Friday’s episode of WWE SmackDown may have been the standout show of the week, but both NXT brands provided this week’s best action. Which NXT match topped this week’s list?
Adam Pearce has emerged as a prominent authority figure on Raw and Smackdown recently. Pearce truly became general manager this Monday on Raw when he suspended Braun Strowman for attacking him in the ring. I have nothing but respect for my Raw General Manager.
I’ve probably said this already but the Hurt Business is great not only for what they add to the WWE product, but for the rehabilitation it has brought to the careers of Shelton Benjamin and Bobby Lashley and the opportunity it has presented Cedric Alexander to escape to programs worth his talents.
Lashley was protected in a loss to Keith Lee this week that prohibited him from advancing to next week’s triple threat match for WWE Championship contention, but his protecting gives me hope about another Lashley vs. McIntyre program in the near future, this time with the Hurt Business to give it a boost.
Randy Orton is set to restart his feud with Bray Wyatt and I’m glad there’s no championship attached to it.
Kevin Owens pulled double duty this week and we should all be thankful for that. His first appearance this week was on NXT reminded me how much I enjoy one of the aspects of his character. That aspect being “I’ve watched wrestling and been a wrestler for a long time, I know how this all works.”
Owens joined this week’s NXT as a guest commentator but also hosted his KO Show, where it became more clear that Leon Ruff’s presence in the North American title picture is by no means a fluky booking decision, but by design.
I never saw Toni Storm’s heel turn coming, but it could be what makes her an interesting threat to the champion, Io Shirai, we’ll see about that, though.
Grizzled Young Veterans made their return to the States this week and immediately became the biggest heels in the territory in my eyes. Why? Because they attacked EverRise, that’s why. Those that regularly read my weekly piece know I would die for EverRise.
Anyways, TakeOver War Games is shaping up to be quite the card!
This week’s SmackDown was one of my favorite episodes of the year. At the heart of that was, unsurprisingly, the Roman Reigns storyline. Though, Reigns and Jey Uso weren’t the best part of the story this Friday, that was Kevin Owens.
KO showed great range this week, but his performances on SmackDown and Talking Smack instantly made him a formidable opponent for Reigns’s Universal title. He showed no fear in the face of Roman Reigns and called him out for poisoning Jey’s mind and soul. Owens closed SmackDown with a message for Reigns after repeatedly hitting Uso with a steel chair: “Where are you?… I’ll be waiting.” This is going to be GOOD. (Bonus points for KO for wearing a Bam Bam Bigelow shirt)
You’ve got to feel for Jey Uso. His anger and insecurities have only lead to more disrespect from his cousin, who he so desperately wants approval from. It will be interesting to see if he can mend things with Roman and reclaim some of his dignity.
Big E chasing Sami Zayn’s Intercontinental Championship is on the horizon, I have high hopes for the feud and the possibility of E winning his first singles title in 6 years. Billie Kay has become one of my favorite acts, just look at how qualified she is. For what? Only she knows.
The thought of Kay trying to land a championship opportunity via resume is hilarious. Which is why she should definitely get that chance.
We are headed towards Bianca Belair vs. Bayley, and Sasha Banks finally got the upper-hand over Carmella. There is a lot to look forward to from the blue brand.
These were the best matches of the week:
5. NXT: Candice LeRae w/ Indi Hartwell, Raquel Gonzalez, & Dakota Kai vs. Ember Moon
Candice is having a remarkable run as a heel. Her work in the ring and as a character have both greatly elevated and this match with Ember is proof of it. This was a good match highlighted by Candice’s selling of Ember awe-inspiring offense.
We got some good back-and-forth here to compliment the awesome spots. Ember slammed Candice face-first onto the edge of the announcer’s desk, which she sold brilliantly. Candice performed a baseball slide dropkick that launched Ember from near the ring apron to the barricade. It took involvement from all three of Candice’s accomplices to defeat Ember, who was protected in defeat.
4. Raw: Keith Lee vs. Bobby Lashley w/ MVP
This was a showcase of two different kinds of strength. I’d say Keith Lee has what’s often referred to as “brute strength” while Lashley possesses the more practical form of strength. Both guys lift, basically, but Keith’s strength often looks more otherworldly than that of his traditionally strong counterparts.
But the match, yes. Lee and Lashley traded bombs, and though Lashley botched a spot on the outside of the ring getting Lee up for a fireman’s carry, it was impressive, even if he busted his own head open as a result of that bold attempt. Lashley would redeem himself later in the match by lifting Lee up for a vertical suplex shortly before losing the match by disqualification. I give this match a solid 3.5 out of 5 on the ‘BIG MEATY MEN, SLAPPING MEAT” scale.
3. NXT UK: A-Kid vs. Trent Seven (Heritage Cup Final)
The NXT UK Heritage Cup Tournament came to a thrilling conclusion. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of the British Rounds match, it produces more drama than a typical one-fall match would, with greater ease. This match was structured in a way that would ensure the most drama.
A-Kid set the tone in the first round trying to exhaust Trent Seven, rather than score a fall. That’s the kind of strategic match execution this type of contest allows for. They engaged in a grappling exhibition early in the match before Seven turned it into a fight at the end of the second round with a late hit after the bell.
With Kid scoring an early fall, it was Seven in a desperate state trying to even the bout, unloading everything from an ungodly clothesline to a Burning Hammer. Seven would eventually tie the match and send it into sudden death, wherein A-Kid compromised Seven in a brutal Regal Stretch-like hold for the win.
2. SmackDown: Sami Zayn vs. Daniel Bryan
These two can put together something special under any circumstances, I’m sure of it. This match backs up that statement. A non-title match on SmackDown? Of course it would bang. At times I felt like I was watching Danielson vs. Generico the way they hit each other.
Though it’s worrisome at times, Bryan’s reckless abandon is a defining feature for him as a wrestler and it has made him one of my favorites ever. Zayn dropped Bryan with a Brainbuster on the ring apron in the most gruesome spot of the match. Bryan made sure to be just as physical with his offense, his running corner dropkicks looked ESPECIALLY painful in this match.
After segments of more high-octane action, Sami ran to the back in hopes of escaping. Bryan followed him, and when Sami was shown running back to the ring, Bryan did not follow. It was revealed that Jey Uso had assaulted Bryan in gorilla position before Kevin Owens made the save. Though the match ended in shenanigans, it was still an impressive performance from both wrestlers.
1.NXT: Pete Dunne vs. Kyle O’Reilly (Ladder Match for WarGames Advantage)
It’s hard to top a ladder match between two of the best in the company. As expected, this match was downright nasty. The match featured hellacious ladder bumps and falls, but the two submission wrestlers made creative use of the ladder beyond its traditional functions. O’Reilly trapped Dunne in a leg lock using one of the ladder’s rungs, and Dunne placed the ladder’s leg on Kyle’s hand while he climbed it, pressing it on his hand harder with each step.
Still, the objective of the ladder match is to climb it all the way and retrieve whatever hangs in the balance above it. The attempts to do just that resulted in Kyle and Pete bouncing off the mat or additional ladders around the ring. Dunne suplexed O’Reilly onto a horizontal ladder wedged between the apron and the guardrail, breaking the ladder in half, disgusting.
The two continued to use the ladder primarily as a weapon or an obstruction before O’Reilly found an opening to climb the ladder and win the match. In what felt like the hundredth masked man angle in 2020 NXT, a masked man tipped over the ladder once victory was in reach for KOR. This was a violent and exciting match even if the finish was redundant.