It’s been an interesting couple of days for WWE. Following a mediocre episode of RAW, NXT delivered with one of their best episodes en route to Takeover: Stand and Deliver. With Wrestlemania rapidly approaching, we are seeing more and more of the card come into picture, with more midcard matches announced. Let’s see what has happened within WWE throughout the past week.
I want to start off by expressing how upset I am that WWE decided to break up The Hurt Business. They were easily one of the best things on Monday Night Raw, let alone all of WWE. My only guess as to why this happened is because the group was too popular as heels, so they had to switch things up. Hence why Baron Corbin got involved with the group. Lashley looked strong in a match against his former stablemates, as did McIntyre against Ricochet and Mustafa Ali before he got blindsided by Corbin. MVP swears that Corbin is not in the Hurt Business, but that can change within a few short weeks. If he’s not, the former King of the Ring winner could be Drew’s first opponent if he wins the title at Wrestlemania.
I’m still looking forward to Asuka vs Rhea Ripley at The Grandest Stage of them All, but do we really need a storyline where Mania opponents are forced to team up before their match? We already saw that on Smackdown, and this one feels even more rushed. They’re trying to copy the Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks rivalry and get it done within two weeks instead of three months. We’ll see what happens, but no matter what I’m excited for this bout.
If WWE hadn’t already lost my interest in the feud between Braun Strowman and Shane McMahon, they certainly did after last Monday’s episode of RAW. The report card segments with Shane and Elias was just ridiculous, and it was not remotely close to funny. Both McMahon and Strowman are suffering in this feud, and neither look good. I like the Steel Cage match stipulation; it’s the first since Hulk Hogan vs King Kong Bundy at Wrestlemania II. Just get it done and over with and make Braun the Monster Among Men again.
Another match I’m focusing on less is Randy Orton vs The Fiend. Yes, it’s cool to see The Fiend back on television, but the company has not taken major steps to convince me that this will be different from any other match of his. It’s Wrestlemania. This should be the biggest Fiend match to date, and I feel it’s a letdown that there is no stipulation. That could change on Monday’s RAW, but I’m not holding out hope.
I loved Hey Hey Hop Hop. I’m a sucker for good comedy from Miz and Morrison, and it felt like a classic bit from the team’s prime in 2008. I remember when they made fun of Cryme Tyme, and it had me in tears laughing. This was not as funny, but it was still rather enjoyable. Good sell by Miz as well. I can’t see Bad Bunny losing at The Show of Shows, but I have throughly enjoyed the build for this match. Great stuff.
I was not expecting Sheamus to be Riddle’s Wrestlemania opponent for the United States Championship. This is really good, however, as if Sheamus wins, that title is elevated back to a legitimate status. Not that it wasn’t before, but Riddle has been nowhere on the level that The Celtic Warrior has. I would like to see Sheamus take this and feud with former Hurt Business members.
The women’s tag title picture is a total mess. The current rumor is that multiple teams will fight on Night One for a match against Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax on Night Two. The two teams I’m interested in are Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke as well as Naomi and Lana. Whoever wins that match should take the belts at Wrestlemania. That title picture needs a shake up while Jax and Baszler try to win the RAW or SmackDown Women’s Titles.
This episode of SmackDown had one goal in mind: build up the Universal Title Triple Threat match. It feels like the most important match on the Wrestlemania card by a long shot, but it still does not have the vibe of a main event at The Show of Shows. On Friday, Daniel Bryan was the one who got the last laugh. Following a hard fought battle against Jey Uso, Bryan attacked Edge and put Roman Reigns in the Yes lock. There’s something to Daniel Bryan in these main event situations. Seven years ago, he inserted himself into the Wrestlemania main event and the crowd went ballistic. Between Edge, Reigns, and Bryan, it seems like D-Bry is the clear cut babyface. It’s still a toss up for who wins next week, but I’m sticking with my gut and saying Edge.
Imagine three weeks ago if someone told you Logan Paul was going to be on an upcoming episode of WWE. It would have been an insane thought. Well, on Friday’s show, the Youtube sensation came out to give his thoughts on the Sami Zayn documentary. Credit to him, he seemed like he genuinely wanted to be there. Plus, the trailer for Sami’s movie was actually not bad. It was interrupted by Kevin Owens, who gave a stunner to his former best friend. I’d expect Paul to be at Wrestlemania this year and bring even more star power to that bout.
Before I talk about the segment itself, I want to mention how amazing Seth Rollins and Corey Graves looked for the in ring promo with Cesaro. Those suits stood out to me during this entire bit. Anyways, the promos themselves were just okay, and I was already hyped for the Mania match long before last Friday. These two are phenomenal in the ring together, and I expect a show stealer come next weekend.
WWE has decided to go with a Nigerian Drum Fight for Apollo Crews vs Big E for the Intercontinental Championship. That’s interesting, as my guess for a stipulation was going to be the much maligned Stairs Match that we last saw at TLC 2014. I’m curious to see what entails a Nigerian Drum Fight, but it just reinforces my prior guess that Crews wins his first Intercontinental Championship.
It has been confirmed that there will be no Wrestlemania Pre Show for Night One, as instead there will be a special Wrestlemania edition of SmackDown one day prior. Good call here, as the first entrance with live fans back is going to be special, according to WWE. Therefore, the Fatal Four Way match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships, as well as the Andre the Giant Battle Royal will take place on free TV. I got Alpha Academy taking the belts, as they racked up yet another win this past Friday. For the battle royal, it’s anyone’s guess, although I did see Jey Uso, King Corbin, and Shinsuke Nakamura in there. Keep an eye out for those three.
It was another week and another big win for Bianca Belair as she heads towards her Wrestlemania encounter with Sasha Banks. The Boss has not come off as too much of a heel these past couple of weeks, and it may just be a face vs face encounter, which I would honestly prefer. I think Belair takes the belt from Sasha and establishes herself as the face of the SmackDown women’s division.
It was good to see Natalya get a quick surprise victory over Shayna Baszler. Add the team of her and Tamina to the Women’s Tag Title picture. Could Carmella take up Billie Kay’s offer to team up? On the latest episode of The Bump, The Princess of Staten Island seemed upset that she was not on the Wrestlemania card, so that could be a development worth watching over the next week.
As much as I want to put the focus towards Finn Balor, Karrion Kross, and the NXT Championship, the main feud on NXT is between Kyle O’Reilly and Adam Cole. The Prime Target preview that we saw on Wednesday’s episode gave me goosebumps, and I cannot wait until their unsactioned match at Stand and Deliver. It is gong to be physical, violent, and it has potential to go down as one of the greatest Takeover matches ever. Both Cole and O’Reilly have made great points in their promos as well.
There was not much on this week’s episode to build up the Kross-Balor match. Kross revealed his strategy to combat the current NXT Champion. My question is why would he reveal this before going into the battle against The Prince? Now, Balor has time to study Kross’ strategy and combat it. It makes no sense from a kayfabe perspective, although I think Kross is taking the belt.
Another match I’m excited for is WALTER vs Tommaso Ciampa vs the NXT UK Championship. We’ve only gotten promos from both individuals this past week, but that does not mean that the build to this match has been fantastic. WWE could go one of two ways here: have WALTER win and increase his stock, or have Ciampa take the belt and raise the UK Title to a higher standard. Either or works, so it’s a win win for the company.
We also got a promo for the NXT Tag Title triple threat, with very little in ring action. MSK chased off Legado del Fantasma while Grizzled Young Veterans appeared on the big screen. I wish the build for this match involved some more in ring action, but there’s only so much WWE can pack into a two hour bit.
Cameron Grimes is just a gem. He got one of the biggest wins of his NXT career against Roderick Strong, and the main celebrated accordingly. Grimes is one of the highlights of the black and yellow brand on a weekly basis, and his character has really begun to grow. Meanwhile, Strong is conflicted on the battle between Cole and O’Reilly, and it will be fascinating to see who he aligns with.
LA Knight is on the fast track to glory following his battle royal win, and now he qualifies for the NXT North American Championship Gauntlet. For him to get such a big win so early in his NXT career means something. It shows the faith that WWE has in the former Eli Drake, and he’s an amazing talker. On a side note, I’m a fan of his entrance music. It’s unlike anything he’s had before.
Raquel Gonzalez got a dominant win over Zoey Stark on Wednesday’s show. Stark has looked really good in the past couple of weeks, and Gonzalez has looked fanastic going into next week’s battle against Io Shirai. I also like how Shirai closed out the show before Stand and Deliver. This has been one of the best feuds on the Black and Yellow brand, and the segments during Wednesday’s episode helped a ton in piquing my interest.
I’m not surprised that Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell are challenging Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart for the NXT Women’s Tag Team titles. No team has been built up like LeRae and Hartwell, so it makes sense. I could also see them taking the belts from Moon and Blackheart. They are much more established, while Moon and Blackheart are better as singles competitors anyway.
Photo Credit on Featured Image: WWE