1. The Wildcard Rule
The biggest story heading into WWE TV this week was the real life tale of really, really bad ratings. Raw has had historically low ones through the past year, but after an exciting WrestleMania, some were expecting things to bounce back. They haven’t.
The solution? Having Roman Reigns, Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan and Vince McMahon open Raw and announcing a new WWE policy: the Wildcard Rule, which states that on any episode of Raw or Smackdown, 4 people from the other show can show up without being punished. Your favorites could appear anywhere, at any time! So you have to watch both shows if you want to catch them. It’s a very obvious, hokey ratings grab, but it did lead to some good wrestling this week, including an actually good Drew McIntyre/Roman Reigns rematch and…
2. Kofi Kingston defended his title, twice!
The nice thing about WWE being desperate for ratings is that the directive to not do very good wrestling matches sometimes gets suspended, and we have the joy of seeing astonishingly talented people really flex just how good they can be. We really lucked out this week, getting two absolutely fire Kofi Kingston matches in a row. His rematch on Raw against Daniel Bryan was certainly the standout— without a doubt the best match I’ve seen on Raw in recent memory, and maybe my personal favorite since that Sasha Banks-Charlotte feud back in 2016. I’d be remiss not to also talk up Kingston’s Smackdown triple threat against AJ Styles and Sami Zayn, which had me cheering and pounding on my desk while I watched it just as much as the one against Bryan. These two killer matches elevated everyone involved in them and made the title feel like a big deal.
3. Bianca Belair vs. Mia Yim
After all that stuff I just said about the good wrestling WWE’s ratings desperation got us on Raw and Smackdown, I have kind of a big caveat: none of those matches were women’s matches. Monday and Tuesday were miserably devoid of any good women’s wrestling. Fortunately, Bianca Belair and Mia Yim opened NXT with an excellent beginning to what I hope will be a longer feud.
I’d been skeptical about whether I could ever really buy the impossibly charming, incredibly talented Belair as a heel, but giving her an equally charming babyface like Yim to work with was the perfect choice. This match did exactly what a good weekly TV singles match should do: entertain, build interest in both competitors as individuals, and build interest in both competitors as rivals. I’m already dying for a rematch! Also I still have Belair’s entrance theme stuck in my head.
4. Hey WWE tag division? Are you okay?
Hey, guys??? What’s going on with tag teams in the WWE? Let’s try to parse this out. Okay, so. The new Wildcard Rule allowed the Usos to come in from Raw to lose against Daniel Bryan and Rowan for the vacant Smackdown Tag Team Championships in a match that absolutely slappèd. BUT there’s only one active babyface tag team on the whole Smackdown roster to challenge Bryan and Rowan for it.
I guess the NXT Tag Team Champions the Viking Raiders (fka the Viking Experience fka the War Raiders fka War Machine) are going to challenge Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins for the Raw Tag Team Championship, but that was completely overshadowed by… well… the dream feud of the Usos against the Revival. The long-awaited rivalry between arguably the two best tag teams on the main roster devolved from back shaving jokes last week to a genitally based prank this Monday when the Usos put “Ucey Hot” in the Revival’s trunks, resulting in Dawson and Wilder uncontrollably rubbing their dicks and butts on the floor of the arena.
A clear problem with the Wild Card Rule is how obvious it becomes that one show has a significantly better creative team than the other when you have the same two guys doing hokey nonsense on Monday and delivering well written promos and awesome wrestling on Tuesday. All I can see when I close my eyes are Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson’s agonized gyrations.
(Apparently this has to do with backstage stuff where Wilder and Dawson want out of WWE so they’re being punished via humiliation? The joke is on WWE though because all these boys proved is that they’re just as good at weirdly sexual physical comedy as they are at tag team wrestling.)
5. Aleister Black talks now
Aleister Black delivered his third buck wild dark edgy guy monologue in a dark room this week and… hot taking incoming. Are you ready? It rules. My heart goes out to Aleister Black fans who are frustrated that a wrestler they like doesn’t get to be cool anymore, but “cool guy” is not a sustainable character. “Cool guy” gets boring fast. These promos are convoluted, wordy, and poorly written, which is genius, because that’s how real Satanists talk. Aleister Black as a completely deadpan parody of overly serious guys who have “no man is ever truly good, no man is ever truly evil” as their forum signatures, while still being a badass in the ring? I’m in love with this concept.
6. Ramblin’ Rabbit is the first to die
Speaking of high concept nonsense, this week’s Firefly Fun House proved my theory that there is one guy on the WWE creative team who has seen Tim and Eric, and this is his project. Tonally, this thing is a mess. Mercy the Buzzard killed the Ramblin’ Rabbit, and said it was because the Ramblin’ Rabbit tried to make him “adhere to his bohemian worldview and ideologies,” which is worrying in the real life sense more than the tWiStEd sense. Bray Wyatt said that murder is okay as long as it’s to express your feelings, and then a bunch of miserable kids sat on the floor, which was the only funny part, and also a classic Tim and Eric gag. gReAt jOb!
7. Matt Riddle vs. Adam Cole
I couldn’t really ask for a better way to end a week of WWE TV than with this NXT main event. Adam Cole studied at the Kevin Owens School of Being a Heel Who Everyone Likes, so this match, which served to further damage Cole’s relationship with Roderick Strong and deepen the rift in the Undisputed Era, needed to be against someone strong enough to beat Cole but lovable enough that we don’t blame him for tearing apart NXT’s best family of terrible boys. Matt Riddle is the perfect choice: someone who can put on a fantastic match, laugh at the silliness of the UE drama, and remain a fan favorite.
This was awesome, my favorite Adam Cole singles match since his street fight with Aleister Black last year. And Matt Riddle? The guy is a star, with all the easy charisma, in-ring ability, cohesive character, excellent vibes, fundamental likability, and “it” factor a babyface needs to make it at the very, very top of the game. Plus did you see him hanging out with that lizard he found a few weeks ago? He’s just the best.
Honorable mentions: Sami Zayn throwing storage bins, Daniel Bryan’s depressed freelancer outfit, Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre, Ali vs. Andrade, Ember Moon managing to look extremely cool and badass in a nothing match where her team lost.