We’re all the way back at Full Sail for this one. Is that what they mean by “The Return”?
Let’s find out, shall we?
Their entrances are barely finished when fists start flying in our opening match. Liv Morgan & Peyton Royce brawl, with Royce getting the better of the exchange. She headbutts her down and pushes her to the apron with a knee, where she applies something like an reverse triangle choke while dangling from the ropes. After the referee gets the break, Morgan battles back - first with strikes, then by evading a pin attempt and countering with one of her own for two. Rapid offense from Liv that includes clotheslines, a drop kick and a bulldog. After she clears Billie Kay from the apron, she locks in a guillotine choke, but Kay attacks to save Peyton from tapping and trigger the disqualification in about two minutes.
Kay & Royce continue to assault Liv, but Aliyah races in to assist her. She gets in a few strikes, but ends up being hit by a rib shot that levels her. Morgan is hurled out of the ring, and Peyton delivers a facebuster to Aliyah - right onto Billie’s knee. Ember Moon’s music spooks the Aussies, and they get taken out by a crossbody by the latest woman into the fray. Moon takes care of Royce & Kay with kicks and a clothesline while Morgan recovers to hit stereo drop kicks so the faces can stand tall.
The first of several video packages on the night catches us up on the Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Cedric Alexander match which will main event this episode. We also get a synopsis of the Dusty Rhodes Classic Tag Team Tournament which reminds us Paul Ellering will be suspended above the ring in a shark cage so he can’t interfere when his Authors of Pain face TM-61 in the finals on Saturday at TakeOver: Toronto.
- Fun little brawl to open. Especially liked the fire both women showed during the brief official match portion of the segment, which set the tone in making the whole thing feel like a big deal.
- Everyone involved came out of this looking pretty good - except Aliyah. She’s been no help against DAT NUMBERS GAME on a couple occassions now, and didn’t even get to take part in the ring clearing once Ember showed up.
- The three people they need to immediately step up for the women’s division - Moon, Royce & Kay - all look more than ready. Liv and Aliyah have each shown flashes (really liked to the energy Morgan displayed tonight), but neither makes a credible title contender/major player at this point in their development.
- That facebuster-onto-the-knee move form the Aussies is deliciously evil.
- Good job as always from WWE on the video packages. They didn’t make tonight an essential viewing experience if you’ve been following along, but it did present the stories and personalities in a way which should get you more excited for the payoff on Saturday.
Turns out “The Return” was for Elias Samson, who sings us a ditty about his comeback from the stage before making his way to the ring. He then drifts down to the ring for a match against Nathan Cruz. What follows is two-and-a-half minute squash which starts with Samson working rest holds and refusing the official’s requests for clean breaks. The Drifter connects with a running knee on the apron and could have finished the match after an elbow drop, but pulls Cruz up at two. He takes some offense for his hubris, but manages to wiggle out of a lift to hit his swinging neckbreaker variant for the win.
Our new women’s alliance is interviewed backstage, and Aliyah says they came together to prove Billie & Peyton don’t run the division as they claim. Ember says cryptic sounding things about bringing her fire to the team, then Liv makes jokes about the Australians before challenging them to find a third for a match.
After a mention of the men’s title match for Nov. 19, Tom Phillips & Corey Graves introduce a great video recapping the Revival/#DIY feud to hype their two-out-of-three falls tag title match at TakeOver. A graphic is shown for the Women’s title bout, and then another strong production tells us everything we need to know about Tye Dillinger vs. Bobby Roode.
- Y’all had all but told me to expect Samson here, and I was still disappointed.
- My love for Corey Graves is well documented, but I wonder if he’s hurting the Drifter by savaging him throughout his set-ups. Graves basically treats Samson like he does Johnny Gargano or Tommaso Ciampa - talking about how he loathes him but then begrudgingly giving him respect for his wrestling. Are there other clear heels he presents that way?
- Otherwise, they certainly picked up where they left off when Elias went out with his leg break. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen.
- Ugh. I have nothing nice to say about the interview with the ladies. Whatever cred Ember builds up as a mythical badass while wrestling evaporates when she starts talking out of the side of her mouth about elemental forces, and I honestly couldn’t tell if Liv was mocking Peyton & Billie with an Australian accent or trying to impersonate Popeye or what.
- Word on the screens is a six-woman tag could be added to TakeOver. My hunch is it happens before Saturday’s broadcast and becomes part of next week’s episode (along with a bunch of recap packages, making that show the mirror image of this one), but we’ll see.
- Also quite interested in who the heels might choose to complete their team. Nikki Cross is really the only established option, but having her character join up with anyone who’s not a part of SAnitY doesn’t fit. Could be a good spot to debut someone...
- Again, the videos were great. And, again, Dash & Dawson vs. Gargano & Ciampa is the match I’m most looking forward to this weekend on any show.
Main event time, and Almas now has pyro as part of his entrance. Cedric is eager to start, but Cien is in d-bag heel mode from the get go and backs up to the corner to force breaks by the ref. This only angers Alexander more, and Andrade ducking a clothesline to lounge on the mat in full Ingobernables is basically the opening of the match in a nutshell. Ced does eventually tag him with some stiff-sounding chops, and hits him in the back with a baseball slide on the ramp after he bails on a whip.
Once they return to the ring, Almas comes back with dropkick. His stomps in the corner get turned around into more slaps to his chest, but a springboard from Cedric launches him right into another dropkick that takes us to a break. When we return, ACA is in control, hitting the running knees and a boot which leads to a nearfall.
Pinfall attempts are traded for a while until Cien sends thows Cedric shoulder-first into a turnbuckle and proceeds to work the arm, including a couple holds where he uses the ropes and the five-count. Alexander fights back, clipping the legs of a charging Andrade with a low dropkick and dodging a forearm to hit a springboard crossbody.
When Almas heads outside to regroup, Cedric flies to the outside and hits a springboard clothesline for a nearfall after he throws his opponent back into the ring. They trade big moves and covers, with Alexander eventually evading the running double knees to hit a Lumbar Check. ACA rolls to the ropes, buying himself enough time to regroup. He deviously racks Ced on the middle rope, and pulls him into the hammerlock DDT and a three count in about thirteen minutes.
From there, we get the final sales pitch for Joe vs. Nakamura and with it, TakeOver: Toronto.
- Strong main event that delivered as expected... but I couldn’t help thinking it should have been more. Like, it should have been at TakeOver. And it should have received more follow-up than just a couple interviews spread out over a month (just letting them do what Tye & Bobby did, or Hideo Itami & Austin Aries were doing with attacks before and after one another’s matches would have added a lot).
- Thinking that played into why Full Sail was so subdued, as well. The action would usually have gotten more noise, but the crowd still doesn’t seem that into Almas - even though his heel persona is a big upgrade - and a bigger build would have signaled to them to get more excited.
- Blowing this off on what was kind of a blown-off episode sends a signal that the powers-that-be don’t believe this was that important, either.
- Which is a shame because, again, the match was really good. The storyline was clear and the psychology made sense - shout out as always to Alexander’s selling. And it may have been a slip, but the way he launched himself off the ropes for the crossbody after ACA’s attack on his arm convinced me he was still nursing a damaged wing. That’s good stuff.
- Even the production felt a tad off, though. There was a weird edit to the sequence that ended with Andrade grabbing Ced’s legs to send face first to the mat (Graves called it a “reverse double leg”), and the usually smooth teamwork between the announce team was missing on a couple occassions, as Tom and Corey talked over each other or the color guy didn’t complete a thought.
- Anyway... another strong production closed it out. Really weird that we’ve got nothing but the match announcement to go on for Asuka vs. Mickie, though. They should have at least done a sitdown interview with James.
Tough to grade this one, as it was mostly an infomercial for a show I was already sold on. They didn’t do anything to dampen my enthusiasm however, and delivered some watchable matches - one of which builds on an existing story and should turn into something more soon - so I wouldn’t call it skippable, but I doubt I’d tell anyone to seek it out.
Bring on Toronto.