Our final week of shows before WWE busts out the ol’ red cage and invites us all to hell. If you absolutely can’t wait to see somebody chucked at a steel cage wall tomorrow night, SmackDown offered their very first Hell in a Cell match this week, just in time to celebrate Rey Mysterio’s fatherly love. Get in the holiday spirit by watching one of the only good dad’s in wrestling get his absolute ass kicked. Not to be outdown, NXT pulled a bait-and-switch with Regal’s suggested retirement, instead bringing back a welcome face to help run the place.
Alexa Bliss kicked off Raw on her favorite playground spot, although Lily was no where to be found. She reminded us of the spooky events of last week, where a Toys R Us doll chased Shayna Baszler backstage and appeared in her mirror. Shayna wasn’t able to make it this week, but Nia Jax showed up to inform Bliss that Baszler would see her and any supernatural guests at Hell in a Cell. Just like The Fiend brought the red light to HiaC two years ago, I can’t wait to see what Lily’s got in store for the spookiest night of the year. Jax questioned her former friend about what had “happened” to her, even though I feel like we got a pretty clear backstory on that over the past year. This lead to both women agreeing to a match later in the night.
Commentary told us this was Alexa’s first match on Raw in several months; I almost didn’t realize she’d just been sitting on the playground set since Mania. Jax was accompanied by Reginald, while Alexa was accompanied by some really terrible eye makeup. Alexa tried to chop down Jax early on and went for a few sleeper holds, but Nia got the better of her with a slam. A dropkick to the leg got Jax on her knees, and a DDT allowed Alexa to go up top for Twisted Bliss. Reggie pulled her off before the three count, but a staring match with Bliss left him…. Possessed? Hyptonotised? Just very confused about what’s happening in this storyline? Alexa danced off, and Reggie came back to his senses. Bliss continues to tread mystical water, as it feels like the show has little idea of an overall story for her.
Jeff Hardy has been floating around various C-plots on Raw for a few weeks now, which, given everything else happening on the show right now, feels like a better use of one of the most consistent stars of the past two decades. Defeating Cedric Alexander in a 90 second match last week is a step up from being chased down a hallway by DePiglio. This week, he brought back an early 2010s feud when he went against John Morrison. Just like last weeks match, there wasn’t much story here beyond these two dudes were real mad at each other 10 years ago. Morrison used the drip stick (real wrestling term for squirt gun) to shoot Jeff in the face before the bell and get a head start. Some parkour from Morrison and Alexander, who lost to Hardy last Monday, came out to observe the match with all the focus of a child in zoom class. He watched as Morrison hit Starship Pain to score the win (good for JoMo!), then got on the mic to tell Jeff he was a washed up star who needed to retire. You know Ceddy’s a proper lower mid card heel now that he’s using words like “has been” and “old timer.” Hardy then offered Alexander a rematch right then and there—and if Cedric won, Hardy would retire. Yes, Jeff Hardy indeed put his career on the line in a nonsense match on Raw. And not even a particularly good Raw.
While it would have been wildly entertaining had Alexander won, Jeff rolled out of the way of an attempted Swanton Bomb to land Twist of Fate and hit his own successful Swanton. This was weird from every angle—Morrison and Hardy could have put on a good match if given more time, and giving Morrison the win here doesn’t hurt Jeff too much, since he’s not really doing anything else right now. Having Cedric come out to further what happened last week didn’t quite work, and Hardy making it a career match only served to remind us that babyfaces have absolutely no brain cells. Great facepaint from Jeff, as always, though.
Five and a Half Big Men
Drew McIntyre was scheduled to take on AJ Styles ahead of his match with Bobby Lashley (or as McIntyre eloquently put it, “Trashley”), and the champ came out to tune in. Alongside MVP and the rotating cast of good-looking extras they surround themselves with, Lashley watched Drew get the upperhand on the Phenomenal One, landing a back body drop to leave Styles laid out. Lashley approached the ring to run some interference, so the Viking Raiders came out to back Drew up. This made five whole men watching ringside, between the Raiders, Omos, MVP, and Lashely. Styles made a brief comeback, but McIntyre punched a trash talking Lashley on the outside, leading to the champ jumping him for a DQ.
We then got a six man tag, the Viking Raiders and McIntyre vs Styles, Omos, and Lashley. I should have known they wouldn’t just let that many dudes be ringside without turning it into a tag match. Lashley missed the beginning to the match to “put on his gear,” which sounds like the 20 minute break I take when I tell my coworkers I’m just gonna “run to downstairs to grab something.” Lashley returned to knock McIntyre into the barricade, but got hit with a slam and a splash from Ivar. I’d like to see that title match, actually. After a beating from Erik and Ivar, Styles accidentally tagged Lashley, which earned him a Claymore and gave Drew the win. This gave McIntyre the edge leading into HiaC, but my money’s still on The Almighty.
Tuba Sales Through the Roof
After not so subtly hinting it was time for some big changes, William Regal hit us with a swerve and announced that he was not leaving as GM, but was instead bringing in a new friend to keep people in line. The tuba hit, and Samoa Joe came out to a big pop, which is the reception he deserves entering any building at any time. It’s nice to see Joe back in NXT, and even better than his new job is just choking out anyone who upsets Regal. He earned his paycheck Tuesday night by clearing a fight between Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole, which ending with Cole going to sleep in the Coquina Clutch. You love to see it.
Later in the show, we got the second greatest news of the night: another appearance of Kushida’s creamsicle trunks in a cruiserweight open challenge. His call was answered by newcomer Trey Baxter (fka Blake Christian), who put up a good fight against the champ. Kushida relied on grounding the high flyer, but the newbie had a great showing here. Halfway through the match, Kyle O’Reilly came out to observe, having been told to pick himself an opponent for next week’s show. Baxter hit a Spanish Fly and went up top for a 450, but Kushida still kicked out and locked in the Hoverboard to score a win. After the match, O’Reilly stated he wanted to face the best and challenged the time-splitter for next week, and Kushida agreed. That match will be a huge win for me, personally.
Mean, Clean-Shaven, Fighting Machine
Otis ditched his beard last week, to show just how super seriously he takes things now as part of the Alpha Academy. Despite being a team now for several months, Gable and Otis are still a duo that feels like they were literally thrown together that night. This Friday, Otis took on Angelo Dawkins, after having attacked both Profits last week during Gable’s match with Ford. Gable landed a sucker punch before the bell, allowing him and Otis to ram Dawkins into the steps. Gable hit a jumping knee before they sent Dawkins back in the ring and wiped him out with a pretty sick double team maneuver—a lariat from Otis into a German suplex by Gable. Heel Otis has just one expression, and it’s pretty funny to see him do everything with the exact same face. With Dawkins unable to compete, we never got the scheduled match, and Otis sulked off to sit around brooding backstage. I guess it’s nice to see Alpha Academy looking like a genuine threat, but no matter what they do, I just can’t get on board with a bad guy Otis. This is the guy whose whole gimmick was eating steak and not being able to talk to hot people. He was a relatable character, now he’s just the kid in gym class who takes everything way too seriously. Gable, on the other hand, works well as a fed-up, selfish heel; given the year plus as Shorty G, it’s a miracle he didn’t shoot burn the ThunderDome to the ground.
Bianca Belair, rocking yet another legendary sequined outfit, came out to remind us of how she ruined a local talk show last week. She talked about overcoming her childhood bullies to become the coolest woman I’ve ever seen, and shouted out Bayley for being a talented wrestler, but having the exact personality of the worst customer at Chili’s. She then laid down the challenge for a Hell in a Cell match on Sunday. Belair in a cell match is so extremely up my alley; I don’t even care what the rest of the show is like now. Bayley interrupted and tried to get the jump on Bianca, until Belair sent her out of the ring. She bounced her into the commentary table, but Bayley got the champ with the Rose Plant. She stepped on Bianca’s braid as she posed with the title, and all the ThunderDome screens projected the same image of Bayley with the belt. She’s got great friends in editing. There’s no chance Bayley’s winning on Sunday, but it’ll be another good match regardless.
On a different note, this was again the only women’s division action on all of SmackDown. At least Raw let’s their women’s undercard wrestle 90 seconds a week.
Like Father, Like Son
Rey Mysterio decided he simply couldn’t wait any long to avenge Dominik’s honor, and challenged Reigns to a Hell in a Cell match on SmackDown. The PPV itself was only 48 hours away at this point, but with Bayley and Bianca taking place in the cell, you gotta pad out the Fox card too. Mysterio kicked off the show demanding Reigns come out and face him; Roman tried to warn him against the match, but everyone’s favorite dad just wouldn’t be persuaded. Reigns was again plagued with Uso drama tonight; Jimmy arrived in his dressing room to finally tell Roman he had his back, but Jey was nowhere to be found. Jimmy was tasked with finding his brother before the cell match, although he seemed to come up empty handed, as Reigns was only accompanied to the ring by Paul Heyman. Jey can excuse a lot of chicanery in the name of his cousin, but beating up a 23 year old is where he draws the line.
This was a great match between Reigns and Mysterio; Rey went for a chair to start things off immediately, then took a fire extinguisher to Reigns’ face. Rey stuck Reigns’ head through the chair and sent him into the cell walls. Reigns managed to fight back and swing Mysterio into the wall a few times, before before tossing him straight into the steel. Roman landed a Superman Punch and demanded Rey acknowledge him, but Mysterio wasn’t having it. Rey hit a 619 and a splash onto a chair, but couldn’t capitalize in time. A powerbomb into the wall and Reigns got Mysterio in the Guillotine to force a tap out. Jimmy joined his cousin to celebrate, Jey still mysteriously absent, and Reigns got Mysterio in another Guillotine for good measure, before posing over his mangled body. Happy Father’s Day, Rey.
Ikemen Jiro was back on 205 Live this week, making it potentially the best weekly show of the four. The man is money. He took on Tony Nese, who, alongside Ariya Daiari, genuinely carries this show every week. Jiro, sporting a lovely summer sunflower blazer, tried for some early pinning combos, but Nese kicked out. They went back and forth for a while, until Nese hit a shot to the throat that sent Jiro falling to the outside. He then grabbed his jacket to really stick it to his well-dressed opponent; a jacket punch dropped Jiro, but he was able to escape the body scissors to slug it out with Nese. Jiro hung the jacket up on the Premier Athlete’s face and hit a right hand, following it up with a spinning heel kick. A senton earned him another close two count, but after another Nese comeback, it was finally a jumping kick that kept Nese down for three. A fun mix of styles and aesthetics here, with another big win for Jiro. Happy days.