We’ve got two weeks to Backlash WrestleMania style, so WWE is doing their best to get guys fighting. While Charlotte Flair continued to whine her way through the women’s division, Raw also doubled down on the enemies to friends to enemies storyline, proving that two dudes over 6’2” could never coexist. The SmackDown tag titles received more attention than they have in the past six months. Bianca Belair is just that good; she can bolster anything, even Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode as champions in 2021.
45 Minute Alliance Completely Falls Apart
T Bar and Mace were unceremoniously unmasked last week, but neither of them seemed to sweat it too much. They replaced it with some face paint for a supposed tag match on Monday, but Braun marched out on his own before Drew and declared he wanted a handicap match instead. After a few short minutes, this ended exactly the same way that McIntyre’s handicap match did last week; with a double team from Mace and T-Bar to cause a DQ. Drew returned the favor by saving Strowman, and we went into the tag match as originally advertised. Unfortunately, these two big boys just couldn’t get along, and McIntyre accidentally clotheslined his own partner, leading to a Mace and T-Bar count out victory. This lead to our main event, where Drew and Braun announced that they could never be friends again. McIntyre struggled early on, trying to chop away at Strowman’s legs to bring him down. Braun wanted to do his whole choo choo move, but was interrupted by MVP and Bobby Lashley. Drew landed a suplex to the big man while Lashley sat emotionless in his indoor sunglasses. MVP yelled for him to get his act together, and Drew fired back with a headbutt and a slam of his own, but Braun kicked out. Another near fall off a superplex—what is this, an NXT main event? Lashley provided the distraction while MVP saved McIntyre from the powerslam, allowing Drew to land the Futureshock DDT. Unfortunately, T-Bar and Mace also went to wrestling heel school, and jumped up on the apron for interference of their own. Strowman hit the slam to send him to WrestleMania Backlash in a triple threat. Can’t say I’m stoked about that match, but Strowman being included pretty much solidifies Lashley retaining, which I’m very much in favor of.
Get a Hold of Yourself
After getting a little too hands-on with the refs last week, Charlotte was suspended indefinitely. Sonya Deville decided “indefinitely” was two or three days, as she invited Charlotte out to make nice with the ref from her match last week, Eddie Orengo. Charlotte apologized for getting a little hot and hurling the man across the ring, which Sonya accepted as genuine remorse. She lifted the suspension, which prompted Charlotte to demand an apology from Orengo for missing Ripley’s interference last week. Backstage, Adam Pearce aired his own grievances with Sonya for going behind his back and letting Charlotte return. Trouble in matching charcoal suits paradise? Deville has been an interesting choice for an authority figure lately; I’d like to see more of her and her developing heelish ways, but not necessarily at the expense of another Pearce-involved storyline.
Following her super sincere apology, Charlotte faced Mandy Rose, who helped interfere in a women’s tag match earlier in the night. Rose managed to easily hang with the Queen, nailing her with a drop kick off the turnbuckle to get things rolling. Charlotte nearly toppled the ref again in the corner, then debated with him on how to properly count her covers. Charlotte vs Eddie Orengo will headline Money in the Bank, mark my words. Natural Selection finally put Mandy away, and the man learned his three count just in time to give Charlotte the win. This was a solid, if short, match for both women. Mandy is looking better and better, and Charlotte is her best when she’s the most obnoxious woman you’ve ever met.
Hop Hop Away
The Miz and the New Day have the extraordinary talent of making nearly anything WWE gives them work, but even they are not miracle workers. And Jaxson Ryker needs a real miracle to get any kind of a reaction, even from a virtual crowd. Miz and Morrison, who had “drip” bedazzled into his hair (A+), hosted Elias and Ryker on Miz TV for a concert to rival Bad Bunny’s upcoming tour. Their unplugged version was interrupted by Damian Priest and New Day, who carried a guitar case of tomatoes to shower the performers. Morrison’s slow mo sell of a tomato to the gut was a better performance than anything we’ve seen out of Ryker between the ropes. This gave us a 6 man tag with Morrison sitting ringside; New Day double teamed Miz and then tagged in Priest, but the A-Lister wasn’t interested. He tagged in Ryker, but Priest overpowered him. A brief trombone dance break and the heels took over again on the outside. Another hot tag to Priest cleared the ring, looking like a speedy leather legend. Ryker kicked out of a triple team, but an inside cradle from Woods kept him down for three, and the faces danced up the ring.
Legado Lives On
Emboldened again by his creamsicle trunks, Kushida pulled off a title defense against former champ Santos Escobar last week. After being saved from a Legado mauling by MSK, the good guys teamed up to take on the trio. Stylistically, they looked great—MSK are high flyers, and Kushida’s mat skills rounded them out. He tried to ground Wilde before tagging in Carter. A double team from Legado rocked the faces, until Kushida got the hot tag and wiped everyone out. MSK took down Wilde and Mendoza on the outside, but Escobar powerbombed Kushida through the commentary table. Raúl sent Carter into the ring steps, leaving Lee alone to face the baddies. When all hope seemed lost, Carter barely made it to the apron and got the tag. He rocked Escobar with a dropkick, but the former champ still managed to hit Kushida with the Phantom Driver to keep him out of commission. Mendoza and Wilde landed a double team to win, and Legado stood tall brandishing the titles to close us out.
This was a very good match. I’m glad to see Legado are still in the picture for both belts—as a stable, they’re one of the better ones NXT has turned out this year.
Bianca Belair opened SmackDown last night, which makes two weeks in a row where Roman or his entourage didn’t cut the opening promo. Is Heyman feeling alright? The big dog shaped hole must have enticed much of the roster; Belair was quickly interrupted by Ziggler and Roode, who were in turn cut off by Dawkins and Ford. Before the guys could throw down, Bayley marched to ring and did her high school bully laugh in Belair’s face. We got ourselves a mixed tag, folks.
Making Bayley team with Ziggler and Roode feels like punishment somehow, but she pulled it off like a champ. The women started out until Bianca nailed Bayley with a dropkick. Ziggler tagged in and they teased him an Belair, but this whole company is cowards, so Dawkins came in instead. Quick tags brought in Montez, who wiped out the heels with a dive, but Bayley attacking Bianca on the outside stole his attention. The Dirty Dawgs hit some double teams, complete with a cheapshot from Bayley. A surprise superkick let Ford get to his corner, and both Dawkins and Roode made the tag. Bianca got Dolph up on her shoulders, and all my wildest dreams almost came true, until Bayley pushed her new friend to safety. She got a KOD for her service, and the faces secured a win. This was very formulaic stuff, but it worked well enough. I’m very excited for Bayley and Bianca at Backlash, because it’s hard to imagine anything those two do in the ring could be less than stellar. The tag team feuds are there too, I guess.
Aleister Black has gotten in touch with his mid-aughts scene roots and returned to TV to share some hard truths with us. Last week, he cracked open “Tales of the Dark Father” and read us chapter one, about how his priest used to take him to a bunch of funerals in the woods. This week, we were again regaled with a concerning story from Black’s life. He talked about his high school days, and how anyone who enjoyed high school is probably involved in a pyramid scheme now. He called out such activities as “going to prom” and “applying for college” as buying into a fake life, and promised he could show us how to free ourselves—but he doesn’t want to. This new version of Black is kind of like the worst guy in your freshman seminar, right down to the gold wire frame glasses. This level of development in vignettes suggests they have some kind of plan for him, so I’m willing to ride this one out and see where the Dark Father goes.
End of the Road
Mark the time: the Shield was officially dead and buried Friday night with the arrival of Reigns’ new theme music. Personally, I’m very into it, but it’s still hard to say goodbye to 2012. Reigns faced Bryan in an excellent main event, with the stipulation that if Bryan loses, he has to leave SmackDown. This was their best bout straight from the bell; Bryan came out hot, taking out Reigns on the outside with a running knee. A Reigns comeback lead to a powerbomb off the top rope, but Bryan was still in it. Reigns wanted a spear, but Bryan sidestepped to send him through the barricade. A diving headbutt scored a two count, which feels like a high CTE risk for a very low reward. A running knee almost scored the win, but Reigns got a foot on the ropes. Bryan then countered the Guillotine into the Yes Lock, pulling on the right arm, but still Reigns managed to escape. Another powerbomb took down Bryan, and Roman cinched in the Guillotine with his uninjured arm as Daniel faded out. A victorious Reigns brought in two steel chairs, but Daniel was just saved by Cesaro. Jey Uso jumped in to beat down Cesaro, then tied him up in the ropes and forced him to watch Reigns hit a Con-Chair-To.
Great match between two of the best, and a good set up for Cesaro/Reigns in the near future. D Bry is sent packing just in time to miss the retro throwback SmackDown next week. We could have had a running knee off the giant fist! Dammit, Roman.
Talk Show Hosts Also Wrestle
Main event Ever-Rise struck again this week, taking on the 205 OGs, who were sporting some sweet matching red gear. Martel and Nese started things off, with the heels getting the advantage. Daivari came in and stomped away on Martel, but he continued to kick out. Nese took a brief moment to do a handful of sit ups, my same work out routine, then dropped Parker on the outside to prevent the tag. A moonsault and splash combo almost won, but Parker dragged Martel to safety. Chase finally got the hot tag and wiped everybody out, nailing both heels with dropkicks. He hit a Gory Bomb and a neck breaker off the top rope, then got the tag to Martel. Another beatdown on Matt scored a two count for Nese, but a miscommunication lead to him knocking Daivari off the apron. Both teams traded finishers; I always like seeing Nese hit a Jig n Tonic. Ever-Rise landed Sweet Taste to send Nese into the ropes and pinned the former champ. This felt a little long, which is an admittedly rough thing to say about 205 Live. I admire Nese and Daivari’s determination to put over anyone who needs it. These guys are great at making everyone on the purple brand look good. Ever-Rise is one of those teams who are certainly solid enough in the ring, but would need a lot of time before they felt like any kind of serious tag team players.