Raw brought out debuts, NXT gave us a man in a jean jacket going absolutely mental, and SmackDown had Sami and Kevin back at it again. Lots to discuss this week. It’s full throttle towards 36% capacity at Raymond James stadium, and we’ve got two nights of card to pad out.
Having Friends Backfires
Sheamus and Lashley squared off Monday night in another large guy free for all. Sheamus was taking it to the champ, able to overpower him briefly and stomp away in the corner. Lashley came back to get the Irishman in a headlock, then fired off with shots to his head. Lashley was backed up by The Hurt Business at ringside, whose interference helped him early on, as Alexander distracted the ref and allowed for Benjamin to wipe out Sheamus. Another distraction from Alexander almost cost the champ, as he asked his friend to back down and Sheamus took advantage with a roll up. Lashley blocked 10 Beats of the Bodhran, but wasn’t able to sidestep Sheamus coming off the top turnbuckle to get a two count. Lashley dodged the Brogue Kick and one last interference from Alexander allowed Lashley to land a spine buster and get Sheamus in The Hurt Lock. Benjamin and Alexander dragged Sheamus out of the ring and double teamed him, until McIntyre ran out to make the save.
This lead to a handicap match between the former tag champs and McIntyre, with the stipulation of The Hurt Business being banned from ringside at Mania if Drew won. McIntyre was easily handling Benjamin and Alexander to start, but eventually the numbers game caught up to him. Benjamin backed him into the corner and landed a right hand, but Drew caught him with a clothesline. McIntyre wanted the Claymore, but Cedric pulled his partner from the ring. The Hurt Business regained control with some double teams and nearly got the win over McIntyre a few times, but Lashley’s #1 adversary continued to kick out. Double Claymores to both Alexander and Benjamin finally put the two away, clearing McIntyre’s match at Mania. Backstage, MVP read both men the riot act like a teacher returning from jury duty to discover how the class treated the substitute. Lashley stormed into the C-level locker room to offer the 24/7 division a title shot for anyone who wiped out McIntyre. Very kind of Lashley to remember that guys like Humberto Carillo, Ricochet, and Ricochet’s tiny fedora still exist on Raw. It almost definitely won’t happen, but Gran Metalik vs Bobby Lashley for the WWE title is a license to print money, and I’m being 100% genuine.
Peyton Royce got some very good time on Monday night in a match against women’s champ Asuka, who writers have only recently remembered exists and should probably have stories running. Royce looked excellent here; admittedly, far better than she had teaming with Lacey Evans for a few months. She managed to dodge the hip attack early on, but got caught in a German for a 2 count. Peyton countered the Asuka Lock into a pin on the champ for a near fall herself. A double stomp earned her another 2 count, and she complained to the ref. Another strike from Asuka and Royce tapped to the Asuka Lock, but things weren’t over yet. Rhea Ripley’s music hit, and the Nightmare stomped to the ring. She praised Asuka as one of the greatest ever, which isn’t something WWE itself seems to recognize. She also brought up Charlotte Flair testing positive for COVID, presumably keeping her out of Mania. Ripley laid down the challenge and the Empress accepted; a huge sign of just how highly the company thinks of Ripley. This should be a fantastic match for both women, but I hope we’ll see Asuka walk out of Mania still holding that title.
Fiend Burns Viper
The Fried Fiend had everyone buzzing at Fastlane, including Randall Keith Orton. He came out on Raw to promise everyone he was going to end Wyatt once and for all—y’know, beyond setting him on fire. Alexa Bliss emerged to warn Randy to be careful what he wished for, then hit the lights. Some pyro and The Fiend appeared, but Randy was ready. He grabbed his personal gas container he always keeps on hand and doused Wyatt. Unfortunately, he seemed to have forgotten his Bic, as he landed an RKO instead of lighting The Fiend up again. However, The Fiend stood up and got Orton in the Mandible Claw before hitting him with Sister Abigail. Bliss pointed at the pirate sign, and we’re getting Orton vs The Fiend at Mania. We might have real live fans this year, but that doesn’t mean we have to go without Bray Wyatt cinematic shenanigans. My real question here is- Randy’s fought The Fiend before, shouldn’t he know an RKO isn’t gonna do squat?
Canadian Tuxedo vs Muscle Tee Mark
Things continued to get worse between Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole this week, which is a difficult feat, considering last week they had each other arrested for attempted vehicular manslaughter. Regal sat the two down for a good, clean contract signing, featuring each man accompanied by his own personal bodyguards. Since Kyle still isn’t medically cleared, this has to be an unsanctioned match at Stand and Deliver. Before he picked up the pen, Adam regaled us all with a story of how he never needed UE, and how Kyle was responsible for all his personal failures in life. Adam was real hot about Kyle making other friends and called the mohawked superstar a “lapdog” and a “sidekick.” After absorbing all of Adam’s criticism, Kyle complained about how being a bad boy made him feel sad inside. He refused to play Adam’s bullying games now, calling Cole the “same asshole” as when he first came to NXT. Cole was an excellent talker as always, while O’Reilly’s promo got more solid as he went on; he ended strong, claiming he was going to sleep well for the first time in four years after he kicks Adam’s teeth in. The two ended things by simply screaming at each other while security held them apart. Regal called this the “co main-event” of night two of Stand and Deliver, which sounds kind of like coming in third in a three person race. Regardless, the emotional history between the two is palpable, and it should be a very good match next month.
Three Men Enter, Adam Pearce Leaves
Daniel Bryan, like most male vegans I’ve met, refused to let anything go when he once again challenged Roman Reigns for a Universal Title opportunity. Long time fans will recall Bryan/Reigns at Fastlane ended with Reigns tapping to the Yes Lock for no one to see, and the Big Dog ended up retaining following some chair shots from Edge. Bryan was, understandably, a little miffed about this result. Edge came out to tell Daniel he was trying to cheat the system, which was Edge’s whole gimmick from about ‘97-‘10. Adam Pearce tried to tell Bryan he already printed schedules for Mania, but Daniel offered to face the winner of Edge vs Roman on night two. Edge ended the segment with a spear through Bryan’s plant based heart, and followed it up with a chair shot. Throughout the night, all three men got mad at Adam Pearce for varying reasons, with Roman Reigns refusing to compete two nights in a row like the workers rights legend he is. This led to the foursome to take to the ring for SmackDown’s final segment of the night. Adam Pearce announced what we all saw coming: It would be a triple threat at Mania. Daniel was the only one happy about this, and all three guys started to fight, ending with chair shots from Edge to Bryan and Roman, then to the officials for trying to stop him. The Rated R Superstar popped a squat in a chair and sat tall to close the show. I have no complaints about Bryan in the title match; you could toss him in a title match with literally any two dudes and I’d be intrigued, but Edge and Roman? Do the kids still say “my body is ready?”
Men Who Promised to Fight Forever Fighting Yet Again
Good to see the wrestling talk show is still going strong, in an era where the general public doesn’t really like to spend time on wrestling or talk shows. Kevin Owens was hosting the KO Show when former friend turned enemy turned friend turned coworker Sami Zayn interrupted. Last week, Zayn inadvertently hit Owens with a Helluva kick at ringside, and there have been worse ways to build a Mania match. He attempted to apologize to Kevin, then quickly segued into announcing that Logan Paul, one time guest star on Law and Order SVU, would be at the premiere of Sami’s documentary. As someone who presumably can’t name a YouTuber past about 2012, Kevin was thoroughly underwhelmed, and instead challenged Zayn to a match at WM. Sami hesitantly agreed, so Kevin took the opportunity to land a stunner and seal the deal. I’ve got nothing to complain about here; Sami and Kevin at Mania is the stuff of Quebecker Legend.
EST of the Best
Bianca Belair said she was taking the high road when it came to Sasha Banks, even though things seemed to have soured between the two. She acknowledged Banks as a force in the women’s division, but that was old news, and it was time for her to make history. Belair faced Natalya on Friday night, with the Queen of Harts accompanied by Tamina. Bianca used some quick offense to get the upper hand early, until Sasha’s music hit. Banks came out to take a look at her frenemy, and Tamina used the distraction to superkick Belair off the turnbuckle. Natalya took control and had Bianca in a submission, then kicked her face first into the mat. Bianca managed some strikes and a spinebuster for a 2 count. Both women went back and forth with counters until Sasha stood up at commentary and talked trash to Bianca. Belair slapped her hard, then rolled back in the ring to get Nattie in the KOD and win. Post-match, Sasha ran in to beat down Belair. Feels very obvious that this should be the main event of night one, if only because it’s going to blow absolutely everything else out of the water.
The 205 OGs chalked up another win on Friday night against the Bollywood Boyz—who, technically, are also 205 OGs. Pretty sure they were in the purple brand’s first ever match, but that’s history, and in wrestling, we can never learn from it. Daivari took it to Samir to start, backing him into the corner with some right hands, but Singh managed to turn things around on Nese. Daivari saved Nese on the apron but got knocked off by Samir. He came back in to stomp away on Singh, then tagged in Nese to get Samir in the body scissors. A spinning kick nearly got Nese the win, but Samir came back with a neckbreaker to drop Daivari. Sunil tagged in and cleared the ring, and the brothers tried for a double team, but Daivari broke it up with a kick to the back. A crossbody on the outside got the Bollywood Boyz some momentum, until Daivari landed the Hammerlock Lariat and picked up a clean win for the bad boys. Solid match; again, I lament that Daivari and Nese are not closer to the title picture, but at least we get to hear Ariya’s banging theme.