So much has happened in WWE over the last week, I couldn’t contain it all in one article. I had to split up the Wrestlemania part of the week from the weekly shows, which this article covers. The post-Mania Raw is always one of the highlights of the year, they’re attempting to make SmackDown the same way and NXT is always solid whether it’s Wrestlemania season or not. So what happened? There were loads of highlights, let’s get to it!
One Ember sparks the fire
It hasn’t always worked out this way, but if an NXT Champion loses their title right before Wrestlemania, they’re an obvious candidate to be called up. Ember Moon lost the NXT Women’s Championship Saturday night, and debuted on Raw Monday night. I’m really excited to see what Moon can do on the main roster, and her being there should allow for a big name or two to move to SmackDown, because the Raw women’s division is now stacked. With the Eclipse and her presentation, Moon can stand out and be a key player.
Bobby Lashley returns
It’s not all about NXT call ups, sometimes stars from the past make their return in the aftermath of the Wrestlemania spotlight. This year it was Bobby Lashley, who was back in the company after a ten year absence. In his time away he has fought in MMA for Strikeforce and Bellator among others, as well as being a regular over the last few years in Impact Wrestling (TNA). He was pushed to the moon in his first run in WWE, having the athleticism and physique that Vince McMahon loves. It will be very interesting to see where he slots in now – will he be a main event player? We’ll have to wait and see.
Brother Nero… we knew you’d come
Jeff Hardy picked up an injury around about SummerSlam last year, tearing his rotator cuff. That required surgery, and had a recovery time of six months. He made a cameo in the Ultimate Deletion, which has led to Matt teaming with the newly revitalised mortal vessel of Bray Wyatt. It had been assumed for a long time that when Jeff came back, he would become Brother Nero and align with Matt, but apparently not. That’s what made this segment so necessary though, and I found it extremely entertaining.
Fighting for their jobs
It made perfectly storyline sense for Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to show up on Raw asking for jobs. It also made perfect sense for Kurt Angle to be wary of them, and turn Owens and Zayn down. They attacked their bosses on several occasions, and there’s no reason for Angle to believe they wouldn’t do the same to him. But I have this moment on here because Angle made a match between them with the winner getting a contract, and it was great. It also had a finish that you almost never see in wrestling, never mind just WWE. So credit to them for being creative with that.
Paige officially retires
Since the turn of the year it has been notable that Paige hasn’t had any physical activity. A report circulated claiming that she had suffered a recurrence of the neck injury that kept her out of action for over a year, and WWE were not going to clear her again. Monday night, she confirmed that, and officialy announced her in-ring retirement. She could have stayed on in a managerial role for Absolution, but instead she implied she was moving on to pastures new. After her speech, and after the show went off the air, it was generally assumed that it would be the last time we saw Paige on WWE TV.
SmackDown’s new General Manager
That assumption lasted all the way until the opening segment of SmackDown less than 24 hours later. Shane McMahon opened the show and announced the anticipated news of Daniel Bryan’s resignation as SmackDown General Manager. Shane also announced his replacement: Paige. It’s great that she’s sticking around, wrestling is in her blood and I think she has a lot to offer as a 12 year veteran of the industry. It’s also going to be interesting to have a face female GM, I’m not sure that’s ever properly happened before.
Tuesday nights get IIconic
Sometimes it’s just obvious when someone is ready to be called up from NXT, and in the case of the IIconics Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, it’s been clear for a while now. I would’ve called them up six months ago and put them with Emma. As it is, they were the only new faces on the post-Mania SmackDown. And boy did they make an impact, taking out the reigning SmackDown Women’s Champion, Charlotte.
Carmella recently broke the record for the longest stint holding on to a Money In The Bank contract. But she saw the decimation inflicted on the champion at the hands of Kay and Royce, and finally decided it was the right time. Carmella cashed in her opportunity on a prone Charlotte, and one kick later we had a new SmackDown Women’s Champion.
Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles
When Daniel Bryan was announced as being cleared, dream matches immediately sprung to mind. Daniel Bryan vs Shinsuke Nakamura. Daniel Bryan vs Brock Lesnar. Daniel Bryan vs Kurt Angle. But the one that was at the top of the list was Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles. It took them two days after Bryan’s first match back, and they pulled that trigger. I suspect that WWE did it because one of these guys will be moving to Raw next week. It’s similar to AJ Styles vs Finn Balor last year, in that it was an impressive match but I’d love to see what they could do with a real story. And in this case, a real finish. Shinsuke Nakamura got involved, attacking both men. If all three men are still on the same show, this could be a really special story they’ve started brewing.
War Mach- Raiders. War Raiders.
Back in January WWE announced the signings of four of the top indie talents in the world for NXT. Candice LeRae had already been in the Mae Young Classic, and would be on NXT fairly quickly. Ricochet had to wait until this past weekend at TakeOver: New Orleans for his first match. And this week on NXT the last of that quartet finally debuted – the tag team formerly known as War Machine. Now rebranded as War Raiders, Hanson and Rowe appeared at the end of Heavy Machinery vs Riddick Moss & Tino Sabbotelli to lay out all four men. War Raiders were champions in Ring of Honor and New Japan, and they are going to be huge in WWE.
And that’s it! I find it interesting to see how many of this last week’s great moments have come from the women’s division. Just in this article you had Ember Moon, Paige’s retirement, Paige being announced as SmackDown’s new GM, The IIconics’ debut, a Money In The Bank cash-in and a new champion because of it. That’s not even mentioning the week Ronda Rousey has had or the killer Charlotte v Asuka match at Wrestlemania. It’s easy for WWE to put out a lot of smoke, but there seems to have been substance in the whole Women’s Evolution here. This week, at least, was huge for the women’s division.