of drama to the main event and an even bigger emotional exhale when Bret won the title. Not to mention, you don’t have to end the Royal Rumble in a sodding draw.

7 – Charlotte Flair – 2020

Truth be told, Charlotte winning this Rumble wasn’t actually that bad in the long run. Her story and match with Rhea Ripley was one of the highlights of Wrestlemania season this year, and the Rumble was a great place to start it. I just think there was a far better option on the table.

Who should’ve won instead?

Shayna Baszler.

Now, I know Baszler got her Mania match with Becky anyway, but I’d argue the Rumble would’ve been a far better way for her to get there. Consider what’s at play, Baszler entered in the number 30 spot in the Rumble that year, destroyed everyone in sight, only to get eliminated by Charlotte. It was a pretty underwhelming debut. Sure, she bounced back, but only after we had to sit through the most boring Elimination Chamber match I’ve ever seen.

If Baszler had won the Rumble, she would’ve come onto Raw with the kind of fire very few do, and you could’ve spent longer building her feud with Becky into something a lot more intense. You can still have Charlotte challenge Rhea for Mania because, let’s face it, all Charlotte would need to do is turn up in NXT and demand a match, or have Rhea show up on Raw and get in Charlotte’s face. Then, not only can you build a better story surrounding Lynch & Baszler, you don’t have to waste the Elimination Chamber on a match booked to be a complete and total snoozefest.

6 – Vince McMahon – 1999

I’m of two minds with this one. On the one hand, I can see how this Rumble win served the story, and it’s not like McMahon actually went on to fight at Wrestlemania, so what does it matter? However, I think there’s more to it than that. For one thing, this is one of the less-liked Rumbles as a whole, and I can see why it focused so heavily on McMahon & Austin that it felt like no one else involved in the match was even remotely important, other than maybe Chyna.

In many ways, wrestling fans view the Rumble as sacred. It only happens once a year (unless Saudia Arabia wants one) and to turn it into an hour-long angle like this wasn’t the best use of anyone’s time. I think this is a clear example of how wildly people’s opinion on things can change depending on who wins. The truth is, if McMahon had eventually been toppled at the final hurdle here, I think this match would be far more fondly remembered.

Who should’ve won instead?

Stone Cold Steve Austin

This one’s pretty straightforward. Austin ended up getting the title shot at Wrestlemania 15 anyway, so why bother taking us around in circles like this? It’s like the build to Wrestlemania 35’s main event, the perfect story was standing there, and it was so simple. Then, they added all these extra layers, and it took the shine off the apple, so to speak. If Austin had won this Rumble, even if you’d kept everything else the same, the match would’ve felt like a compelling story that reached the proper climax. Yes, we would’ve gone through some boredom, but it would’ve been worth it for the payoff.

Instead, we ended up with an underwhelming match with an underwhelming winner. Plus, regardless of the circumstances, it’s never a good look when the person in charge of the show books themselves to win a big match like this.

5 – Sheamus – 2012

I’ve made no secret that I’m not a big fan of Sheamus in the past. In all honesty, I like him a hell of a lot more than I used to, thanks to his work in The Bar and recently with Drew McIntyre, but for the early years of his time in WWE, I couldn’t stand the guy. I thought he was boring and not even that good of a wrestler. As such, I’ve never liked the fact that Sheamus won this Rumble.

While I do think he was one of the best opponents for Daniel Bryan at the time, I don’t think we needed the Rumble win to get there, especially when the match ended up being the 18 seconds atrocity that sent the entire wrestling fanbase into a furious frenzy for the next 3 years. While Sheamus had been building as a face over 2011, he didn’t feel like a worthy top guy just yet, and sometimes a Rumble win can serve that purpose, but this one really fell flat.

Who should’ve won instead?

Chris Jericho

The story was so perfect. Not only was Jericho vs Punk a match people were ready to pay like mad to see, but this was Jericho’s big return after a few years away from the business. Jericho vs Punk had a great build and ended up being a fantastic Wrestlemania match, so why the hell didn’t they kick it off the right way?

Well, that’s the thing that makes this sting so much. Jericho was originally supposed to win this Rumble. He was to make his surprise return and immediately become a conquering hero by winning the Rumble and challenging Punk. However, it leaked in the weeks before the event that Jericho was coming back, so WWE decided to completely change plans for the Rumble, cutting off their nose to spite their face.

WWE has never seemed to grasp the fact that just because something’s predictable doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. It’s true that sometimes when we’re expecting one thing and get something else, it’s a fantastic thrill (see Seth Rollins cashing in at Wrestlemania 31), but sometimes things are predictable because it’s what should happen. In films, when the hero defeats the villain and saves the day, people don’t complain that it’s ‘predictable’ because it’s the correct way to round off the story in a satisfying way.

It was a stupid knee-jerk reaction to something leaking online (it only leaked that Jericho was returning, by the way, not that he was going to win) and left everyone watching feel deflated.

4 – John Cena – 2013

So you know how I just said sometimes it’s fine when things are predictable? This was a case when being predictable was bad.

After Wrestlemania 28’s main event between The Rock & John Cena was billed as ‘once in a lifetime’, it would’ve been safe to assume that the match would’ve only happened…well…once. WWE would disagree, though, as, from the very beginning, the plan was to do the match twice on consecutive Wrestlemanias. I know we’re always asking for more long-term booking in WWE…but not like that.

As 2012 progressed and Cena’s story continued to focus on his downward spiral with The Rock, only for The Rock to show up at Raw 1000 (in July) and announce that he’s going to challenge for the title at the Royal Rumble (in January), it became clear to everyone what was going on. After carrying the company on his back for over a year, CM Punk was going to get snubbed for the Rock/Cena rematch that no one really cared about or wanted to see.

This meant that everyone knew who was going to win the Royal Rumble in July, half a year away from the actual event. Now THAT is a case of lousy predictability.

Who should’ve won instead?

The Rock

Now, hear me out. While the story between Rock & Cena was boring and no-one wanted to see it, CM Punk vs The Rock was still a match that people were excited to see, and rightly so, it was a good match (even with the weird booking at the end). So, why not have that be the Wrestlemania match instead? That way, Punk doesn’t get snubbed from the main event (potentially convincing him to stay with the company a little longer), and the fans don’t have to endure a rematch from the previous year that was way worse than the first one. Hell, make it a triple threat if you’re that scared about Cena having nothing to do.

It was a simple case of WWE making their plans two whole years in advance and then refusing to budge on them when a new star rose up and took the wrestling world by storm. By all means, plan out grand year-spanning storylines, but if the times change, you’ve got to change with them.

3 – Randy Orton – 2017

The 2017 Rumble was fascinating because it was the first time in a long while where the winner didn’t seem blindingly obvious. See, as much as there are 30 participants in a Royal Rumble, there are usually only one or two realistic contenders to win the thing. Sometimes this is obvious in how stars are booked towards the Rumble, or other times it’s because the dirt sheets have already leaked what WWE is planning for Wrestlemania that year. However, in 2017, everything was still up in the air, and there was a whole host of different people who could conceivably win.

Brock Lesnar, Goldberg & The Undertaker were a heavy focus in the build, and they were all set to collide in the Rumble. Bray Wyatt was building back up after a relatively lacklustre year, and Braun Strowman was seeing momentum like never before. All of these people and more would’ve been exciting choices to set up a match for Wrestlemania. It seemed like WWE had a win-win situation on their hands because the fans would seemingly be happy with any of these choices.

Then Randy Orton won. Unlike over the past year, Orton was still a somewhat dull character in 2017, and no one had any interest in seeing him compete for a world title at Wrestlemania. Everyone knew his current partnership with Bray Wyatt was going to explode sooner rather than later, and it’s not like we needed a Royal Rumble win to make that happen. Not to mention, it wasn’t even that interesting of a storyline, and no one wanted it to be the biggest of Mania season.

Who should’ve won instead?

Chris Jericho

By FAR the most compelling story going into Wrestlemania that year was the story between Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho. They had worked their asses off all year, with both men doing the most entertaining and genuinely funny stuff on WWE TV week to week. With the Universal Championship over Kevin Owens’ shoulder, the pairing had been the focus of Raw ever since the brand split in June 2016, and their story was that should’ve been the most important one heading into Wrestlemania.

The Festival of Friendship, where Owens turned on Jericho, happened about a month following the Rumble. It was one of, if not the best TV segment of the entire decade and think how much better it would’ve been knowing they had a Wrestlemania match on the horizon. Instead of going with what was clearly the most compelling storyline, WWE destroyed Owens’ credibility by having him drop the title to Goldberg like he was nothing for a Lesnar/Goldberg rematch that, while good, did not need the title AT ALL. Jericho & Owens did get their Wrestlemania match, but it was for the US title as the 2nd match on the show, and it felt so underwhelming because the story hadn’t been treated in the way it deserved.

2 – Batista – 2014

Much like with the Cena/Rock situation, this was a case of WWE having already made their plans and stubbornly sticking to them rather than realising what all of the fans were crying out for.

In the build-up to the 2014 Royal Rumble, it leaked that Batista would be returning for the match shortly after finishing filming the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. Naturally, WWE smelt money in the waters and thought that they quite liked the idea of having the WWE Championship over the shoulder of Batista when he goes to all of those premiers and is all over the news. There was a problem, though, because the fans didn’t give a shit about Batista. They instead had their hearts set on a different, smaller, bearded wrestler.

Who should’ve won instead?

Daniel Bryan

The moment Rey Mysterio came out in the number 30 spot of that Royal Rumble, to the moment the show went off the air, the crowd booed and booed until their lungs gave out, and can you really blame them? Since last summer, people had been clamouring for Daniel Bryan to claim his place atop WWE, and over and over again, the people making the decisions told us no. They had characters tell Daniel Bryan that he wasn’t good enough repeatedly, and then the real people behind those characters would book Daniel Bryan to lose, making it seem like they were right. WWE is so needlessly combative with their own audience sometimes it’s genuinely baffling.

The fans didn’t take any of that shit, though, and essentially told WWE that we’re going to keep booing every ‘top guy’ you put in front of us until you give us Daniel Bryan. At the 2014 Royal Rumble, WWE refused to give us Daniel Bryan and stayed the course, and no-one was happy about it. What’s worse is that immediately after the Rumble, CM Punk (another star beloved by fans) walked out of the company over what we would later discover was a laundry list of horrible things that happened to him there over the years.

What’s so baffling is that making the fans happy in this circumstance was the easiest thing in the world. They were quite literally chanting Daniel Bryan’s name ALL. THE. TIME. And yet WWE decided to plug their ears and push forward because, once again, they seem to despise their own fans. The upside here is that, eventually, it worked, WWE relented, and Wrestlemania 30 ended with Daniel Bryan holding the world championship aloft. However, WWE could’ve saved themselves so much strife if they’d have woken up sooner and given the fans Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble.

It doesn’t end there, though, because one year later…

1 – Roman Reigns – 2015

…WWE still hadn’t learnt their lesson.

I’m not going to tease you with this one.

Who should’ve won instead?

Daniel Bryan.

Take what I said about 2014, add a year of Bryan being tragically out of action with an injury, only to return just in time for the 2015 Royal Rumble. The story was perfect. After 8 months of pain and suffering as Bryan recovered from his injuries, he stood with the perfect chance to reclaim the championship he never lost by toppling the company’s biggest monster in years in the form of Brock Lesnar.

Once again, though, WWE had made their plans, and it was time to once again bury their heads in the sand and ignore everything else going on around them. WWE decided Daniel Bryan wasn’t the plan they had in mind and completely ignored the fans for the second year in a row, instead giving us the new WWE manufactured star in the form of Roman Reigns. Once again, the fans weren’t as stupid as WWE hoped they’d be, and they saw it for what it was, a transparent attempt to try and create the next John Cena in the form of Roman Reigns.

What makes this so much worse than in 2014, though, is that this choice didn’t just deny Daniel Bryan. It actively hurt Roman Reigns’ career for YEARS. While there were many other issues with Roman Reigns around this time, I genuinely think that him winning this Royal Rumble is what made it as bad as it was. To be clear, after this Rumble, the fans booed even the mention of Roman Reigns’ name for years. People’s opinion on him didn’t soften until late 2018 when he got leukaemia, and EVEN THEN, people didn’t start to properly enjoy the man’s work until the summer of 2020.

For 5 years, Roman Reigns was this absolute toxic entity that caused the fans to immediately hate anything he was involved with. While him winning this Rumble isn’t the sole cause, I believe that if Daniel Bryan had won this Rumble instead, the fans would’ve got over it a hell of a lot quicker than they did.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Let me know what you think of these Royal Rumble winners and my alternate bookings, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here next week as it’s Wrestlemania week and I’ll be doing both predictions & reviews for both NXT Takeover: Stand & Deliver and Wrestlemania!

WWE Elimination Chamber 2021: Every Match Ranked

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

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

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

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

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

This was extremely disappointing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE 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 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!

Money in the Bank 2020: Every Match Ranked

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

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

So, let’s get on with the matches.

7 – Bobby Lashley def. R-Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 – Jeff Hardy def. Cesaro
(Kickoff Show)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multi-team tag matches are always great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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