Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s the third day of Wrestlemania Spotlights! Today I want to write about a match that seemed to have so much potential on paper the first time or two it was made, but has dissolved into… well, into a joke. I’m talking of course about the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

I mean, seriously, has there ever been a more obvious filler match on the Wrestlemania card? It’s not even funny. It’s very easy to forget both that this match is happening, and that last year it was won by Mojo Rawley, with a little help from Rob Gronkowski. Being in this match is a very bad sign, because it’s WWE’s way of getting everyone on to the show. If you’re not in a featured match, you’re in this one. It’s that simple. Read More

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: The Miz vs Finn Balor vs Seth Rollins

We have no more Raws before Wrestlemania! We’re getting closer all the time people! So with the final build almost over, it’s time for one more Spotlight. This time round I’m looking at another title match: the Intercontinental Championship triple threat match that sees The Miz defending his title against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor.

First off, I’m excited for this match. These three are all extremely capable performers, I wouldn’t mind whoever won, and they’ve done it before. Literally. This exact match. Just short of a year ago. And it was great. So I have full faith they can do it again on the grandest stage of them all.

Read More

Wrestlemania 34 Spotlight: Asuka vs Charlotte

It’s officially Wrestlemania week! This year we have an absolutely stacked card. There could be five legitimate main events for varying reasons. So with that in mind, just like last year it’s not going to be enough to cover the show with a single Spotlight. Once again, I’m going to attempt seven Spotlights in seven days. And this time, I start with the SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Asuka vs Charlotte Flair.

Asuka vs Charlotte could be one of the best matches on the show. From an in ring stand point, I only have it behind AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura in my expectations. Asuka’s push has been unrivalled in WWE, and Charlotte has clearly been the queen of the company in recent years. It should be one of the featured matches on this year’s extravaganza. But for some reason, the hype just isn’t there. It feels like just another match. Read More

TV Talking Points – 26th-28th March

It was the penultimate week of build to Wrestlemania, and once again I’m a little strapped for time, so let’s get right into the week’s events!

Raw

Laying down the law for the Deadman

While I was very much in the camp that wasn’t sure if I wanted to see Undertaker wrestle again, John Cena has most certainly brought the intensity when calling out WWE’s conscience. Like I’ve said before, he’s attacked Undertaker’s personality and character like nobody in recent memory. And this week Cena brought it again, this time claiming that no response from the Undertaker would be letting down every single fan who’s ever believed in him.

Read More

TV Talking Points – 19th-21st March

What a week! There’s been so much going on in WWE, it’s easy to forget we’re only 17 days away from Wrestlemania! Let’s just get right into this bumper edition of WWE’s TV Talking Points.

Raw

Putting the Big Dog down

This week we finally got a confrontation between the reigning, defending, undisputed, Universal Champion Brock Lesnar faced off with his number one contender Roman Reigns. The story is that Lesnar turned up when he thought Reigns wouldn’t be there – whether that’s because he saw it as a low risk night off, or because he fears Reigns is up to you. But of course, Reigns did show, and got absolutely demolished. The worrying thing is that I wasn’t convinced WWE’s effort to get the fans on Reigns’ side was working before. After the news that broke the next day (much more on that later), WWE’s fight has possibly never been more doomed.

Read More

TV Talking Points – 11th-14th March

The last PPV before Wrestlemania was last Sunday night, and now we are officially on a one way street to the biggest show of the year! So how did WWE bring it’s focus round to Wrestlemania this week? Read on for all the highlights of the last week’s TV.

Fastlane

6-pack challenge completed

AJ Styles went into Fastlane facing insurmountable odds – or so WWE tried to tell us. The obvious Wrestlemania WWE Championship match has been AJ Styles vs Shinsuke Nakamura for months now, and Styles’ successful defence of his title set it up as expected. But the match was a fun one, full of action with some big spots. It was the most impressive Baron Corbin has looked in a long time, it furthered the Kevin Owens/Sami Zayn/Shane McMahon story (more on that later) and of course, AJ Styles retained to confirm the Mania dream match.

Read More

Fastlane 2018 Spotlight: Shinsuke Nakamura vs Rusev

Tonight is the last brand specific PPV: WWE Fastlane, which in case you didn’t know is the last stop before Wrestlemania! We have six matches ahead of us an- wait, six? When did that happen? There’s a women’s tag team match? Huh?

It doesn’t really matter, and not just because that likely won’t have any impact whatsoever on Wrestlemania, but also because that’s amazingly not the match I’m writing about. No instead, I’m writing about a match between two people whose appearances on SmackDown over the last month or so have been few and far between. 2018 men’s Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura vs possibly the most popular man on the roster right now, Rusev.

This is a match that has blatantly been put together as one of those “we have two big names who have nothing to do for a PPV, and we need to kill time” matches. Worse, it’s really not what either man needs right now. Read More

TV Talking Points – 5th-7th March

It was the go-home week for Fastlane, but on Raw and NXT Wrestlemania weekend started to take shape! So what was set up? What do we have to look forward to? I’ve rounded up the top moments of the week right here!

Raw

Rousey’s Mania match confirmed

It’s been rumoured for a long time, and there has been a lot of speculation about who her partner would be, but on Raw it was confirmed that Ronda Rousey would make her Wrestlemania debut in a mixed tag team match against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and her partner will be… Kurt Angle. They have the link that both are Olympians, and they’ve already been playing into The Authority’s history with Rousey at Wrestlemania 31 and Angle at last year’s Survivor Series. I think this match will exceed expectations in the same way AJ Styles vs Shane McMahon was a highlight of last year’s Mania – with the names involved it will likely be planned and rehearsed to the second, which is probably an assurance of quality.

 

The Ultimate Deletion

We’re finally seeing progression with the Woken Matt character. Some of the highlights of Broken Matt in Impact Wrestling were his skits at the Hardy Compound, and the likes of Total Nonstop Deletion and the Final Deletion. Now, it’s coming to the WWE. Matt invited Bray Wyatt to partake int he Ultimate Deletion. If they are allowed to be as creative as House Hardy was in TNA, this could be what pushes Woken Matt over the top. Equally, if it’s like Wyatt’s House of Horrors match, it could ruin the gimmick. The kicker is, the match has already been filmed. When will it air? Who knows. It could be next Monday’s Raw, it could be Wrestlemania. Either way, the anticipation is simply delightful.

 

Building the Big Dog

Paul Heyman is a genius. That’s nothing new to most of the WWE Universe, but I’m not sure it can ever be repeated enough. I wasn’t sure that WWE’s aim of getting Brock Lesnar booed and Roman Reigns cheered going into Wrestlemania was in any shape or form achievable, but we’re just a couple of weeks in and it looks like they’re getting there. They still have four weeks to go, and they’ll need to keep things fresh and not overdo the “absent champion” line, but so far so good.

 

SmackDown

A rivalry highlighted

I know I covered the promo segment between The Usos and The New Day last time out, but my god have WWE’s production team pulled something out of the hat in recapping it. This clip has everything: history, motivation, intensity – basically anything you’d want in an epic rivalry, this video shows off. It gave me chills.

 

Fatal-5-Way

It wasn’t that long ago that AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin vs Dolph Ziggler vs Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn was slated as the main event for Fastlane, but instead we got that exact match on SmackDown. As could have been expected going in, it was all action, but with a potentially big moment at the end. Sami Zayn won by pinning Kevin Owens after a Helluva Kick. There has been dissension brewing between the best friends for weeks, and at the minute it looks like they’re being set up for a match down the line. For me that’s way too early, this could be a multi-year story that results in an all-time great match. I really hope they don’t blow it off in a matter of months.

 

NXT

NXT gold to Fade to Black?

On the yellow brand this week Killian Dain and Aleister Black faced off, with the unconfirmed stipulation that the winner would go on to face Andrade “Cien” Almas for the NXT Championship at TakeOver: New Orleans. Black ended up coming out victorious, and after the show William Regal announced that he would indeed challenge Almas the night before Wrestlemania. Black would have to be the favourite to win the title, and as he is the closest thing NXT has had to that next level face of the brand since Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor, that could be a very good thing indeed.

 

And there we have WWE’s week of TV for the start of March! Next week’s edition will be a little longer due to Fastlane being included, but from there we are on the final straight to the biggest show of the year. You might have heard about it, Wrestlemania 34!

TV Talking Points – 25th-28th February

It was PPV week in WWE, which meant four consecutive nights of shows. And since it was the last Raw PPV before Wrestlemania, it also meant we have a stronger picture of where the red brand is headed for Wrestlemania. So what were the highlights of WWE’s programming for the last week of February? Read on to find out.

Elimination Chamber

Braun Strowman is a beast

Ok, so I’ve actively tried to stay away from Braun Strowman stories over the last few weeks, because I felt like I was writing about his antics every single time I did this column and I didn’t want it to feel too repetitive or redundant. But when WWE keeps putting him in spots to shine, I can’t leave him out. Braun eliminated five of his six opponents inside the Chamber, and clearly came away the most dominant figure in the match. I know similar things were said last year, but if Braun Strowman isn’t in a world title match at next year’s Wrestlemania it really would be a travesty. It’s nor a surprise to anyone at this stage, but Braun Strowman is a beast.

 

Rowdy Ronda Rousey makes a statement

If there was a valid criticism to be made over Rousey’s debut appearance at the Royal Rumble over not really doing much, there was no cause for similar worries here. She entered extremely smiley, looking genuinely touched at the positive reaction she got. We learned that this was all a scheme concocted by Triple H and Stephanie to get revenge on Ronda for her actions at Wrestlemania 31, Rousey put Triple H through a table, and really we got a Mania match set up and all ready to go.

 

Raw

“Shooting” at the Beast

What’s that? A badass Roman Reigns promo? About damn time. If this was the Roman Reigns we had been getting for the last three years, the dude might have been a bona fide star by now. The major criticism of him has always been his promos, but some genius writing by WWE let the big dog loose this week, and it paid off. We’ll have to wait and see if this carries over into future shows, but he got some big reactions from the crowd on certain lines.

 

Challenging The Deadman

Just as one match that’s been expected for months is confirmed, another is finally addressed. There have rumours for months that despite his grand farewell last year, The Undertaker would pick up his gloves, lace up his boots and put on his trenchcoat one more time to face John Cena. Cena saying that the match “will not happen” throws an interesting twist into the mix, but I highly doubt that WWE would even have had Cena mention Undertaker if the match wasn’t going to happen. For the time being, we’ll just have to wait and see how Cena’s excursion to SmackDown goes.

 

SmackDown

Six pack challenge

At the very least, things started well for Cena back on Tuesday nights. He asked to be given an opportunity to be inserted into the WWE Championship match at Fastlane, which he received. All he had to do to get in the match was defeat the WWE Champion, AJ Styles. Whenever these two lock up there is a magic in the air, and they haven’t put on a bad match yet. This might not have been at the level of their previous wars, but it was still an excellent TV match. It could easily end up as the best WWE TV match of the year.

 

Another rivalry renewed

And just as John Cena and AJ Styles butted heads one more time at the top of the card, the tag team division also saw old foes cross swords again. As it stands, the best in ring tag team rivalry WWE had in 2017 will be revisited at Fastlane as The New Day challenge The Usos. I say for the time being, because the Bludgeon Brothers’ tease at the end suggests it won’t be too long before they turn their focus to championship gold…

 

NXT

British Strong Style on Dream’s street

There weren’t many superstars who had more impressive 2017s after debuting than Tyler Bate and Velveteen Dream, and this week saw them do battle in NXT’s opening match. Much like his compatriot Pete Dunne, I don’t think I’ve seen Bate have a bad match, and Dream has obvious superstar potential. It was interesting to see these two clash, but the result was never really in doubt. They’re pushing a losing streak for Bate, which if things turn out properly will hopefully lead to a heel turn and a dominant British Strong Style trio running through NXT.

 

And there we have it. Next week sees the start of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic on Wednesday nights, as well as an Elimination Chamber rematch between Asuka and Nia Jax on Raw. But for now, I bid you adieu!

 

Elimination Chamber 2018 Spotlight: “Woken” Matt Hardy vs Bray Wyatt

It’s another show. Yay. This past Monday’s marathon gauntlet match aside, there has been a palpable feeling that WWE has been killing time over the last few weeks, waiting until they can properly get the hype machine going for Wrestlemania. As far as Raw is concerned, we only have to wait a matter of days. But first we have to get through an utterly predictable Elimination Chamber show.

That’s not to say it will be a bad show quality-wise, but there just isn’t a great deal of intrigue. And the match I’m putting the Spotlight on this time around exemplifies that feeling – it was a pairing I had high hopes for, but that has been incredibly underwhelming. So what’s gone wrong with the rivalry between Bray Wyatt and “Woken” Matt Hardy?

Woken Matt Bray
Hardy and Wyatt have been battling for weeks, and they face off once again tomorrow night

Well for one, repetitiveness. The first match in this series between the two men was on the 27th November, after which Matt started deleting, beginning his metamorphism into the Woken persona. And to be fair, it was massively exciting for the first few weeks. But here we are three months later, and we’re still seeing the same promos, saying the same things. Plus, we already saw the match at Raw25, and it didn’t set the world alight, so there’s just not the same anticipation to see them do battle again now. Read More

TV Talking Points – 19th-21st February

So it was a weird week in WWE. Raw nearly became a one-match show, SmackDown finally went over the cliff edge for a lack of actual happenings, and NXT returned to it’s spot as the best storytelling show WWE has to offer. Not that it was really saying much this week. Let’s get to the important parts of this week’s WWE TV!

Raw

Monday Night Rollins

When I say Raw nearly became a one-match show, that actually looked feasible at one point. They opened with the gauntlet match featuring all seven of this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber participants, and that one match lasted for nearly two hours of the show. Seth Rollins was without a doubt the star performer, winning the first fall against Roman Reigns, and also winning the second against John Cena in PPV-quality matches. Rollins eventually wound up lasting for one hour and five minutes, breaking the record for the longest time one man has spent in a match in Raw (and likely WWE) history.

Read More

Retro Spotlight: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker – Part 2

Last week I debuted a new column where I look at a match, angle or feud of the past and look at the build, the content and the aftermath. There was only one place I could start, and that was with one of my favourite matches: Jeff Hardy vs The Undertaker in a ladder match for the Undisputed Title from the July 1st, 2002 edition of Raw. That match is rightly still remembered today, but the two superstars would face off again years later, in an encounter I think is often forgotten – but no less important in the Jeff Hardy story.

I find it interesting looking back at both matches, because there are a lot of differences as you might expect, but there are also a lot of similarities despite both men being at different stages of their career, and their environment having changed significantly too.

From 2002, we’re jumping ahead six years to late 2008. As noted last time, Jeff Hardy had left WWE in 2003 to go to TNA, but he returned to Raw in 2006 to a wave of approval from his fans. He returned to confront the then-WWE Champion Edge, in what was a nice nod to Edge’s feud with Jeff’s brother Matt the previous year. But much as Jeff had failed to reach his apparent potential in 2003, he had to prove that he could be a top guy all over again when he came back. Read More