In another move that suggests WWE is flying by the seat of their pants at all times, the company released multiple wrestlers early Friday afternoon. Many of those released had recently appeared in storylines on TV, and a few of them were even scheduled to appear Friday night; both August Grey and Ariya Daivari had been announced for matches on a pre-taped 205 Live. There’s no point in trying to piece together why WWE does the things they do, but these releases did feel particularly hard, especially as the departures of so many cruiserweight as (including OGs Daivari and Nese) seems to suggest the end of 205 Live altogether. The brand has struggled with its role in the company since being absorbed by NXT almost two years ago, but this final gutting of the roster all but signifies the final days of the purple brand. Let’s remember the good times—the Murphy vs Ali, the Daivari vs Lorcan—and block out the few months where it was just Enzo cutting 30 minute promos.
Still, the wrestling wheel in the sky keeps on turning, as the main roster is already looking towards next month’s Money in the Bank. It’s metal lunchbox season once more, so get ready to watch your faves climb a ladder as slow as humanly possible.
The Alexa Bliss saga has been limping along with all the intent of a school project being submitted at 11:58 PM, so it makes sense that they just tossed someone else into this muddled storyline. Bliss tagged with former BFF turned bitter enemy turned average friend again Nikki Cross. Cross and Bliss had some major issues last times they interacted, but don’t worry about that, because Cross has a whole new gimmick to focus on—she’s a superhero. To demonstrate her newfound spark, Nikki donned a blue mask and cape for a bit that is cute, if about a decade late to capitalize on the MCU craze. The aesthetically unaligned Bliss and Cross faced Jax and Baszler for a spot in the women’s MitB ladder match; our second qualifying match of the night, as Asuka and Naomi defeated Eva Marie and Doudrop (Piper Niven) to earn their spots earlier. I don’t want to talk about that one.
Cross evaded a charging Jax in the corner while Bliss momentarily hypnotized Reggie, allowing Nikki to take out all the heels with a crossbody. A mix up from Shayna and Nia lead to Jax refusing to help her partner, and Cross hit a slam to take control. Some more hypnosis to Reginald, but the sommelier somehow stopped himself just before slapping Jax. Cross got the mousetrap roll up in the ring, sending her and Bliss into the ladder match. I’m glad to see Cross getting these big wins, even if they do involve some mind-control.
Greatest Squirt Gun of the 21st Century
Knowing how much Randy Orton likes jokes, Raw set him up in a MitB qualifier against funny man John Morrison. JoMo wheeled out the Miz so his buddy could join commentary during the match. The mullet master managed to control Randy early on, as Miz shouted “drip drip” from the commentary table. A spinning kick dropped Randy, but Orton hit a clothesline to send Morrison to the outside, where he bounced his head off the table. Miz frantically wheeled himself away from Orton, who delivered a huge slam to Morrison in the ring, then followed up with the draping DDT. Randy punched his ticket to “that place,” but Miz squirted the Drip Stick in his face. Even dripping with drip, Orton still clocked Morrison with an uppercut, while Riddle came down to chase Miz on his scooter. If it weren’t for everything about Riddle, I would actually love the Razor scooter bit. In the very slow moving confusion, Morrison hit Starship Pain to win the match, and the drip king is going to Money in the Bank. Two JoMo wins back to back rules, actually.
New Hell in the Same Cell
A great couple of days for your friend who exclusively plays cage matches on 2k; Raw also hosted their own Hell in a Cell match, barely 24 hours after the event that’s intended for Hell in a Cell matches. Blatant network pressure aside, the match between Bobby Lashley and Xavier Woods was excellent. Woods and Kingston interrupted Lashley and MVP’s celebration to announce that Kofi would be the Almighty’s next opponent at Money in the Bank, while Woods was going to take him to task in Raw’s main event. Lashley continues to put on bangers as champ, and against someone like Kingston next month, we should get a fantastic match.
Some incredible intensity from Woods here, who really brought the fight to Lashley in a huge way. He tried for some early covers, but found himself outpowered as Lashley sent him to the outside. Woods brought in a chair, only for Lashley to punch him right through it, while MVP gave Kofi some smug side-eye. After a series of drop kicks, Woods finally connected with the chair, laying into the champ alongside the ring. Lashley rained punches on Xavier in the corner, but a dropkick to the leg knocked Bobby down and let Woods go for the kendo stick. We don’t often get to see this kind of brutality from New Day, but it was great to watch Woods get so fired up. A tilt-a-whirl DDT scored a two count, and Woods set Lashley up on a table for the elbow drop, but still Lashley kicked out. The Almighty ran Woods into the ring post to set up for a spear and The Hurt Lock, leading to an instant tap-out. MVP hopped in the cage and locked the door, allowing Lashley to continue the beatdown on Woods with another Hurt Lock, while Kofi watched helplessly. The show went to black on Woods’ pained groans, as Kofi pleaded for Lashley to stop. Excellent bad guy stuff from Lashley and MVP; I can’t say enough about how great MVP has been for Raw. Even when the show is terrible (which, to be fair, is a lot of the time) he does the most to make Lashley look like the meanest man to walk the earth.
Kool Kushida, Kool Kyle
I already covered the debut of a stable I personally am very excited about, but what happened before Roderick Strong and friends showed up to wreck things was pretty fun too. Kushida and Kyle O’Reilly competed in a friendly non-title match, as long as your idea of friendship involves putting your pals in arm bars. As expected with these two, we got some very good mat wrestling and submission attempts right away. Neither man could get the upperhand; Kushida escaped the body scissors to nail O’Reilly with a big clothesline, but Kyle countered the Hoverboard Lock into an arm breaker of his own.
O’Reilly landed a brainbuster for a near fall, but Kushida got him back with a suplex on the apron. Kushida again went for the Hoverboard Lock, but couldn’t quite get it locked in as O’Reilly tried to block. He finally flipped around to get the champ pinned for the three count. After the match both men hugged, because they’re still nice boys. As he is wont to do, Adam Cole soon appeared to ruin the nice moment, and things dissolved pretty quickly from there. This was a great match and one of my favorites NXT has done in quite some time. I love both these guys, and they had some excellent chemistry here. It looks like Kushida may be heading towards a feud with Strong, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him and O’Reilly take another crack at it.
Two Obnoxious Heads Are Better Than One
Bianca Belair opened SmackDown announcing that the wicked witch was dead—but she still had to face her in a tag match. Bayley’s mixed tag partner, Seth Rollins, interrupted to congratulate Bianca on her Hell in a Cell victory, and asked for a high five then, because he wouldn’t be able to high five her after Bayley kicked her ass in their match. Bayley then came out to call Bianca full of herself as Seth cackled, but Belair gave her a right hand for her trouble. Cesaro joined the party for a “Hell in a Cell hangover” as Pat McAfee coined, and all four of them brawled in the ring. Cesaro and Bianca double teamed Bayley to send her to the outside; these two are a galaxy brain team that we should really see more of down the line.
Michael Cole reminded up of mixed tag rules (men vs men! Women vs women!) as Cesaro nailed Seth with a backbreaker. Rollins brought in Bayley, who suffered a standing moonsault before managing to send Bianca into the ring post. The Role Model took over while Seth applauded on the apron, but a back body drop let Bianca bring in Cesaro, who bounced Seth’s head off the apron like a basketball. Cesaro went for The Swing, but couldn’t get the pin on Rollins. Bayley tried to run interference but got caught by Cesaro, and that’s a match I never knew I desperately needed. Seth and Cesaro fought on the outside while Bianca went for the KOD in the ring. Seth rolled into Bianca as he tried to escape the Swiss Superman, letting Bayley take advantage and hit the Rose Plant to win. This was fine stuff; neither feud really needs to go on for any longer, but I do like combining them here. Bayley and Seth are a lot of fun together; they both have the energy of your distant relative asking “what are you really gonna do with that art history degree?”
Carmella was announced as the first SmackDown woman in Money in the Bank—unlike Raw, qualifying for the match didn’t seem to be a thing here. Carmella is, of course, a two time MitB winner, although one of those wins was at the hands of James Ellsworth, which somehow sucks even more now than it did four years ago. Liv Morgan interrupted Deville and Carmella backstage to suggest that she should be in the match, given how she beat Carmella last week. Sonya offered Morgan a chance to earn her way into the match by beating Carmella again, because SmackDown only has so many women, and we’d already seen two of them tonight.
This match started over the commercial, and we returned to see Carmella knocking Morgan off the apron and demanding Michael Cole tell her how beautiful she was. Liv reversed things in the ring and sent Carmella into the turnbuckle, but the previous princess of Staten Island quickly got her back with a superkick. Carmella went for a headscissors takedown of Morgan off the turnbuckle, but Liv rolled through to get the three count for herself. It was unclear if this means Morgan is definitively going to MitB—but we do know that Carmella is still beautiful, because she made Mike Rome announce it after the match. So there’s that. I’d like to see Morgan in the ladder match—it’s always felt like she’s on the cusp of ascending the ranks, and the briefcase could be the boost to help her get there.
Bloodline Gets Rated R
Jey Uso was nowhere to be found again this week, but his brother was more than eager to offer to fill in for him. Reigns was skeptical, and told Jimmy this wasn’t some twin switcharoo so they could both pass the big math test. He’d have to prove himself worthy of replacing the right hand man. Later on, Heyman suggested Jimmy win a match to prove his worthiness to Reigns, which gave us Uso vs Dolph Ziggler. This was short and sweet, with some brief hope for Ziggler off a ZigZag, before Jimmy landed a superkick to win. Reigns seemed blasé about the victory, and Jimmy wasn’t allowed to accompany him and Heyman out to the ring for Reigns’ State of the Universal Title address. Beating Dolph Ziggler just doesn’t spend like it used to.
In the ring, Paul Heyman informed the pre-taped “Roman sucks” chants that the Tribal Chief had laid waste to all of his challengers, including poor Rey Mysterio last week. Heyman claimed there was no one left to challenge the Head of the Table, and he was about to let Roman announce something “never before done on network television” when Edge’s music hit. The Hall of Famer didn’t waste time in going right to beating Reigns’ ass. He hit a spear and grabbed a chair to finish things off, but Jimmy came out to prevent the Con-chair-to. The best part of Haven’s later seasons speared Uso through the barricade, but when he returned to the ring, Reigns had split. He challenged a cowardly Roman fleeing on the entrance ramp to end the show. I’m most certainly down to run Edge and Reigns again; I loved the triple threat at Mania, but it’ll be great to see two legends go one on one. The Reigns/Uso drama continues to dominate SmackDown, and rightfully so. It remains one of the best stories any brand has going right now, and throwing Edge back into things only makes it better.
During a 205 Live that had not yet heard of the newest releases, we got our scheduled matches between Ariya Daivari and Ikemen Jiro, and August Grey and Greyson Waller. Super weird watching this and knowing just how unplanned many of these cuts are. After some back and forth, Jiro hit an Asai moonsault for a close count, but Daivari stayed in it. He climbed uptop for the splash, but Jiro rolled out of the way in time, and Daivari crashed and burned. The Ikemen Slash connected and dropped Daivari, allowing Jiro to get the win. In the main event, Waller and Grey traded holds on the mat for a bit, before Waller got him in the Tree of Woe and stomped on his midsection. Grey cameback momentarily with a dive to the outside, then a springboard crossbody in the ring. Finally, Waller finished things with a Curb Stomp to Grey. Both were solid matches, but you kind of wonder why they aired this at all, given that next week they likely won’t be able to talk about these matches. At least we got to see Jiro do his thing, although at this rate, we might only get the jacket next week.