WWE Recap: R-E-S-P-E-C-T-?

The Hurt Business just can't catch a break, but Adam Pearce can catch this giant, bald head

With a surprisingly solid Survivor Series in the books, WWE began the build for December’s TLC, featuring every wrestling fan’s three favorite things: overbooked gimmick matches, sexual predators getting pushes, and chairs. Happy Holidays!

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Friendly Chat With Professional Wrestling Boss Somehow Becomes Violent

Monday night started off with all 5 members of Team Raw asserting why they deserve a chance to challenge Drew McIntyre. Adam Pearce was thoughtfully considering each man until Braun Strowman made his case with a headbutt that knocked Pearce out. That’s why you don’t leave 205 Live; those big boys play rough. Pearce later suspended Strowman and made three qualifying matches for a #1 contender triple threat next week, which is some impressive work after being head butted by an employee. I probably would have taken the evening off.

Our first match was Sheamus vs Riddle. This is WWE, so I don’t really need to tell you that the accused rapist won. A huge apology to Sheamus and the country of Ireland. The second match was significantly better- Keith Lee vs Bobby Lashley. I’d watch Keith Lee stand in the ring and raise his eyebrow and call that a five star show. The man’s so charismatic and likeable it makes me want to hug my laptop. Right away Lee and Lashley tried to throw each other around, using their very impressive strength to try and overpower the equally big man. MVP was at ringside talking trash and distracting Lee, which opened the door for Lashley to take over. He hoisted Lee on his shoulders and threw him into the ring post- incredibly impressive to see a dude close to 350 lbs tossed around like a sack of potatoes. Lee was able to escape the Hurt Lock twice, knocking Lashley to the mat, which made MVP run in and save the US Champ with a shot to Lee. Keith won by DQ, sending him to next week’s triple threat. The last qualifier was Styles vs Orton, which was some very good wrestling up until a visit from Randy’s pal The Fiend. AJ had just countered an RKO and taken the duo outside, when The Fiend showed up for a ringside seat. Randy, showing incredible focus for a wrestler, managed to stay on the task at hand and hit Styles with a DDT, but the lights went out as he tried to cover. The Fiend popped up on the apron to spook Randy some more, and when the lights were back up, Styles hit a Phenomenal Forearm to win. While I didn’t need 5-10 whole minutes of grown men whining to their boss, this was a series of good matches and a solid way to find McIntyre’s next challenger. Also, we learned that Braun Strowman takes criticism about as well as any indie wrestler on Twitter.

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Bad Luck Bonus

It ended up being a rough night for The Hurt Business, as Benjamin and Alexander once again challenged The New Day for their Raw titles. The Hurt Business started out well, overpowering Woods and tossing him to the floor. With Kingston and Benjamin both on the turnbuckle, Cedric snuck over and knocked Kofi off to the outside. Benjamin delivered a big spear and tossed Kofi back in the ring, but it was declared a double count out, until some urging from MVP restarted the match. We began again, with Benjamin and Alexander returning to their strategy of dismantling The New Day. They worked Kofi’s knee after a high back body drop from Benjamin sent him onto the floor hard. They cut off Kingston to keep him from tagging, and The Hurt Business tried to wear Kofi down. An SOS almost got the win, but Benjamin just kicked out. Alexander chopped Kofi’s leg, but he still managed to make a tag to Woods, who cleared house. He reversed a powerbomb from Benjamin into a sunset flip for the 3-count, much to MVP’s ringside anguish.

These two teams work together well, although their match last week was honestly much better. The convoluted stop-start didn’t help this at all; it felt like when you need to lengthen your essay so you just restate the same idea with synonyms about five times. I don’t know why The Hurt Business needed to take L’s two weeks in a row, but I’d still bet on seeing them with tag team gold before the year is out.

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Masterpiece Theatre with Alexa Bliss

Nikki Cross has been doing her best to bring Alexa Bliss back to the land of the living, but like any other late 20-something who’s losing herself in a relationship with a white guy who has dreads, Bliss wasn’t having it. In a Firefly Funhouse segment, Wyatt talked about how friendship is useless because everybody’s a big phoney and you should never tell anybody anything. He invited Alexa to beat up Friendship Frog with a 2 by 4, in a sign of what was to come for Nikki later in the night. Still, Cross said she was determined to “beat The Fiend out of Alexa,” declaring their friendship officially over. Nikki came out strong right from the bell, dominating the match easily. Alexa barely put up a fight, laughing at every strike, which only make Nikki angrier. Suddenly, Bliss seemed to snap out of it and became concerned, like she didn’t know what was going on. She pleaded with Cross to stop and asked for her help, sobbing in the middle of the ring. Cross helped her up and gave her a hug, allowing Alexa to turn it into Sister Abigail and get the win. Bliss’ acting is solid; her ability to switch between Fiend puppet and fake her old persona really worked here. I’m curious to see where she goes after this feud with Cross is over- a shot at the Raw Women’s title doesn’t seem too far off.

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Storming the Castle

NXT kicked off with Candice LeRae vs Ember Moon, plus Kevin Owens on commentary because, sometimes, we actually get nice things in wrestling. Moon and LeRae are two incredible competitors, but the presence of Indi Hartwell in Candice’s corner suggested we were going to get more shenanigans than wrestling. Candice tried to retreat early on, but Moon planted her face first on the commentary table, and gave Hartwell a right hand for good measure. LeRae tried again to run away up the entrance ramp, but Moon caught her easily. Candice turned the tide with a senton to Ember’s back, until Moon delivered a superkick that knocked Candice on her back. Ember looked fantastic here, especially when she yelled “eat it, hussy” before kicking LeRae’s teeth in. Kai and Gonzalez showed up ringside to put Moon at a disadvantage, but she stayed on top of Candice and drove her into the corner. She went up top for the Eclipse, but Hartwell ran in and pushed Candice out of the way, taking the finisher herself. Candice hit Wicked Stepsister to get the win, which I get but, come on. Despite looking incredibly strong, it doesn’t make a ton of sense that Ember’s taken multiple singles losses since returning to NXT.

After the match, Gonzalez, Kai, and LeRae surrounded Moon, who rolled to the outside as Toni Storm came out to back up her friend. Storm encouraged them to rush the ring, but as Ember tried to enter, she pulled her back out and hit a shot straight to the face. She slammed Ember into the steps and then threw her to the wolves, literally. Storm’s heel turn is surprising, for sure, but a feud with her and Moon could be fantastic, and she’ll make a good addition to LeRae’s War Games team.

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Fear and Stunners

Jey Uso opened SmackDown by talking about how Roman Reigns is better than the rest of his family members. Uso gave Roman an assist on Sunday night, helping him beat Drew McIntyre after he failed as the final man of Team SmackDown earlier in the night. Reigns came out and told Jey that no one respected him and that’s why SmackDown ate a huge L at Survivor Series. He asked if Jey thought he was”a bitch in the locker room handing out Thanksgiving leftovers”- which is now the only question I have for all my cousins. Roman told Jey he was a failure and then bounced, leaving Uso with some real mixed feelings. He first took them out on Otis with a steel chair, preempting his match against King Corbin. After a backstage confrontation with Kevin Owens. Uso and Owens again went head to head in the main event, with Reigns insisting Jey teach Owens to fear him, in order to respect him. Uso focused on Kevin’s arm, preventing him from pulling off a Pop-Up Powerbomb. He avoided a stunner to throw Kevin, injured arm first, into the corner, and went for a chair to really seal the deal. The match officially ended in a DQ, but Kevin wasn’t done. He finally landed a stunner on Uso, then turned the chair on him. He looked into the camera and told a waiting Reigns that he feared no one, and promised he’d be waiting for him. One final stunner to Jey sent the message home, and Owens stood tall to close the show. I’m loving the Reigns/Uso saga, and keeping Owens in the loop works great. This wasn’t much of a match, but his message to Reigns really worked. Poor Jey continues to be the victim here, but he’s also excelling in his role as he’s desperate to please Roman.

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Greatly Liberated

Daniel Bryan has his eye set on the Intercontinental Title, and he shared his secret for staying sane in 2020: just stop giving a shit. He talked about Jey Uso going off the deep end and Sami Zayn’s conspiracy theories and came to the conclusion that nothing mattered so drink your sugar free oat milk and try to enjoy yourself anyway. Shortly after, Sami cut a promo explaining the very correct true origins of Thanksgiving and saying he doesn’t celebrate, because the Pilgrims were murderers and he’s Canadian, so there’s is in October anyway. Bryan interrupted WWE’s best efforts at a leftist heel promo, and the two squared off. Bryan started out grounding Sami, working him on the mat and cutting him off every time he tried to mount some offense. Zayn finally got the upper hand when he sent Bryan into the barricade on the outside. After dropping Daniel on the apron, Sami almost got a count out, but Bryan just made it back in at 9. The Blue Thunderbomb couldn’t put him away, but I can’t really remember the last time it put anyone away. Zayn managed to escape the Yes Lock by crawling to the ropes, but he eats a suicide dive from Bryan moments later. Sami tried to run up the ramp to escape, but Bryan followed. Sami gave chase through backstage momentarily, before just making it back to the ring at 9.5. Bryan was in a second later, and Sami won by count out. This was some great wrestling from Bryan and some cowardly tactics from Sami- a lot of fun overall. Bryan and Zayn have fantastic chemistry, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them.

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After Bianca Belair almost (should have) won the women’s Survivor Series match for SmackDown, she got another shot in the spotlight against Natalya on Friday. Just before the match, Bayley came out to join commentary, which is always a delight. In the ring, Bianca charged the corner and ran right into the post as Natalya just ducked out of the way. She took advantage and almost pinned Belair with a suplex, but the EST kicked out. Bayley suggested that all the problems with Team SmackDown started with Bianca, and blamed her for the team’s lost. Belair made a comeback and dumped Natalya on the outside, but Bayley hopped up to talk some trash to her face. Bianca delivered a big hit to shut her up, then got a roll up on Natalya for the win. Poor Nattie ends up cannon fodder yet again, but the prospect of Bianca vs Bayley is very exciting. The insults alone are five star worthy. I’m rubbing my little hands together thinking of what Bianca’s gonna say about Bayley’s white suburban aunt haircut.

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New Kids in Town

205 Live continued to put over new blood in another fun episode this week- I think the 30 minute format has helped the show focus on just the wrestling again. 205 has been at it’s best when they don’t try to force the WWE style and just let short kings do their job. Our first match was August Grey and his two-toned jacket vs Ariya Daivari. Daivari was in control early on, giving Grey a big slap for having the nerve to wear 8 different loud prints at once and somehow make it work. He focused on the leg, giving Grey a chop block and knocking him back to the mat. On the outside, Daivari requested his chains, but Grey pulled him back into the ring before he could get clocked with a bunch of Forever 21 jewelry. Daivari landed a splash, but Grey kicked out. He avoided the hammerlock-lariat to hit an Unprettier and get the win.

In the main event, Curt Stallion put on a great show against Raul Mendoza, who was backed up by Joaquin Wilde, but no Santos Escobar. It’s a tall task to get the cruiserweight belt on the cruiserweight show. Stallion has clearly been the pick in the new crop of 205 guys- he’s currently Escobar’s #1 contender, but there’s no hint for when that match will happen. Mendoza fired up the Lone Star when he said he’ll never be champ, and suffered a suicide dive for his loyalty to a man who, again, can’t be assed to show up on the purple brand. A big stomp through Mendoza’s chest almost got Stallion the win, but the heel came back with a frankensteiner to rock Stallion. They went back and forth trading counters until Stallion got a quick roll up to score the 3 count.