WWE has proven time and time again that they have the talent and the capability to produce excellent wrestling, but their devotion to overbooking and convoluted storytelling manages to wreck it 90% of the time. This week was the same old story, with NXT women’s division playing hot potato with brand new titles, and Raw’s suffering from a sommelier out staying his welcome. At least Bobby Lashley’s having a good time.
Miz Makes Exact Same Mistake
One week after making the full nelson championship material again, Bobby Lashley defended his newly won title against the dad he won it from, The Miz. Lashley and The Hurt Business, decked in their finest, opened Monday night casually strolling through backstage. If reviving the careers of three separate men WWE had largely written off within the span of a year isn’t enough to make MVP a first ballot hall of famer, the way he wears the hell out of a waistcoat ought to do it. Lashley cut a promo about his 16 year journey to the top and promised he’d be walking into Mania as champ. He then got an absolutely killer new entrance, lightning and all, to herald the Almighty Era. Lashley’s at his best on the mic when there’s real passion there, and it’s easy to see how strongly he feels about reaching the mountaintop. With MVP and The Hurt Business, he’s possibly never looked so intimidating—I could see him holding the title well past Mania.
Miz then cut his own promo lamenting his trials in life, calling Shane McMahon and most of Twitter d-bags. He tried to evade Lashley early on, escaping to the outside until he was backed off by MVP. Lashley hit a stalling suplex as Drew McIntyre watched out of the corner of his eye—McIntyre vs Lashley at Mania wouldn’t be a bad match by any means, but we’ve got a couple weeks left for me to hope for something better. Miz ran Lashley into a ring post, momentarily stunning the big man, but Bobby came back with a spear. Lashley caught Miz in the corner and threw him clear across the ring; any offense Miz tried, Lashley seemed to have an answer. The champ avoided a dive on the outside and rammed Miz’s head into the post, then followed up with a spinebuster and The Hurt Lock to retain. This went just the way we all expected, but it managed to last longer than last week’s match. Maybe this break will give Miz time to work on Santa’s Little Helper 2.
Interrupting Sommelier Who?
Shayna Bazler and Nia Jax once again put their tag titles on the line, against the TikTok sensations Lana and Naomi. Reginald, who has hopped from one champion to another faster than any other manager, accompanied Baszler and Jax. No explanation was really given for Reggie’s new alliance, but it’s not like anyone cares. The faces were in control at the start, Naomi hitting a dive on the champs on the outside. Lana tagged in and got wiped out by Baszler, and Shayna went right after her arm. Naomi came in to even things up again, planting Jax in the ring. Reginald hopped up on the apron to provide the distraction and Jax hit a powerbomb on Lana, sans table, to score the win. Jax carried the sommelier up the ramp to celebrate, while Shayna Baszler carried the entire company on her back.
This was fine. It wasn’t any more for sure, but it was fine enough. Lana and Naomi have gelled well as a team, and I wouldn’t hate seeing them get another shot down the road. Naomi continues to be one of the absolute best in the company, so I can only hope one of these days she’ll be given the flowers she deserves from creative.
Randy Orton Doing Great, Feels Super Healthy
Due to an Alexa Bliss curse, Randy Orton’s been coughing up blood like the dying father in a period drama for the past few weeks. It’s not great television, but I guess, technically, it is television. AJ Styles said what we were all thinking when he goofed on Randy for the whole spitting up black blood thing, which lead to a match between the two on Monday. It’s hard to imagine these guys putting on something bad, so it’s no surprise the wrestling here was great. Orton was hot out of the gate, more than a little pressed that Styles gossiped about his indigestion. He tried for the RKO early, but AJ rolled out of the ring. On the outside, Orton planted Styles on the commentary desk, and stared down Omos. AJ used the distraction to turn things around and land the Phenomenal Forearm, then targeted Randy’s leg. Orton came back with a huge clothesline to knock AJ down and get a 2 count. Styles locked in the Calf Crusher, but Randy powered out to hit the draping DDT right in front of Omos. Randy wanted the RKO, but Omos pulled AJ out of the ring as Alexa Bliss appeared on the tron. She lit a match and blew some pyro to the ring, and Randy once again hacked up some motor oil. Styles landed the Phenomenal Forearm to win, while Randy and his bile mouth were left stunned. This was a great match, but I just can’t get behind “man forced to throw up on TV” as a storyline. I guess we’ll see The Fiend pop up at Fastlane to send him and Orton into WrestleMania.
Overbloated Storytelling At Its Finest
William Regal promised a huge announcement Wednesday night; and while it wasn’t Christian sized, it was still pretty big. After promoting Peacock and the next two-night TakeOver, he named Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez the first NXT Women’s tag team champions. Dusty Cup winners Kai and Gonzalez lost to Baszler and Jax last week in an admittedly muddled finish, but I’m not sure if immediately awarding them new belts was the right call either. Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart evidently felt much the same, coming out to challenge for the titles that night. The ensuing match was very good work from all four women, even if it, once again, delivered a result that doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense. Gonzalez took control of the smaller Blackheart early on, and she and Kai kept Shotzi in their corner as they wore her down. Ember Moon finally made the tag and cleared house, as she and Blackheart hit a double team on Kai for a near fall. Gonzalez caught Moon to counter the Eclipse, and tried to dump her on the outside. Ember hung on to take Raquel with her, while Shotzi got a roll up on Kai to score the win.
I don’t understand any of the logic here- why have Moon and Blackheart lose in the finals, only to give them the titles immediately anyway? Wouldn’t things have been simplified if they won the Dusty Cup in the first place? This was a good match, but Kai and Gonzalez as 45 minute first ever champs is a sad, useless story.
Bad News Buddies
SmackDown ran back the exact same match we saw last week, I guess hoping that we just wouldn’t notice. Cesaro and Murphy went at it again, featuring the dulcet tones of Seth Rollins (pine green plaid suit and black turtleneck, no chain) on commentary. I can’t tell if they’re moving towards aligning Rollins and Murphy again- doesn’t feel like there would be much point, but at least we could see Murphy on TV more. Cesaro started off backing Buddy into the corner and landing several uppercuts. Murphy landed a knee, but Cesaro got a drop kick off the top rope to wipe him out. He got Murphy in the swing and went for a ride until Rollins stormed the ring to cause a DQ. He landed two stomps on the Swiss Superman and wanted a third through a chair to really seal the head trauma, but was stopped by producers. It’s been a minute since we’ve seen Seth look so tough. Rollins and Cesaro certainly have the potential to turn out a banger at Mania, if WWE gives them literally anything to work with.
Well Dressed Man Appears At Wrestling Show, Followed by Reginald
Known women’s wrestling stan Kevin Owens hosted Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair on his talk show Friday night. He asked hard hitting questions like “why hasn’t Sasha kicked Reginald’s ass yet?” Banks said she respects all members of the Krew and boasted that she paved the way for Belair’s rise in WWE. The two argued until they were interrupted by the tag champs, Baszler and Jax. Also Reginald was there. This lead into a match between Banks and Belair and Natalya and Tamina, featuring a fair amount of a Reginald showing off the suit he’d gotten on a shopping trip with Jax and Baszler, if that’s what you turned into SmackDown for. Judging by the fashion taste of almost every male wrestler I’ve ever seen, there’s just not a lot of crossover between being good in the ring and knowing how clothes are supposed to look on your body.
Anyway, Natalya and Tamina had the advantage early on, with Tamina overpowering Banks. Sasha made a comeback when Natalya tagged in, but lost focus to yell at Jax and Baszler on commentary. She countered the Sharpshooter to get to her corner and bring in Belair, who hit some perfect dropkicks and a spinebuster. Another distraction from Reginald stole Banks’ attention, and she chased the sommelier through the ring. Nattie nailed Sasha in the back of the head, and ate a right hand from Bianca. Tamina used the distraction to roll up Belair for the three count—another huge victory for wine. Backstage, Banks and Belair fought about the loss, leaving their team fracturing. I’d watch Banks and Belair fight about literally anything, but I’m stumped about why creative is so high on Reggie.
Big E Big Blindsided
Big E came out on Friday night covered in casts, but heroically ditched them on his way to the ring. He cut a great promo calling out Crews for making him “go Biblical,” after Apollo’s recent trend of beating the shit out of him. He offered Crews an IC title match right there, but he didn’t come out. Instead, we got an open challenge, immediately answered by King Corbin and Sami Zayn. E promised the first man to the ring would get the opportunity, so Sami booked it–only to run right into a shot from E. The champ then got an early near fall, but Sami got his knees up on a splash in the corner. He laid into E with punches, then hung him up on the ropes. A sunset flip from the top rope nearly scored Sami the title, but E kicked out. The champ managed a big clothesline to take down Sami, then hit the Big Ending to retain. Before there was time to properly celebrate, Crews’ music hit, and Apollo attacked from behind. He delivered two slams, then brought back his old friend the steel steps to finish the job.
Losing at Your Own Game
August Grey and Ariya Daivari once again fought it out in 205’s main event. It feels like this feud has been going on for ages, but maybe that’s just me. I like both these guys; Daivari, in particular, has been an unsung hero of the CW division for the past five years. Extremely puzzling that he’s never held that belt. They started off here with a test of strength, but neither could get the advantage. Daivari finally kicked Grey down to a knee and got him in a headlock. Grey landed a huricanrana to get Daivari in a side headlock himself, but he got out by kneeing Grey in the stomach. They traded roll ups for a minute, and Daivari countered So Much Prettier to attempt a frog splash, but August got out of the way. Daivari dropped Grey across the top rope on his neck, but found himself caught with a dive right after. Grey finally got So Much Prettier, only Ariya kicked out at the last second. He ran into the ringpost when Grey sidestepped and found himself caught in a rollup, with Grey’s feet on the ropes, to end the match.