This Week in the WWE: 12/15-12/21

It seems like the WWE is much like the Holiday season for most of us these days. We’re all rushing around trying to meet a thousand different masters, some good, some bad and not always succeeding at mastering any of them. But, at the end of the day, we all will arrive on Christmas hoping for the best that everyone likes what we’ve given them enough to celebrate a wonderful with family and friends.

So, with that, we can easily divide the three WWE shows into the naughty, nice and Santa Claus categories.

On top, leading the way as Santa is NXT. While not playing in front of the same crowd numbers or audience, the product itself easily outdoes its mainstream counterparts on a weekly basis and this week is no exception. Two unbelievable championship matches from Adam Cole vs. Finn Balor and Shayna Baszler vs. Rhea Ripley highlighted by a returning fan favorite in Johnny Gargano show that NXT is getting really good at delivering those “moments” while continuing to bring solid, in-ring quality throughout the show.  And to boot, NXT beat AEW in the ratings this week in both viewership and the coveted young demo for the first time. That’s something surely to hang their hat on and build on there.

Smackdown is our “nice” show. There’s enough there each week to keep us happy but still not enough there to break it into the out-of-the-box stratosphere. We expect more now that it’s on broadcast TV but it has yet to deliver anywhere near the viewers – 4 million – it did in its debut show. I will give them credit though this week. A better show from start to finish. Unfortunately for them, with the holiday weekend starting, it may not get reflected as such in the ratings.

What can we say about RAW? What was once the “A” show has now declined into a show that out of the three, is the one you could miss each week without not missing much. That’s something I would’ve never thought especially after Paul Heyman was put in charge of it. We need more attention, more personal development so that we can get that emotional payoff. Storylines, good ones with a touch of reality would go a long way. Rollins and the AOP could be the start of something good, so let’s see where it goes.

The good thing, just like in wrestling itself, is that things can change at the drop of a dime. So, in the spirit of the season, we wish all three shows a Happy Holiday Season ahead and lost of Season’s Beatings with good tidings ahead of the new year coming in.

STAR OF THE WEEK – Easy choice this week and yes, we go chalk. Kudos to Rhea Ripley on her first NXT Women’s Championship. A shooting star has now landed and taken over NXT.

TLC PPV

RESULTS

  • Humberto Carrillo defeated Andrade
  • Smackdown Tag Team Title Ladder Match: Champions The New Day defeated The Revival
  • Aleister Black defeated Buddy Murphy
  • Raw Tag Team Title Match: Champions The Viking Raiders vs. Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (double count out)
  • TLC Match: King Corbin defeated Roman Reigns
  • Non-Title Match: Champion Bray Wyatt defeated The Miz
  • Tables Match: Lashley defeated Rusev
  • Women’s Tag Team Title TLC Match: Champions The Kabuki Warriors defeated Becky Lynch & Charlotte

What we loved:

New Day, Great Start – Applause to both The New Day and The Revival for kicking off TLC in grand style with a ladder match that left both teams strong and made sense.

Action packed Aleister – Just as he’s done on Monday nights, Aleister Black continues to deliver a fast-paced, action-packed match. Black and Murphy kept the emotion and physicality from the ladder match brought it up a notch.

The Fiend vs. Bray Wyatt vs. The Miz vs. Daniel Bryan – Yup, a four way out of a single match. That’s well done my friends. After a more serious-looking match from The Miz that saw him take the clean defeat, the mind games continue with Wyatt being told by The Fiend to finish The Miz off with a giant, clown-like mallet only to see Bryan return, more clean shaven than in the past thanks to The Fiend’s clippers a few weeks back, to take out Wyatt. It’s not the last we’ve seen of this four-way I’m sure and that’s good for the entire WWE Universe.

What we didn’t like:

All downhill – After the first two matches, TLC simply fell flat. Starting with a double count out (seriously, a double count out on a PPV?) from The Viking Raiders and Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson to the en masse beatdown of Roman Reigns to a lackluster Tables Match from Lashley and Rusev complete with spots that simply looked out of pace to the TLC main event from The Kabuki Warriors and Becky Lynch & Charlotte Flair that spent way too much time out of the ring, it just didn’t connect. Why was the Women’s Tag Team Title Match the main event in the first place? That made no sense to me. There was more intrigue in the Bray Wyatt vs. The Miz match, which while the match itself was nothing to write home about, the finish with Wyatt being confronted by The Fiend on screen led to a clean finish over The Miz and the re-emergence of a clean-shaven Daniel Bryan. That to me seemed more of an emotional connection to end a show than the women’s tag match that just seemed to meander through 20+ minutes and Asuka’s claiming of the belts at the finish. Now, kudos to Kairi Sane for taking some insane, concussion-inducing bumps, but the match as a while didn’t resonate.

The end – Why did we need to have a restart of the en masse brawl between King Corbin, Roman Reigns and what seemed like the entire locker room during and after the women’s match? Did we really need 30 more seconds to close the show? Not me. Consider me as one who is bored with Reigns vs. Corbin and we’ve been saying that for weeks. Corbin’s a great heel, but the feud is just going nowhere. Cut the losses and move on instead of doubling or tripling down.  

RAW

RESULTS

  • Non-Title Match: The Good Brothers defeated RAW Tag Team Champions The Viking Raiders
  • Erick Rowan defeated Dante Leon
  • US Title #1 Contenders Gauntlet Match: Ended in no-contest when Andrade stretchered Humberto Carrillo (Akira Tozawa defeated R-Truth, Ricochet defeated Tozawa and Matt Hardy, Humberto Carrillo defeated Ricochet, Carrillo vs. Andrade went to no-contest)
  • Asuka defeated Deonna Purrazzo (submission)
  • Randy Orton defeated. AJ Styles

What we don’t get:

Common sense – I thought with Paul Heyman in charge of RAW on Monday night, we were supposed to get better storylines, creative development and the details being more paid attention to. Yet, instead of that, we continue to get Erick Rowan’s cage with no payoff, a no-contest to a six-man gauntlet match that sees both Humberto Carrillo and Rey Mysterio, Jr. get punked out and many segments to Seth Rollins and the AOP. Please WWE, I’m begging you, please stop starting every non-NXT show with a person standing in the ring droning on and on for 20 minutes just to set up the night. It just makes me change the channel because they’ll be replaying it three of four more times over the next 2.5 hours. Heyman’s better than this product is delivering on Monday nights. Outside of Carrillo’s push and Rollins returning to a heel character he should’ve never left, what do we have? It seems like RAW is a show that’s lost its identity and not sure which way it should go. With the Royal Rumble and the road to WrestleMania about to begin, it’s high time they discovered their way again and do it fast, especially since this Monday’s RAW is already in the can having been taped last week.

Matt Hardy – We’ll say it again, Hardy deserves better. Just listen to the WWE Universe, they actually booed when Hardy lost to Ricochet. What does that tell you! Ricochet’s one of the top faces in the company and the crowd still isn’t happy. Listen to the Universe my friends! Remember that credo announced earlier this year by Stephanie McMahon and Triple H? It seems like they have not.  

What we liked:

Wedding anyone? – Not that we love the Lashley-Lana saga being drawn out any further, but we do love a good wrestling wedding on TV! Can’t wait for the destruction and Lana’s tears coming in this one! BTW: I’m with CM Punk – put Lashley and Rusev together against Lana and a new young stud team to start the new year!

NXT

RESULTS

  • NXT Title Match: Champion Adam Cole defeated Finn Balor
  • Damian Priest defeated Killian Dain
  • Cameron Grimes defeated KUSHIDA
  • Io Shirai defeated Santana Garrett
  • Pete Dunne defeated Travis Banks
  • NXT Women’s Title Match: Rhea Ripley defeated Champion Shayna Baszler

What we loved:

Everything! – Honestly, not a damn thing to not like about this show. From start to finish, just an enjoyable show with hard-hitting action, a surprise return in Johnny Gargano and an absolute thrilling feel-good moment to end the show with Rhea Ripley becoming NXT Women’s Champion for the first time. Now, that’s saying a lot especially when you figure the show didn’t feature Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee or Matt Riddle.

Welcome back Johnny – I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to see Johnny Gargano until 2020 and just when you thought Finn Balor was about to become NXT Champion again, Mr. Gargano changes the game. A look, a nutcracker and a cradle by Adam Cole and the new twist is here. BTW: awesome line by Mauro Ranallo sneaking in the anniversary of The Nutcracker in there after Cole’s nut shot on Balor. So, not only do we have a reason to see Balor vs. Cole again, but we certainly have Balor vs. Gargano to look forward to as we begin the new year. And again, it wasn’t forced. It all felt seamless.

All Hail the New Queen – We’ve been telling you for weeks that Rhea Ripley is truly a superstar in the making. Well, after defeating one of the baddest MF’ers on the planet in Shayna Baszler, Ripley has the gold to prove it. And talk about the way she does it! Ripley absorbs an assault from Baszler’s henchwomen – Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir – and turns what look like a championship retaining submission into a top rope stunning reversal and an avalanche riptide for the title! To boot, the NXT crowd fills the ring to make a special moment even more inviting. Kudos new champ!

Solid. Solid. Solid. – Week in and week out, it’s generally the in-ring performances that keep NXT at the top of the Wednesday night chain for me. This week, it’s even more important as Damian Priest, Io Shirai and Pete Dunne built a solid bridge between the epic title matches that kicked off and finished the show. Truly, it’s what turns a good show with some great moments into one of the most memorable shows of the year from start to finish. It’s also something that makes NXT stand out from RAW and Smackdown where silliness and things that absolutely make no sense seem to be more common place than not.

SMACKDOWN

RESULTS

  • Miracle on 34th Street Fight: Heavy Machinery defeated The Revival
  • Carmella defeated Sonya Deville
  • Non-Title Match: Smackdown Tag Team Champions The New Day defeated Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Non-Title Match: Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley defeated Dana Brooke
  • Lacey Evans vs. Sasha Banks went to a double count out
  • The Miz & Daniel Bryan defeated King Corbin & Dolph Ziggler (submission)

What we loved:

A triple threat treat for The Fiend – So, not only do we get The Miz and Daniel Bryan as contenders for The Fiend’s Universal Title, but after Friday night’s Smackdown, we get King Corbin added into the mix. For the final Smackdown of 2019, it’s a #1 contender’s match for The Fiend’s opponent at the Royal Rumble. Beautifully done to slide Corbin off of the Roman Reigns feud and onto the main event status. Corbin’s a perfect foil as the top heel on the show to face-off with his counterparts. Plus, when you add in Dolph Ziggler, you’ve got so many combinations to fuel the fire. All of that was fully evident in their tag team match and a final laugh from The Fiend to close the show.

Lacey Evans, One Teed-Off Mama – A couple of weeks ago, we made Lacey our Star of the Week for bringing that personal touch to her feud with Sasha Banks and Bayley. This week, after saving Dana Brooke from a two-on-one attack, we get the next step as Sasha taunts Lacey’s daughter, enraging Evans and igniting a fire to this confrontation. We should plenty of Lacey, along with Brooke vs. Sasha and Bayley over the next few weeks.

Otis and Mandy – Heavy Machinery is just wildly entertaining week in and week out both in and out of the ring. Now, add in the sexy Mandy Rose (oh Mandy! – sorry couldn’t refuse all you Barry Mannilow fans!) to flirt with Otis (and his ham) is a juicy story we can sink our teeth into.

Braun’s next step – It’s been teased for weeks and now it looks like we’ll finally get Braun Strowman taking on Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. His save of The New Day to take a shot at Nakamura is a perfect way to kickstart a title run for the big man. Let’s see if it’s a slow burn or a quick shot for Strowman.

Addition by subtraction – Noticeable by his absence is one Roman Reigns. To me, that’s a good thing. It’ll help us forget the forgettable match at TLC and help him move on to whatever is next for The Big Dog.  

What we didn’t like:

Carmella vs. Sonya Deville – Why only 90 seconds for them? Carmella danced with The New Day for longer than that. Deville’s talent is getting wasted at the moment. If they can’t use her right on Smackdown, I’d love to see Deville in NXT as an addition to Shayna Baszler’s team to take out Rhea Ripley.

Sheamus’ vignettes – There needs to be another layer to these vignettes. It’s the same thing week after week. I’d rather see Sheamus build up the roster rather than the tired “no one on Smackdown is any good” line of smack. It’ll be interesting to see who he physically attacks first.

Parting thoughts:

Food for thought – are we headed towards a surprise Rhonda Rousey entry into the Royal Rumble?

Thanks for letting us share our thoughts! Shoot me an email at jcrowe567@gmail.com. We’d love to hear your 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!

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