Before I go this route with my review, yes, Brock Lesnar is a phenomenal wrestler. He’s freaking incredible when he’s a consistent presence on Raw. I’m conceding that all up front, okay?
Good. Because my goodness, how refreshing is it when we get an episode like this one where the entire theme of the show centered around the top championship?
Firstly, I thought Daniel Bryan was handled perfectly in Seattle. They didn’t try to make him a villain in front of his home crowd; instead, he made Seattle heels right along with him! Ah, my people! The people who are actually intelligent and get what I’m trying to do. Unfortunately, the world isn’t as smart as you, but luckily you’ll help me, right?
Bryan got raucous cheers, of course. And it also solidifies how far down this “greater good” rabbit hole he’s gotten. Erick Rowan actually voiced it in his promo by saying what they’re trying to do is with “the best of intentions” and vilifying anyone who doesn’t believe exactly what they do. That’s dangerous logic and something so commonly used in today’s age.
(By the way, Rowan, you’ve got to stop wearing the shirts of bands I like if you want me to boo you. If you wear an Eluveitie shirt next week, I’ll squeal in real life. Not joking one bit. They’d actually fit into the pro-earth argument too...hmm.)
As for the contenders for Bryan’s title, Mustafa Ali’s killing it. He had a match with Randy Orton on this show where he had to fight uphill to get cheered. Orton’s always gotten a positive reaction from a section of the crowd and Ali did a wonderful job bringing some fire and getting the crowd on his side. That shiner really helped his underdog aesthetic, by the way. The only thing I’d say he could do better is get a little more creative on offense, but I’d imagine that’ll come inside the Chamber.
How sick was that top rope fake to make Orton try for an RKO, by the way?!
As for the rest of the contenders, AJ Styles is questioning Jeff Hardy’s place inside the Chamber and Samoa Joe is an unhinged maniac who will do absolutely anything to get that championship. This match for Elimination Chamber is coming along wonderfully, and everyone’s clicking at the moment.
The things that can happen when the main championship is around, eh?
The Rest of SmackDown Live
Becky Lynch assaults another boss - Yeah, I’m doubling down on my belief that Lynch is behaving the way she is right now because she’s vulnerable. Hitting Stephanie and Triple H is just a way to try to convince herself that she’s fine when she clearly isn’t. I like how Triple H goaded her into it this time, though; it would have made no sense if he’d taken the same route his wife had after Lynch hit her.
I think this also works much better on SmackDown than it does on Raw because there’s a lot more fireworks on SDL these days, aren’t there? That was sort of my knock on Raw last night; it lacked fire, which usually comes from someone like Lynch.
Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura def. The Club - It’s absolute madness that The Club gets the reaction they get despite not doing anything of note in like...a year. That’s just how talented they are, honestly, and it goes to show how much better SmackDown’s tag team division is. Rusev and Nakamura started to get on the same page near the end of the match, so I’d expect them to settle into the division for a while.
Andrade wants to slay the myth of Rey Mysterio – I wish we would have gotten more from the Andrade/Mysterio feud this week, but I can’t complain too much. The framing here is good, at least; Andrade needs to put down Mysterio for good to truly rise to prominence. And it does feel that way, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t be surprised it Andrade does that before moving to Raw in a shake up and really moving up the card.
Where’s Asuka? - I don’t know what to think of Asuka being off television these past two weeks. I know they want to keep her away from Lynch, but I mean...she DID beat Lynch clean at the Royal Rumble. It’s a disservice to her to treat her that way. And there are options other than talking about Lynch, you know; a match against local talent, intimidating someone backstage...
The Usos cut a promo – I liked this promo! They were promoting a “McMiz TV” segment next week with the champs by basically saying that yeah, the champs have quickly become friends. But that relationship hasn’t truly been tested and the Usos clearly have an advantage in that regard. I thought it was a good slant to add to their inevitable match.
Fire and Desire def. The IIconics, Carmella, and Naomi – This match was fine. It was tossed together to promote the Women’s Elimination Chamber match and it just kind of existed on this show. Good for mild entertainment. Mandy Rose got one over on Naomi again to seal the victory.
This was a solid show! Don’t get me wrong, nothing happened that was “can’t miss,” but we got some solid storytelling and a good build for the men’s Elimination Chamber match.
With that said, these shows need to start having big moments as we get closer to WrestleMania. I’m not docking the grades yet, but I’m fixing to start doing that if WWE can’t start ramping up the anticipation.
What say you, Cageside?