WWE Recap: Who’s Left?

WWE further guts their roster in the budget cutting party of the summer

I don’t pretend to understand why WWE does the things they do; decisions seem to be made like a freshman year film major writing their first script. It’s whatever seems most shocking in the moment, regardless of how it will serve them in the long run. Last weekend, they released Bray Wyatt, which came as a huge surprise given how much promotion and time has gone into The Fiend as a character. This Friday, as SmackDown aired, they released another crop of NXT talent, including some equally astonishing names like Mercedes Martinez, Bronson Reed, and Jake Atlas, who posted before his release that he was celebrating his five year wrestling anniversary. Yikes. On top of that, Ari Sterling and Leon Ruff both had pre-taped matches air on 205 Live- but it seems very clear now that 205 is lower than last priority for WWE right now.

While we can all hope these talented individuals and Bobby Fish are able to land on their feet, another baffling group of releases doesn’t point to a very strong future for WWE. Coupled with a handful of rematches week after week, and the company just continues to tread water in a time where competition is high. I can watch 9 episodes of Bob’s Burgers during the time it takes Raw to air on Monday night. 9.

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Gladiators and Gum Chewers

MVP and an indoor sunglasses wearing Lashley opened Raw with some more shots at the three move man. MVP admitted Goldberg was a gladiator, but Lashley was a Kaiju, with an anime series in the works. Goldberg came out, hugged his son—who is now a teenager, as the cruel wheel of time turns on and I get older with every breath—and told the Hurt Business they were cowards. The hall of famer cut a stilted promo against a backdrop of “we want Wyatt” chants, ending with the promise that he’ll spear Lashley at SummerSlam. Lashley then stared off with a teenage boy to prove just how tough he was. To his credit, son of Goldberg did not flinch. Being on live TV at 15 would have made me immediately cry, so good for him. Goldberg returned to spear MVP and walk off with his kid, probably attempting to avoid any Dominik situations. Although, in all honesty, I would be really interested in a Custody of Sonberg ladder match between these two. I can’t say I think Goldberg vs Lashley will be great, but there is somehow still enough mystique around Bill that it feels like a huge deal.

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Infamy Continues

It’s August 2021, and Damien Priest is reviving his feud with Miz and Morrison. Don’t mess with a good thing, I guess. America’s Moist Wanted reminded Priest that targeted harassment of injured individuals isn’t cool, and called him out for ripping off Sheamus’ face mask last week. The crowd was so excited that they chanted for one of Sheamus’ best known opponents; CM Punk. Priest gave an accurate account of how terrible customers behave in NYC clubs, but he insulted the drip king and nearly earned some squirts to the face. Instead of issuing a challenge to Sheamus, he offered to fight Morrison. Priest emptied the Miz of drip sticks before the match officially began, declaring the Allstate Arena a dry zone. A near fall from Priest left the wettest man in wrestling rocked, but Morrison got him in a slippery submission. Priest wanted a splash off the top, but a spare drip stick shot to the face let Morrison go for Starship Pain. Priest plucked him off the turnbuckle, but still Johnny scored two near falls. Hit the Lights from Priest earned him the win, but things somehow weren’t over yet.

Sheamus ran down to attack the archer, followed by Ricochet making the save, and somehow we got a tag match. I guess they really needed to fill time. Ricochet got a close count off a springboard moonsault, but Sheamus sent him to the outside for Morrison to take over. Some drip to the ground and Ricochet slipped and slided right into the stairs. Priest tagged in to toss Morrison around, ending with Hit the Lights, or the Reckoning, or whatever he’s calling it this week, and Morrison ate another pin. This wasn’t a standout for anybody involved, but it involved some cool moments from Ricochet and Priest, and some killer selling from Morrison. I’m a simple person, I’ll pop for whatever dumb water joke Johnny Drip Drip makes this week.

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Always a Queen, Never a Superhero

Just in case you missed last week’s Raw, they thoughtfully gave us a rematch in Charlotte vs Nikki, this time starring in a No Holds Barred match. Before the match, Charlotte cut a promo ragging on Simone Biles for some extremely cheap heat, then tossed some household items into the ring and promised to beat Nikki with them. The almost superhero beat her to the punch and hit a chair shot from behind, which was rather unheroic, but it got the job done.

The two main evented again this week, with Charlotte seizing the early upper hand. Flair yelled about how they should have saved Great Balls of Fire over Money in the Bank as she cleared the commentary table and brought out another. Nikki wasn’t able to make much of a comeback before she was hit with a spear through the barricade. It’s rare to see a champ look this helpless and still have the match last more than two minutes. Nikki finally got some very brief offense, before getting dunked over the barricade. Flair planted her through the table and tried to pin her with a single leg, but Nikki just kicked out. She ducked another spear to send Charlotte through a table and a draping DDT scored Nikki the win. This was better than their match last week, so you gotta give a huge assist to the tables. Nikki’s character warrants standard baby face booking, so the last minute comeback isn’t too surprising.

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Papa Do Preach

NXT aired on Syfy this week, which maybe explains some of the acting we get in the CWC. WWE’s attempts at romance are generally ham-fisted at best and the basis for an episode of Dateline at worst, and the Dexter Lumis/Indi Hartwell saga has luckily fallen into the former. This week, both Johnny Gargano and Lumis participated in a “Love Her or Lose Her” match, with Gargano playing Hartwell’s surrogate dad who doesn’t like her hot art school BF. Johnny insisted there was no room on their air brushed t-shirt to include Lumis, but the tortured artist wouldn’t go down easy. He escaped a headlock to land a dropkick on his future father in law, but Gargano hit him with a suplex on the outside. Indi came out to ask Johnny to support her for like thirty seconds, allowing Lumis to take over.

Dexter crawled under the ring and Indi joined him, prompting Candice to come down and drag the two out. This is a PG show, after all. Lumis got a spinebuster and a slam without breaking a stitch in those grey jeans, while Indi and Candice looked on concerned as Johnny got another near fall. Indi and Dexter locked eyes and vowed to kill her dad for good, but Gargano rolled out of the way and locked in the Gargano Escape. Lumis grabbed the bottom rope while also stroking Indi’s cheek with a gloved hand, which rates as one of the creepiest things I’ve seen this week, and I’ve been marathoning SVU. Johnny sent Dexter into Indi and hit One Final Beat to end love for everyone except him and Candice. Indi refused to go back with her family and instead pounced on Lumis for a make out right in front of God, the CWC, and Johnny Gargano.

This was good cheesy in my book; Gargano continues to excel as the smug heel, and I don’t really get Lumis’ thing but he does it well. For a group built on the power couple of NXT, it seems fitting love was the only thing to tear them apart.

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Match of the Summer Announced

Last week, the Boss, the blueprint, the standard, the best Star Wars character, Sasha Banks, returned to SmackDown. Bianca, who apparently is unfamiliar with Sasha’s whole thing, was shocked to find herself on the receiving end of a Bank Statement. This Friday, Sasha reminded us that Bianca has needed saving in their tag match, which also means she needed an ass-whooping. Bianca interrupted to point out that Sasha was the one who challenged her for Mania, and they’d both been crying before the match, thank you very much. Sasha avoided a confrontation in the ring but agreed to a match at SummerSlam; I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this. Another round of Banks and Belair should be fantastic. Also, Zelina Vega was there asking for another title shot. The powers that Pierce weren’t really interested in giving up the best match of SummerSlam, so this was a non-title bout instead, with the “potential” for “future” opportunities.

Vega and Belair had a solid enough match that actually ran a bit long. Not often I get to say that about a women’s match, but it was over five whole minutes. Belair had the upper hand until Banks made an appearance, and that outfit demanded everybody’s full attention. Vega got a hurincanrana to knock Bianca down on the outside, but the champ came back with a handspring moonsault. Zelina went for another huricanrana on the apron, but Belair caught her. The KOD ended Vega’s championship dreams, and Sasha and her fringe jacket had to take themselves home.

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Two Sides of the Same Little Devil

Nothing about Seth Rollins should still be this entertaining after two years of the messiah, and yet here we are. His feud with Edge, after the veteran spent so long working with Reigns, has worked in ways it arguably shouldn’t. The similarities between the two mischievous goofballs help sell their encounters; Edge as the hardened vet, Seth as the boy/cult leader who won’t grow up. Edge came out to address the crowd on Friday and told us Seth wasn’t there tonight. All for the better, as Edge would have gone to jail for what he wanted to do to Rollins. Seth, who does not believe in the prison system of reform, showed up on the tron. Edge offered the challenge for SummerSlam, but Seth insisted he needed to sleep on it. He called out Edge’s wife, kids, and beck personally. Edge fired back that Seth could never have carried his weight in season three of Vikings, prompting Rollins to accept the challenge. I’ve been loving these two together, and it’ll be a lot of fun to see them one on one. Rollins suit this week was a bunch of pink butterflies on a green background- I’d rate it above the flame suit but below the paint drip one.

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Cena Less, Talk More

As a consolation prize for getting Cena-d out of a title match, Finn Balor got to fight Baron Corbin, who is now too poor to afford entrance music. This match was shorter than Corbin’s bank account, with a very brief show of Baron knocking him into the ring post, before Finn made the comeback. A slingshot and the Coup de Grace made someone’s paycheck even slimmer this week, but things weren’t over there. Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman were out to interrupt Balor’s post-match promo, telling Finn to keep his thoughts to himself and leave Roman out of this. The Usos jumped the Prinxe from behind, and while Balor was initially able to battle the brothers, the numbers proved too much. Reigns stood victorious and acknowledged among his family (and also Heyman), as Balor crumpled at his feet. Af least Finn got a win before his beating; in the pecking order of SmackDown, this puts Baron Corbin way at the bottom.

No appearance from Cena this week, but I guess The Suicide Squad doesn’t promote itself. It’s unclear exactly where Balor fits in here; I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him go against Reigns, but I can’t pretend I’d believe he has much of a chance.

Wrestling on Fire, Brand Not So Much

205 Live aired two matches with talent released about an hour previously; Leon Ruff vs Grayson Waller, marking Ruff’s first 205 match in some time. He won, but we’re never going to hear about it again. The main event was Kushida vs Ari Sterling; the hot sauce king has had a great run on 205, and his fast paced, high flying style should have solidified him a place on the brand. He was excellent against Kushida here, matching the champ’s mat game with quick offense. For a moment, it seemed like he might do the deed, but after missing a double stomp, Kushida got him in the Hoverboard Lock. Two excellent cruiserweight talents gone too soon, but I have no doubt that Ruff and Zayne will find new homes in the very near future.