Hell In A Cell 2018 Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs Randy Orton

It’s Spotlight time! I definitely am not so disinterested in WWE’s product right now that I nearly forgot there was a PPV tonight. Definitely not, 100% no. So here we are! And when it came to picking a match to write about, there was one obvious standout: Becky Lynch vs Charlotte. But I also felt like there wasn’t much to say about it that hasn’t already been said since SummerSlam, so I’m looking at Jeff Hardy vs Randy Orton instead.

This match is inside the Hell In A Cell structure, which I find interesting. Really, any match on the main card of the show could be argued worthy of taking place inside the four sides of steel. Continue reading Hell In A Cell 2018 Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs Randy Orton

Summerslam 2018 Spotlight: Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens

I’ve spoken before about how the Money In The Bank contract is one of my favourite gimmicks every year, because of the storytelling options and the unpredictability it can often lead to. Tomorrow night at Summerslam, with the anticipated main event of Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship again, it seems to be a prime opportunity for a cash in.

The fans are not going to like Roman Reigns. If anything is a certainty on this show, that’s about as close to it as you’re going to get. But I don’t think Reigns can lose to Lesnar again. I’ve said it before, but the longer it goes without Reigns getting that ‘W’ the worse it gets. A cash in gives WWE the opportunity to give Reigns his win, but also send the crowd home happy, protect their man and give themselves a new main event feud all in one fell swoop.

But the question is, who will be holding the Money In The Bank contract by the time that match begins? Continue reading Summerslam 2018 Spotlight: Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens

TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 Spotlight: Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano

Tomorrow night is NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4. It looks set to be a fantastic show, with all of the matches having so much potential. But as always with my Spotlight columns, I only pick one to look at in depth, and to be honest I’m a little surprised looking back on it that I haven’t written about Johnny Gargano vs Tommaso Ciampa before.

I think the reason for that may lie in the beauty of this rivalry – it writes itself.

For all the complaints that are strewn across the internet about WWE’s creative team, NXT delivers 90% of the time. Even on those rare instances where it feels like something didn’t quite go the way it should have it tends to be leading to something bigger and better, or when a build feels a bit lackluster the match delivers to make you forget about the weeks gone by in the end. Continue reading TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 Spotlight: Tommaso Ciampa vs Johnny Gargano

Extreme Rules 2018 Spotlight: 30-Minute Iron Man Match for the Intercontinental Championship

Quite often when I put together these PPV Spotlights I talk about a match that I think will prove to be a quality show. Usually it’s a pairing that on paper looks like the competitors will mesh really well, sometimes it’s the passion within the story that could bring something special out of the bell to bell action. It can even be a match that I think has flown under the radar and could surprise people. But it’s rare that I can talk about the potential of a match and have as much concrete evidence to support that as I can this time round.

That’s because I’m writing about the always-reliable Dolph Ziggler defending his Intercontinental Championship against WWE’s MVP of 2018 so far, Seth Rollins.

The roll that Rollins has been on is incredible by WWE’s standards. He has almost single-handedly proven that if WWE lets their talent shine in the ring, they can prove their worth to everyone watching. He hasn’t been involved in these intricate stories, it’s pure and simply been about competing for a championship. Continue reading Extreme Rules 2018 Spotlight: 30-Minute Iron Man Match for the Intercontinental Championship

MITB 2018 Spotlight: Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match

I said in yesterday’s Women’s MITB Spotlight that I’d previewed every Money In The Bank match since I started this blog, so I couldn’t leave out the men’s match in 2018. I was looking back through old previews and noticed I used a slightly different format last year to what I’ve normally done, and I’m going to use it here too. So let’s break down the match!

The Miz

Miz

How can he be the star of the match?

By playing the spoiler role. Whenever any of the faces in the match get anywhere close to the top of the ladder, The Miz can be the one to stop them grabbing the contract. He should avoid all the high risk spots and just appear at the worst possible times for the fan favourites. Miz should also be around at the end, either to win the match or to finally get his comeuppance by getting literally knocked off his perch by the winner.

Will he actually win?

He has every chance. The Miz has proven his worth in the last two years, and it’s very possible that he can get back into a world title picture via the contract. He would actually have been my pick to win this match last year, but it was a SmackDown-exclusive PPV and Miz was moved to Raw post-Mania. A year later, it’s a tougher field with superstars from both brands, but Miz hasn’t cooled off too much. It could still be his time. Continue reading MITB 2018 Spotlight: Men’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match

MITB 2018 Spotlight: Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match

I love the Money In The Bank concept. It adds a storytelling element like nothing WWE had before it. It was originally designed to be that final push for superstars to get over the line to main event level. It was a way of elevating people. It was a way of putting guys who had been at the top of the mid-card for years the opportunity to finally break through. And of course, once the gimmick got established, it could be used in other ways.

It was a featured part of Wrestlemania for years, and eventually it evolved to the point of getting it’s own PPV, and having two contracts. Last year WWE took that a step further by having the first ever women’s Money In The Bank ladder match, and then just over a week later, the second. Now we’re here, just over 24 hours away from Money In The Bank with the strongest line up on paper yet.

It has evolved yet again this year, with the number of competitors rising from six to eight, and also with the match becoming dual-branded. Since I started writing about wrestling, I’ve gone through the MITB competitors every year. So let’s get to the 2018 edition, starting with the women’s line up.

 

Sasha Banks

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Sasha Banks has racked up an impressive list of firsts in her time under the WWE umbrella. She was in the first iron woman match, the first women’s hell in a cell match, the first women’s matches to main event both a WWE PPV and NXT TakeOver, and she was the first ever entrant into the women’s Royal Rumble. But being on the Raw brand, she missed out on being in the first women’s Money In The Bank match last year. With the arrivals of Ronda Rousey and Ember Moon on Monday nights, and the face turn and championship reign of Nia Jax, Sasha has been pushed way down the pecking order.

Something is missing from The Boss. A heel turn may help that. But getting back in the title picture may also do the trick. And the MITB contract is an immediate opportunity to put her back in that conversation. With Banks’ track record, she is always going to be in with a chance in these situations, because she has instant credibility whenever you want to throw her into a top position. Banks is likely to be the workhorse of the match, all over the shop and involved in spots with everybody. But I think her role will be to be the nearly-woman that never quite gets there.

Chances of winning: Possible

 

Naomi

Naomi

Look, Naomi is good, but I was surprised that she got the escape spot at the Royal Rumble, and I was surprised that she won the battle royal at Wrestlemania. It’s not that I don’t think she deserves the spots, it’s just that this year there’s been so little follow up that those moments have seemed… forgettable. She seems to be very clearly the fourth face on Tuesday nights, and without the backing of the NXT fans that Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Asuka have, unless something radical happens that’s not going to change.

Because of that, I don’t feel like she’s a threat to win. I could be wrong, because as I said before, she has been put in spots to stand out before. She even won the title at Wrestlemania last year. But as far as this field goes, I have Naomi right near the back of it.

Chances of winning: Unlikely

 

Lana

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Granted I lost track of Raw and SmackDown for a while there, but why? Just… why? Like… why?

Chances of winning: (Surely?) None

 

Natalya

Natalya-1

A year ago Natalya was exactly who this match would have been created for. She was a long tenured superstar who was always seen as being good, but for whatever reason never got her opportunity. But then she finally got her run as SmackDown Women’s Champion last year that was arguably well overdue.

Since moving to Raw in the Wrestlemania aftermath, she became a de facto face by virtue of her history training with Ronda Rousey. And that has meant she has been one of the more prominent characters on the show. More than that, with Rousey being in a title match tomorrow night it has given Natalya a really obvious storyline with the contract. It makes Natalya a red hot pick to scale the ladder, with the only thing stopping her is that it’s not really a necessary prop to go into that story. But it is the best way to protect all parties.

Chances of winning: the favourite.

 

Becky Lynch

Becky Lynch

If last year I might have said that Natalya was the kind of superstar MITB was designed for, Becky Lynch comes the closest this year. It’s already been two years since Lynch was Women’s Champion, back when she was riding the crest of the SmackDown post-draft wave. Her line on this week’s SmackDown about being sick of saying “I was”, and being ready to say “I am” again summed it up perfectly. She has never lost that much popularity, but first Alexa Bliss, then Charlotte, and now Asuka has taken over her mantle.

For me, Lynch is probably the person who could benefit most from a win here. She is the one with the biggest up-side who is most likely to get lost in the shuffle. She would be a reliable champion, able to work with pretty much anyone. At the very worst Lynch is a solid option, but potentially she can be much more than that.

Chances of winning: Possible

 

Alexa Bliss

Alexa Bliss

Bliss is in danger of getting lost in the shuffle on Raw. Having been champion for so long across both brands, I get that she needs to take a step out of the title picture for a while. But she needs to be kept relevant, and at the moment looks like she could become a victim of WWE’s perennial lack of ability to create secondary and tertiary storylines for anything other than it’s main event scene. On a show as long and with as much filler as Raw, that’s really unforgivable.

But at the same time, Bliss has an advantage over everybody else in this match. Her character fits the archetypal cash-in more than anybody else, and that will keep her in with a shout regardless of who else is in the mix. Having a contract in her possession would also keep her in the spotlight without having her directly chase the title. And really, with her gimmick, she should be in no rush at all to get involved when the title scene currently involved Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey.

 

Charlotte

Charlotte

I can echo some of my other sentiments here with Charlotte. She is proven as the leader of the division, she’s a safe bet, her resume means you can throw her in the mix at any time with credibility. But because she was champion as recently as two months ago, there is also a sense that Charlotte doesn’t need this win as much as the others do.

There are some story points that I quite like with a Charlotte win though. I would find a poetry in Charlotte trying to cash in against Carmella, who won the title so recently by cashing in on Charlotte. And obviously there would be the threat of another loss to Charlotte hanging over Asuka should she become champion tomorrow night. That paranoia could lead to some development for the Empress of Tomorrow. All that being said, while there would be some cool off-shoots to a Charlotte win, I’m not really expecting to see it.

Chances of winning: Unlikely

 

Ember Moon

Ember Moon

Ember Moon is the person that I think has the most to gain from this match. She is the most recent addition to the main roster out of these eight women, and while the Eclipse will always be spectacular, it feels like the right stage for Moon to have a show stealing performance. An Eclipse off a ladder anyone?

Because she’s so new, to an extent it seems to early to be talking about Moon as a title contender. That’s why MITB is perfect for her. It would be a sign of faith from WWE that she is a big deal, that she is going to be a star, but an acknowledgement that right now is not her time. 2019 should be Ember Moon’s year in terms of main roster gold,  and carrying the contract around for the forseeable future should safeguard that.

Chances of winning: Dark horse

TakeOver: Chicago II Spotlight: Shayna Baszler vs Nikki Cross

It’s a big weekend for WWE, as they try to tell us it is any PPV weekend. But this time round it’s actually kind of true, and Money In The Bank is only a little bit of the reason. No, this weekend is really TakeOver weekend, as NXT return to Chicago for the second year in a row. And with that comes a TakeOver Spotlight as always. So what match have I gone for this time?

Is it the match that could steal the weekend in Ricochet v Velveteen Dream? Is it what will presumably be the culmination of a year long classic rivalry between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa? Well, no.

Instead I’ve gone for Shayna Baszler’s first TakeOver defence of the NXT Women’s Championship against Nikki Cross. Because on paper, I think this is one of the most intriguing title matches in a long time. Continue reading TakeOver: Chicago II Spotlight: Shayna Baszler vs Nikki Cross

Backlash 2018 Spotlight: Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe

Real life gets in the way sometimes, but tonight is Backlash so that can only mean one thing – a PPV Spotlight from yours truly! I’ve picked this match because I expect both men to be in the world title picture in the coming months, and I think that creates an interesting dilemma for tonight’s encounter. I’m writing about Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe. Continue reading Backlash 2018 Spotlight: Roman Reigns vs Samoa Joe

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon

There was only one way I could round off my Spotlights for Wrestlemania 34. And that is with the most hotly anticipated return the wrestling world has seen for many a year. We haven’t seen him in the ring for three years, but he’s back for Wrestlemania. I couldn’t not cover it, it’s the in-ring comeback of Daniel Bryan, as he teams with Shane McMahon to take on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn!

So there’s been a lot of conflict leading up to this. And I don’t mean conflict between the faces and the heels, that would be obvious. But for months now, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan have been in a battle of wills over the direction SmackDown should take. And most of the time, those disagreements were over Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who themselves have been fighting with each other again in the last couple of months. Continue reading Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Cesaro & Sheamus vs Braun Strowman & ???

Wrestlemania is tomorrow! We’re right around the corner, and there is still one intriguing mystery about the grandest stage of them all. That’s what I’m going to be discussing in this Spotlight, because I’m looking at the Raw Tag Team Championship match between the defending champions Cesaro & Sheamus and Braun Strowman and his secret partner.

Cesaro and Sheamus were put together as an apparently random pairing of two superstars who weren’t doing much. But what a revelation they’ve been. Over 18 months they’ve put on great matches with The New Day, The Hardy Boyz and Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose. The division needed new blood after The New Day’s record setting title reign, and on the Raw side of things the European duo have picked up the mantle and ran with it. Continue reading Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Cesaro & Sheamus vs Braun Strowman & ???