This Week in the WWE will go down as the week to build up the Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia. And with that comes the fact that Smackdown gets pre-empted on FOX due to World Series game 3 between the Nationals and Astros, sending the WWE to Fox Sports 1 and many fewer available viewers. So, yes, a challenge to be had even with FOX airing a special one-hour episode of Smackdown on Sunday either before or after the NFL game depending on where you live and what game you get. For instance, here in New England, it will air after the 1pm Eagles vs. Bills game and directly up against the Patriots vs. Browns game, so there will be no traction there.
As for the build, the one thing that’s stood out has been the WWE doing a nice job building up the Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez WWE Championship match. We get another beatdown on “la familia” as Lesnar, on Friday Night Smackdown does the honors as Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Velasquez stand helpless in the ring and ultimately F5’ing Mysterio into a wall and then Velasquez onto a prone Dominic on a trainers table. But, with Crown Jewel on Thursday, are we done of the buildup with only RAW left Monday Night or do we get a pre-produced vignette? Either way, it would be better than what we got last Monday night from Velasquez. We’ll get into that in our RAW review.
Outside of that, RAW and Smackdown held little outside of the build. Missed opportunities all around but maybe in their eyes, here’s hoping that the WWE has a revamp starting on Friday after Crown Jewel with Survivor Series and Royal Rumble just around the corner.
Still, the best show for my money continues to be NXT on Wednesday night! Pound for pound, it’s the best ring action of the week with the triple threat North American Championship Match between Roderick Strong, Keith Lee and Dominic Dijakovic going down as a Full Sail classic. Add in an epic heel turn and a strong effort from Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair and you may have the best two hours of WWE product all week long!
I’m still waiting for that breakout edition of Monday Night RAW that we can finally say Paul Heyman put his complete stamp on. For now, we get small doses. The Street Profits, Humberto Carrillo and a returning Kevin Owens. But the seeds are planted for a big heel turn coming for the Universal Champion Seth Rollins. The rub, IMHO is that Heyman can never push the limits as far as his ECW days, the Attitude Era or even AEW’s current product. The WWE is just too mainstream with too many general sponsors that won’t allow its content to go non-PC and push that TV-14 limit. But, I’m sure Heyman will keep trying!
- Drew McIntyre defeated Ricochet
- Aleister Black defeated Jason Reynolds
- Andrade defeated Sin Cara
- Sunil Singh defeated R-Truth to win 24/7 WWE Championship
- Non-Title Match: RAW Tag Team Champions The Viking Raiders defeated Ryder & Hawkins
- Non-Title Match: Universal Champion Seth Rollins defeated Humberto Carrillo
- The Street Profits defeated The OC – Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
What we loved:
Humberto Carrillo – Building up the new young stud of a draft pick against the reigning champion is a shout out to the yesteryear of the territory days. A well-done match that leaves you wanting more. Plus, the next few hints of a Seth Rollins heel turn are planted. It’s what Rollins needs. Definitely a Heyman stamp on this one.
The Street Profits (and Kevin Owens)– A very cool entrance to the ring through the crowd. Check! A win, aided by a returning Kevin Owens as the Street Profits mystery partner to take out AJ Styles. Check! Dancing with a baby to close out the show. Check! New blood to give some energy.
Ric Flair – The Nature Boy shooting on the Cleveland Browns in the front row is always pure enjoyment! Getting Drew McIntyre over in an entertaining match against Ricochet, paying over his King of the Ring upset, is a bonus!
Vignettes anyone – The build for Aleister Black, Authors of Pain and Buddy Murphy through quick vignettes is giving a good backstory without the standard WWE stand in the ring or backstage feel.
What we didn’t like:
Rusev/Lana/Bobby Lashley angle – Between the King’s Court and the restaurant beatdown between Bobby Lashley and Rusev, this love triangle angle is played out. Lashley has no personality to carry it out and it all looks too forced. Finish it, scrap it and move on. Best line of the segments goes to Lana yelling at Rusev “take him to jail!”
The announce team – Is it me or is there a lack of energy at times there? Jerry Lawler’s one-liners are a lift but it seems like Vic Joseph and Dio Maddin are lost at times.
Where are the ladies? – I get that there are no women matches on Crown Jewel thanks to the Prince in Saudi Arabia, but at least throw us a bone of a match while you’re still in the States. Lazy creative there WWE!
The good & the bad (and sometimes ugly!) – Cain Velasquez, Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Shelton Benjamin – Loved the real-life backstory of Shelton Benjamin being friends and roommates with Brock Lesnar back at the University of Minnesota. Loved Benjamin trying to push Mysterio around in looking for a title match, just like Velasquez used Rey to get a title shot from Lesnar. But then Velasquez comes in and manhandles Benjamin with punches that weren’t even close. Ruined the segment for me. The physicality didn’t match up to the promos. Missed opportunity and made both Velasquez and Benjamin look bad.
- Rhea Ripley defeated Bianca Belair
- Matt Riddle defeated Cameron Grimes
- Breezango & Isaiah “Swerve” Scott defeated The Forgotten Sons
- Angel Garza defeated Jack Gallagher
- Tegan Nox & Dakota Kai defeated Marina & Jessamyn to win a shot at WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles vs. Kabuki Warriors next week
- North American Heavyweight Championship Match: Roderick Strong defends title over Dominic Dijakovic & Keith Lee (Strong pins Dijakovic)
What we loved:
OMG Finn Balor – What a well-done heel turn! Did NOT see that one coming. Just when you thought Balor was back to complete his “future in his present” and help Tomasso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano against the Undisputed Era, BAM! A Pele kick to the head of Gargano. It certainly leaves me wanting to see where it goes next. Does Balor Club include the UE now? Or is it just a means to an end to get the NXT Championship?
Main event triple threat – Just before Balor’s heel turn, we get an epic triple threat where Roderick Strong steals the pin, letting Keith Lee do the work to get Dominic Dijakovic down for the count and Strong runs in for the win! Beautifully laid out as Strong adds another layer to the feud between Lee and Dijakovic.
The Kabuki Warriors are coming to NXT – We’ve been waiting for the Women’s Tag Team Championship to be defended on NXT and next week we get it as Asuka returns to Full Sail with Kairi Sane. Next up: Tegan Nox & Dakota Kai.
What we hated:
- Bobby Roode & Dolph Ziggler defeated The New Day
- Lacey Evans defeated Cameron Conners
- Kalisto defeated Drew Gulak
- Nikki Cross defeated Mandy Rose
- Ali, Gable, & Roman Reigns defeated King Corbin, Shinsuke Nakamura, & Cesaro
What we loved:
A main event that delivered – After a Miz TV start to the Friday Night Smackdown night with Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan facing off with their respective members of their teams for Crown Jewel, we get a very solid finish highlighting Ali and Shorty Gable in helping Team Hogan get the victory with Ali pinning Cesaro. BTW: nice to see Cesaro subbing in for an “injured” Sami Zayn as well. Crowd was well into this one, as was I!
The offer – Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura offering a hand and a stable spot to join them to Daniel Bryan is intriguing. I like Bryan walking the face/heel line and letting it play out to see if they eventually go back to the YES movement, something Bryan again said was dead or continue to let Bryan play full heel, something he’s embraced.
Brock vs. Cain – As we mentioned above, keeping the heat on “la familia” keeps that personal emotion going. Plus, Brock gets an F5 in on Velasquez gives him some momentum headed into Crown Jewel. Well done, especially after the misfire on RAW with the Velasquez/Benjamin interaction.
What made no sense:
New Day – How does the New Day still have a title shot next week on Smackdown yet lose to Roode & Ziggler this week? How is that effective booking?
Firefly Funhouse– It just flat out made no sense and seemed like a throwaway. If it’s not going to be special, don’t do it. It’s a red-hot segment that the WWE had nothing with this week. Breer Rabbit’s funeral leads to his rebirth only to have Buzzard eat him? Really? No thanks!
Drew Gulak – What’s the need to bury Drew Gulak, this week losing to Kallisto and then abused by Braun Strowman, on back-to-back weeks? Isn’t there a better way to build Strowman?
Thanks for letting us share our thoughts! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear you comments and suggestions! You can also check out my blog, The Crowe’s Nest as we delve into more pro wrestling, sports entertainment and the World of Sports. My apologies ahead of time – I AM a Patriots and Red Sox fan! If you’re not down with that, I’ve got TWO WORDS for you…. NEW ENGLAND!