I’m beginning to wonder if the Raw creative team genuinely doesn’t realize that they’ve been showing the same episode since WrestleMania. There’s just no other explanation for booking another Drew McIntyre title shot. At least NXT’s main event was fresh and new, in that it happened last month and then got three weeks of promos for the re-match. SmackDown has managed to shake it up a little better, but not giving us the exact same four matches back-to-back-to-back is a fairly low bar.
Goth vs Punk Settled at Last
Nikki Cross made her return to Monday night, popping up backstage to offer an open challenge to the Queen or the champ. Charlotte was already ready for another match, so Ripley answered the call for a Beat the Clock challenge, suggested by Charlotte. Cross proved she could hang with the best of the leather vests, trying to take it to the champ right away, but Rhea caught her crossbody attempt. Nikki escaped to land a big right hand and another crossbody off the top rope for a two count. Ripley hit a big drop kick and stomped away in the corner. She got so hot about it she forgot to pin Nikki within the two minutes, which meant Cross got the victory. An indifferent Ripley shrugged it off in the ring while Nikki celebrated.
If you thought that match was a nice change of pace for the women’s division, you won’t be surprised to hear it was followed up with Charlotte vs Asuka, in the same match we saw just seven nights ago. I really like both these women, and obviously they work great together, but even just a week off would be nice. They traded holds to start off before Asuka got the upperhand and went after the Queen with kicks. Charlotte caught Asuka on the Hip Attack to drop her on her knee. The Empress was able to escape a moonsault to hit a German Suplex. Charlotte came back to target the knee again, slamming it into the ring post. Another top rope moonsault attempt saw Asuka roll to the side, but she followed up with a standing moonsault for a close count. They scrambled on the mat and Asuka went for the Asuka-Lock, which Charlotte rolled through for a pin. Did we need to see Asuka lose to Flair again? Not really. Will we see this match again next Monday? Almost definitely.
Man in 30s Faces Man in 40s
On the journey from friends to enemies to even worse enemies, Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin ran back their match from a few weeks ago. Again, WWE cut this from the Hulu playback and forced me to resort to drastic measures of Googling “watch wrestling show online.” These editors really underestimate how desperate I am to see solid wrestling in this company. Before the match, Cedric cut a promo about how great The Hurt Business was and how dumb it was to break them up a few months ago. Alexander said it was Benjamin’s fault they got kicked out; Cedric was a fine cocky heel here, playing up his age advantage against the veteran Benjamin.
Alexander slid out of the ring at the bell, but Benjamin quickly took over. He threw Cedric across the ring and dropped him with a huge elbow. Cedric got some brief momentum with a huricanrana off the turnbuckle, but Shelton stopped it with a series of German suplexes. He wanted another suplex, but Cedric got a thumb to the eye and took advantage with the Neuralizer to win. This was good stuff from both guys, just like the first time we saw it a few weeks ago. I’m sure we’ll get our rubber match soon enough, but it’s unclear where either man could go from here. I’d love to see The Gold Standard take a run at Lashley for kicking him from The Hurt Business, but that feels like wishful thinking.
Local Man Asks For One Last Chance
Every week since WrestleMania, Drew McIntyre has come out and cut the exact same promo about how he’s gonna get his WWE Championship back, Lashley is a fraud, etc, etc. While I appreciate that they’re not making him learn new material, he’s had at least half a dozen shots at the Almighty since losing the title to Miz back in February. And I like Drew—the kilts, the oily hair, the constant need to be kipping up and shouting during his matches—but, frankly, I like Kofi Kingston just a little more. On Monday night, Kofi interrupted Drew, who had interrupted MVP, Lashley, and their hot friends, to drop some worthwhile knowledge. He reminded us that Drew had gotten chance after chance at the title, and word on the street is people are getting a little sick of it. The hardest working man in show business, Adam Pearce, showed up to offered a peacemaker; Kofi vs Drew for the #1 contendership, with the winner facing Lashley at the new summer Hell in a Cell.
This was a great mix of styles; McIntyre tried to overpower Kingston, but Kofi’s quickness kept him on his toes. Bobby, MVP, and all their beautiful lady friends watched from the VIP lounge as Kofi managed to stay alive after multiple suplexes and a slam on the apron. McIntyre dragged him back in the ring for a stalling vertical suplex, but Kofi made a comeback with a drop kick. Drew hit a Michinoku Driver, and still Kofi kicked out! McIntyre beckoned Lashley and MVP ringside, which, naturally, lead to his downfall. After a trust fall knocked McIntyre into the champ, Lashley and MVP attacked both men in the ring to cause a DQ. Later in the show, Pearce agreed to give us the re-match next week. We know this ends with McIntyre vs Lashley again, but how cool would it be to see Kingston get another run at the title?
Spooky Season Still Rolling
Karrion Kross has been doing a whole lot of nothing as NXT Champion; it’s been mostly brooding, making fun of Johnny Gargano, and cryptic promos. After several weeks of stocking up on smoke machines, Kross and Balor finally agreed to a rematch, giving Kross his first title defense. Their match at Stand and Deliver was solid enough, and this re-run lived up to exactly that description. Balor tried to chop down the big man and ground Kross on the mat, but the champion had the power advantage and tossed Balor around. Scarlett, sporting some great face paint and yet another excellent pleather bodysuit, celebrated on the outside as Kross dunked Balor with a suplex. Balor continued to fight, but every time he’d get some offense, Kross was right there to meet him. Finn still found the energy for a second wind and a dive to the outside wiped out Kross, until the champ retaliated by planting him in the commentary table. Scarlett pulled some serious faces for that one, so you know it was a good move. Another brief comeback for Balor, but Kross rolled out of the way of the Coup de Grace and screamed in Finn’s face, before hitting two suplexes. Several stomps to the head and the Kross Jacket was locked in, allowing Kross to retain.
This was evenly matched, which is a bit surprising given how much they want to make Kross a monster, but it gave us a better match. While I still don’t get his and Scarlett’s gimmick (Goths? Halloween Horror Nights fans? Cult founders?) Kross works well with Balor, and it’s no surprise they wanted a rematch here. With a triple threat for Kross’ next challenger happening next week, it’ll be interesting to see which direction the champ goes in next. My vote is for matching face paint/bodysuit combos, but maybe he knows he just won’t pull it off like Scarlett.
Bloodline is Thicker
Jimmy Uso did his best Adam Pearce cosplay last week when he booked him and Jey to face the Street Profits. Before the match, Reigns gave some very mild words of encouragement to Jimmy, but made sure to question Jey’s loyalty one-on-one, just to keep the tension growing. Jey has potentially had the saddest story of the past year, and it doesn’t seem like his cousin’s going to stop playing games with his heart any time soon.
After some opening promos that referenced Mario and Luigi more then most wrestling shows would ever dare, Dawkins and Ford dropped Jimmy with a double team right away, but he rolled to tag Jey. Montez kept control, trading insults with Jimmy on the apron before another double team. The Usos got rolling with quick tags and strikes to Dawkins, but the Profits took over again on the outside. Ford continued to mine the many years of Uso gimmicks to mock his opponents, but Jey took advantage and ran him into the barricade. Backstage, Roman watched with his whole face towards the tv screen as the Uso’s kept control. This has gotta be a damn good match for a wrestler to watch head-on. Ford got an enzuigiri on Jimmy and went for the tag, but Jey pulled Dawkins off the apron. Ford finally made the tag and Dawkins cleared house until he got caught with a superkick from Jimmy. A spinebuster on Jimmy and Ford went for the splash, but Jey saved his brother, and another superkick to Ford got Jimmy the win for the Usos.
This was as good as one could expect from these teams. The Profits can easily take a loss and still remain top tier, and it was great to see Jimmy and Jey together again. Even if their family has more issues than any Bravo TV show.
Carmella may be down a sommelier but she is as glamorous as ever, as evidenced by how she made us watch her apply lipstick backstage. She promised to end Bianca’s fairy tale story in their match; there’s a Cruella/Carmella joke here that I just can’t bring myself to make. Bayley joined commentary for the match, which started off with Belair getting the power advantage and driving Mella into the corner. They fought to the apron, where Carmella grabbed the braid and used it to deliver a face buster. Bianca kicked out at two, then caught a crossbody attempt to hit a slam and the moonsault, but Carmella was still in it. Bayley spent much of her commentary complaining about Bianca’s braid, which is an accurate portrayal of someone with a bob haircut. Carmella wanted the Code of Silence but Belair blocked it to land the KOD and win. Bayley talked some more trash to Belair, and things clearly aren’t over for the Role Model and the EST. I wouldn’t hate seeing them in another match; Bianca in a Hell in a Cell match sounds like easy money.
What’s up with Seth Rollins? Other than developing the greatest fashion sense I’ve ever seen, the Messiah seems to be strutting a little close to the edge. After beating the crap out of Cesaro last week, Seth came to the ring and invited the Swissman to come down and fight him, before giving us that beautiful minion laugh. He then announced that the Swissman wasn’t here tonight to ruin the festivities of a 35 year old man throwing himself a birthday party. He offered exclusive footage from Cesaro’s hospital room and played some audio of someone moaning—but that’s just a little birthday goofin!
100% serious now, Seth said that what happened to Cesaro was a bummer, and he just blacked out while he was stomping that beautiful bald head into oblivion. He blamed Cesaro for what happened, but also blamed all of us virtually sitting in the ThunderDome for tricking Cesaro into thinking he deserved opportunities. He finished things off with a sparkling rendition of Happy Birthday and some more laughs. Rollins’ character remains solid and entertaining no matter what he does, and I’m really invested in seeing what he wears every week. We’ll likely get him and Cesaro again at HiaC, and that should be a real bop.
The Kids Are Alright
205 Live has gotten an influx of newcomers lately, and no one has been more excited to put over new talent than Tony Nese and Ariya Daivari. The OGs have been gatekeeping the purple brand hard the past few weeks, and Friday night was no different. Nese took on Asher Hale (Anthony Henry) in our first match, starting out on the mat before Nese landed a belly to belly suplex. He bounced Hale off the ropes and followed up with a right hand for a two-count, but the newbie managed to avoid the Running Nese to get a German suplex for his own near fall. He avoided the springboard moonsault and got Nese in the Captain’s Hook for a tap-out. The main event was fellow fresh face Ari Sterling taking on Nese’s BFF Daivari, and the results were much the same. Daivari targeted Sterling’s leg, running him into the ring post and getting him in the Figure Four, but Ari fought out. Sterling got a moonsault on the outside for some momentum, then him a Spiral Tap back in the ring for the victory. Tough luck for the purple brand originals.