I didn’t watch wrestling when John Cena was universally loathed and loved at the same time. In fact, I saw him in an episode of Psych before I ever saw him refuse to be seen. And yet even I can not deny the absolute joy I feel watching him sprint down to the ring and stretch out those jorts. COVID-19 vaccines aside, WWE is desperately in need of a shot in the arm, and Cena has provided the only relief over the past few weeks. Thanks, Mr. Peacemaker.
One of the more fun stories on Raw has been the budding enemies to coworkers to friends saga between Mansoor and Mustafa Ali. Mustafa has begrudgingly become teammates with Manny, but only after weeks of berating all aspects of his life. This week, Ali faced another of his former protegès in T-Bar, who is somehow still T-Bar two months after Retribution last retributed. The new team lost to Mace and T-Bar last week, ending when Ali took a choke slam to save his partner. It was all very sweet and cute, as was the jacket Manny gifted to his new friend. T-Bar was all over Ali right away, but the hacker turned revolutionist turned big brother went for a dive to the outside. T-Bar caught him and chucked him clear into the barricade for a very close call.
Ali evaded another pin attempt off a backbreaker, while Mace took out Mansoor on the outside. A DDT from Ali laid out the big man, but he got crotched on the top turnbuckle for the second week in a row. T-Bar hit a knee to score the win; I’d love to think this meant something positive for the duo, but if they’re still running with the Retribution gimmick after all this time, the team doesn’t seem very high priority here. Mansoor saved his buddy from a choke slam, and the big boys got run off by the power of friendship. I’m loving Mansoor and Ali together, they’ve got a great chemistry and work well in the ring together.
In the wake of Bray Wyatt’s release, the company does not seem concerned with letting Alexa Bliss fly solo on her creepy adventure; Alexa and her doll Lily once again took center stage on Monday night, as Bliss faced off with Doudrop. Putting aside the fact that whoever pitched Doudrop as a name should never be allowed to chose anything again, the wrestler formerly known as Piper Niven has been picking up some steam on Raw fighting Eva Marie’s battles. Bliss gave Lily a front row seat on the turnbuckle before the match, but for whatever reason, Eva wasn’t allowed to do the same. The camera continued to cut to Lily as she took down Doudrop with a crossbody, then rolled to the outside to go after Eva.
Some slow motion attempted punches from Eva stalled Bliss until Doudrop jumped her from behind. She took over and beat Bliss down on the mat, but some leg stretching from Alexa and a wink from Lily took her out of the game. Alexa got a roll up for the three count, with a huge assist from her toothy doll. The Lily saga hasn’t been as entertaining as a haunted doll should be, but I gotta admit that seeing wrestlers like Baszler and Niven sell being scared of something from Build-a-Bear is on par with the best acting to come out of WWE Studios. I have no clue where Bliss or the doll go from here, and it seems kind of like neither does the creative team.
Keep Your Vipers Close
The original snake is back in town; Randy Orton returned to Raw with some new facial hair and the same old story. He politely told Riddle to get the hell away from him when the latter tried to reunite RK-Bro, but the heartwarming redemption for Orton was interrupted by Styles and Omos. AJ challenged Randy for the main event, but even the threat of the 6’5” legend Omos wasn’t enough to make Orton want to team with Riddle again. Riddle, unsurprisingly, continued to pressure Orton despite repeated refusals, but the viper wanted to fly solo. Orton took control in the match right away, bouncing AJ off the ropes and giving Omos a loving look on the outside. He slammed Styles into the announce table, yet couldn’t bring himself to look away from the giant.
AJ hit a Phenomenal Forearm to start a comeback, but the newly goateed snake wasn’t down and out. Randy blew Omos a kiss from the top rope, only for Styles to escape the superplex and lock in a calf crusher. Randy escaped to nail the draping DDT and tried to punch his ticket to “that place,” but Omos pulled Styles out of harms way. Riddle came down to go after the one true Raw tag champ, while Styles went for a Phenomenal Forearm, which Randy caught with an RKO. Riddle tried to celebrate with a hug, but Randy’s been on Twitter and wasn’t falling for that, so he hit him with an RKO instead. It seemed unclear if RK-Bro was back together or not; I’m hoping no, as Orton is far more entertaining when he’s not trying to sell WWE’s attempts at stoner humor.
NXT Gets Vaguely European Flavor
Given the promo and prestige that goes into NXT UK, it’s fairly easy to forget the brand exists. WALTER has been champ for at least two years going on ten, and no one who has challenged him has looked like they have much of a chance. His latest opponent is Ilja Dragunov, who was going the same growling and yelling schtick the last time I checked on NXT UK as well. This Tuesday, Dragunov met with Pete Dunne on US soil, because international flights are legal again, and NXT proper doesn’t have a whole lot going on right now. They took up the main event of in hands down the best thing NXT showed all night, and I’m including seeing Dexter Lumis covered in cake in that statement.
Dragunov got a good amount of time to show off in front of a crowd less familiar with his work. He got a big dropkick and a diving knee to Dunne, and the two exchanged punches. Dunne snapped at the fingers and worked his submission game, but Dragunov escaped even with about two ligaments still hanging on. Ilja got back some momentum until Walter arrived to stare menacingly at the ring, allowing Dunne to hit the Bitter End and win. Walter attacked just after the Bruiserweight skipped town, but Dragunov managed to stand his ground and ended the show holding the UK title. It’s wild how good this was, especially considering that it was just thrown together earlier in the night. Both men have excellent, brutal styles that worked great here, and throwing in Walter at the end almost made me want to watch NXT UK this week. Not when it airs on GMT, but maybe I’ll get the highlights later.
AEW Promotional Segment
John Cena celebrated the start of a new school year by giving Roman Reigns a report card. Unsurprisingly, Reigns scored a bunch of D’s, for big Dog. John called him a D-bag, which brought out Reigns and Heyman to grace the Oklahoma crowd with their presence. John said he would wait til next week to embarrass Roman on the biggest stage of them all, a Las Vegas suburb. He played to the crowd by dunking on the SmackDown writing for the past decade and promising that wrestling couldn’t happen without the fans, despite the reality of the entire past year and a half. Cena admitted that Reigns would kick his ass next week, but he was still going to get the pin. Roman said he saw The Suicide Squad and he was impressed, but honestly he was more of a Marvel guy. A Nikki Bella reference got John heated enough to mention Dean Ambrose, which got the biggest reaction of the night. To make it a hat trick of “oh no he didn’t,” Cena offered to blow Roman a kiss goodbye as he ran off with his title. Great promos to start the night off hot; Cena is as consistently excellent as he’s ever been, and Reigns remains at the top of his game.
One True King
Fighting champ Apollo Crews wasn’t afraid to once again put his Intercontinental Championship on the line—only if he could be accompanied by the extremely famous military commander turned wrestling manager, Commander Azeez. Nakamura was also joined by his guitar shredding plus one, but it didn’t take long for the friends to be disqualified. As Crews got on the top turnbuckle, Boogz tried to rock it out the apron, but the ref was more of a classical fan, and threw him out. Azeez tried to climb in and faced the same fate, leaving the two flying solo in the ring. No guitars, no military commanders, just a lot of Pat McAfee going wild on commentary. Crews hit a superplex for a near fall, then followed with a powerbomb, but couldn’t get it one. Crews tried for a splash but Nakamura got his knees up. Shinsuke missed his first Kinshasa attempt and suffered another slam, but escaped another power bomb to land the Kinshasa for the three count, becoming a two-time IC champ. Boogz returned to celebrate with a sick guitar solo, and the King posed with his new title. I’ve got no complaints about a title for Shinsuke, and we got to see a grown man pull off cream colored overalls. That’s not an easy task.
Contract Signing Shockingly Derailed
There are few things wrestlers respect more than paperwork. Weddings might be up there, but really and truly wrestlers love to sit down and put pen to paper in a contract signing. Bianca and Sasha were no different, both sporting incredible fits to sit down and sign a document that probably could have been handled over email. Sonya Deville presided over this war of words, as Bianca told Sasha she should have expected to be stabbed in the back. Knowing anything at all about Banks’ history—yes, she definitely should have seen this coming. Sasha blamed a scar from the hairwhip as the reason she would gone for so long, then dropped the b-word: best friend. She also called Bianca a bitch.
Sonya tried to get things back on track, but Sasha called out some witnesses of her own to watch her practice her cursive. Carmella and Zelina Vega came down, playing Sasha’s goons as both women signed. Belair was able to fight off all three women momentarily, including a sick flip over the table onto Sasha, but the numbers proved too much. Banks bounced her head off the table enough time it gave me a headache, ending things in a Bank Statement using the braid across Belair’s face. I could watch these two verbally abuse each other for hours, they’re both just so good in their respective roles. Carmella and Zelina are solid picks for Banks’ backup, given Mella’s history with the champ and the fact that Zelina desperately needs anything to do.
Wrestling Show Airs That at 10 PM on Fridays
205 Live, a show which is no longer live and not exclusive to performers under 205 pounds, gave us the only two remaining purple brand talents, Grayson Waller and Ikemen Jiro, alongside heavyweights Josh Briggs and Joe Gacy. It’s kind of painful to watch 205 and know what a shell this show has become, when three short years ago it was putting on bangers like Murphy vs Ali or Tozawa vs Gulak. Regardless, Jiro and Waller put on a solid show; Jiro played up his high-flying, with a senton to the outside that gave Waller a face-full of blazer. Another senton off the turnbuckle almost got the win, but Waller got his foot on the rope. A big boot and a leaping stompto the back of the head put Jiro down for the count. Gacy and Briggs was less my style, even if Joe Gacy can arguably do no wrong in a wrestling ring. They traded big boy strikes and slugged it out on the mat, until Gacy got a suplex. He seemed to be rolling before Briggs hit a clotheslines to score the three count.