WWE had three shows to prep for this week: Sunday’s Fastlane, NXT’s Stand and Deliver, and, of course, WrestleMania 37. The upcoming TakeOver will also span two nights, which makes five nights of in-ring WWE wrestling for the second week in April. I’m already exhausted.
Chief Hurt Officer Shows Off Expertise
Lashley and MVP kicked Monday night off with some fantastic suits, per use. Known fashion haters Miz and Morrison, who was sporting some version of an 80’s workout mullet updo, came out to interrupt. They were followed by former champ Drew McIntyre, who’s really found his niche in the whole kilt thing. Lashley and McIntyre was announced for Mania, which should be a very good showdown if you like big boys and big muscles. This prompted Lashley to get a headstart by jumping McIntyre for a beatdown. This brought out Sheamus, which lead to him facing off with Lashley in the main event. Biggest week for guys over 6’2” since Hinge incorporated height into your profile.
Lashley’s entrance continued to be the greatest thing the WWE editors have turned out since the Bone Yard match at last year’s WM. He and McIntyre shared a beefy stare down before Sheamus entered and our match started. Lashley managed to scoop up the Celtic Warrior and run him into the corner, before Sheamus came back with a kick to the stomach. Lashley got Sheamus on his back as Drew looked on, seemingly indifferent to the two dudes beating the crap out of each other for his personal entertainment. Lashley continued to be all over Sheamus, until the fella chopped his knee to get the champ on the mat. A stalling suplex and Lashley sent Sheamus tumbling over the ropes. Sheamus got a bit more momentum with some shots to Lashley’s spine on the apron, but couldn’t keep control. Lashley countered a Brogue Kick right into a Hurt Lock attempt, but couldn’t quite cinch it in. A superplex from the top left both guys down momentarily, until Sheamus landed a knee strike and White Noise for a two count. Drew looked mildly interested at this point, but it was honestly really hard to tell. A Brogue Kick was countered into a spear to score Lashley the victory. For extra damage, he got Sheamus in the Hurt Lock again, but was momentarily distracted by MVP, allowing McIntyre to land a Claymore.
Gold x 11
We’ve seen New Day and Hurt Business go back and forth a lot over the past few months, but maybe that’s because Raw can’t make another tag team. Alexander and Kingston began this title match, evenly matched to start things off. Kingston came in and nailed Alexander with an uppercut, but Cedric managed to get to his corner and tag Benjamin, who hit a massive spinebuster on Kofi. He wiped out Woods on the apron and Alexander tagged back in to continue the assault. A double stomp from the top took down Cedric and let Woods tag in to run wild. He hung Alexander on the ropes and delivered a drop kick to the back, but Alexander blocked a suplex and rolled to the outside. Back in the ring, Shelton ducked Trouble in Paradise and pulled Kofi off the top turnbuckle, but Woods broke up the pin at the last moment. With Cedric eliminated on the outside, a huge elbow drop from Xavier and Daybreak earned The New Day their 11th tag titles.
Incredible stuff from all four guys here; super fast paced action that never outstayed its welcome. I’m a bit bummed to see Benjamin and Alexander lose the tag titles, but The Hurt Business can take the loss, since they now have the WWE Champ. It’s a shame they gave us this on Raw instead of Fastlane, but I guess they needed to set up for what happened next. AJ Styles and Omos interrupted The New Day’s celebration to congratulate them, and issue a challenge: Woods and Kingston vs Styles and Omos at Mania. It’s not the most exciting thing we could see New Day do at WM, but it’s not the worst, either.
Mad Mad Woman
After losing some of her pearly whites at the hands of Shayna Baszler last month, Asuka came back to Raw with a vendetta Monday night. She attacked Baszler while the champ and her tag partner were sitting ringside for a women’s tag match, nailing the Queen of Spades with a kick to the head. The two settled things one on one later in the night, with Asuka still fired up from the whole getting her teeth knocked out thing. She went after Baszler straight away, nailing her with a suplex and even hip attacked Nia Jax off the apron. She missed another hip attack on the opposite side, which allowed Shayna to briefly take control. Another distraction from Jax allowed Baszler to get the Kirifuda Clutch, but Asuka reversed into a pinning attempt for the win. Baszler still held on for a few moments, and Asuka went wild. She caught Shayna’s foot and landed another suplex, then followed up with several kicks right to the head. She rammed Baszler face first into the turnbuckle, then removed the pad and Shayna’s mouthguard. She shoved Shayna’s mouth onto the steel, but the ref stepped in before any further dental damage could occur. This is for sure the intense Asuka we should be seeing as the women’s champ; a shame we wasted six weeks on Ric Flair boning Lacey. I would love (love) to see Asuka and Baszler given the spotlight for a longer match at Mania.
Enemies, Partners, Worse Enemies
Karrion Kross and Finn Balor are facing each other at NXT TakeOver: Stand and Deliver, so they’re also tag team partners now, because that’s exactly what the people were asking for. Scarlett waved her magic wand and got Lorcan and Burch to agree to a tag title shot for Balor and Kross, who—again—literally just became a tag team at the top of the show, even though there’s like five other teams on NXT who have competed at least one match together. I like Finn, but Kross puts me to sleep in about 45 seconds, so I gotta admit: This booking was clearly not for me.
Anyway, this was our main event, following a segment where Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole got arrested for trying to run each other off the Florida highway. Between the two, I’m gonna say Cole had a much worse night than his girlfriend. The tag team main event was solid enough, with Kross easily working over both Burch and Lorcan to start. Kross wiped out Burch with a double suplex, leaving Lorcan to fend for himself the rest of the match. Balor tagged in and he and Oney went back and forth on the mat. Lorcan tried to eliminate Kross on the apron so Balor couldn’t make the tag, but Finn came back with a big clothesline to send the champ to the outside, then a Slingblade. He landed a dropkick that pushed Oney into Scarlett, who tumbled over, as one does when a man is kicked into you. Kross was real peeved and went nuts, beating down Finn and tossing him into the ring for Lorcan to get the cover and retain. Scarlett and Kross celebrated like this was their goal, which makes absolutely zero sense if you think about it, but neither does literally anything about their gimmick and theme, so at least they’re on brand.
Big Night for Muddled Finishes
Reginald sat this week out to go on a much needed spa day, so Jax and Baszler had to go it alone in their singles matches against Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair, respectively. The cracks are deepening between Banks and Belair, who argued backstage before the match. Bianca promised that she wouldn’t be there to save Sasha from Jax, but she came out about halfway through anyway. This lead to involvement from Baszler, who was backed into the ring by Belair while Sasha had Nia in the Bank Statement. Baszler tried to take advantage of a distracted ref and get Banks with a kick, but accidentally hit Jax instead. Sasha rolled her up for the pin to retain her title, leaving Baszler and Jax more than a little cross. Baszler wanted a match with Belair later in the night to even the score. Before the match, Sasha assured Belair that she had this in hand and headed to the back. Shayna took over by tripping Bianca up and laying in with some punches. Nia Jax also decided to call it an early night and headed up the ramp, momentarily distracting her partner. Baszler ate a big spinebuster, but just barely kicked out. Suddenly, Natalya and Tamina ran in to cause the DQ and beat down Bianca.
Not sure why Banks and Belair couldn’t just have their own feud going into Mania. Jax and Baszler are their opponents this weekend so that holds up, even if I can’t muster much enthusiasm for them (and Reg) as a team anymore. Tamina and Natalya have been working well as a tag team, but it feels like it’d be better to hold off on bringing them into the title picture til after WM, as the story now would be better focused on Sasha and Bianca solely. I guess we can expect Nattie and Tamina to challenge the women’s tag champs at Mania?
Rockstar Rocks Rollins
I don’t know what’s going on with Seth Rollins right now, but he’s having fun and looking wacky, so it’s enjoyable. He came out Friday night to complain about how people don’t like him, which feels about par for the course for male wrestlers. He called out Cesaro for mocking his preaching and for swinging him in a circle about 25 times, all because Cesaro was jealous of his talent. And his leather wardrobe. After he stomped Cesaro’s head through the mat, he wasn’t going to be disrespected again. Shinsuke Nakamura, king of disrespecting dummies, made his way to the ring. Rollins tried to placate Nakamura, praising him as the better half of his previous tag team with Cesaro. Shinsuke told Rollins to shut up, then nailed him with a Kinshasa, which Seth sold like a bullet. Rollins is hilariously great in his delusions, and him vs Nakamura will be an excellent match.
Former Actor Gives Violent Hug
Edge and Jey Uso battled for the right to wear stripes this Sunday night and officiate the Roman Reigns/Daniel Bryan title match. Edge said earlier in the night that the only way Bryan would have a shot at winning was if he was the ref—it’s like he never even watched the first season of NXT. Main event Uso was strong here, coming out hot against the former Syfy actor by going after his ribs. Edge was able to get in a little offense before Jey nailed a suicide dive on the outside. Edge managed to run him into the corner, but found himself caught in a Samoan Drop for a two count. Jey blocked the spear to hit a super kick and a splash from the top, but couldn’t make the cover in time. Edge delivered a slam to rock Uso’s injured shoulder and hit a spear to win. He didn’t have much time to revel in it before Reigns speared him, following it with one to Daniel Bryan. The Big Dog and Uso stood tall as the credits rolled, and the Head of the Table is eating good tonight.
Bad Luck OGs
Jordan Devlin came back to NXT this week, which I can not at all bring myself to care about given everything we learned this past summer (Jordan has denied all allegations of abuse). Santos Escobar has been more than a fitting champion for the past few months, so had Devlin been stripped of the title, I doubt anyone would have really noticed. 205 hasn’t featured Escobar in a hot minute, but life goes on on the purple brand, which saw Tony Nese take on Jake Atlas in the main event. Atlas kept control early on, going after Nese’s arm, until the former champ dropped him on the ropes. Nese locked in the body scissors until Atlas fought out and tossed him over the ropes. Tony came back with a suplex and countered Atlas’ DDT, landing a super kick right on the money. The springboard moonsault couldn’t quite put Jake away, and the underdog made a final comeback, hitting a German suplex and the Rainbow DDT to score a win over the OG. Atlas has been on fire recently, looking great in defeat against Pete Dunne on NXT last week, and another win is a sign of very big things to come.