A relatively tame week in WWE still delivered some great in-ring action. Find out which matches were the best of the week, and my take on the Keith Lee news.
There is some interesting progression happening in the Lana angle. It’s not an exciting progression by any means but there’s a shift to making her more credible by getting to one-up Nia Jax. Pairing her with Asuka makes this worthwhile, who usually makes any storyline feel that way.
Drew McIntyre making the switch from business casual attire to sick kilts for talking segments is a power move. Despite looking like a big deal in slacks and a button-up, the black kilt with all types of hooks and chains and the black long-sleeve shirt is an infinitely cooler look.
You didn’t come here for a fashion blog, so back to the WRESTLING am I right!?
Two ageless wonders went at it this week when Shelton Benjamin and Kofi Kingston went head-to-head on Monday night. After a relatively quick victory from Kofi, Cedric Alexander inserted himself and demanded Kofi fight him. Alexander would win but it is strange to see how the Hurt Business has fallen off a bit.
It feels like an eternity ago when they shut down Raw Underground (remember Raw Underground? I liked that. Shame that it’s gone.) and heroically scared away RETRIBUTION. I hope they get back to being as cool as they were over the summer.
A note on the speculation surrounding Keith Lee: we saw in his 24 documentary that Vince McMahon thinks very highly of him, and it’s hard not to see the potential in Lee. Though some may be looking at him being sent back to the Performance Center as punishment for supposedly underperforming, I implore you to think of it another way.
WWE released an hour-long documentary on Lee’s journey to the company wherein it was visible that the higher-ups in the company see something in him. I see this as a desire within the company to see Lee fine-tune some things, perhaps learning ways to accentuate his power instead of his agility in the ring, because they are aware of the success Lee could bring them as a top star in WWE.
Keith Lee will be fine.
Sheamus probably won’t be betraying Drew any time soon after what happened this week. After a mistake cost them their tag team match on Monday, the two settled their grievance the way WWE would have you think an Irishman and a Scot settle all grievances, by fighting. You could feel this was coming and shortly after they finished brawling and putting Pat Buck through a table, the two smiled at each other and you could sense their friendship was back on track.
This segment was framed like a fight in a high school hallway, complete with Drew Gulak pulling out his phone to record the action. I thought that was fantastic.
The Xia Li and Boa segments on NXT become more strange and grotesque every week. Those are both good things. It’s clear they’re being punished for not performing up to a certain standard but by whom? It took me a while to become invested in this storyline but after this week’s vignette, I might be in.
Please, never turn Johnny Gargano back to a babyface. He is so delightfully evil and pompous as a heel and brings the laughs consistently. There was a moment during his promo with his faction now known as “The Way” where he caught sound of a fan in the crowd directing a “you suck!” at him. Gargano responded with hilarious awareness and insecurity “I don’t suck, man. Leave me alone.”
MALCOLM BIVENS IS BACK.
I believe it is time for Rhea Ripley, Dexter Lumis, Cameron Grimes, and Damian Priest to be sent up to Raw or SmackDown; they are tailor-made stars for those environments.
My favorite running gag on SmackDown is Big E throwing things at Corey Graves. There is immense joy in E’s face every time he does it and it brings me great joy, too.
E and Sami Zayn’s feud is off to a great start and I’m looking forward to their eventual matchup without Zayn getting a cheap victory the way he did on Friday.
Jey Uso gets clowned every week after talking a big game and I can’t imagine Roman being too happy with that. Do not be surprised the next time Roman again takes his anger out on his cousin he allegedly loves very much.
Paul Heyman, for the first time in this whole angle, appeared to be more than a pawn for Roman Reigns. The Universal Champion was set to confront and fight Kevin Owens in the ring after Owens embarrassed Uso, but Heyman talked him out of it. Heyman, for weeks, has come off as nothing more as a shadow agent for Reigns too afraid to offer his counsel because of his menacing presence. This week, Heyman seemed to be in control of the situation, and although Roman got his revenge on Owens via sneak attack in the backstage area, he demonstrated actual influence over the champion’s decision-making.
Good luck to anyone trying to convince Roman Reigns he’s not to thank for the food on the table of everyone employed by WWE. This creates an interesting dynamic between him and Owens, whose character has always been influenced by wanting to take care of his family at any cost.
These were the best matches of the week:
5. NXT: Raquel González vs. Ember Moon
I’ve realized Raquel and Ember make my list frequently. So, there was no doubt this match would perform well especially with main event billing on this week’s NXT. Ember’s fearlessness and agility make for an awesome pairing with larger opponents, and González has become the perfect opponent for wrestlers like Ember.
Raquel’s power was the highlight of the match. She made catching a mid-air Ember and launching her look seamless, but Ember was close to stealing the show when it seemed she was going to jump off the scaffolding in the CWC. The match exceeded my expectations and primed her to re-enter her feud with Rhea Ripley.
4. Raw: The Miz, John Morrison, & AJ Styles w/ Omos vs. Drew McIntyre & Sheamus
This Handicap match was centered on the possibility of Sheamus taking advantage of Drew and stabbing him in the back. Drew’s slight mistrust of Sheamus made their dynamic in this match interesting and led to a cool spot where Morrison tried catching them by surprise on a dive to the outside but was caught by both men and launched over the announcer’s desk. McIntyre has a very loud knife-edge chop, his is probably second to only Walter’s in that sense.
Styles, Morrison, and Omos all watched on in fear as Sheamus pummeled Miz’s chest, which is an appropriate reflection of Miz’s character and just how much he is cared for. Sheamus and Drew both had awesome hot tags but Sheamus inadvertently kicked the life out of his partner, leading to the victory for the three slimy heels.
3. NXT: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Cameron Grimes
Commentators Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett described this match as a “hard-hitting affair” and “smashmouth,” respectively. They were correct. This was an awesome match that helped build Grimes’s stock on the roster. Grimes is one of the most complete performers in NXT, thanks in large part to the opportunities he has been granted to show his range since he debuted.
The match featured awesome exchanges and fluid movements and both men wrestled with an exciting sense of urgency. I’ll continue to boast for Grimes, one of my favorites, who bumped tremendously in this match and gave viewers a glimpse of his very cool moveset. The running Spanish Fly is among some of the most spectacular transition moves I’ve ever seen. Ciampa’s Willow’s Bell to put an end to Grimes and score the victory was a painfully great way to conclude.
2. SmackDown: Carmella vs. Sasha Banks (c) for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
It’s no secret that Carmella is an awesome wrestler. You observe the landscape of the SmackDown roster and notice Carmella has the opportunity to flourish on the mic and in the ring with her new character. Despite the match ending in disqualification, ‘Mella made a statement in this match. She matched Sasha’s aggressiveness and was as bold as the champion. She took a Meteora on the apron and responded with a facebuster on the apron as well.
They traded their respective brutal submission holds before Carmella’s new Champagne sommelier (that she now takes everywhere with her, for some reason) interfered. Tensions boiled over and Sasha took her frustrations out on ‘Mella to the point of DQ. The angle that followed the match that included a champagne bottle being smashed on Sasha’s back presented Carmella as a violent individual.
1. Pete Dunne vs. Killian Dain
Hooray for Pete Dunne once again being a part of weekly NXT TV. After Dunne and the McAfee crew assaulted and threatened the lives of Maverick and Dain about a month ago, Dain was always going to be seeking revenge. The match was as ugly as it should’ve been, but Dain showed a surprising amount of grace with his movements in the ring.
Dain’s big-man Hilo (a front flip, back-first, from the apron onto the opponent) was the move of the match, but the runner-up was his one-armed powerbomb to Dunne. Smaller wrestlers were put on this planet to be powerbombed with one arm, that’s just the way it should be. Though shenanigans lead to Dunne’s win, it was an inspiring showing from Dain, who I consider a pretty underrated performer.