Super Showdown is happening in three weeks, but literally everyone in the world forgot about it. Don’t worry, because WWE is excited to remind you about their blood money system with a few #1 contender matches, an Otis makeover montage, and Brock Lesnar shouting incoherently.
We started Monday night with more Liv Morgan and Lana, just what the masses asked for. WWE gave us another blonde vs blonde classic in the form of Morgan earning a very quick win over the former Russian. The Lashley/Lana/Rusev segment turning into a vehicle for a Liv Morgan push is definitely not what something anyone predicted back in September, but here we are. After the match, Ruby Riott made a surprise return to Raw after months off due to injury to congratulate her friend. The two former stablemates went for a hug, about to put their matching tattoos together to form a punk Megatron, before Riott turned on Morgan and laid her out. With Liv taken out, Lana hit her finisher, unfortunately suggesting that feud may still somehow have life in it.
Morgan and Riott are both very talented wrestlers who were never given much attention on the main roster; Riott had one or two championship matches, but the group spent most of their time as fodder for other burgeoning teams. A feud between the two has the potential to build up both women as real players. It also has the potential to happen on Main Event for the next six weeks, so I guess we’ll see.
Zelina Makes a New Friend
United States Champion Andrade was taken out after being injured by Humberto Carrillo last week, but Zelina Vega, a huge personal inspiration, doesn’t waste any time in finding a new and equally handsome bff. Carrillo was set to compete on Monday night, but Vega interrupted him to introduce her potential new client in the wake of Andrade’s forced vacation: Angel Garza. Garza, a former NXT Cruiserweight champion and the man singlehandedly keeping the tear away clothes business afloat, had a few causal insults for his cousin, along with a Wing Clipper and a beat down on the outside. Mysterio ran in to save Carrillo, leading to a match between he and Garza. This was unsurprisingly very good, because it’s Rey Mysterio and he’ll still be producing bangers in 2040. Garza has all the right qualities to be a star on Raw; he’s talented, handsome, and has charisma for days. While the audience may have struggled to root for Humberto at first, Garza has that extra edge that made him such a hit at Full Sail. His chemistry with Mysterio here was great, and he played really well off of Vega as a manager as well. The match ended in DQ after Vega saved Garza from a 619, leading to Angel hitting Mysterio with a DDT on the concrete outside the ring.
Kentucky’s Favorite Son
Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, and Ricochet all faced off in a triple threat to become #1 contender for the Universal Championship. Rollins cut a long promo before the match, really leaning into the televangelist gimmick by saying the same thing over and over for what felt like 45 minutes. This was a solid triple threat match, interrupted a bit by the story between Rollins and his cult vs Kevin Owens and the Viking Raiders. Murphy (recently stripped of his first name) took out Ricochet about to hit a 630, while AOP knocked off Lashley. Owens and the Viking Raiders came out to even the odds, and the six men fought out into the crowd. Once the three got going again there were some great sequences; Ricochet was the star here, landing his greatest hits and taking out Lashley with the 630 to get the win. Lesnar ran in immediately after, hitting Ricochet with an F5. Lesnar and Ricochet will now face off at Super Showdown at the end of the month, in a PPV I had entirely forgotten existed.
She Still Doesn’t Even Go Here
After NXT Champion Rhea Ripley made a surprise appearance on Raw to extend Charlotte Flair the chance to challenge her at Wrestlemania, the Queen made her way to Full Sail to give her answer. She interrupted Bianca Belair, who was calling out Ripley ahead of their match at Takeover: Portland. The face off between the two in the Rumble was fantastic, and the idea of a singles match with Flair and Belair makes me tear up just a little over how good it would surely be. Ripley came out to join the two, giving us three wildly different aesthetic options in the ring. Charlotte tried to oust Belair from a “champions only” conversation, but Bianca and Ripley teamed to take her out. All three women here have chemistry, but the biggest pops came for Belair and Flair’s back and forth. Bianca continues to own the spotlight in every segment she’s a part of, and it would be well deserved to see her on the Mania card.
Who’s Next? Clowns
Goldberg returned to SmackDown this week, promising to tell fans who was next to get an aggressive hug from a bald stepdad. He stated he wanted a shot at the Universal Championship, and was ready to dance with the Fiend at Super Showdown. Wyatt then appearance split screen with ol’ Bill, doing a fun reporter character before Goldberg revealed he’d never taken an improv class and refused to play along. The Fiend flashed across the screen to spook the boomer with his knowledge and use of technology, and the match was set.
Goldberg is a legend and the crowd will always pop for him, but I’m glad we’re getting his championship shot over with now rather than at Mania. In a weird way he’s kind of the perfect opponent for the Fiend; they both only have three moves and everyone starts to hate their matches it they go past five minutes. The Fiend defeating the star of Santa’s Slay, a movie I’ve somehow seen in its entirety, is some kind of poetic justice and also probably the best move for the character if they want to keep him untouchable without damaging current stars.
Role Models and Princesses
The main event of SmackDown gave us a women’s fatal four way to see who was next to challenge champion Bayley, with Dana Brooke vs Naomi vs Carmella vs Alexa Bliss. It’s a shame SmackDown hasn’t been able to build up any kind of a real women’s midcard, mostly due to them implementing the same ‘put all women in the ring at once’ strategy for about 3 years now. Naomi was the only one here with real momentum going into the match, following her rumble return and showdown with Bayley last week. The champ retaliated by attacking Naomi early on, taking her out of contention for a bit as the 3 others faced off. Each woman had her chance to shine here, with a lot of near falls throughout. Finally it was Carmella who picked up a surprising win following an unfortunately average match, landing a super kick on Naomi. After, Bayley rushed the ring to lay out the Princess of Staten Island and show off her cheetah print jeans. It’s a welcome change to see Carmella back in the title picture, after playing comedic sidekick (as good as she was) for so long. While she’s highly unlikely to dethrone Bayley, we should get a solid match as the two have proved they can work well together. Naomi and Bayley is more than likely the Mania matchup, and delaying her a win here means the two can build a longer feud and we get to see some sick neon pirate entrance. Everybody wins.
Sing Bests Swing
Cesaro and Sami Zayn interrupted Elias mid-song, depriving us of yet another Ed Sheeran inspired classic. Cesaro was the Drifter’s set opponent for the night, after Elias sang some rude things about the trio of Zayn, Nakamura, and Cesaro last week. This was a surprising match, if only because both men have become such canon fodder to other stars, it’s a bit of a shock to see either of them get a win. Cesaro was on top for much of this, dropping Elias on the outside as Sami clapped and did his beautiful little dance. Elias managed to kick out, and landed an elbow drop to get the win. While a constant presence since his move to the main roster, Elias has never been in any real title contention. He’s usually the one putting over whoever hates music that week, so you have to wonder if this suggests he may get any kind of a steady push as a real competitor. He worked as a face against the evil Swiss Cyborg as well, proving that nothing makes people love you like embracing a career in the arts.
The Champ is Here (For the First Time Ever)
Jordan Devlin makes a 205 appearance as the new Cruiserweight Champion, and I promise I won’t even mention his large head after just this one time to clear the air. I’m not super familiar with Devlin, but he impressed in the main event here, defeating two former champs in Tony Nese and Lio Rush. Rush is also on the list of people who lost the title too soon, and he and Devlin in a singles match looks like it would be very fun, if their interactions here are anything to go by. Nese has slowly become the rock of 205, putting over whichever newcomer he needs to while flexing those oily abs with all the power of the short kings who came before him. He works solidly with virtually any style, and he and Rush have history in the past few weeks, giving this match more stakes, as Devlin has little experience on 205 Live. The champion ultimately won with a Devlin side(Devlincide? I actually don’t know if it’s a genocide pun or not) on Nese. I’d love to see more of Devlin on 205, but with Garza issuing a challenge on NXT, it seems more likely the title story will continue to be developed on the black and gold brand.