Another week has passed on the Road to Wrestlemania, and unless I’ve just gotten to the stage of completely zoning out when it happens, we got less sign-pointing this week. We even got serenaded by Braun Strowman, which even though I’m not writing about was too good of a visual to not use above. But we did get various developments for Elimination Chamber and Fastlane, so it was a good week for storyline progression. What actually happened? Read on for the highlights!
Doubling up on making history
The advertised Raw main event was a second chance fatal-4-way between the men who lost Elimination Chamber qualifying matches – Finn Balor, Matt Hardy, Bray Wyatt and Apollo Crews. But in the middle of the show, Seth Rollins made his case to Kurt Angle that he should be added to the match, and he was – making it a fatal-5-way. There was controversy in the finish, as both Finn Balor and Seth Rollins had Wyatt pinned for a three count. Both men won the match, so Kurt Angle announced that at Elimination Chamber, as well as having the first ever women’s Chamber match, for the first time ever there would be seven men competing inside the steel structure!
We’re not that far removed from the Royal Rumble, but WWE rolls on with Elimination Chamber just over two weeks away! The Chamber matches themselves were filled out on Raw, and we even got a match announcement for SmackDown’s next PPV, Fastlane, in March. So what actually happened this week? As always, I’ve put the key moments together for you in this article.
Chamber competitors revealed
Going into this week’s Raw we knew John Cena, Elias and Braun Strowman were going to be in the men’s Chamber match, but all we knew on the women’s side was the Alexa Bliss would be defending her title. Well, now there’s only one spot out of the 12 to be decided. Roman Reigns defeated Bray Wyatt, and The Miz defeated Apollo Crews to earn their chance to become the number one contender to Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship. And Kurt Angle announced the women’s field as Mickie James, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Bayley and Sasha Banks would be challenging Bliss inside the steel structure. Continue reading
Despite once again arguably the biggest WWE story this week happening off-screen (bye Enzo!), this week saw Raw25 take place, as well as the final build-up to NXT’s TakeOver: Philadelphia and, of course, the Royal Rumble on Sunday. So what went down? I’ve collated the main happenings from the week, and put them all together in one, easy to manage round-up.
A New Intercontinental Champion? Awesome…
We knew going in to Raw25 that Roman Reigns would be defending the Intercontinental Championship, and really if you’ve been reading online reports at any time in the last 10 months you probably had a fair idea that Roman Reigns would be losing the title on Monday night. And he did. And it was relatively clean too! Sure Miz used an exposed turnbuckle, which was brilliantly set up so subtly earlier in the match, but the Miztourage never got involved. Though, perhaps more accurately, they were never allowed to, as Reigns always struck first. Still, it will be interesting to see if there is a rematch, and how clean the finish will be should it turn out that way. If not, the awesome reign of the most must see champion in WWE history looks like it might be here to stay.
This is the first of what will hopefully become a regular column! What I’m going to do is discuss a couple of the main talking points – whether that is an impressive promo or match, a significant storyline development, or maybe just something subtle that caught my eye that I felt was worth mentioning – from Raw, SmackDown and maybe even NXT, depending on how things go. I’m normally going to try to have this up in the middle of the week, but it’s later this week because New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 and New Year’s Dash meant I didn’t get round to NXT until yesterday. So what were the main things to takeaway from WWE’s first shows of 2018? Let’s find out!
Royal Rumble Rules Revealed
It’s been a couple of weeks since Stephanie McMahon officially announced the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble, and there had been a lot of speculation over how it would work. Given the size of the women’s roster, how many entrants would there be? Given the size of some of the women, would they have to go over the top rope to the floor, or just out of the ring to the floor? Well, on New Year’s Day Kurt Angle opened Raw to confirm the rules of the match – 30 women, and eliminations occurring when a woman goes over the top rope with both feet hitting the floor. Given that there are only 19 women on the main roster not including each brand’s champion, that means there are going to be a lot of former stars returning or appearances from NXT’s women to fill out the spots. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, as 30 women puts it on an even playing field as the men – if it was only 20, as had been suggested by many including myself, it might’ve been argued that it was less important. And this year especially, it’ll put over the historical significance of the match to have all these legends coming back to win it. However going forward it’s a concern. If the main roster’s women’s division doesn’t expand for next year, there’s only so many times you can bring back the same names from the past, and having one third of the field coming from NXT could hurt the credibility and star power in the match. It’ll be an interesting situation to keep an eye on in years to come.
Wrestling is an incredibly dynamic industry where everything can change in a matter of days – if not hours – and 2017 has really typified that in WWE. From wholesale roster changes, to walk outs and injuries, you can never predict what’s going to happen next, not that I won’t keep trying. As the year draws to a close, what better opportunity than to look back and reflect on the memorable moments WWE gave us in 2017?
This is the final part of my 2017 Spotlights, you can find the first three below:
January – March
April – May
June – September
2nd-16th October – Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta.
The reunion of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose naturally invoked memories of The Shield, and got the fans wondering if the third piece of the puzzle would come together. As it turned out, three and a half years after Rollins slammed a chair into Roman Reigns’ back, The Shield returned as a united force. Battling against their common enemies of The Miz, The Bar and Braun Strowman, it was fantastic to see the ever-popular trio working together once again.
This is going to be one of the most disjointed columns I’ve published in a long time. Usually I like to write to make a point, to address one or two ideas through exemplification and analysis. There will be aspects of that here, but there were so many things I wanted to talk about it is a bit of a mish-mash of ideas. That is because last week, I went to the Raw house show in Glasgow and the Aberdeen house show in Aberdeen – and when you see so much, it gets you thinking about a lot of different things too.
Here we pick up my fantasy booking of the SmackDown men’s division through to Wrestlemania 34. Read part 1 here for the stories so far and the general ground rules underpinning this whole thing, but here’s a brief summary of where we got to:
- Shinsuke Nakamura is WWE Champion, with Baron Corbin owed a rematch
- Kevin Owens is United States Champion, with AJ Styles never getting a US Title match against him again
- Randy Orton has had a poor six months, with questions over whether he can still win a big match, and will address his future on the next SmackDown
- Team SmackDown just lost the Raw vs SD 5on-5 elimination match at Survivor Series
And so we pick up two nights after Survivor Series. Strap in, it’s a long ride!
November 21st, SmackDown
Results: Baron Corbin defeats Sin Cara by pinfall, Sami Zayn & Tye Dillinger defeat Jinder Mahal & Rusev by pinfall (Dillinger pins Rusev), AJ Styles defeats Mike Kanellis by pinfall
Promos: – Post-victory, Baron Corbin demands his WWE Title rematch. (Danel Bryan later grants this for the next PPV, Roadblock.)
– Backstage post-victory, AJ Styles says in an interview that the reason Team SmackDown lost at Survivor Series was Baron Corbin. Styles challenges Corbin to a match next week on SmackDown, saying Corbin isn’t the only one who want to be WWE Champion.
– Randy Orton makes his way to the ring for the main event segment. Orton says he knows he let people down at Survivor Series. It was embarrasing, and it was one of the lower points of his career. 2017 started out so well, but it’s turned into a trainwreck. He’s starting to wonder if he’s still cut out to be a player on SmackDown. Continue reading
The Money in the Bank briefcase has launched the careers of many a WWE superstar over the years into the stratosphere. It bridged the gap between upper mid-carder and main eventer, and led to greats like Edge, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan winning their first World Championships in WWE. Not every briefcase holder has been a success (Jack Swagger, Damien Sandow), and even two little known wrestlers called Randy Orton and John Cena have won Money in the Bank matches, but since they’re little more than footnotes in history we’ll move on quickly from them. Regardless of the blemishes on the record though, holding the MitB briefcase is a sign that WWE higher ups have faith in you to deliver big as and when required. Tonight, we find out who the latest man to write their name in the history books will be.
This will be the same format as the preview of the women’s match I posted earlier, where I look at how to make each individual the star of the match, and then assess their chances of winning and being able to call themselves Mr Money in the Bank for the foreseeable future. Without further adieu… Continue reading
And here we are at the end of Wrestlemania season! We’ve had six straight nights of content from WWE alone with the Hall of Fame, TakeOver: Orlando, Wrestlemania 33, Raw, SmackDown and NXT. It almost feels strange not having more wrestling to look forward to tonight. BUT, we can look back at all the awesome stuff that’s happened in the last week, and look ahead by asking the question “where do we go from here?”
We saw Kurt Angle return to the company, first as a Hall of Famer then as the Raw General Manager. We saw what looks like a full on heel turn from Asuka. We saw Matt and Jeff Hardy return to the WWE and become the Raw Tag Team Champions. We saw the career of The Undertaker likely come to a close. We saw The Revival debut on the main roster on Monday night, and Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger get the call up on Tuesday night. And crucially, we also saw Vince McMahon announce that next week we would shake up the rosters.
And that’s what I want to focus on here. Who is most likely to switch brands, or maybe rather who needs to switch brands the most? Here I lay out six picks, three from each show, who could really benefit from a shake up of their surroundings.
The main focus for me right now in wrestling – as I’m sure is also true of millions of WWE fans around the world – is the upcoming draft. In roughly two weeks, the roster will be split, characters will be separated. And as yet, nobody knows who will go where. We don’t even know for sure what the situations with the Championship belts are. But with uncertainty comes speculation, and with speculation comes dreams. So I’ve put together 10 feuds that I would love to see happen – and think we should see happen – in the months after July 19th. Continue reading