These were the five best matches of the WWEek (not sorry).
Some things before we get into this week’s bangers: I don’t know what to make of RETRIBUTION in WWE at this point, which isn’t a good or bad thing. The anarchist faction of malcontent wrestlers had a super hot start after their introduction in the summer, began to falter some time last month, and appeared to be revitalized with the reveal of Mustafa Ali as their leader some weeks ago.
Now, after losing so decisively on Raw this week, I wonder how they will maintain their status as a featured act, or if that’s even in the cards for them. Still, Ali’s promo later on the show gave me hope they’re going to be a big deal.
The only other standout from this week’s Raw could be taken in a literal sense. Jordan Omogbehin, known for being the Raw Underground bouncer, made his first appearance as something besides that. He is now AJ Styles’s heavy, and heavy is correct. The dude is SEVEN-FOOT-THREE, making Styles look ridiculously tiny. I’m excited about this new partnership, it has comedy written all over it.
NXT‘s Ever-Rise tag team make me laugh so much every time they’re on, I want them around forever. Pat McAfee — perhaps the greatest punter in NFL history — returned to NXT this week and revealed himself as the one orchestrating the attacks on The Undisputed Era, what a strange sentence. Something tells me there’s a mole in the operation, though. Those Era boys aren’t known for being model citizens. Walter and Dragunov finally go one-on-one next week, so expect that match to be on my next list.
Daniel Bryan and his hunky-dory awkwardness and all-time great wrestling ability were sorely missed and it is great to have him back on TV. Bianca Belair had her first in-ring showing on SmackDown this week, and she did not disappoint. She treated her opponent, Zelina Vega, like a barbell set, imagine that, that’s wild. A lot to look forward to on Friday nights.
Hell in a Cell accomplished a lot but left some questions unanswered that we’ll hopefully get answers to in the coming weeks. Another high-drama showcase from Roman and Jey and a new WWE Champion in Randy Orton bookended the show, but it was Sasha and Bayley’s championship battle that stole the show.
These were the best matches of the week:
5. NXT UK: Trent Seven vs. Kenny Williams in a British Rounds Match (Heritage Cup First Round Match)
The British Rounds Match is an historic concept and one the WWE has been experimenting with since the debut of the NXT UK brand. I’m a fan of a rounds system for a wrestling match; scoring felt like a struggle for Seven and Williams. The two were also competing against time, an added element to a wrestling match that guarantees suspense.
There was a great moment at the start of the 4th round wherein Seven threw everything at Williams to take advantage of his exhaustion. “He smelled blood” is the correct term. But this led to a rollup pinfall by Williams on the overeager Seven. Seven ultimately won the match and advanced after five hard-fought rounds.
4. SmackDown: Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, & Street Profits vs. Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode, Cesaro, & Shinsuke Nakamura
I love a good, chaotic 8-man tag. The types of matches are either meaningless filler or a whole lot of fun, this match was the latter. Watching Daniel Bryan wrestle is a treat, especially after his announcement on Talking Smack after the show that this is his final run as a full-time wrestler.
This match had a few of my favorite things; Cesaro’s freakish strength, a Daniel Bryan offensive flurry, and Montez Ford’s stunning athleticism. I’ve never seen anyone get more air on the Frog Splash than Ford, it’s extraordinary, see for yourself.
3. SmackDown: Seth Rollins vs. Murphy
Murphy is his own man, again. It was good to see him really unleash on Rollins, but Rollins was treating the match as a chance to discipline his still-disciple, I don’t think he gets the message Murphy is trying to send him by kicking his face in. Around this time last year was when Murphy got to showcase his talents against Roman Reigns, now against Rollins.
This time, Murphy worked from underneath as the babyface, which meant his selling would be under center than it was when he faced Reigns. Murphy did a great job selling his left arm after numerous targeted attacks from Rollins. “The Messiah,” what Rollins refers to himself as, has really come into this role and has benefitted from having guys like Murphy and Dominik Mysterio to help him develop his pompous veteran character.
2. Hell in a Cell: Roman Reigns (c) w/ Paul Heyman vs. Jey Uso in an “I Quit” Match inside the Hell in a Cell for the Universal Championship
Roman Reigns is beyond sociopathic at this point; he is a truly despicable human being. And I love to see it. Much like their match last month at Clash of Champions, this was a massacre. Jey never stood a chance, but the journey mattered more than the destination. The violence of this match transcended the physicality of a wrestling match, Reigns verbally demeaned and destroyed Jey throughout the entire match.
Reigns returned to WWE in August a master trash-talker. One of the match’s highlights was just that, the incredibly hurtful sayings he directed towards his own blood. Uso was less forgiving and naive to Reigns’s behavior this time but was nevertheless regretful after choking him out with a leather strap. Moments like those gave Jey hope but it only lasted so long before Reigns laid another Spear on him, while continuously begging him to say “I quit.”
Roman *really* wants to be acknowledged as the “Tribal Chief,” so much so that he was willing to kill his cousin on live TV. The drama in the match escalated when Jimmy Uso, once again, got involved. With (crocodile) tears in his eyes, Reigns feigned his regret for having gone too far, but only seconds later locked Jimmy in a guillotine submission. Jey, battling unconsciousness, woke up and realized his brother was reaching out for him to break the hold, which he did by uttering the words “I quit.”
1. Hell in a Cell: Sasha Banks vs. Bayley (c) in a Hell in a Cell Match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
Two of the most ambitious and creative minds in wrestling showed out. Seriously, these two went for it and the result was an extremely clever and fun matchup. Sasha Banks goes so hard in the Cell. She thrives in coming up with original spots and she did plenty of that here. Sasha used the edge of a table to push Bayley against the cage, then proceeded to run up that same table like a ramp and planted her knees onto Bayley’s face. I mean, who does that? Sasha Banks does.
They beat each other up, simply put. Ladders, chairs, tables, kendo sticks; if it was under the ring, they used it, and it was all brutal. Banks finally had her day. After Bayley’s cruel betrayal of her then-best friend nearly two months ago, Banks’s path to revenge was prolonged by Bayley’s cowardice. There was nowhere to run inside the Cell, and Banks made her pay
Man, that finish was something. If this was the end of their story, what a way to end it. It felt like the appropriate culimination after months of awesome work these two had done together and against each other. Sasha locked Bayley’s head in a steel chair the same way Bayley did when she turned, and cranked on her neck in a vicious Banks Statement, forcing her to tap out. A new SmackDown Women’s Champion was crowned in a really violent manner.