A look back at the week that was in WWE with in-depth breakdowns of Monday Night RAW, SmackDown Live, 205 Live and NXT.
It was another big week in WWE as the Road to WrestleMania continues. But before we get to Orlando in early April, we’ve got a few pit stops to hit along the way with Elimination Chamber, Fastlane and TakeOver and each show this week did a good job of furthering storylines and setting up matches for those events. So let’s get right into it, starting of course with the flagship.
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WWE Monday Night RAW
Portland was the host for Monday Night RAW this week and we kicked things off right where we left them a week ago with Samoa Joe, who joined Stepanie McMahon and Mick Foley in the ring for an amazing debut promo. Well, after teasing some more tension between Steph and Mick anyway. Joe was outstanding here, saying how it took him 18 years to get to this point and that while Foley had been pushing to sign him, it was Triple H that opened the door for him and if taking out Seth Rollins got him here, that’s just what had to be done. Perfect heel talk. He continues by putting the entire roster on notice and tells the WWE Universe that he will continue to beat down their heroes. So out comes Roman Reigns. I’m not quite sure if he qualifies as a hero to the fans right now but it works nonetheless as Samoa Joe and a Samoan named Joe stare each other down. Reigns continues to say that this is his yard, obviously another dig at The Undertaker, and begs Joe to threaten him, which allows Mick Foley to make Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns the main event of the evening. Excellent opener that really gave Samoa Joe the chance to shine and establish his place on the main roster.
Bayley will get a rematch against Charlotte next week for the title but she first has to go one-on-one with Nia Jax and she looked better than she has in weeks in this one. I don’t know she works as well as she does with Nia but it just seems to work. We got the expected run-in from Charlotte to cost Bayley the victory and I’m very interested to see how this rematch goes down next week. I thought they might wait a little while to do this but we’ll see how that goes. All signs are still pointing to a Fatal 4-Way match for the belt at WrestleMania.
Oh joy, we’re back to Braun Strowman squash matches. He quickly beat four guys in this one and demanded better competition from Mick Foley, who granted him a one-on-one match with Roman Reigns at Fastlane. Yawn.
Akira Tozawa is out to make his RAW debut and defeated Drew Gulak in a short but decent match. They’re just not giving these guys enough time to make an impact but I enjoyed what I saw. Brian Kendrick came out to offer congratulations, which obviously led to what we saw on 205 Live.
Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho are out next. Owens says he continues to prove people wrong and Jericho gets the crowd going by putting Tom Brady on “The List”, which was very entertaining as usual. But then things got a little interesting. He hypes his United States Championship match with Sami Zayn later on and says that after he defends that title, the road is clear for a match between he and Owens at WrestleMania. Wow, they just went ahead and addressed it right there. But Owens can’t imagine fighting his best friend, even though he claims it would be the biggest main event in WrestleMania history. But before they could go any further, Goldberg hits the ring and accepts Brock Lesnar’s challenge. And while I’m not quite sure why people are cheering for this, it’s happening.
Owens beautifully interrupts by saying that Goldberg vs. Lesnar will be a great undercard match for KOMania 2, which leads Goldberg to challenging Owens for the Universal Championship at Fastlane. Jericho jumps in and goes to put Goldberg on “The List” for trying to make his own matches but Goldberg snatches it away from him and just does it himself, which I actually found to be pretty good. I’ve never pretended to be a Goldberg guy but his mic work has gotten so much better during this run. Jericho wasn’t happy about this and after berating Goldberg for a minute, he accepts the match on Owens’ behalf, which the champ certainly isn’t pleased with. While I enjoyed the segment and figured that Goldberg and Owens would happen at Fastlane, I can’t say that I’m going to enjoy where this goes. Sure, I like the build for an Owens vs. Jericho match but I just don’t want to see Goldberg and Lesnar close out WrestleMania for the title. And I don’t want Owens to get decimated at Fastlane. It wouldn’t look good for anyone besides Goldberg. It makes Owens look terrible and actually looks bad for Roman Reigns as well. How’s it going to look if this 49-year-old comes in and does in two minutes what Reigns couldn’t do in two months? That’s not the look you want right now. Perhaps Lesnar comes in and costs Goldberg the match and the title and saves us all the horror. But then again, why wouldn’t Lesnar want Goldberg to have the title at ‘Mania? Perhaps we get the squash we’re all expecting and Owens proceeds to snap on Jericho the next night on RAW. Who knows at this point?
A tag team title match with Anderson and Gallows taking on Cesaro and Sheamus is up next with Enzo and Cass sitting at ringside planning to challenge the winners for the belts. This match was decent enough but it wasn’t nearly as good as what we’ve been getting from these four. The Club got Cesaro and Sheamus disqualified by getting into it with Enzo and Cass at the end, which could lead to some sort of triple threat down the road. Not bad but not very good either.
We’re given an update on Seth Rollins’ injury and we’re essentially still not sure what exactly is going to happen with all of that. I think they’re just going to continue to wait before making a decision here on whether or not to officially rule him out and start something else.
The New Day is out to cut a promo on The Shining Stars (what a fall from grace) and basically mock CM Punk for talking about ice cream and then beat Epico and Primo in about five minutes. This whole segment and match were just there to be there. Certainly a few more minutes of cruiserweight action would be more entertaining than this but I understand how hard it is to take big merchandise movers like The New Day off of television. Just split these guys up already and be done with it. It’s run its course and it’s time for at least one of them to move on.
Owens and Jericho have made up and it’s time for the U.S. title match with Y2J and Sami Zayn. This was a really good match that furthered the Owens-Jericho storyline and didn’t completely bury Zayn at the same time. This was a nice back and forth and I really like how well these two work together, but that’s to be expected from two guys at this level. The end saw Y2J lock in the Walls of Jericho, but Zayn was able to reach the ropes forcing a break. As Jericho celebrated like he won the match, Owens hit Zayn with a kick and Jericho hit the Codebreaker for the 1-2-3. This should lead to a rematch at Fastlane and we’ll likely get an Owens vs. Zayn match in there somewhere as well, which is never a bad thing.
We see Charlotte run down Sasha Banks, who may just want to start getting her mail delivered to the trainer’s room.
Austin Aries is out to interview Neville and wants his thoughts on the number one contender’s match that will take place on 205 Live. Neville tells him that none of those guys scare him. Noam Dar, Cedric Alexander, Jack Gallagher, TJ Perkins and Tony Nese and his abs come out (Aries is amazing) to talk and we get the obligatory brawl that takes us right into a six-man tag match, which is won by Gallagher, Perkins and Alexander. I really don’t like the fact that we came back from commercial break and this match had already started. It just takes more TV time away from these guys that they really need right now. And they only gave them about five minutes anyway. But this was a pretty solid segment and match combo that was a nice preview of the following night’s action.
The Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns main event is next and Joe takes out Reigns as he makes his way to the ring. Absolutely loved this as it just adds another layer to Joe’s savagery. Good stuff. As for the actual match, I thought this was very well put together. You needed a physical guy for Joe’s debut and Reigns was the perfect person to match him up with. Both guys got some solid offense and while the finish was a little predictable with Braun Strowman coming in, it still worked. Joe got a win in his debut and they were able to add some more fuel to the Strowman-Reigns program.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty good episode with a little build for the cruiserweights and setting up and furthering some storylines for Fastlane. You’re never going to convince me that having Goldberg around is a good idea but even he was pretty good.
It’s go-home show time on SmackDown Live and a hot Seattle crowd welcomes hometown hero Daniel Bryan to open the final show before Elimination Chamber, which was the only real way they could’ve opened the show to avoid the live audience hijack things. And Bryan naturally plays things up like he does but he’s soon joined by The Miz and they go through their usual back and forth with the GM getting in a nice dig about Miz not being able to wrestle. Fun stuff as always between these two. Baron Corbin shows up to talk some smack, which is really difficult to watch given his facial hair situation right now. Dean Ambrose arrives to join in the insult party and is soon followed by AJ Styles, who may be more over in Seattle than even Daniel Bryan. Okay, maybe not but it’s pretty close. With the chamber just a few days away, getting these four participants in the ring together was the natural way to go. Bray and Cena aren’t out here but we already know that they’ll cross paths later on in the main event match. But instead of an unorganized melee, Bryan actually books a four-way match that starts immediately.
I thought this was a really entertaining match. Multi-person matches are always difficult to pull off but these guys did it well. Everyone got their chance to shine and in the first surprise win of the night, Baron Corbin came out on top by pinning AJ Styles, easily the biggest victory of his career. And I was okay with it. There’s absolutely zero chance of Corbin leaving Elimination Chamber with the title but they’re still trying to build him as a main-event player and having him pick up the win here was the right move. Very good opener.
We get a Luke Harper solo promo next, which is something we really haven’t seen that much of in the past. He’s still got the creepy vibe going and says he’ll take out Randy Orton at Elimination Chamber. That match is all set for Sunday.
The promo train continues as we get a split-screen segment with Nikki Bella and Natalya and I thought this was okay. It wasn’t the best one that either one of them has done but it served its purpose without any physicality, which we knew we’d get from the announced dual contract signing we get later on. The two traded insults for a while before Nikki got up and left. Not bad, not bad.
I thought they might save Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews for the pay-per-view but we’re getting it here instead. After a couple of quick wins recently, Ziggler took a quick loss here but continued his new pattern of blasting people with chairs after the match as he let Crews have it. The crowd chanting “one more time” lets you know how much nobody is behind Apollo right now and it’s hard to be. I really like his athleticism but have thought since his debut that he should have stayed in NXT a bit longer. It’s just stale right now and Kalisto helping out doesn’t actually help anything. And yes, it is time for my weekly obligatory plea for Kalisto to go to the cruiserweight division. So we’re getting a 2-on-1 handicap match on Sunday. Meh.
The dual contract signing for Alexa Bliss vs. Naomi and Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch is up next and I really enjoyed this segment. I thought Mickie was amazing and her experience level really came into play here. Lynch was strong in her comeback and Alexa Bliss just keeps getting better and better. Her forgetting that Naomi was even in the ring was a really strong moment for her, even if it did make it seem that Naomi is the least important woman in the ring, even with two pinfall victories over the champ in recent weeks. Naomi is improving on the mic but just isn’t quite at the level of the other three. The obligatory brouhaha ensued and the babyfaces come out on top. I’m looking forward to both of these matches on Sunday. I think Becky vs. Mickie has a real chance to steal the show.
With not a lot of time to build for this pay-per-view, they threw together a 12-man tag match with all of the teams involved in this Sunday’s title match at Elimination Chamber. I don’t know if it’s just me but I was really hoping that American Alpha’s title reign would feel a bit more important. The division has been a little stale since Orton and Bray lost the belts but at least this was a decent match. And in another shocker, The Ascension picked up the pinfall victory here. Yes, you read that correctly. Hoping for a good match on Sunday.
For the first time ever, we’ve got John Cena facing Randy Orton on SmackDown. I’m not quite sure how that’s possible but here we are. And that’s really not a dig as I’ve always been a big fan of this rivalry and it wouldn’t have bothered me one bit had these two gone at it at WrestleMania. I think this match was put on to show that this match will not happen in Orlando and we actually haven’t seen it in a while. And as I expected, the two put on a good show with pay-per-view-type near falls and ref bumps and everything. Bray was sitting at ringside and got involved when the ref went out, which brought Luke Harper into the mix and following a very cool staredown, Harper leveled Wyatt and Cena hit an AA on Orton for the 1-2-3 to close the show.
I thought this was a good go-home episode. Storylines were furthered and feuds heated up and it was everything it needed to be. And there were a few surprise victories in there, which is never a bad thing.
The show begins with the news that Tony Nese is not cleared to compete in the number one contender’s match tonight. So instead of just throwing in a replacement like they sometimes do, we’re actually getting a sort of play-in match between Ariya Daivari and Mustafa Ali to decide who’ll take his spot, which I thought was a good way to go.
Unfortunately, the match itself wasn’t quite as good as it should have been. Maybe it’s just me, and I know I’ve said this before, but I just can’t get into anything about Daivari. It’s not that he’s a bad wrestler or anything but he just doesn’t bring out any emotion in me, good or bad, and that’s not a good thing. I do like Ali and I think giving him the win here was the right call.
After another advertisement for the upcoming debut of Gran Metalik, which apparently will be next week (thought they said that last week), Brian Kendrick is out and calls himself the gatekeeper of 205 Live and is set to destroy the dreams of everybody — everybody except Akira Tozawa, whom he wants to take under his wing. I’m sure that won’t end badly for him at all. And then Kendrick got himself a win over Lince Dorado in a decent match before getting back on the mic as Austin Aries came in to interview him. Kendrick says he’s formed a bond with Tozawa and calls him to the ring but the returning Tajiri is in instead and mists Kendrick. I’m very interested to see how all of this plays out. Not bad.
Neville cuts a promo on the challengers in the main event and continues to impress.
The number one contender’s main-event match is on next and our competitors are Mustafa Ali, TJ Perkins, Noam Dar, Jack Gallagher and Cedric Alexander. It took a brief moment for this to get going but once it did, it turned into one hell of a match. They were able to tell some great stories here and making this an elimination match was a great move. It allowed for more drama and more finishers and just added to the importance of it. Dar was out first after being eliminated by Cedric but got involved a few minutes later and Perkins took out Alexander. Ali had a nice showing in this match but submitted to Perkins at about the ten-minute mark and the former champ and Jack Gallagher, who really sold a leg injury throughout, are the last two. Perkins was a lot more aggressive than we’re used to seeing and he attacked the leg but Gallagher was able to fight back and pick up the victory and the chance at the title. Very, very good match.
Neville came out following the match and stared down the new number one contender and I’m so interested to see how these two get after each other. They’re just so different and maybe that’s why this choice was made. I’m looking forward to it though. This was a good episode of 205 Live. While the first two matches weren’t anything spectacular, they both had a point to them and the storylines are progressing nicely.
WWE crammed a ton of stuff into this week’e episode of NXT so let’s get right into the first Sanity match of the night as Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe took on The Bollywood Boys, who are back in developmental for a bit more seasoning. And they got some seasoning as Dain destroyed them on his own. Wolfe never even got into the match and this was over pretty quickly. Eric Young cut a promo afterwards on Tye Dillinger and Nikki Cross said she wanted a shot at Asuka. This is a really good faction with a lot of different things happening. Good stuff.
Liv Morgan vs. Billie Kay is up next and this match went by rather quickly as well. Everything felt a little bland here and I really wasn’t into much of it. Morgan got a rollup win and will have to find a partner to take on Kay and Royce next week. Okay.
Sanity jumps Tye Dillinger backstage and it rolls out into the arena before No Way Jose, who has some beef with the group, and Roderick Strong make the save, setting up a six-man tag match for the main event. I’m not exactly sure why Strong is helping out but I suppose we’re just running the babyfaces help other babyfaces thing here.
It’s announced that United Kingdom Champion Tyler Bate will defend his title next week against Trent Seven. I’m pleased that they’re doing something with this title and am really hoping for some Pete Dunne interference to possibly set up a match at either TakeOver or WrestleMania.
The Revival takes on Heavy Machinery, who I really enjoyed watching in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and put on another good showing here. These guys are legit and I really think they’ve got a nice future in NXT, especially when some of these other well-known teams get called up or split up, so taking the loss here wasn’t that big of a deal. The Revival cut a promo afterwards saying they wanted a shot at Authors of Pain and the titles at TakeOver, which bring them down to the ring for a quick confrontation.
NXT Champion Bobby Roode is out for his “Glorious Celebration” and I really thought this might be a bit more over the top but it was short and sweet and executed very well. He did a great job as a heel by putting himself over and that was that.
It’s main event time as Sanity took on Dillinger, Strong and Jose in a pretty solid match. I like how they’re building things here. Sanity got the dirty win here but are proving that they’re going to continue to be a force to be reckoned with. Strong taking the pin does nothing to hurt him, Jose is just kind of there and they’re really playing up how Tye Dillinger just can’t get a win over these guys, a big moment that will probably come for him at TakeOver. Good finish.
Now that they have some more time, I think we’re going to get some nice storylines headed towards TakeOver and this episode was a good way to get the ball rolling.