TV Talking Points – 5th-7th March

It was the go-home week for Fastlane, but on Raw and NXT Wrestlemania weekend started to take shape! So what was set up? What do we have to look forward to? I’ve rounded up the top moments of the week right here!

Raw

Rousey’s Mania match confirmed

It’s been rumoured for a long time, and there has been a lot of speculation about who her partner would be, but on Raw it was confirmed that Ronda Rousey would make her Wrestlemania debut in a mixed tag team match against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and her partner will be… Kurt Angle. They have the link that both are Olympians, and they’ve already been playing into The Authority’s history with Rousey at Wrestlemania 31 and Angle at last year’s Survivor Series. I think this match will exceed expectations in the same way AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon was a highlight of last year’s Mania – with the names involved it will likely be planned and rehearsed to the second, which is probably an assurance of quality.

 

The Ultimate Deletion

We’re finally seeing progression with the Woken Matt character. Some of the highlights of Broken Matt in Impact Wrestling were his skits at the Hardy Compound, and the likes of Total Nonstop Deletion and the Final Deletion. Now, it’s coming to the WWE. Matt invited Bray Wyatt to partake int he Ultimate Deletion. If they are allowed to be as creative as House Hardy was in TNA, this could be what pushes Woken Matt over the top. Equally, if it’s like Wyatt’s House of Horrors match, it could ruin the gimmick. The kicker is, the match has already been filmed. When will it air? Who knows. It could be next Monday’s Raw, it could be Wrestlemania. Either way, the anticipation is simply delightful.

 

Building the Big Dog

Paul Heyman is a genius. That’s nothing new to most of the WWE Universe, but I’m not sure it can ever be repeated enough. I wasn’t sure that WWE’s aim of getting Brock Lesnar booed and Roman Reigns cheered going into Wrestlemania was in any shape or form achievable, but we’re just a couple of weeks in and it looks like they’re getting there. They still have four weeks to go, and they’ll need to keep things fresh and not overdo the “absent champion” line, but so far so good.

 

SmackDown

A rivalry highlighted

I know I covered the promo segment between The Usos and The New Day last time out, but my god have WWE’s production team pulled something out of the hat in recapping it. This clip has everything: history, motivation, intensity – basically anything you’d want in an epic rivalry, this video shows off. It gave me chills.

 

Fatal-5-Way

It wasn’t that long ago that AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin vs Dolph Ziggler vs Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn was slated as the main event for Fastlane, but instead we got that exact match on SmackDown. As could have been expected going in, it was all action, but with a potentially big moment at the end. Sami Zayn won by pinning Kevin Owens after a Helluva Kick. There has been dissension brewing between the best friends for weeks, and at the minute it looks like they’re being set up for a match down the line. For me that’s way too early, this could be a multi-year story that results in an all-time great match. I really hope they don’t blow it off in a matter of months.

 

NXT

NXT gold to Fade to Black?

On the yellow brand this week Killian Dain and Aleister Black faced off, with the unconfirmed stipulation that the winner would go on to face Andrade “Cien” Almas for the NXT Championship at TakeOver: New Orleans. Black ended up coming out victorious, and after the show William Regal announced that he would indeed challenge Almas the night before Wrestlemania. Black would have to be the favourite to win the title, and as he is the closest thing NXT has had to that next level face of the brand since Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor, that could be a very good thing indeed.

 

And there we have WWE’s week of TV for the start of March! Next week’s edition will be a little longer due to Fastlane being included, but from there we are on the final straight to the biggest show of the year. You might have heard about it, Wrestlemania 34!

TV Talking Points – 25th-28th February

It was PPV week in WWE, which meant four consecutive nights of shows. And since it was the last Raw PPV before Wrestlemania, it also meant we have a stronger picture of where the red brand is headed for Wrestlemania. So what were the highlights of WWE’s programming for the last week of February? Read on to find out.

Elimination Chamber

Braun Strowman is a beast

Ok, so I’ve actively tried to stay away from Braun Strowman stories over the last few weeks, because I felt like I was writing about his antics every single time I did this column and I didn’t want it to feel too repetitive or redundant. But when WWE keeps putting him in spots to shine, I can’t leave him out. Braun eliminated five of his six opponents inside the Chamber, and clearly came away the most dominant figure in the match. I know similar things were said last year, but if Braun Strowman isn’t in a world title match at next year’s Wrestlemania it really would be a travesty. It’s nor a surprise to anyone at this stage, but Braun Strowman is a beast.

 

Rowdy Ronda Rousey makes a statement

If there was a valid criticism to be made over Rousey’s debut appearance at the Royal Rumble over not really doing much, there was no cause for similar worries here. She entered extremely smiley, looking genuinely touched at the positive reaction she got. We learned that this was all a scheme concocted by Triple H and Stephanie to get revenge on Ronda for her actions at Wrestlemania 31, Rousey put Triple H through a table, and really we got a Mania match set up and all ready to go.

 

Raw

“Shooting” at the Beast

What’s that? A badass Roman Reigns promo? About damn time. If this was the Roman Reigns we had been getting for the last three years, the dude might have been a bona fide star by now. The major criticism of him has always been his promos, but some genius writing by WWE let the big dog loose this week, and it paid off. We’ll have to wait and see if this carries over into future shows, but he got some big reactions from the crowd on certain lines.

 

Challenging The Deadman

Just as one match that’s been expected for months is confirmed, another is finally addressed. There have rumours for months that despite his grand farewell last year, The Undertaker would pick up his gloves, lace up his boots and put on his trenchcoat one more time to face John Cena. Cena saying that the match “will not happen” throws an interesting twist into the mix, but I highly doubt that WWE would even have had Cena mention Undertaker if the match wasn’t going to happen. For the time being, we’ll just have to wait and see how Cena’s excursion to SmackDown goes.

 

SmackDown

Six pack challenge

At the very least, things started well for Cena back on Tuesday nights. He asked to be given an opportunity to be inserted into the WWE Championship match at Fastlane, which he received. All he had to do to get in the match was defeat the WWE Champion, AJ Styles. Whenever these two lock up there is a magic in the air, and they haven’t put on a bad match yet. This might not have been at the level of their previous wars, but it was still an excellent TV match. It could easily end up as the best WWE TV match of the year.

 

Another rivalry renewed

And just as John Cena and AJ Styles butted heads one more time at the top of the card, the tag team division also saw old foes cross swords again. As it stands, the best in ring tag team rivalry WWE had in 2017 will be revisited at Fastlane as The New Day challenge The Usos. I say for the time being, because the Bludgeon Brothers’ tease at the end suggests it won’t be too long before they turn their focus to championship gold…

 

NXT

British Strong Style on Dream’s street

There weren’t many superstars who had more impressive 2017s after debuting than Tyler Bate and Velveteen Dream, and this week saw them do battle in NXT’s opening match. Much like his compatriot Pete Dunne, I don’t think I’ve seen Bate have a bad match, and Dream has obvious superstar potential. It was interesting to see these two clash, but the result was never really in doubt. They’re pushing a losing streak for Bate, which if things turn out properly will hopefully lead to a heel turn and a dominant British Strong Style trio running through NXT.

 

And there we have it. Next week sees the start of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic on Wednesday nights, as well as an Elimination Chamber rematch between Asuka and Nia Jax on Raw. But for now, I bid you adieu!

 

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.

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.

Continue reading 2017 Spotlight: October – December

2017 Spotlight: June – September

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 third part of my 2017 recap, find the links to the previous two parts below:

January – March

April – May

June

Extreme Rules – Fatal-5-Way

The thing about multi-matches is they can be so chaotic that there isn’t a cohesive story to the match. But at the same time, put enough talent in there, and it can be all action and constant entertainment. The latter scenario certainly applied to the Extreme Rules main event between Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe in a match to decide Brock Lesnar’s next challenger. With five of the top guys on the brand in one match there were always going to be fireworks, and use of chairs, stairs, a broken barricade and a broken announce table delivered in that regard. In the end, it was Samoa Joe who came away with the win, as he turned his attention to the Beast Incarnate.

Continue reading 2017 Spotlight: June – September

8 Feuds for Post-Wrestlemania SmackDown

As we head into Wrestlemania, all eyes are on the ultimate thrill ride, and rightfully so. It’s not WWE’s pinnacle for no reason. But, as ever with WWE storylines, a big part of the excitement around Mania is the possibility for what will come next. So I’ve put my fantasy booking hat on (I mean come on, I don’t really ever take it off) and come up with eight rivalries I want to see on SmackDown coming out of Wrestlemania season. In case you’re wondering, I’m only doing SmackDown because I’m too uncertain about who will be in what spots and roles on Raw, and I’m doing eight feuds because there are eight segments in a typical SmackDown broadcast. And the roster isn’t really big enough for more. Got that? Let’s go!

WWE Championship – Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt ©

Orton Wyatt WWE Title

Continue reading 8 Feuds for Post-Wrestlemania SmackDown

2017 Elimination Chamber Spotlight: Tag Teams in Turmoil

Tonight we see the return of the Elimination Chamber! It’s the first time we will see the structure since the Intercontinental Championship was defended inside the steel in May 2015. But, that’s not the match type tonight that has been absent from our screens for the longest time. And that brings me to the match I’m featuring in this article.

I’m not writing about there being three women’s matches on a PPV’s main card for what is probably the first time ever. I’m not re-visiting the Luke Harper/Randy Orton match that I kind of touched on earlier this week. No, I’m going to be writing about the match that by my calculations we haven’t seen in three and a half years, since Night of Champions 2013, the tag team turmoil match. Continue reading 2017 Elimination Chamber Spotlight: Tag Teams in Turmoil