WWE Summerslam 2020: Every Match Ranked

…well, I sure didn’t see that coming.

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

Now, to the rankings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Summerslam 2020: Predictions & Analysis

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

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

Let’s break down the matches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dominik Mysterio vs Seth Rollins
(Street Fight)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

AND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Extreme Rules 2020: Every Match Ranked

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

Let’s get to breaking down the matches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hell yes, give me more of that chaos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Wrestlemania 36: Predictions & Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s get predicting.

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

Aleister Black vs Bobby Lashley

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

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

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

Elias vs King Corbin

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

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

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

Otis vs Dolph Ziggler

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

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

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

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

I mean…ok?

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

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

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

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

Alexa Bliss! I remember her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Owens vs Seth Rollins

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

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

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

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

Sami Zayn(c) vs Daniel Bryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Undertaker vs AJ Styles
(Boneyard Match)

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

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

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

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

Edge vs Randy Orton
(Last Man Standing)

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

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

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

Goldberg(c) vs Braun Strowman
(Universal Championship)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Super ShowDown 2020: Every Match Ranked

Another Saudi Arabia show is in the bag and…do you know what? I actually thought it was ok. Not great, not by a long way, but I don’t think there was anything particularly bad on the show and overall it was certainly no worse than any other B-show WWE PPV these days. The matches were still plagued with the standard problems that come with having to fly for 14 hours, spend two days running the media circuit and then wrestle in 100 degrees Farenhieght.

Let’s get to breaking down the matches.

9 – Goldberg def. The Fiend Bray Wyatt(c)
(Universal Championship)

Fine, whatever.

8 – Brock Lesnar(c) def. Ricochet
(WWE Championship)

Yup, thought so.

7 – Roman Reigns def. King Corbin
(Steel Cage)

It’s over! It’s finally over! Assuming Michael Cole didn’t lie to us about that…alright so maybe it’s not over.

Probably unsurprisingly, this match didn’t have anything interesting going on with it. What little in-ring chemistry Reigns & Corbin had has since been played out beyond the point of it being entertaining and the addition of the Steel Cage into the mix didn’t help the match quality at all. All it did was mean that every minute or so the action had to stop so one man could very slowly climb the cage only to be thwarted by the other.

Even though these two will technically be facing each other in the Elimination Chamber next Sunday, I’m just glad that we’re finally at a point where we can say we’re done with this feud. If Reigns vs Goldberg really is the plan then I actually think there could be some good stuff there, even if I would’ve preferred Reigns vs The Fiend and quite honestly, I couldn’t give less of a shit about who Corbin fights next.

6 – Mansoor def. Dolph Ziggler

Now we enter the “just fine” portion of the show, where the matches are enjoyable, but nothing noteworthy.

As far as opponents for Mansoor goes, I think Ziggler was a pretty good choice, admittedly, Dolph Ziggler as a heel seems to think that “slow the pace down and only do headlocks for offence” is the only possible way he can do it, which isn’t ideal, but Mansoor spent a pretty good portion of the match on offence and the match didn’t feel too slow.

In terms of Mansoor winning, that’s great, but like I say every time he does one of these shows, there’s no point in doing any of this or giving him these wins if you’re not going to feature him on other shows and try to build him into an actual star. I know that with this show WWE proved to us all that they just don’t want any new stars and would rather have the ones from yesteryear, but if you’re going to treat Mansoor like this big heroic wrestler, then us see him wrestle more than twice a year.

5 – Angel Garza def. Humberto Carrillo

Another match that was just fine.

I thought this match was enjoyable, it held my attention the entire way through and showed off a lot of what these guys have to offer, however, they’ve had better matches together before and they will almost certainly have better matches together in the coming weeks too.

My main problem with this whole feud comes with it’s proximity to Wrestlemania because unfortunately, it’s not a big enough match to get a one-on-one blowoff on that show, so it’ll probably end with one of them eliminating the other in the ARMBAR. I like both Garza & Carrillo, but there’s only a limited amount I feel ok with investing in both of these guys because time and time again, WWE will spend a couple of months building guys like this up, only to suddenly drop them with no explanation. I hope that doesn’t happen here, but I’m remaining cautious.

4 – Bayley(c) def. Naomi
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Wow, Naomi’s entrance looks like crap when she’s not allowed to wear any of the glowing stuff.

Much like many other matches on this list, it was better than I was expecting in the circumstances. I’m sure the two of them could put on a much better match if they weren’t so restricted, but I think they did a good job with the hand they were dealt. The action the match followed was still a fair basic formula, but I thought it was an enjoyable incarnation of that formula, Bayley is really finding what heel style works best for her and she was able to ground and slow the action without resulting to five minutes of boring rest-holds.

Naomi’s comebacks were kind of exciting but again, she didn’t seem to be able to do a lot of her more crowd popping moves (speaking of the crowd, they were dead silent for this one). Even though Bayley won clean, there is the element of a dirty finish in there with Bayley using Naomi’s government-mandated shirt to trap her legs, so there’s room for Naomi to claim a rematch if that’s the route they want to go down, which at this point, I think it probably is.

3 – The Undertaker won the Turwaiq Trophy Gauntlet Match

Well, the in-ring action wasn’t anything interesting, but the storytelling was pretty compelling.

To be entirely honest, when I saw R-Truth starting off against Bobby Lashley, I thought we were in for 3 or 4 matches of Lashley running through people until Mysterio came out, but the way they turned it around and had R-Truth picking up a bunch of surprising victories over some fairly imposing heels was a lot of fun. Going through the 24/7 Championship stuff over the past year has led us all the slightly forget that Truth is actually a very capable wrestler when he wants to be and I found myself rooting for him with each victory in this match.

Then there’s the stuff with The Undertaker, which to be entirely honest with you, I thought was goofy and cheesy, but absolutely brilliant. The way the scene was set up with The OC beating down on Rey Mysterio only for that to suddenly be turned around to the OC getting beaten up. I particularly loved the way those black boots & coat stepped into frame, it was a nice variation on revealing The Undertaker outside of the usual gong hitting. It built this hype towards the entrance because we all knew it was The Undertaker, but first, they wanted to make us really want to see The Undertaker.

I doubt we’ll ever see the trophy again and it’s certainly not going to be mentioned in The Undertaker’s eventual Hall of Fame induction, but the story told throughout the phases of this match was well-done and quite enjoyable.

2 – The Miz & John Morrison def. The New Day(c)
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)

Don’t worry everyone, the tag teams will save the day with good matches!

This is the first time since his return that I’ve actually been glad that he’s back. The stuff he’s been doing in the build to this has been fun and all, but this is the first time that I’ve been able to see the value in him returning as an active competitor in the company. It’s no secret that for the majority of 2018, The Miz was floundering as a face and once his short feud with Bray Wyatt was over, it was entirely possible that he was going to go right back to that formula, happily, his reuniting with Morrison has made The Miz as a face and interesting character again and I’m very glad they’ve won the titles.

Once again, this match was slightly slower than it probably would’ve been under normal circumstances, but I still thought it was a very enjoyable watch. Big E felt like the MVP of the match to me as he seemed to be able to keep the pace going just enough throughout the moments where it seemed like the action was dropping. Although the chair shot was a little “blink and you miss it” it’s entirely in-keeping with Miz & Morrison as characters and gives The New Day plenty of reason to get back on their feet and keep this feud rolling into Wrestlemania, where hopefully, they’ll get a chance to tear the house down.

1 – Seth Rollins & Murphy(c) def. The Street Profits
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

I really don’t understand why people seem to be down on Rollins & Murphy as tag champs, it seems to me like they’re exactly what the Raw tag division needed to become interesting again.

As I mentioned in my predictions, Rollins has slid so naturally back into a heel role and this new Farcry 5 esque spin on his heel persona has been such great fun to watch in recent weeks. Thankfully, this also extends to the matches, where I think all four guys involved got a chance to feature themselves and keep the fun rolling the whole way through the match. Rollins seems to be learning his lessons from his last heel run and is able to make himself look beatable in the ring, without looking like a total chump. This extends to Murphy too, who I’m very glad is still being treated like a competent wrestler, rather than a bumbling sidekick.

Given how little build The Street Profits had for this match, I’m very glad they weren’t just cast aside like they were no threat to the champions at all and that Rollins & Murphy had to resort to slightly underhanded tactics to win the match. I’m not entirely confident that any of the credibility gained in this match will carry over for very long into the coming weeks and months, but for this moment at least, I think this match was nothing but beneficial to everyone involved AND it was a lot of fun to watch.

So there you have it! Those are my thoughts on WWE Super ShowDown, thank you very much for taking the time to read this. 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 way next Saturday as WWE give us little time to breathe, and I’ll be covering Elimination Chamber!