This week, Ali and Ricochet were granted the opportunity to look like the clever talents they always have been. Plus: a tribute to the late Eddie Guerrero.
On this week’s WWE Raw, Randy Orton reminded fans, myself included, why we were all so excited about him over the summer. He has become quite the talker this year and deviated from the boring monotone he had become known for. Recently, there’s been a believable enthusiasm and anger in his voice when he speaks that has made him must-see, and we got more of that when he interrupted Miz TV and unleashed on the host and his best friend.
I have still not lost interest in Nia Jax slamming Lana on the announcer’s table. They had me thinking it wasn’t going to happen this week but they eventually delivered. What I don’t like is that whatever’s happening between Lana and the rest of the women on Raw is completely overshadowing Asuka’s championship reign.
I’m not going to pretend I didn’t know Asuka was Raw Women’s Champion, but they’ve done a poor job of highlighting that. I do have hopes for after Survivor Series — which now really feels like a non-canonical filler show — that Asuka will return to a prominent role on Mondays, she’s the champion dammit.
I’m intrigued by what’s happening with Sheamus and Drew McIntyre. A heel and a face, respectively, coexisting without any kind of secret animosity towards each other? That’s awesome. Should they team up, that’s a tag team I could get really excited about.
The opening segment on NXT delivered an absolute SHOCK. Johnny Gargano guaranteed to break his championship defense curse regardless of who his gimmicked wheel landed on after spinning it. He got what he wanted; he would defend his North American Championship against the only unestablished name on the wheel, Leon Ruff.
Gargano bullied Ruff for most of the match until Damian Priest’s presence disrupted his confidence, leaving Ruff a chance. Ruff dodged a superkick and tangled Gargano into a crucifix pin and somehow, someway, Leon Ruff is our new NXT North American Champion. What a joyous and hilarious moment. An incensed Gargano chased Ruff through the backstage area before Priest handed the new champion the keys to his car so he could escape the scene.
I’m hyped to see more from this newfound rivalry between Tim Thatcher and Dexter Lumis.
The second Heritage Cup Semi-Final took place on NXT UK. Trent Seven and Dave Mastiff had a fun match but honestly, the referee of this match should be investigated for negligence or collusion, either would be fine. Seven was down and out at the end of round 4, struggled through round 5, and managed to get the win in round 6. All I have to say is *hand on chin emoji*.
Update on my feelings about the Roman Reigns storyline: I very badly want to see him get his ass beat one of these days. He is so despicable and the way he belittles his own blood is disgusting. Maybe it won’t be Jey, but someone needs to humble this guy. This is all a very strange way of saying “Roman Reigns is doing the best work of his life.” What a star.
Chad Gable is Chad Gable again, and that’s exciting. In his interaction with Otis backstage, Gable revealed his newest venture, the Alpha Academy. If he gets Otis on board with him, this has the potential to be a greatly comedic pairing.
Congrats to 205 Live on their 205th episode. I’m surprised this show still exists, but my incredulity has nothing to do with the talent on that roster. Spawned from the Cruiserweight Classic in 2016, 205 has been a breeding ground for underutilized talent. The purple brand has helped develop some of my favorite wrestlers, currently. They celebrated appropriately with a prominent staple of the show, a 5-man #1 contender’s match.
These were the best matches of the week:
5. SmackDown: Rey Mysterio w/ the Mysterio Family vs. Seth Rollins w/ Murphy in a No Holds Barred Match
We’ve made progress. By that I mean this storyline took a big step towards finally being over. I lost interest about two months ago but that doesn’t mean I’ll pass up the opportunity to watch Rey Mysterio wrestle. This was billed as the final match between Rey and Rollins, and they made sure it was a fun one. Rey Mysterio is 45 and moves around like he’s 20-year-old again. Stem cell therapy and Chris Cavallini are the Jordan-Pippen of reversing a man’s age.
But the match! It was cool! Rey did that baseball slide he does to the outside of the ring but landed on Rollins, who laid dormant on the bottom-base of the steel steps. Messiah Rollins’s facial expressions and mannerisms were always befitting a heel, which is the reason for me to argue he should never turn face again, especially when you consider the success of his false prophet character. There was great back-and-forth here, and an awesome agile performance from the immortal Rey Mysterio.
4. NXT: Santos Escobar (c) w/ Legado Del Fantasma vs. Jake Atlas for the Cruiserweight Championship
Santos is so good. While I wait to see what plans WWE has for Andrade and Garza, Santos and Legado are killing it in NXT. He has helped make the Cruiserweight title feel worth caring about. After what Ruff did to open the show, this match felt like it could go either way. I don’t really like calling wrestlers underrated but that’s what Atlas is. He’s slowly becoming interesting but he’s lacking a reason to really become invested in him. But the wrestling talent is there, for sure.
Atlas moves around like a gymnast and it’s a great visual. He cartwheels on the ropes with such grace, unfortunately, Escobar caught him. After Legado had been removed from ringside, it was Escobar’s chance to make a statement. Escobar scored the win and in a clean manner, making him more legit than he was coming into this match.
3. SmackDown: Drew McIntyre vs. Jey Uso
We’ve got a first-time two-timer on the list! Congratulations to Drew Mcintyre on appearing twice in a single list, I know this means the world to him. Drew’s appearance on this week’s SmackDown was a welcome surprise. Pulling double-duty this week meant a showdown with Jey Uso, who does not miss. Both guys wrestled with something to prove to Roman Reigns, his impact.
The smaller Jey had to outwit Drew if he was going to have a chance, and that’s what he did when he kicked the middle-rope as Drew used it to get back in the ring. It would not be enough to defeat the unrelenting physical specimen that is Drew McIntyre.
2. Raw: Drew McIntyre & New Day vs. Randy Orton, The Miz, & John Morrison
Multi-man tags are very hit-or-miss. But one thing that sways it towards “hit” territory is the talent involved, and you couldn’t have picked a better field of stars for this match. The converging storylines with Drew, Miz, and Orton added a lot more excitement to the match and New Day and Morrison’s flair for the spectacular is always welcome.
Drew has an awesome hot tag, which shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. The dude is huge, quick, strong, all that. There was plenty of chaos outside the ring and Orton refused to involve himself in the match to spite Miz. Morrison springboarded right into a headbutt from Mcintyre, which he calls the “Glasgow Kiss.” The thought of people in Glasgow greeting each other with a headbutt is so funny. Anyway, Drew Day rocks, and you should watch this clip from the match.
1. Raw: Mustafa Ali w/ RETRIBUTION vs. Ricochet
Some weeks ago, Ali and Ricochet faced each other on Main Event and all I could think about was what they could do with more time. Well, they got their time on Raw this week. Their original encounter was an athletic showcase between friends. This time, it was an athletic showcase between NOT friends. Ricochet did good character work here, displaying his regret for having ever trusted Ali. Ricochet talked Ali down and asked “what happened to you?” while he beat him up, but Ali was a lot more mean when he got the chance.
I’ve watched this stuff for twenty years. I feel like I’ve seen it all, so I understandably pop whenever I see a move for the first time. Ali sprung off the top rope to hit Ricochet — he was on the middle rope — with a backstabber and I lost my mind! Props to Ricochet on his ability to be so fluid. Ricochet missed a Phoenix Splash, and Ali locked in a Koji Clutch for the win. Ali justified his actions during the match to a groggy Ricochet with what seemed to be his new mission statement: “Not one man can change the world, it takes many.”
Some words on Eddie Guerrero
Friday marked 15 years since the passing of Eddie Guerrero.
It’s hard to realize your identity as a child but my upbringing helped me identify with my family’s background. I’m Mexican; Eddie was unapologetically Mexican. What better source to take inspiration from than the guy on TV who came from similar conditions?
The fear of deportation and racial violence dominated my family’s worries around the time Guerrero was at his height, and here he was this wrestler driving a low-rider to the ring and speaking Spanglish. He did that in the face of characters who believed those things made him unworthy. Looking back, the depiction on WWE television of what a Mexican is was a bit cartoonish, but I will always remember the way Eddie made me feel watching him succeed in spite of it all.