In their usual post-WrestleMania celebration, WWE embarked on “spring cleaning” this week, which means letting go a bunch of wrestlers under the guise of budget cuts during a time where they made record profits. Among the cuts, some of the most surprising were Samoa Joe, who literally just called Mania, and Billie Kay, who was making a resume gimmick work for over two months now. In addition to the difficulties of losing your job during a global pandemic, which I can say from personal experience sucks a whole lot, many of these wrestlers had significant periods of success during their WWE tenures.
Kay’s former tag partner Peyton Royce was also released, which feels a lot like WWE shooting themselves in the foot by breaking up a team for no reason at all. The IIconics could have been a frequent presence in the women’s tag division, but instead were divided during a draft for no storyline and no given development. It’s the same story with Heavy Machinery, who saw Tucker let go on Thursday as well. I won’t even get into the misuse of six-time women’s champion Mickie James over the past three years, because we would be here all day. I hope all of these guys land on their feet and are able to wrestle and tell stories the way they want. Here’s to Joe in NJPW; we deserve one good thing in this life, let it be that.
Twice as Nice
Drew McIntyre, much like Scotland throughout history, refused to go down easy after his loss at Mania. Drew admitted that he’d let himself get distracted by MVP, which is understandable; the man commands a presence. He still wanted Lashley and the title, but—big surprise—so did other people! Fresh off their own less than stellar WrestleMania wins, Randy Orton and Braun Strowman came out to announce their own wish to get slapped around by the Almighty. This lead to Adam Pearce giving us a triple threat main event to decide Lashley’s Backlash challenger. Lashley’s Backlash is a great name for a band, somebody should get on that.
McIntyre and Orton teamed up to take down the B-train early on, with Drew throwing the steps into Braun’s face. In a move nobody saw coming, Randy then turning on his temporary ally and dropped McIntyre on the apron. He dispatched McIntyre on the outside by throwing him over the commentary table and into the barricade. Another shot from the steps to Drew’s head and McIntyre seemed out. Orton and Strowman went one on one until The Viper managed to hit the RKO, then got a taste of his own medicine as McIntyre suddenly landed a Claymore and punched his ticket. As McIntyre was celebrating, MVP came out to pose on the ramp. While Drew was distracted, he got jumped by Mace and T-Bar, who delivered a chokeslam to the challenger, much to MVP’s delight. The former Retribution guys joining THB is a little left field, but it makes sense to build the group up again. If only they hadn’t ousted Benjamin and Alexander back to the 24/7 realm in the first place.
The Queen is Back in Town
Charlotte Flair came back to Raw this week to complain about not being in the women’s title match. She said none of that was her fault, and called out Asuka for agreeing to a match against Ripley when she wouldn’t take the match with Charlotte. The Queen echoed many fans favorite complaint, that she “steals” opportunities, by promising us she was the opportunity. A very solid promo from the heel Flair we all love to hate.
After delivering a banger on Sunday night, Asuka and Rhea Ripley tied up again for the former champ’s rematch they they keep promising not to hand out. This didn’t quite land as well as their previous bout; some awkward spots at a few moments dragged it down. Still, it’s Asuka, so it’s never actually bad. After an early start from Ripley, The Empress turned things around with a dropkick off the turnbuckle. She got the champ in a submission, but Ripley powered out. The two fought to the outside, Asuka seemed to be regaining control until Charlotte Flair came from behind and rammed The Empress into the barricade. A big boot to Ripley and Flair stood tall over both women. WWE certainly loves to overuse the DQ ending, but it was the right call here to bring back Charlotte and protect Asuka after another Mania loss.
Triple M vs Infamous Archer
Speaking of blonde queens returning, Maryse came back to Raw for the first time in years. After saving USA Network alongside her husband, Maryse appeared on Miz TV to promote the premiere of their show. This was a long form commercial for Miz and Mrs, but I genuinely enjoy Miz, Maryse, and Morrison so much that I didn’t mind. Unfortunately, Damien Priest does not seem to be much of a reality TV fan, as he interrupted the trio. He took issue with Miz and Morrison claiming they were responsible for Bad Bunny’s stellar debut, and agreed to a handicap match against the two. Miz and Morrison tried to argue that they weren’t yet dressed for the occasion, but Priest made it happen.
Despite the numbers disadvantage, Priest was still able to best the Greatest Tag Team of the 21st century early on. A dive to the outside wiped out both guys, and was able to land Hit the Lights on Miz when Maryse jumped up to save her man. Priest tried to pull Miz back to him, taking off his pants in the process. Maryse hopped up on the apron and, kindhearted soul he is, Priest tried to convince Maryse to get down and find her husband some trousers, but the distraction let Miz roll him up with his feet on the ropes for the win. This might lead to more with Miz and Priest down the line, which I don’t entirely hate. Unsure if this was a one time appearance for Maryse, or if we’ll see the baddies of 2007 back together again. One can only hope Pourquoi rings out in the ThunderDome very soon.
NXT tapped out to competing with Bravo’s Real Housewives and transferred to Tuesday with the fallout from Stand and Deliver; new champs, Scarlett pulling some wild faces, and Kushida in trunks! What more could I have possibly asked for.
Santos Escobar came out to cut a promo about saving the cruiserweight division, which isn’t entirely wrong. He’s hit almost a year with the title, and he’s killed it for the whole time. He offered an open challenge, but didn’t even get through the sentence before Kushida came out. Escobar sent Legado backstage to run things on his own against the Timesplitter. Kushida started in strong, targeting Santos’ arm and sending the champ to the outside. Escobar came back and got a submission against the ring post, pushing Kushida’s throat into the metal. He landed a huricanrana off the top rope, but Kushida kicked out. Kushida started to fire back with some offense and scored a near fall with double suplexes, and Escobar just got a foot on the ropes. They squared off with kicks in the center; Escobar landed a backstabber and wanted the Phantom Driver, but Kushida countered. They rolled back and forth for a moment before Kushida got the momentum and scored the win to become CW champ for the first time. Incredible match that I honestly would have liked to see more of, and that’s rare praise for NXT. Kushida as champ is surprising, but certainly more welcome than Devlin retaining last week. I’d hope to see him on the purple brand more often, but I won’t hold my breath.
Champion Wife, Champion Life
The SmackDown tag titles were not on the line at WrestleMania, but they got the next best thing; being contested on the SmackDowns before and after Mania instead. And people think WWE doesn’t respect tag teams. The Street Profits took on the SD champs Roode and Ziggler once again, with Montez Ford announcing he was inspired by his beautiful, talented, incredible, hard working, and charismatic wife Bianca Belair. The Profits led a celebration for Belair as the new champion, where Bianca cut a promo about living out an impossible dream by main eventing WrestleMania. I don’t often wish for live crowds on the weekly shows anymore, but Bianca deserved a standing ovation for this one. The consummate baby face, she thanked Sasha for doing it all with her. Backstage, both Bayley and Sasha were less than impressed with Belair, but instead of focusing on these people I want to see in a triple threat that would probably make me drool, SmackDown gave us the Dirty Dawgs.
Ziggler and Roode are still fine as a team, but their tag title run has been less than memorable. Dolph has a braid now, so at least that’s something. The Profits started out here by double teaming both Ziggler and Roode, keeping them in their corner. Ford hit a standing moonsault onto Dolph, but the champ kicked out. A double team and a splash from Ford almost got the win on Roode, but again Ziggler came in to break things up. Ford backed Roode into the corner with strikes, allowing Ziggler to make the blind tag and hit the ZigZag to retain. This wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything special either. I’d love to see the tag titles change hands soon, and The Profits seem like the most solid option.
Team Running Like Horribly Oiled Machine
The women’s tag titles probably should have passed on from Baszler and Jax at Mania, because we’re once again running back the exact same format we’ve seen for previous feuds. Baszler went one on one with Natalya in the only women’s action all night. Nattie went for a Sharpshooter early, but Jax pulled Shayna from the ring to save her, leading Tamina to come over and even the odds. They went back and forth with some great mat wrestling; if this feud ends with a submission match between the two, I certainly wouldn’t hate it. A distraction off Nia and Shayna hit a knee, but only got a two count. Natalya shoved Baszler off and Shayna had to stop herself from running into Jax on the apron, allowing Natalya to roll her up for a win. This tag team is doing nothing for Baszler, who should have been a singles star for months now. Natalya and Tamina have had the opposite experience; being in a team seems to elevate both women—it got them on both nights of WrestleMania! Let’s pass the torch and let Shayna do literally anything else.
Messiah Can’t Take a Hint
Roman Reigns and co kicked off SmackDown as they are wont to do, with a promo about murdering Edge and Daniel Bryan live on air. Heyman offered respect for both men, praising Reigns as the greatest, who put them both down at the same time. Cesaro came out and tried to interrupt, but Reigns wasn’t interested. At least Adam Pearce and Sonya Devilke were willing to listen when Cesaro asked for a match against Reigns later in the night. He’s hot off a win against another self righteous dilf, so I can see why Reigns would be the logical step.
Instead, we got Cesaro and Jey Uso, which, as one could expect, was great. Uso picked up momentum early on, nailing Cesaro with a super kick. A Samoan Drop couldn’t get the pin, as Cesaro continued to fight back. Several slaps rocked Jey, and an uppercut knocked him off the turnbuckle as Cesaro went for the swing, only to be cut off by Seth Rollins. Rollins jumped him from behind and delivered a blow to the head, then promised Cesaro things were not over between them as he stomped away. There you have it: Seth Rollins is your worst ex ever.
Same Old Story
I’m moderately certain I’ve covered August Grey vs Tony Nese at least half a dozen times now, but they went at it again in another main event on 205. Even if we’ve definitely seen it before it was still a fine match, with Nese, as always, backed up by BFF Daivari. After some power moves and a nearfall from the Premier Athelete, Grey had the advantage until Ariya distracted him on the outside. Nese went for a roll up, but Grey rolled through the pin to get another win over the former champ.
205 also delivered Jake Atlas vs Ashante Thee Adonis to kick off the show; both guys were evenly matched to start out, with Atlas trying to get control on the mat until Adonis knocked him down with a lariat. Adonis blocked the Rainbow DDT and threw his opponent into the barricade. A crossbody got him a 2-count, and Atlas came back with a knee strike and the Rainbow DDT to win. I think all of these guys on the purple brand are very skilled, but they need to start dipping into the NXT talent pool a little more often to shake things up. A Kushida appearance would have been a start—we got a backstage promo where Devlin (who, let’s remember, lost to the man who lost to Kushida) called out the new champ for being lucky.