It’s Time for a New Challenger...
I’m combining Raw’s two big women’s matches into one because they were the best matches on the show and they’re part of the same story.
Raw needs a number one contender for Bianca Belair’s title. They scheduled two triple threat matches, where the respective winners go against each other next week. The first match? Rhea Ripley vs. Bayley vs. Asuka. Rhea dominated early because that’s Rhea’s story right now. Yes, Bianca has the championship but Rhea dominates the women’s division right now on the strength of her presence. It’s Mami’s world and we’re all living in it.
But that domination didn’t last long because Asuka and Bayley are Asuka and Bayley. But Asuka was an afterthought in the larger picture because before the bell rung, Becky Lynch got into a microphone duel with Bayley where Becky essentially said the Role Model is nothing without her homegirls by her side.
Becky left the ring as Rhea entered and they engaged in what felt like a five minute stare down. So right there, they teased Becky vs. Bayley or Becky vs. Rhea. Like I said, Asuka as an afterthought makes sense. The Empress even fell victim to the dreaded “heel double team” which only lasted but so long because heels gotta heel.
The match flow made it clear that Asuka and Bayley couldn’t solve the Rhea problem. In fact, the only reason Rhea lost the match is because she got overzealous and took herself out. Rhea attempted a cannonball off the steel steps but Bayley was one step ahead of her and moved. Bayley was the smarter wrestler the entire match, actually. And that’s why she came out on top after hitting Asuka with a Roseplant with Rhea completely out of the picture.
Rhea took out her frustrations on a beaten Asuka, which hopefully means we’re getting that feud next although it probably means a few more Ls for Asuka.
The main event featured Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, and Nikki Cross. Based on everything that transpired earlier, Becky gets the win, right?
Actually, no. For a few weeks, but most notably last week, WWE told us Alexa’s not entirely happy. Even right before this match, commentary noted that her singles career isn’t exactly flourishing at the moment. That meant either The Man or Ms. Bliss seemed destined for the W, with Nikki as cannon fodder.
Nikki went after Alexa immediately, continuing their very long story and their most recent chapter at Survivor Series. But once Becky and Alexa tossed Nikki out the ring, apparently she just smiled and laughed on top of the commentary table while Lynch and Bliss wrestled. I know it’s her character and all but it’s a weird touch for a high stakes match for one of your wrestlers to willingly sit out because she’s “crazy.”
Eventually all three women got involved and the match found a flow I liked. Becky and Nikki entertained in their one-on-one moments because neither woman backed down and Becky talked a lot of trash, begging Nikki to get up and fight her. It sucks when the same person kicking you down tells you to get up and fight.
The match’s next big moment came in the end sequence. Becky hit Cross with the Manhandle Slam on the ring apron but Damage CTRL interfered! Bayley wants none of Becky and with the championship so close, she’s not taking any chances. Bayley believes her chances improve if she faces Nikki or Alexa, so she ensured that happened. While Dakota Kai & IYO SKY powerbombed Becky through the commentary table, Alexa hit Twisted Bliss on an already dazed Nikki.
So next week, it’s Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley and my money is on Alexa. Besides the fact that there’s something going on with Alexa and her facing Bianca provides an avenue for a heel turn, I don’t see Becky behaving herself and letting bygones be bygone.
Off top. anything Bloodline related goes above the fold. For those unfamiliar with a thing called “newspapers,” above the fold refers to things on the first page above the part of the paper that folds in half. In digital terms, anything above the “Extracurriculars” section. Anyway, I always assume it goes there because Bloodline-related issues normally tower over everything else in terms of what I like in my wrestling.
So color me shocked the tag team title match sits here and not elsewhere. Solo Sikoa took out Elias before the match, so Kevin Owens filled his spot as he and Matthew Riddle battled The Usos.
And I’m shocked at that meh! The match felt anticlimactic. Maybe because I knew Jimmy & Jey weren’t losing but also because they were never in jeopardy either. A good title match involves risk; either the championship changes hands through high stakes or it looks like it might. Riddle & KO never got close to making me think for a second they had those belts. Riddle eventually took the 1D, the Bloodline beat up Riddle after the bell, and KO chased Sami Zayn, Jimmy, and Jey into Downtown D.C. traffic. That left Riddle alone with Solo, who assaulted him in ways only Solo knows how. That included Solo wrapping a chair around Riddle’s neck and running into him at full speed from the other side of the ring.
Riddle did the stretcher job so who knows if he’s out for a while or just a couple weeks, but clearly it’s him and Solo whenever Bro comes back. And that’s a bet.
Side note but Sami saying “bet” the way me, The Usos, and every one of my friends say “bet” makes me smile and laugh.
More Seth. More Bobby
I don’t have anything clever for this one because it was Bobby and Seth in the ring once again talking trash to one another. Seth got under Bobby’s skin by insinuating the All Mighty is afraid of Brock Lesnar. A fight broke out, officials and security intervened, then Bobby accidentally speared a WWE official. It’s Bobby and Seth next week in a number one contender’s match for Theory’s title, but Adam Pearce checked Bobby as the former champ left the arena. Pearce understands accidents happen but it better not happen again. That’s a threat. Bobby said cool but just make sure nobody gets in his way again. That’s definitely a threat.
Something tells me Bobby loses this match next week.
Ali stepped to Austin Theory and challenged him for the United States championship. Austin not only accepted but said after this match, he doesn’t want to hear the word “opportunity” out of Ali’s mouth ever again. And you know what? I agree. Not just for Ali but every single wrestler in WWE. But I digress.
The match started with Theory flexing his brutality, beating Ali into the ring post and then slamming his head against the barricade. Austin gets more violent every week and I like that addition to his character. Eventually Ali found his footing and it turned into a conventional wrestling match. A solid one too, but sadly interrupted by Dolph Ziggler. Dolph attacked Theory, giving the champion a DQ win and also hurting Ali’s chances at winning a championship. An incensed Ali confronted Ziggler and while the two argued, Theory struck, threw Ali out the ring, and nailed Ziggler with an A-Town Down. Ali, once again, plays the sacrificial lamb. That I can do without but I like Ziggler showing up for continuity sake.
Remember Duke Hudson’s poker gimmick? A bunch of cats in NXT remember. Anyway, I bring it up because JBL seemingly snatched Duke’s poker tournaments and brought them to Raw. The O.C., Baron Corbin, Shelton Benjamin, Alpha Academy, Dominik, Dexter Lumis, Johnny Gargano, Tamina, Dana Brooke, and Tozawa competed in JBL’s tourney. Tozawa and Dom got into it first, then The O.C. called Baron Corbin a cheater, which resulted in a big fight that effectively ended the tournament. The Alpha Academy had Corbin’s back, which resulted in a match between those three and The O.C.
And The O.C. came out on top in another solid but uneventful match. I love everyone involved minus Corbin but there’s nothing worth mentioning here. It felt like a placeholder match while WWE figures out what to do with everyone involved. That said, I’m shocked WWE put Dom and The O.C. in the same spot and didn’t do anything with the pairing. With all that bad blood between The Judgment Day and the California Boys, it doesn’t make sense.
Speaking of Dom...
Dominik defeated Tozawa. It was fine but Tozawa is basically a punchline at this point while Dom it’s only fun seeing Dom wrestling meaningful matches. While The Judgment Day lorded over Tozawa after the match, the Street Profits came to his aide. Which they did just because they’re good guys who clearly want beef with JD. I still feel like there’s unfinished business between Judgment Day and The O.C. but I guess WWE feels different.
Another week and another solid Raw. The show rarely stands out these days but it’s...adequate. However, the show started some new feuds, and even put some of an NXT band back together as Candice LaRae found her backstage interview interrupted by her husband and his psychotic son-in-law, who just won a lot of poker money. If there’s one thing this episode, and previous episodes show, it’s that Triple H believes in following up on stories, so hopefully we get resolution for that and the other stories started here.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.