WWE spent this week building to next Sunday’s WrestleMania Backlash. Returns, triple threats, and wrestlers being sprayed with fire extinguishers; what more can you ask for in your entertainment? If you answered “a generally 80’s themed episode of a show that didn’t exist in the 80’s,” then buddy, you are in luck.
Very Tall Man Very Intimidating in Wrestling
The promised son finally made his post-WrestleMania return; that’s right, Raw Tag Team Champion Omos was in the building on Monday night. Styles and Omos cut a promo about drinking pina coladas and disliking tomatoes, before their scheduled rematch with New Day. They were interrupted by Kingston and Woods, who told “Omos’ tall ass” a thing or two. Styles tagged in the big man right away to start the match, letting him throw Woods around the ring. Kingston came in to try his luck, but he couldn’t seem to cut Omos down. A double drop kick from New Day seemed to shake the colossus, but Omos came back and dropped both men. Styles inadvertently tagged in and allowed New Day to start rolling. They waled on Styles for a minute before he managed to roll back to his corner and bring in the leader of the Omosapians. A back breaker to both Woods and Kingston, and Styles came in to finish things off with a Phenomenal Forearm off of Omos’ shoulder. This followed the same formula as their Mania match, but that’s probably gonna be a pitfall of the Omos and Styles team. Still, they’re entertaining enough together, I don’t mind seeing AJ ride on his pal’s shoulders for the next few months.
Opportunity Maker Gets Opportunity
After handily defeating Mandy Rose last week, Charlotte looked for a clean sweep with the Sexy Muscle Friends. Commentary briefly mentioned the Dana Brooke/Charlotte alliance from 2016 that we’d all forgotten about. Charlotte kicked things off by slapped Dana around and calling her “still my bitch,” until Brooke went off on her. We got some gymnastic moves, but Charlotte countered and dumped her on the ropes. A big boot on the apron kept the Queen in control, and following a brief Dana comeback featuring a sweet Swanton Bomb, Charlotte scored the win with the Figure Eight. She refused to break the hold after Dana tapped, so Mandy cut her off with a dropkick and a big knee. She kicked Charlotte out of the ring, which new #1 Flair stan Sonya Deville was none too happy to see.
Deville came out to remind us she was just as cool as Adam Pearce, and she held just as much power as the Scrap Daddy himself. She agreed to Charlotte’s proposal that she be added to the upcoming Backlash match between Ripley and Asuka; prompting some literal backlash from the champion and challenger. After some generic tough talk was exchanged, Asuka cleared the ring of both women and gave us a little dance. I don’t have a problem with Charlotte being in the match; she has history with both Ripley and Asuka, and it’s not like it won’t be good to watch.
Give Us a Smile
Raw must have been reading my personal tweets, because they gave Humberto Carrillo screen time for the third week in a row. After ambushing Sheamus during another open challenge last week, Carrillo was jumped by the champ backstage in a preemptive strike. Instead, Sheamus was challenged by Mansoor, making his Raw debut. Mansoor is undefeated thus far in WWE, and he’s a great cruiserweight, so I can only imagine his Raw career will be full of 24/7 spots with Tozawa and Gulak.
Mansoor had some early offense, but Sheamus dominated with 10 Beats of the Bodhran, and stretched Mansoor’s mouth into a beautiful smile right into the camera. He sent the newcomer into the time keeper’s area, but Manny still made the count. Mansoor managed a comeback with a Tornado DDT, but Sheamus’ power was just too much. The champ was going to finish things, until Carrillo ambushed him with a dropkick. A suicide dive to the outside from Carrillo, but Sheamus landed a Brogue Kick back in the ring, and both babyfaces were laid out. It’s nice to see some real fight from Carrillo, who’s been given a whole lot of nothing for much of his time on Raw. He’s not going to stack up to Sheamus here, but it’s definitely a better look for him than a squash. A very solid performance from Mansoor as well, and we got to see Sheamus beat somebody up without his fedora even sliding off. A good night was had by all.
Candice LeRae’s The Way (feat. Johnny Gargano)
It’s been over three years since Candice LeRae joined WWE, and it’s been a long, bumpy ride for the Cupcakes. Wednesday night finally saw NXT do something they arguably should have done 2 and a half years ago, and pull the trigger on a LeRae title reign. Alongside Indi Hartwell and representing the better half of The Way, she took on Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart in a fantastic tag title main event. LeRae jumped the champs before the match to get the advantage; they were down a tank in the entrance because Franky Monet’s dog had popped a squat in it.
The faces came back by crushing LeRae in between trash cans lids, while her partner was trapped in the can itself. Candice brought out a fire extinguisher to hose off the competition. Blackheart tried to eliminate Hartwell with a big splash through the commentary table, but still Dexter Lumis’ special friend made a comeback. A diving elbow through another table wiped out Moon, leaving LeRae and Blackheart one on one. LeRae used brass knuckles stolen from big cheese William Regal himself to nail Blackheart, and then landed Wicked Stepsister onto a chair. A fantastic match and a well deserved win for The Way. It’s nice to finally see NXT knows just how capable Candice is when she’s not shackled to the Gargano/Ciampa saga. Hartwell has really grown in the group as well—huge bummer we’re getting Theory singles matches when we could be seeing her tear it up twice as much.
The Family That Superkicks Together Stays Together
It was a Throwback SmackDown, which ended up meaning very little outside of some 80’s style graphics. It did, blissfully, herald the return of Teddy Long, who told Cesaro that if he won his match against Seth Rollins, he’d get to go one on one with the Undertaker! Wait—make that one on one with Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship. Both Reigns and Rollins took the opportunity to jump Cesaro, leaving the Swiss Cyborg at a disadvantage going into his match.
Rollins easily took control as we started off, but Cesaro came back with some fiery uppercuts. Seth managed to block the Swing, and land the Falcon Arrow for a two count. Jey Uso tried to interfere, but Seth called him off, because he didn’t need help to get the job done, unlike some cousins I could name. Jey and Seth argued, leading to a superkick from a returned Jimmy Uso that set him up for the Neutralizer. Cesaro scored the win, officially sending him to WrestleMania Backlash to face Reigns in what should be a banger.
The family drama continued throughout the night, when Reigns attempted to verbally berate Jimmy for screwing up and helping Cesaro win—but Jimmy did the unthinkable and stood up for himself. Later in the night, Reigns brought the whole squad out to publicly ask Jimmy to acknowledge him as the Tribal Chief. Jimmy, who was still stuck on that time Roman put him in the Guillotine at Hell in a Cell, refused, and when he and Jey both stepped away, Cesaro attacked Roman in the ring. Jey ran back to help, and after some momentary consideration, Jimmy joined him- though, it would seem, only to help his brother. Cesaro managed to uppercut the whole family and hit Neutralizers on Jey and Roman, ripping off his shirt in joy. It was a good way to end the show, and not just because Cesaro ripped through a button down like it was nothing.
Jimmy returning solidifies Reigns’ family; with both Uso’s ringside, I can only imagine the shenanigans the Big Dog will pull. Cesaro more than deserves this long awaited title shot. Rollins is the one who seems directionless here, but I’m not too mad about it; the messiah gimmick is still solid enough that he can skate on the same BS for a while.
The build to Bayley vs. Bianca has been a little hit or miss, with the misses being anything involving Ziggler and Roode. Which is a shame, considering the amount of talent that’s going to be in the ring next Sunday. Still, few do obnoxious middle aged mom asking for the manager better than Bayley, as she proved once again this Friday night. She came out to celebrate retro SmackDown by talking about past women’s champions. Jacqueline, Lita, Molly Holly, Beth Phoenix, etc, all got the Bayley run down—ending with Bianca herself. She called out Belair for being naive and not knowing what awaited her at Backlash.
Bianca came to straighten some things out, like the fact that she was going to knock Bayley off the board and become the longest reigning SmackDown women’s champ. She explained that all you need to get ahead in the world is confidence and the ability to rock bedazzled sunglasses, which primarily comes from the confidence anyway. The Role Model took offense and the two briefly went back and forth, ending with an earring pull and a Roseplant to leave Bayley gloating over Belair. It’s very basic feud material, but I’ll watch Bayley do her best supervillain cackle for at least 10 minutes flat. She’s a great choice for Bianca’s first challenger; she won’t win, but she can look damn convincing before taking a KOD over the top rope.
Wrath of Reggie
Reginald continues to dominate the Women’s division as Nia Jax’s personal—what is he now? The man hasn’t brought out any wine in a hot minute. Either way, he took another bullet for intergender wrestling by facing Tamina. He wore a printed tee with Shayna and Nia on it for the occasion, which is actually something all managers should be doing. Tamina wanted the superkick right away, but Reginald flipped away. Tamina grabbed the hair, but Reggie managed to escape. He climbed the turnbuckle and spun back to safety in the ring, giving us a little dance before Tamina finally connected with a superkick. She went for the splash, but Jax pulled Reginald to safety as Baszler went after Tamina. The heels wiped out both Tamina and Natalya, earning retribution for their fallen friend. This was short and to the point and that’s all I could have asked for. Giving Nattie and Tamina the belts at Backlash would be the best call—Jax and Baszler are past their expiration date. Tamina and Natalya work well together, and teaming has elevated both women.
Handsome Man Arrives
205 Live got even more hip this week with the debut of Ikemen Jiro, who teamed with August Grey to take on the 205 OGs. Grey rocked a glittered blazer to match his partner, which was actually a great look, but sadly lost the jacket before he wrestled. No doubt Jiro will teach him a thing or two. Both heels stomped away on Grey in the corner, but he managed a tag to bring in Jiro again. He dropped Daivari and Nese and gave us some good jacket spots, before Daivari nailed him in the back of the head. Ariya went for a sleeper, but Jiro battled back to hit a jawbreaker. Nese took out Grey on the apron and went after Jiro again, but the handsome one hit a suplex to rock Nese. Both guys made the tag and Grey wiped out Daivari, but couldn’t get the three count.
The OGs tried to double team Grey, but Jiro ran in to save his partner. He tagged in and nailed a moonsault to the outside to take down both heels. A senton should have won, but Daivari pulled Nese to safety. A huge kick from Jiro to Nese’s face scored the win for party guys everywhere. This was one of my favorite 205 main events in a long time, because Jiro brings something notably different from the rest of the purple brand. The newer crop of 205 guys are all very talented, but the majority of them wrestle a similar style; many of the matches feel repetitive. Jiro’s just plain fun in the ring, and having him go against the no nonsense Nese and Daivari was a great call. The cruiserweight belt feels almost divorced from 205 at this point, but I’m gonna ask it anyway—Ikemen Jiro vs Kushida when??