Smackdown

TV Talking Points – 19th-21st February

So it was a weird week in WWE. Raw nearly became a one-match show, SmackDown finally went over the cliff edge for a lack of actual happenings, and NXT returned to it’s spot as the best storytelling show WWE has to offer. Not that it was really saying much this week. Let’s get to the important parts of this week’s WWE TV!

Raw

Monday Night Rollins

When I say Raw nearly became a one-match show, that actually looked feasible at one point. They opened with the gauntlet match featuring all seven of this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber participants, and that one match lasted for nearly two hours of the show. Seth Rollins was without a doubt the star performer, winning the first fall against Roman Reigns, and also winning the second against John Cena in PPV-quality matches. Rollins eventually wound up lasting for one hour and five minutes, breaking the record for the longest time one man has spent in a match in Raw (and likely WWE) history.

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Retro Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker – Part 2

Last week I debuted a new column where I look at a match, angle or feud of the past and look at the build, the content and the aftermath. There was only one place I could start, and that was with one of my favourite matches: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker in a ladder match for the Undisputed Title from the July 1st, 2002 edition of Raw. That match is rightly still remembered today, but the two superstars would face off again years later, in an encounter I think is often forgotten – but no less important in the Jeff Hardy story.

I find it interesting looking back at both matches, because there are a lot of differences as you might expect, but there are also a lot of similarities despite both men being at different stages of their career, and their environment having changed significantly too.

From 2002, we’re jumping ahead six years to late 2008. As noted last time, Jeff Hardy had left WWE in 2003 to go to TNA, but he returned to Raw in 2006 to a wave of approval from his fans. He returned to confront the then-WWE Champion Edge, in what was a nice nod to Edge’s feud with Jeff’s brother Matt the previous year. But much as Jeff had failed to reach his apparent potential in 2003, he had to prove that he could be a top guy all over again when he came back. Continue reading

TV Talking Points – 12th-14th February

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!

Raw

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!

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TV Talking Points – 5th-7th February

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.

Raw

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

TV Talking Points – 27th-31st January

It’s been a bumper week of on-screen happenings in WWE because of Royal Rumble weekend, so let’s just get straight into the most newsworthy moments of the last week!

NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia

Gargano and Almas tear the house down

I previewed this match last week, and I closed that article by saying this: “Gargano and Almas have already proven they can put on a match that can hang with anything NXT has to offer. Now they just have to do it one more time.” And boy did they. It was a 31 minute spectacular that had the crowd on the edge of their seat. The match received rave reviews, even reaching 5 stars on Dave Melter’s hallowed rating scale – the first match under the WWE umbrella to do so since CM Punk vs John Cena at Money In The Bank 2011. This is already a frontrunner to be WWE’s Match of the Year, if you haven’t seen it, find a way to watch it. It will be well worth your time.

Almas Gargano Philly.jpg

 

Royal Rumble

A night of Japanese dominance

There were two Japanese superstars competing on the show, both in Royal Rumble matches, and both would go on to win. If you’re reading this, I’m sure it’s no surprise to read that Shinsuke Nakamura became the first debutant to win the men’s Royal Rumble since 2011, and Asuka continued her successful run to win the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match. Nakamura went on to announce he plans to challenge AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania, meaning we’ll finally get to see those two square off in a WWE ring on the biggest show of the year.

 

Things are about to get… Rowdy

We didn’t however find out who Asuka would be facing at Wrestlemania, and that was because we were treated to the shocking arrival of “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey! The former UFC Bantamweight Champion had been rumoured to be debuting on the show for weeks, and despite trying to throw everyone off the scent it happened. It was later announced Rousey has signed a multi-year, full-time deal to become a professional wrestler.

 

Raw

History in the making… again

Hot off the heels of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match, just 24-hours later Stephanie McMahon opened Raw by coming down to the ring and announcing another first – a women’s Elimination Chamber match. It will go down on the 25th February, and Alexa Bliss’ Raw Women’s Championship will be defended inside the steel structure. No other competitors have yet been confirmed, but it’s without doubt another notch in WWE’s belt of equality.

 

Braun Strowman commits murder for the 1008th time

I mean seriously, how great is it to see Braun genuinely trying to end lives every week? This time round it came during the shortest Last Man Standing match I can remember, as Strowman and Kane battled over to the announce desk beside the stage, and Strowman toppled the staging over, crushing Kane under the whole thing. It looks like this may have written Kane off of TV for the forseeable future, and if it was the end of the feud it absolutely did it’s job of putting Strowman over huge.

 

The 2018 Hall of Fame gets extreme

A couple of weeks ago Goldberg was announced as the headline name for the Hall of Fame Class of 2018, and this week it was announced he will be joined by the legendary Dudley Boyz! Bubba Ray and D-Von are one of the most decorated tag teams in wrestling history, and are 9-time WWE Tag Team Champions. Bubba is currently in Ring of Honor, while D-Von retired after their last WWE run and now works backstage for WWE. Their induction is well deserved by anyone’s standards.

 

SmackDown

The tag team division gets put on lockdown

So there was a lot of great wrestling over the last five days, with Raw and SmackDown unusually both being wrestling heavy shows. Maybe that’s why this stood out to me, but I was really impressed by the promo The Usos cut this past Tuesday. They have managed to nail their characters’ presentations since making a big change about a year ago, and this was evidence of that. In WWE’s world where mostly everything on the mic is scripted and sounds fairly robotic, The Usos have become something that stands out. Huge credit has to go to them for reinventing themselves so well, and making themselves the unmovable face of the SmackDown tag division.

 

NXT

A new number one contender

TakeOver set the tone for the week with a high standard of in-ring work, and last night they provided an equally impressive bookend to it all. The pairing of Tyler Bate and Roderick Strong is intriguing on paper alone, but the two delivered yet another great match last night on NXT. Their styles meshed well, and the win means Roderick Strong has earned himself a shot at Pete Dunne’s WWE United Kingdom Championship, which after watching this match is difficult not to get extremely excited for.

 

And there we have it! As I mentioned above, there has been a lot of really good in-ring work this week, including John Cena vs Finn Balor, Sasha Banks vs Asuka, a fatal-4-way match between Kofi Kingston, Rusev, Jinder Mahal and Zack Ryder and a tag team match between AJ Styles & Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. They are all worth looking up, but I tried to pick out the moments that stood out – even amongst all that great action. But now, for me after five straight days of high quality WWE, it’s time for a little break.

TV Talking Points – 22nd-24th January

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.

Raw

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.

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TV Talking Points – 15th-17th January

Did you miss Raw, SmackDown and NXT this week? Here are the key things to take away from WWE’s week of TV. I would like to just point out that I only deal with what we saw on WWE’s shows this week, so even though arguably the most newsworthy thing in WWE was their new crop of signings, that’s not gonna be covered here.

Raw

The Braun Strowman Hour

With no Brock Lesnar or Kane on the show this week after Strowman pulled the Raw set down on top of them last time out, WWE had to find some way of occupying the Monster Among Men. The way they chose to do that was to fire Strowman in the opening segment, have him wreak havoc for an hour, and then have him re-hired. And my god was it awesome. He threw security guards around backstage first, then overturned part of a production truck. Finally he went to throw Michael Cole off the stage, before Angle got to him and told him he was re-hired. Of course, Braun still threw Cole off the stage, taking him off of the rest of the broadcast.

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TV Talking Points – 8th-10th January

What happened on Raw, SmackDown and NXT this week? If you missed the show and want to know the key points, or just want to know what the main things to take note of going forward are, this is for you. I’ve summarised the main talking points in this article and included clips for you too, so you don’t have to do the legwork yourself.

 

Raw

Balor Club goes over

Last week I wrote about how it was good to see Finn Balor, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows back together, and this week it became clear that as a unit they’re here to stay. There was a backstage segment to remind everyone of their history, and in Raw’s main event they beat the golden trio of Jason Jordan, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. For one, it was just a straight up big win for the Club over two of Raw’s top stars and Jason Jordan. But for two, getting that win is a sign that the Balor Club are going to be booked strongly in the future, possibly making Balor a contender in the Royal Rumble and for a top championship thereafter.

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WWE’s TV Talking Points – 1st-3rd January

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!

 

Raw

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.

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2017 Spotlight: October – December

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

October

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.

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