By Kyle Jones
What an interesting time to be a wrestling fan. With the WWE Draft wrapping up, Crown Jewel on the horizon, and AEW on the up-and-up it’s time to break down the weekend that was and get ready for the week that will be.
After WWE’s premiere episode on Fox packed star power and good matches, anticipation was high for the second edition last Friday. Fans were sorely disappointed though, when the show opened with a lukewarm match between Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, to decide which show (Raw or SmackDown) got first pick in the WWE Draft.
The match itself was fine, nothing too special, but as the match was reaching its climax all of the lights in the building went dark and an eerie sound played. The lights flickered back on to show The Fiend crawling out from a hole in the ring to attack Rollins. The Fiend locked in his devastating Mandible Claw, and began to drag Rollins back under the ring.
It would have been an amazing visual to start the show, had Rollins just stayed under the ring. Instead, he crawled out seconds later with The Fiend looking on. Then, the lights flickered off again, The Fiend “teleported” to the top of the ramp, and that was the match. Rollins was declared the winner via disqualification and Raw was given first pick in the draft.
WWE continues to kill the gimmick of The Fiend. What was once the coolest draw in the company is quickly turning into another failed attempt to get Bray Wyatt over with the fans.
There were a few filler matches on this show but it was mainly occupied by the WWE Draft. King Corbin defeated “Shorty” Gable, The New Day defeated The OC, Brock Lesnar and Cain Velassquez looked at each other, but the highlight of the night had to be the main event.
In a rematch from Hell in a Cell, Charlotte Flair defended her newly won Smackdown Women’s Championship against Bayley. Charlotte entered first, followed by Bayley, who waited at the top of the entrance ramp for a few seconds until her entrance music shut off. Then, she did the unthinkable.
Bayley took off her hoodie to unveil an edgy new look: short, jet black hair and new yellow and black ring attire. Gone were the bright and bold colors that made up “The Hugger’s” look since her debut in NXT. Bayley took a stick with razor blades on the ends, and slashed her inflatable “Bayley Buddies” to smithereens. Videos flooded Twitter as young fans cried in agony over their favorite wrestler unleashing her dark side
It was a moment older fans have been waiting for, but never truly expected.
Bayley turned heel, and it was marvelous.
She walked down to the ring, stared down Charlotte, and then beat her and won back the Championship. The finish was great too. Charlotte hit Bayley with her finishing move, the Natural Selection, but before Charlotte could score the pinfall Bayley rolled her up in a small package and got the three-count.
Bayley rolled out of the ring, grabbed her newly regained Championship belt, took the mic and yelled to a cheering crowd, “Hey b*****s, screw all of you.”
New Bayley does not care what you think of her, and that’s just the way it should be.
This match alone turned an overall sour SmackDown to one that left viewers feeling satisfied. It was another example of great card structure by WWE, as a poor show was rescued by a magnificent main event.
Raw kicked off with a match to decide who got first pick on night two of the WWE Draft. Becky Lynch took on Charlotte Flair, who was filling in for an injured Sasha Banks.
Becky Lynch won after a hard fought match, by rolling Charlotte up in a small package. WWE needs to be careful with overusing the small package for Charlotte’s matches. It’s a cheap tactic, never feels like a true finish, lessens the result of the match, and makes Charlotte look like an amateur despite being the most decorated women’s wrestler in company history.
After a few draft picks, Andrade and Ali fought. This match had such great potential, and these two have to fight more often. They’re both high-flying showstoppers who can put on incredible matches. Unfortunately this match wasn’t given nearly enough time as it deserved. Andrade won after a bit of help from Zelina Vega.
After a few more draft picks, The Viking Raiders fought Robert Roode and Dolph Zigglre for the Raw Tag Team Championships.
Roode and Ziggler are an incredibly weird team. They seem like a last second unit thrown together as a placeholder that somehow won the Championships. The Viking Raiders, who have been a dominant unit since before joining WWE, won easily.
This title reign for the Vikings deserves to be a long one. Before they joined WWE they were known as Hanson and Roe, War Machine. War Machine was one of the most dominant teams on Earth, winning tag team gold in Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, among many other promotions. The War Machine name may be gone, and Hanson and Roe are now known as Erik and Ivar, but the talent remains.
Allister Black squashed Eric Young and Ricochet beat Shelton Benjamin in a surprisingly entertaining match.
In a match pulled right off of the dying husk of 205 Live, Cedric Alexander fought Buffy Murphy. This was, as expected, an entertaining match between two guys who constantly put on entertaining matches with each other. Buddy Murphy won with a power-bomb and his finisher, Murphy’s Law.
The final match on Raw featured the Kabuki Warriors and the team of Natalya and Lacey Evans, two women who had been in a feud last week but are teaming now because WWE thinks its audience has less memory retention than a month-old baboon.
Seriously, why in the world would these two be teaming up after they were just in a feud last week. This teaming was pointless, the Kabuki Warriors won, and this match should never take place again.
The show was not over though. In a spill over from SmackDown, Seth Rollins searched for and found the Firefly Funhouse, then he burned it down.
Raw was a very basic show. Nothing incredible, nothing terrible. It’s surprising that the Rollins-Fiend feud is continuing after the absolute stinker they had at Hell in a Cell, but if the rematch is good then fans will be happy.
WWE Draft Recap
The WWE ought to be ashamed of themselves for how this draft went about. Throughout the days leading up to the draft, fans were told it was a must see event that would change WWE forever. There would be guest presenters and surprises galore. Then the WWE released a list of “available superstars,” killing any potential for surprise returns or crazy twists.
In past drafts, the element of surprise was what made people tune in. It was like the Royal Rumble without the wrestling. This year though, there were no surprises. In fact, the list that the WWE released wound up being the order that the first 11 superstars were selected in.
There were no celebrity announcers, just some pre-taped segments were Fox hosts talked about drafts in general and named their favorite superstars.
The fans didn’t want to see Urban Myer talking about Hulk Hogan, they wanted Hulk Hogan to announce a surprise call-up from NXT was going to RAW.
This was, by far, the worst draft in a very long time. (Maybe that’s why the XFL Draft was so pathetic)
So what’s next?
A lot actually. Crown Jewel is just a few weeks away, so get ready for more build towards matches between Seth Rollins and The Fiend, Braun Strowman and Tyson Fury, Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez, and that weird Team Hogan vs Team Flair match that could have easily been saved for Survivor Series but wasn’t.
With NXT on USA Network, those storylines will also be fun to watch. Rhea Ripley is going after Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship, which will be a super intense matchup. Walter is, well, Walter, and Tomasso Ciampa is back so hopefully a match between him and Adam Cole or Johnny Gargano is in the works.
Finally, AEW looks to continue their winning streak in the ratings against NXT. Darby Allin takes on Chris Jericho for the AEW World Championship and Riho defends her Women’s Championship against Britt Baker.
There will also be plenty of tag-team action on the card as Kenny Omega and Hangman Page and take on Jon Moxley and PAC. The first round of the Tag-Team Championship Tournament continues with SOCAL Uncensored taking on the Best Friends and The Lucha Brothers taking on Jurassic Express.
I fully expect AEW to rule in the ratings again this week as every one of those matches looks like an absolute showstopper.
There’s lots of great wrestling to be had this week (most of it not from WWE) so come back next week to get a recap of what went down and to get ready for the week ahead.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org