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 Extreme Rules 2020: Predictions & Analysis

It’s nowhere near October, but are you ready for The Horror Show at Extreme Rules?! Admittedly, following “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever”, this doesn’t seem like that bad of a tag line, but it’s still dumb. I’m not even sure who it’s supposed to be appealing to. Then again, this is a gimmick Pay-Per-View, so whatever.

I’ve got mixed feelings when it comes to this show. Running down the card, it all looks like good stuff (except for one match). I think there’s a high chance that there’s going to be at least a couple killer matches on the show. The thing is, I’m just not invested in the build for most of them. Honestly, for the past month, the only storyline I’ve been all that interested in is the stuff surrounding the women’s titles; which has been exciting to watch week in and week out. Orton’s actually been doing pretty good stuff too, but they bumped his match with Big Show over to the next night’s Raw for some reason.

Anyway, let’s break down the matches.

The New Day(c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro
(Smackdown Tag Team Championships)
(Tables)

I get that WWE has a bit of an issue with their TV ratings right now. Raw especially has been suffering horribly during the no-crowd era, but why have this match on the card when you had AJ Styles vs Matt Riddle for the Intercontinental Championship on Smackdown? This match between New Day and what remains of The Artist’s Collective has had about two weeks of proper build, and while I like all four guys, I don’t care about their feud. When you compare this to Styles vs Riddle, a great match, between one of your top guys and a guy who’s a fresh face on Smackdown and need some expose…oh yeah, and it’s for one of the most prestigious titles in the history of the industryIt seems such a dumb decision for that to be bumped to TV.

Focusing in on this match. I think it’s got some good potential, though I can’t say I’m super excited about it. Tables matches don’t tend to be the most interesting of matches, it always feels like the wrestlers are a little constricted by the stipulation. Table spots in other extreme matches are fine, but there’s not enough substance to them to carry a whole match. Plus, it’s so incredibly easy to botch the finish. All it takes is for the table to decide it doesn’t want to cooperate and the whole thing’s ruined.

I guess I’ll pick The New Day to retain. This is mostly because I see absolutely no reason for them to lose the titles. As I said, there’s been almost no build to this match, and I can’t see what storyline potential there could be if you switched the titles. I’d say that there are no face tag teams of Smackdown right now, but let’s be honest, there are no tag teams on Smackdown full stop. Heel or face.

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

At face value, this seems like a bit of an odd one, but if this is all leading where I think it is, then this is actually a pretty effective way of telling the story.

I think the stuff they’re doing with MVP & Bobby Lashley has been good this past month. They’re quickly getting Lana out of the way so that Bobby can fry bigger fish and it turns out MVP was just the mouthpiece he’d needed all this time. Their choice to target Apollo Crews is an interesting one, but given that a rematch with Drew would only result in Bobby losing again, I’m ok with it. MVP’s insistence on recruiting Crews has been fun to watch, mainly because it feels like Crews is only rejecting the proposal out of stubbornness. Putting MVP in for the title match instead of Lashley is a nice touch too. I’m confident in saying that Crew vs Lashley is where we’re headed, but giving Crews a win over MVP in the meantime is the perfect way to keep things building. If things go smoothly in this match, then there’s a chance I’ll actually be quite excited to see Crews vs Lashley by Summerslam.

Oh, and while we’re here, the new United States Championship…it’s fine. I have problems with it, but I had problems with the old design too. I would currently say that I prefer the old one, but that might just be because I’m not used to the new one yet. Ultimately, it’s really not a big deal.

As for the quality of the match, it’s honestly hard to tell. Since MVP has come back, he’s wrestled somewhat inconsistently, but when he has wrestled, it’s been enjoyable to watch. I’m not sure how he’ll fare in a longer, more high-profile match, but Crews is a consistent and safe wrestler, so I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Apollo Crews is almost certainly going to win though. Putting the title on Lashley at Summerslam and giving him a run of dominance with it is the way to go right now. Naturally, putting the title on MVP would screw that up pretty badly, so have Crews retain, only for Lashley to attack him after the match, or something along those lines.

Rey Mysterio vs Seth Rollins
(Eye for an Eye)

So, the first part of the ‘horror’ side of this show. We’ve got one man ripping another’s eye out.

I honestly respect WWE for promoting that match that way. Not making any bones about it and saying that one of these men will rip out the eye of the other one. The problem is that this isn’t a promise they can deliver on. They can smoke-and-mirrors or CGI it, but Mysterio or Rollins can’t keep wrestling in an eye-patch forever. At some point, probably in just a few months, they’re going to remove the eye-patch and reveal that they did not, in fact, have their eye ripped out. The only way they could really get away with it is if Mysterio is planning of retiring soon, but I honestly have no idea on that front. He is getting a bit old, but he’s not slowing down athletically.

The story surrounding all of it has been a bit weird, specifically surrounding all the other wrestlers that have been getting involved. I get why Murphy & Theory are there, as they are Rollins’ disciples and add to Rollins’ gimmick, but why are Black & Carrillo involved? I know Black has had problems with Murphy in the past, but I don’t understand why Black, as a character, is putting so much time and effort into sticking up for Mysterio. They don’t have any history together, and they haven’t even done a scene where Black professes his respect for Mysterio’s career. Black really feels like the kind of character that should’ve just bailed to deal with other business by this point. At least with Carrillo, there’s the heritage aspect.

I think this had to be Seth Rollins to win. I wouldn’t have a problem with Mysterio coming out on top, but I don’t think anyone gains anything from it. Seth’s had some significant losses since Wrestlemania, and a win here will do wonders for him. Plus, if their goal is to get Dominick on board as a full-time wrestler following this feud, what better way to tell his story than to have him fighting for the honour of his father? The simple fact of it is, with a Rollins’ win, there are so many more places for the story to go, so that’s what they should do.

Braun Strowman vs Bray Wyatt
(Wyatt Swamp Fight)

I’d love to sit here and speculate what a ‘Wyatt Swamp Fight’ will entail, but the past 4 months of pre-taped matches have proved to me that there’s just no point in trying. They’re always the kinds of things you could never have possibly imagined, they’re always ridiculous and stupid, and they’re always great.

Although I initially enjoyed the Strowman/Wyatt storyline during the build to Money in the Bank, it definitely feels like it’s lost some steam this month. I don’t know if it’s just me, but after losing to both Goldberg and Strowman, I just don’t view Wyatt as anywhere near a big of a deal as I used to. I know he beat Cena at Mania, but the pre-taped nature of that segment made it feel like less of an impactful victory (although, it was still brilliant). It might be a little bit intangible, but I just don’t get the same level of intrigue or excitement that I so when seeing Wyatt on my screen anymore.

When it comes to picking a winner, we have somewhat of a clash when it comes to WWE tropes. So, this is a match named after Wyatt, and WWE tropes say that means Wyatt has to lose. However, this is also a PPV non-title match featuring the world champion, and WWE tropes dictate that the champion must lose. So which trope are they going to go with? I’m honestly struggling to pick. On the one hand, if Wyatt loses here, then there is no interest or justification in The Fiend gunning of revenge at Summer (which is 100% where this is going). On the other hand, what a rubbish look for Strowman if he can’t beat Wyatt here. Especially when it’s the objectively worst version of Wyatt from a kayfabe standpoint.

I’m just going for Bray Wyatt to win because that’s what I want to happen. Strowman’s been relentlessly boring as champion, and I hope he doesn’t keep it past Summerslam.

Bayley(c) vs Nikki Cross
(Smackdown Women’s Championship)

Now here’s some good stuff.

I’m so happy they gave this shot to Nikki instead of Alexa. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big Alexa Bliss fan, but I’ve wanted to see Nikki get a singles opportunity for so long now and she’s finally moving out of Bliss’ shadow. Like I mentioned in the intro, the whole interplay around the women’s championships has been great this past month. It’s no wonder that their segments are far-and-away the highest-rated segments of the shows week-to-week.

I’m optimistic about the quality of the match too. Cross has put on some incredible matches in her time (most notably with Asuka in NXT), while Bayley’s resume speaks for itself by now. I think it would be cool if this was quite a chaotic match. I don’t just mean in terms of people like Alexa & Sasha getting involved (although, I’m sure they will), I mean in terms of the in-ring style. Cross is someone who I think is most entertaining when she’s working a fast and frantic pace. If Nikki comes out of the gate firing on all cylinders, then there’s a great story to be told there of Bayley having to respond in-kind before she can find her spot and slow her down. But hey, they’re the wrestlers, I’m sure they can come up with something even better.

As much as it would fill my heart with joy to see Nikki win the title, I don’t think it’s going to happen. The money right now is with Bayley retaining. I’m not sure that we’re actually going to get Bayley vs Sasha at Summerslam, but it’s a definite possibility. Regardless, I think the company recognises the roll that Bayley has been on this year – both in terms of her matches and character – and I think she’ll be holding onto that title for at least another month.

Drew McIntyre(c) vs Dolph Ziggler
(WWE Championship)
(Dolph Ziggler to reveal stipulation on the night)

Does Ziggler have pictures of Vince or something? Why on Earth does he get world title shots at least once a year?

I just don’t care about Dolph Ziggler, and I haven’t done since about 2015. The fact of the matter is, he’s just awful as a heel. He’s got pretty good mic skills, but I find his style to get quite repetitive when he’s in a long-term feud, and his in-ring style is so boring. He seems to believe that being a heel means that you should never perform any fast or exciting moves ever, which just isn’t how it works. Guys like Rollins, Styles & Bryan have been proving that for years.

So, now they’ve thrown him at Drew McIntyre, and I just don’t care. The way the whole feud has been built feels like it was designed to be Jinder Mahal in this position instead of Ziggler, as it has mainly focused around their history together. Now, I know Ziggler & McIntyre were a duo for about a year follow McIntyre’s return, but when it comes to former partners for Drew, Mahal & Slater come to mind a lot quicker. Of course, Jinder’s injury can’t be helped, and I’m not saying that it would make for any better of a match, but at least the story would be more interesting.

Ziggler withholding the stipulation is good from a strategic standpoint, but it also works to build intrigue for the match because, to be honest, I wouldn’t give even the slightest of shits otherwise. Now, some leaked promotional material hints at it being a Tables, Ladders & Chairs match, although those leaks have been wrong before. Personally, I’d be into a TLC match. I know that goes against my ‘anti-weapons matches’ preferences, but I think Ziggler vs McIntyre in a regular singles match would be so unbelievably dull, that I’m happy with anything that threatens to spice it up.

Drew McIntyre is going to win. There’s no other outcome here. In fact, that’s another major problem with Ziggler always getting these title matches. No-one ever believes Ziggler stands a chance of winning. WWE management has never got behind him as a world champion, and I don’t see any reason as to why they’d start now. Especially in the face of Drew McIntyre, who has the potential to carry the company for the next decade if he had the opportunity.

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

Seriously, nothing has been able to hold a candle to the women’s division this month. How could you not be excited about this match?

Usually, I’d sit here and worry about how this match might not get enough time, or how they’ll overbook it and ruin it, but looking at Raw this past month, I honestly don’t think that’ll be the case. Week in and week out, WWE seems to have really taken their hands off and just let these women wrestle some genuinely great matches against each other, and I fully expect that trend to continue on Sunday night. Both women have proven time and time again that they’re just as good as any wrestler on the planet. Combine that fact with how strong each of their characters are right now, and I have full confidence this one will live up to my expectations.

Story-wise, I have a feeling that the writing team still aren’t 100% sure that Sasha vs Bayley is where they want to go. They are leaning into the dissension angle in small ways, mostly via Charlie CONSTANTLY asking them dumb questions about whether or not they like each other. However, it still seems like they’re giving themselves enough wiggle room to swerve away from it if they need to. We were in this exact spot just a couple of years ago, remember.

Ultimately, if they’re going to go down the Sasha vs Bayley road, they’re going to have to set things in motion on Sunday. Leaving any longer would just be too late for it to be interesting. I’m not going to get my hopes up – because we’ve been burned so many times before – but I’m going to tentatively say that will Bayley with either deliberately or accidentally do something that ends up costing Sasha the match and finally the duo will explode. So, it’s Asuka to win.

So there you have it! Those are my predictions for Extreme Rules. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think will happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure you come back here on Monday where I’ll be reviewing the show!

Money in the Bank 2020: Every Match Ranked

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

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

So, let’s get on with the matches.

7 – Bobby Lashley def. R-Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 – Jeff Hardy def. Cesaro
(Kickoff Show)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multi-team tag matches are always great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 – Daniel Bryan vs Dolph Ziggler – Bragging Rights 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 – Daniel Bryan vs Bray Wyatt – Royal Rumble 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 – Kurt Angle vs Rey Mysterio – Summerslam 2002

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

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

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

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

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

2 – Bret Hart vs Owen Hart – Wrestlemania 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 – Daniel Bryan vs Triple H – Wrestlemania 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWE Elimination Chamber 2020: Predictions & Analysis

No rest for the wicked and this is WWE so…

Once again, the Saudi Arabia shows have a weird knock-on effect, because despite the fact that this happens EVERY TIME and we end up building to two PPVs right next to one another, WWE never learn their lesson and schedule their shows just a little bit further apart for once, do they?

As it stands, this is looking up to be a pretty inconsequential show. The only match that promises to have a direct effect on the Wrestlemania card is arguably the easiest to predict on the whole show and everything else is just wheel spinning. At the very least, I’m confident that at least a few of the matches will be good ones to watch, so at least it might not be a total waste of time.

Daniel Bryan vs Drew Gualk

Well, if it gets Gulak on Pay-Per-View, I suppose I can’t argue.

I’m not entirely certain what the point of this story is. Are we finally trying to get Gulak over as a serious competitor, or are we just reminding everyone that Daniel Bryan exists ahead of Wrestlemania? I know Bryan has reportedly been pushing for some of the guys lower down the totem pole to get some feature matches, so is this a part of that?

Regardless of the motivation behind it, the match should be brilliant, even if it only lasts 10 minutes or so. I stand firm in the belief that Gulak is the best technical wrestler WWE’s revived Cruiserweight division ever saw and I’ve made my feelings about Daniel Bryan very clear of the years, so these two technical masters meeting in the ring should be a real treat.

Given that it’s a fresh storyline, there’s a chance that some shenanigans will happen here in order to set something up for Wrestlemania, but I’m leaning more towards this being a stop-gap for something bigger that WWE has in store for Bryan, maybe an Intercontinental title match? Please? Either way, I’m pretty confident that Daniel Bryan is going to come away with the win on this one.

Aleister Black vs AJ Styles
(No Disqualification)

This is a bad idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore both of these wrestlers and I’m sure that given the chance they could put on a match of the year contender, but this is just such a bad time to have them clash like this and I really don’t see a positive outcome here. Styles has a match with The Undertaker on the horizon and needs to look good, but Black has barely had room to breathe on Raw and a loss here could totally destroy his credibility and start a long descent into Cedric Alexander territory.

I’m not even sure they’ll be given all that much of an opportunity to show their stuff in this match either. The no DQ stipulation likely means Black will be fighting off Gallows & Anderson the whole time and the match will be generally much slower than it needs to be in order to play to the strengths of these two.

For a winner, I’m picking Aleister Black, but it’s not going to be clean. I think the most likely scenario is that The Undertaker gets involved somehow, maybe physically, but it’s more likely that towards the end of the match, a gong will go off, which will distract Styles and let Black get the win. This whole thing isn’t an ideal scenario, but I think that’s the circumstance that lets both men get away with as little damage to their credibility as possible.

Andrade(c) vs Humberto Carrillo
(United States Championship)

Want a United States title opportunity? It’s easy! Just lose a match on Pay-Per-View and it’s yours!

I like Humberto Carrillo, I honestly do, but I really think it’d be a mistake to have him win the title here. Not only has Carrillo already lost to Andrade at Royal Rumble, but he also lost just over a week ago to Angel Garza, a wrestler who is much more deserving of this opportunity at the present time.

Hopefully, the match will be pretty good as long as it doesn’t get dumped on the pre-show. These two have proved before that they can work extremely well together and I have every faith in them that they’ll make the most of whatever time they get to put on a compelling contest. I’m not too sure on the winner, but Andrade retaining feels right to me, especially going into Wrestlemania, where I think it’s likely we’ll have some sort of multi-man affair, hopefully in ladder form.

The Street Profits(c) vs Seth Rollins & Murphy
(Raw Tag Team Championships)

Oh…I’ll be honest, I thought the Rollins & Murphy thing was going somewhere.

WWE have really done their job of compressing this feud into basically no time at all. I thought it was likely that we’d see this match again on this show, but I certainly didn’t expect The Street Profits to be walking in as champions. It’s nice that they’ve won the titles, but I’m not entirely sure it was the right move for the story, especially if they’re just going to drop the titles right back again.

As much as I think The Street Profits are great, the story and the momentum is with Rollins & Murphy right now. I know that he’s likely going to finally get his big singles match with Owens going into Wrestlemania, but I thought it would’ve been cool with Rollins & Murphy still had the titles during that time.

If Rollins weren’t about to be fighting Owens, then I’d pick him & Murphy to win, however, I think The Street Profits are going to slip away with the titles in this one. I’m not sure what they’re going to do with the belts and I have a horrible feeling that the titles are going to return to their status as the least important belts in the entire company, but at least this match will probably be a good one.

Braun Strowman(c) vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Sami Zayn & Cesaro
(Intercontinental Championship)
(3 on 1 Handicap)

Oh boy, time to make three of the best wrestlers on the planet look totally worthless.

From a story standpoint, I’ve mostly enjoyed this stuff with Nakamura & Zayn. It’s a bit weird how Cesaro had been thrown in with little explanation, but Zayn is easily one of the best managers we’ve seen in WWE for a long time and as for Nakamura, it’s just nice to see him on TV regularly for a change.

In terms of quality, I’m not sure which way this match will go. If it’s a bit of a clusterfuck with Cesaro, Zayn & Nakamura constantly moving in for the kill while Strowman desperately tries to fend them off from all angles, it could actually be a lot of fun and something we don’t see very often. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to be that interesting. I think what’s more likely is the trio use the numbers advantage to pummel Strowman for a while until he makes a comeback, destroys all three of them before probably pinning them all at once.

Speaking of, Braun Strowman is absolutely retaining his title here, not only has he not had any chance to do anything with the title yet, but it’s one of those situations where the odds have been stacked SO heavily against him if he didn’t win it’d seem like a gigantic anti-climax. While I’m not happy about having Nakamura, Zayn & Cesaro treated like chumps, if this is what we have to go through in order to get Strowman into a credible position for a great Wrestlemania match (hopefully against Daniel Bryan), then I think I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

The Miz & John Morrison(c) vs The New Day vs The Usos vs Heavy Machinery vs Dolph Ziggler & Bobby Roode vs Lucha House Party
(Smackdown Tag Tema Championships)
(Elimination Chamber)

I always think these tag team chamber matches are going to be confusing messes, but then they never are.

I’m actually quite excited to see how this one plays out, New Day, Usos and Niz & Morrison are all great in-ring tag teams and the other three teams are certainly nothing to turn your nose up at either. There are a nice few interlinking stories going into this one too. The Usos have been trying to get up in The New Day’s grill the past couple of weeks, while New Day seek revenge for Miz & Morrison stealing their titles. Add on top of that the surprisingly compelling stuff between Otis & Ziggler and we’ve got a recipe for a very entertaining match ahead of us. Oh, and Lucha House Party are also there I guess.

As entertaining as this should be, I don’t think there’s much argument to be made about the winner. The Miz & John Morrison only won the titles 9 days ago and they’ve still got so much that they can do with the belts going into Wrestlemania. It would make no sense if they lost the titles this soon, so I think they’re going to find a way to sneak of the chamber still champions.

Asuka vs Shayna Baszler vs Liv Morgan vs Ruby Riott vs Natalya vs Sarah Logan
(Winner faces Becky Lynch at Wrestlemania)
(Elimination Chamber)

Look, I know it was always going to be obvious, but it would’ve been nice if WWE had at least pretended someone other than Shayna stands a chance of winning this.

I don’t think many people will disagree with me when I say that this match’s only purpose is to show off how much of a beast Shayna Baszler is ahead of her Wrestlemania match with Becky. Hopefully, we’ll get a little bit of action between the three former Riott Squad members, but the spotlight here should be firmly on Shayna as she rips everyone apart.

In case you hadn’t already worked it out I think Shayna Baszler is going to win this one. As much as I love them, Riott, Morgan & logan just haven’t been built even nearly enough to have a featured Wrestlemania spot against WWE’s most popular star. Natalya & Asuka would both be legitimate contenders, however, they’ve already had big matches with Becky over the past year, so they’re out. Baszler is white-hot, has already started talking to Becky like she’s got the match and still had outstanding beef with Becky from Survivor Series, everything points to her and nothing will convince me otherwise.

So there you have! Thank you very much for taking the time to read these predictions, please, let me know what you think is going to happen on Sunday, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back on Monday, where I’ll be recapping the show!