While Sasha Banks was saving Baby Yoda’s life off the coast of Trask in a very good acting debut, WWE continued to set up for Survivor Series in the Thunderdome. This week we had some more qualifying matches, some very good wrestling, and even another round of Lana going through a table. They really won’t let that bit go.
After beating up Drew Gulak for his unfortunate fashion choices (clip-on ties in primetime? Embarrassing,) The Hurt Business came out to declare their future looked very bright and decidedly stylish. MVP announced that Alexander and Benjamin would become Raw tag champs next week, and promised a Lashley victory at Survivor Series. A previous Hurt Business victim, Titus O’Neil, came down to call Lashley out and challenge for the US title. MVP attempted to cause the distraction early on, but O’Neil got some quick shots off on Lashley. Still, a single spear let Lashley get the Hurt Lock on, and O’Neil tapped quickly. This wasn’t a real match, but it accomplished its goal: making Lashley look good ahead of his bout with Sami Zayn in two weeks. The Hurt Business has become one of the most solid parts of Raw, many thanks to MVP’s promo skills, and Lashley continues to impress in the ring. I’d like to see more of O’Neil in any kind of a real mid-card feud, but I won’t hold my breath.
Mean Girl Squad
We’ve seen Asuka and Nia Jax tie up before, but recently the Irresistible Force has been unable to capture the Raw Women’s Championship. This week was no different, partially because it was a no-title match up, and partially because WWE is married to DQ endings for these two. Still, three quarters of this was solid, due once again to Asuka’s ability to produce chemistry with literally anyone. Asuka tried some early submissions, but Jax started out using her physicality, tossing Asuka into the barricade. Shayna Baszler, Dana Brooke, Mandy Rose, and Lana all watched at ringside, because it Raw can puts 6 women on screen at the same time, they’re just not interested in doing a women’s segment. Jax threw Asuka about in the ring, crushing her in the corner, but the champ hunt in there. A hip attack got a two count, and Jax fought back with a huge powerbomb. Asuka turned a pin into an armbar, but had to come to Lana’s rescue on the apron as Baszler locked her in the Kirifuda Clutch. Back in the ring, Asuka got Jax in the Asuka Lock, only for Shayna to run in and break it up, causing a DQ. Team Raw all went after each other, culminating in Nia sending Lana through yet another table. Lucky number 5. As an exhibition for Jax and Asuka, this was fine; Jax and Baszler unfortunately still haven’t found chemistry as a tag team, and I can’t really tell if they’re going for a babyface build for Lana, or if his is punishment for being successful on TikTok. At least we know Asuka vs Sasha is gonna slap at Survivor Series.
Last Month We Used to Be Friends
Imagine saying “Mustafa Ali vs Ricochet” in 2018, and thinking of how buck wild social media would go. Some of the shine has admittedly dulled on both men as a result of weird-ass booking, and this Retribution angle isn’t anything to write home about, but this was still a great match from two very talented wrestlers. Ali offered to “save” Ricochet before the match, but the one and only wasn’t interesting in spending even more time wearing a mask. Ali then grounded Ricochet on the mat for a while, until the two rolled to the outside. Ricochet knocked Ali off the apron, only to find himself face to face with Retribution. He ate a neck breaker and Ali threw him back in the ring, because I guess the hacktivists only gang up on people outside of matches. After commercial, Ricochet came back a little with a big DDT and suplex, but Ali still kicked out. Mustafa talked some trash until Ricochet tried to wipe out him and all of Retribution on the outside with a dive. He missed a follow up Phoenix splash, and Ali took advantage by getting him in a submission and forcing a tap. The baby anarchists score another win, and Ricochet rolls home friendless. While I’m not exactly enthralled with Retribution, Ali is a consummate professional and still giving the persona his all. His sneering at Ricochet throughout was great, and the passion and fire behind all of his promos gives away just how talented he is as a performer.
Big Bad Literal Baby Face
After being demolished by the numbers game at Halloween Havoc, Jake Atlas had been teaming with his good friend the crowbar to knock out Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde. He demanded another shot at the CW title one on one with Escobar, and, as expected, it was a banger. I hope there are great things in store for Atlas in NXT, because he’s fantastic in the ring and has a face every grandma in the world loves. He more than held his own against Escobar here, matching the champ’s high flying, quick style. He seemed to have Escobar’s number a few times, coming after Santos strong early on. He knocked the champion out of the ring with a drop kick, but Escobar got him back with a shot to the head. Mendoza tried to get involved ringside, leading to him and Wilde being thrown over over the commercial break, evening the odds. In the ring, Escobar landed a huricanrana and a splash, but Atlas kicked out. Jake came back with some quick moves of his own, finishing with a standing moonsault for a two count. Staying on the offensive, Atlas went up top for his cartwheel DDT, but got caught by Mendoza, who landed Legado to win. Mendoza, Wilde, and their slick back suits came out to celebrate with Escobar. Excellent match for both guys, with an incredibly strong showing for Atlas.
Sami Zayn remains one of the best talkers in WWE; no one sells the ridiculous, rambling promos with as much passion as he does, and I’m counting The Miz in all those Cricket commercials. Sami was unjustly forced to defend his IC title head of his match with Bobby Lashley next week, another example of the man trying to hold him down. He was about to verbally rundown Lashley, but before we could be reminded of that god awful sisters segment, Apollo Crews interrupted. One would think he would be interested in trash talking Lashley as well, given that The Hurt Business were the reason he lost the US title, but wrestlers have short memories. Head injuries, maybe. Sami started off hot, backing Apollo into the corner. Crews retaliated with a suplex and a standing moonsault, but Sami just kicked out. He fled to the outside to catch his breath, pulling off the fabric apron on the side of the ring. When Crews followed, Sami shoved him into ring apron (hardest part of the ring) and caught his leg in between the ring and the frame. He then rolled back in the ring to score a count out victory. Would have been nice to see more of Apollo, but this was a fun little match, with Sami getting the win with his sneaky smarts.
Riott Squad Reunion Take 3
Even though the Raw Survivor Series women’s team was formed weeks ago, SmackDown is in no rush to give away their secrets, or to book more than one women’s match on an episode. We got another qualifying match in Liv Morgan vs Tamina vs Chelsea Green vs Natalya. Green was a last minute addition to make the fatal fourway, making this is her SmackDown call up. After some early chaos, Green and Natalya teamed up to take out Tamina on the outside, but Green immediately then went after Natalya. Morgan drop kicked Green through the ropes, then almost got an early pin off a DDT to Natalya. The B.O.A.T (Tom Phillips delivered that nickname with all the strength he could muster) tried for the Sharpshooter, but Liv fought out. They went back and forth until Tamina ran in and ate a face buster from Morgan. Liv rolled into the cover and got the win to send her to Survivor Series. It was a shame we didn’t get to see much of Chelsea Green in this, but looks like that was a result of an injury she sustained early on. Still, a great performance by Morgan, and a very solid addition for the SmackDown women’s team.
Big Dog and Big Psychopath
Roman Reigns kicked off SmackDown by talking about how he was the most famous person in his family, and all his cousins were really embarrassed about their shortcomings around the holidays. He then segued to his upcoming match against WWE Champion Randy Orton, which prompted Drew McIntyre to come out and interrupt. McIntyre reminded Reigns that he had a shot at the title on Monday, which meant Reigns could end up facing him. He then claimed to have stepped up and become top guy while Reigns was, you know, not wrestling because of the health risks for a cancer survivor during a global pandemic. Jey Uso ran out and trash talked Drew for his cousin, then suggested the two settle it in the main event. Backstage, Reigns got upset that Uso had suggested the match, because his plans for the evening were to catch up on His Dark Materials season 2. Uso promised to fix things, which later lead to Adam Pearce agreeing to an unsanctioned match between McIntyre and Uso instead.
It’s incredible to see Uso main event week after week, and he always brings his A game. McIntyre started out backing Jey into the corner and hitting some big shots. He landed a suplex and stomped on Uso’s hand for extra punishment. He mouthed off to Jey, but without a mic or subtitles, Scottish people could be yelling about honestly anything. Drew blocked a dive, but got caught on the ropes and ate a superkick. Uso got control for a while, even powering through a headbutt, but neither could manage a 3 count. Reigns and Heyman came out to join the party, and Uso used the distraction to throw McIntyre into the ring post, then the stairs for extra head trauma. Jey told Roman he was going to finish this but Reigns responded that he wanted Drew to “understand.” Uso got back in the ring to catch a Claymore, and McIntyre covered for the win. This was a good match that we probably won’t ever see again, which is such a rarity in WWE that it makes it all the better.
Texas Blues Win Chance at Gold
It was the 205th episode of 205 Live, which is quite a feat considering how many things should have probably tanked that show by now. Short kings stay winning! We had a fatal fiveway to determine Santos Escobar’s next challenger, featuring Ariya Daivari, Tony Nese, Curt Stallion, August Grey, and Ashante “Thee” Adonis. There are a lot of wrestling nicknames that I just don’t get, but “Thee” is really up there. Nese and Daivari teamed up to start things off, knocking down all three other men. Grey managed a backdrop to Nese, but Daivari broke up the pin. Daivari raked Stallion’s eyes, while Nese went back and forth with Grey. Adonis got back in the fight with a sleeper hold on Nese, but couldn’t get him down to the mat. Grey blocked the Running Nese with a superkick, but chaos ensued when The Bollywood Boys and Ever-Rise ran down to attack Stallion, Grey, and Adonis. The newcomers took care of the backup, but Daivari used the distraction to grab a gold chain and knock out Adonis. Grey managed to break the pin, but was then wiped out by Nese with a back kick. Stallion and Nese went up to the top turnbuckle, and Stallion managed to land a brutal headbutt that split his own eye open, followed by what looked like some variation on a Spanish Fly. He got the 3 count on Nese to end a really fun cruiserweight match. I could have done without the interference from two different teams, but each man pulled off some great spots here and the timing between all 5 was excellent. Stallion vs Escobar is a very intriguing match-up, even if it’ll almost definitely happen on NXT instead of, you know, the cruiserweight show.