It’s two weeks post-WrestleMania, and WWE has a choice to make; can they shake things up, or should they deliver the exact same content we’ve seen on repeat for the past few months? They seemed to land somewhere in the middle, where every step forward also gave us two steps back. Take a look at Raw, for example: Charlotte Flair is a boost to the women’s division, but they wouldn’t need a continual shot in the arm if they gave those ladies more than half a storyline every six months.
Monster Among Monsters Among McIntyre
Drew McIntyre opened Raw by calling out MVP for orchestrating the choke slam he suffered last week. The VP of the Hurt Business came out to deny all claims of pulling any strings, but before Drew could get a piece of that three piece suit, Mace and T-Bar once again jumped him. Another choke slam and Drew was peeved enough to ask for a match with both tall men. Adam Pearce was looking out for the health of his handsome friend and denied a handicap match, but told Drew that if he could find a tag partner, he could make that happen. Pearce must have the shortest memory in the business, because about 20 minutes later, we got a graphic advertising the handicap match. When the match got underway, McIntyre managed to handle both big men, until they gave up on the tag system and double teamed him again. Several stomps in the corner ended the match in a DQ, but Braun Strowman was tired of that same old booking and stormed down to the ring. This lead to—you guessed it—a tag match. The devil works hard, but Adam Pearce works harder.
Strowman and Mace started with a beefy standoff, but Braun got the best of his mysterious opponent. McIntyre managed to pull off Mace’s mask during the match, then used it to slap him around in the corner. McIntyre refused to let up, leading to another DQ. T-Bar dumped Drew and Strowman joined in the fun by unmasking T-Bar as well. Commentary pretended they’d never seen Dio Maddin or Dominik Dijacovik before, even though Maddin literally did commentary on Raw last year. This wasn’t much of a match for McIntyre or Strowman, but hopefully brighter things are in store for the men formerly known as Retribution.
United States Champ Declares What Craic Is
Adam Pearce called Sheamus into his office to discuss the US Champ open challenge to Mountain Dew commercial star pipeline. Sheamus wasn’t super excited about following in Cena’s footsteps, but he offered his own open challenge anyway. Out came Humberto Carrillo, far too handsome and talented to be wasting away in 24/7 division catering. Sheamus jumped him during his entrance, stomping away and throwing him over the ropes. The champ decimated Carrillo on the outside, ending with a Brogue Kick in the ring, and there was no match. While it does make sense for Sheamus’ character to refuse any kind of challenge, it still felt like a missed opportunity to use any of the long forgotten guys in the back in an attempt at a real match. Obviously Sheamus should handily win, but even a 30 second match would have been a better use of Carrillo here. We didn’t even get to see one flip! Most unfortunate.
3 Refs vs 1 Queen
Charlotte Flair popped on another bedazzled outfit and cut another promo about being left out of WrestleMania. She said her ass was really chapped because while Asuka and Rhea had their match, she was still the topic of discussion, without even being on the card. She also called out the women’s locker room for hating each other as much as they hated her, a little inspo pulled from her partner Andrade’s recent interview. WWE often struggles to try and pull off “shoot” promos, but the comments worked for Flair’s character here. Both The Empress and The Nightmare came out to tell her to take her shoulder pads and get on outta here, but Charlotte continued to talk over them until Asuka called her a bitch. The return of a classic heel Flair is very welcome; this is the role she plays the best, and it’s a good counter to both Asuka and Ripley right now.
Flair and Asuka main evented later in the night in a banger, featuring Ripley at ringside. Both women were rolling to start; Asuka got control for a moment, but a missed Hip Attack let Charlotte briefly take over. Asuka came back with a dropkick off the turnbuckle, scoring a close count before getting Flair in an arm bar. It turned into a slugfest in the center of the ring as Ripley circled around with a look of glee, like there was an impending sale at Hot Topic. Charlotte targeted the knee and went for the Figure Eight, but Rhea grabbed her arms to grab it. Charlotte pulled her by the extremely slick hair to try and get her in the ring, which allowed Asuka to come in with a crucifix pin to win. A heated Charlotte took her anger out on the ref, throwing him clear across the ring. She beat the absolute crap out of him as multiple refs yelled at her; given the fragile constitution of most referees, I imagine this man was near death.
Kool Kanadian Triumphs
Kyle O’Reilly returned to NXT this week with a fedora, double denim, and a lot on his mind. He gently removed his sunglasses to address the question on everyone’s mind; what’s next? After vanquishing Adam Cole, there were a lot of options: he could go for Gargano and the North American title, or have a slow and probably less interesting match with Kross for the NXT championship. Cameron Grimes and his stacks of cash appeared to make Kyle a business deal where they’d go in on Mankind NFTs or something. Kyle thought things over and decided he was actually against harming the environment to own a GIF, and challenged Grimes to a match in our main event instead. Much better use of time.
Kyle started things off going for submissions on the mat. Grimes tried to target O’Reilly’s neck with a suplex, then went for a submission of his own. Kyle escaped with some punches to the stomach, then locked in an arm bar. A knee strike almost ended things, but Grimes somehow stayed alive. A diving knee from the top rope finally finished the grits master, and Kyle stood tall. O’Reilly has a lot of options going forward, but I won’t lie and say I’d like to see him and Kross go at it.
Cesaro has been on fire lately, with a WrestleMania victory and a challenge issued to Roman Reigns recently. Unfortunately, another man who enjoys burning things down still has something to say about the Swiss Superman. Rollins interrupted Cesaro as he opened SmackDown, blaming both God and the Florida weather as reasons he lost at Mania. Cesaro was game for a rematch, but was interrupted for the second time in 90 seconds by Jey Uso. Uso wasn’t impressed by the whole humiliating Seth Rollins thing, and declared that Cesaro didn’t deserve a shot at Reigns. This, in turn, brought out Daniel Bryan, who defended Cesaro’s honor by also interrupting his promo. Reigns came out to call the babyfaces losers right to their youthful mugs, and we had another tag match.
Overly drawn out opener aside, the match itself was very solid. The heels came out strong, overwhelming Cesaro until Bryan tagged in and landed the Yes kicks. Uso landed a Samoan Drop on Bryan, but the Total Bellas guest star still managed to give his partner the hot tag. Cesaro nailed Uso with a few uppercuts, while Bryan took out Seth on the outside. Cesaro jumped off the turnbuckle straight into a superkick from Uso, but the faces weren’t finished. Cesaro locked in the Sharpshooter on Rollins, forcing Uso to break it up. The experience was terrible enough that Seth simply stormed off, leaving Jey on his own to eat another uppercut and a running knee. Bryan and Cesaro scored the victory, then followed things up by giving Uso a couple swings. When Roman refused to appear, Bryan suggested they double down and swing some more, leaving Jey very dizzy and Bryan very pleased. Daniel told Reigns he knew the champ couldn’t beat Cesaro one on one, so he was leaving Uso to have his brains scrambled. Cesaro is always fantastic to watch, but it’s an extra treat every 12-14 months when the company seems to remember just how damn good he is.
Later in the night, Reigns came out to remind everyone that the head of the table calls the shots. He issued a challenge to Bryan for next week, offering him another shot at the Universal Title—but if Daniel loses, he can’t be seen on SmackDown again. What a coincidence, because I think the draft is coming up. Another Bryan/Reigns match should be great, and when Reigns/Cesaro finally happens, that will be absolute gold.
Apollo Crews and new friend Commander Azeez put Crews’ IC title on the line against Kevin Owens. Big E was a little miffed at being left out of the title conversation, but the show must go on. After some interference from Azeez, Apollo was in control, until he missed a moonsault to the outside. Owens took advantage with a superkick, then hit a Swanton Bomb for a near fall, broken up only by the dulcet tones of World’s Apart. Sami Zayn joined commentary, much to Owen’s chagrin. A cannonball scored KO a two count, but Azeez again provided a distraction that let Apollo roll up the challenger to retain. Kevin hit a revenge stunner, leading to the Nigerian Nail (a Samoan Spike) from Azeez to lay him out. Sami danced over Kevin’s fallen body in a move Par McAfee called “fire flames, bro.” You’ll hear no argument from me. This match was good, but it felt like there were too many moving pieces between Zayn on commentary and Azeez with the distractions. Crews and Owens were good togethe— I’d love to see more between them.
Say It to My Face
If you’ve been sorely missing Reginald shaking up the women’s division, I’ve got some great news for you RegHeads: he’s back, and as irrelevant as ever. Nia and Shayna had some creative differences on Monday night, resulting in a loss to Naomi and Lana when Jax chose her pride over her tag partner. Shayna still accompanied her partner, and Reggie, to face Tamina on Friday. Nia was all over Tamina to start, but she turned things around after some trash talk from Jax. Tamina went for another slam, but Baszler grabbed her ankle, which doesn’t seem like it should offer much genuine protection, but somehow saved her. Tamina rammed Jax into the barricade, but an attempted distraction from Reggie lead to Shayna getting a boot to the face. Baszler backed Reginald into the steps on the outside, distracting Nia long enough to let Tamina land a superkick and win. The 45-60 seconds where Tamina was going off on Nia on the outside was probably the strongest we’ve seen her in the past 5 years. I want to complain about this match being short, but it played to her strengths here and made her look like she can more than measure up against Jax. I can only hope this Reggie drama is leading to a Baszler/Jax split.
In other women’s division news, Bayley interrupted a Dirty Dawgs/Street Profits showdown backstage to remind us that she’s facing Bianca at Backlash. Sorry, WrestleMania Backlash. She called out Belair for not thanking her for all the development Bayley helped her with since coming to SmackDown. Montez Ford returned with Bianca on FaceTime and let the EST know what was going on, so she popped over IRL to set the record straight. Bayley instantly corrected herself and congratulated Belair for her Mania victory, then gave a maniacal laugh and walked away. Bayley can do just about no wrong at this point, and she and Belair should be a banger.
It was a battle of the fanny packs when August Grey and Ashante Thee Adonis faced off. Adonis still wrestles in overalls, which is very impressive in my book. If Grey were a real 80s throwback, his trunks would be much for high waisted, but I’m no designer. Grey tried for several covers early on, but Adonis dropped him with a shoulder tackle. He rammed the rope into Grey’s throat and dumped him to the outside. Two elbow drops and Grey rolled out of the way, but ran right into a dropkick. Adonis got him in the Captain’s Hook as Ariya Daivari came out to ringside. A top rope crossbody let Grey mount a comeback, but both men laid each other out on the outside. Daivari urged Grey to take the countout win, but August declared he was doing things his way. Adonis used the distraction to again dump Grey on the ropes, then hit the Long Kiss Goodnight to win. The story of Grey refusing to take count outs is the most basic baby face thing I can think of, but I guess it’s working here.