So, WWE Universe! What got you excited this week?
Was it the return of Goldberg, LIVE and in person on Friday Night SmackDown? Or maybe it was the Bella Twins getting the nod into the WWE Hall of Fame? Was it Randy Orton’s thorough thrashing of Matt Hardy? The return to the ring of The Velveteen Dream and that sweet entrance! Or maybe, it was the continued heartbreak of the Mandy-Otis coupling.
I don’t know about you, but outside of Orton, all of that played second fiddle.
Hands down, the best show of the week goes to the folks from Full Sail! NXT TakeOver: Portland dominated the WWE airwaves on the WWE Network. Champions stood tall, new tag team champs crowned on a night that looked like The Undisputed Era looked to lose all the gold, only to see Johnny Gargano turn on his friend and former foe, Tommaso Ciampa moments before he was going to get his NXT Championship back.
Across the board from in-ring to furthering storylines to crowd excitement, NXT led the way. And that’s the way it’s been lately. RAW’s been better in the past few weeks, but SmackDown has really lacked that “it” factor. That surprises me that the level of “WOW” just hasn’t been there for the blue brand, especially considering how much FOX is spending for it. That 2.4 million viewers a week is a nice, safe number, but FOX at some point will ask why the needle hasn’t moved much. Plus, just watching the show, you can see that it’s lacking the drama and needed creativity.
Simply put, imagine how much different the Road to WrestleMania would look, especially for the women if not for NXT! We wouldn’t have Rhea Ripley vs. Charlotte Flair. We wouldn’t have Shayna Baszler (ahem, possibly) against Becky Lynch. Two of the hottest stories across the brands!
With Super Showdown this Thursday in Saudi Arabia, expect things to get much clearer on the Road to WrestleMania. After all, remember, we do get the return of John Cena as well Friday night in Boston on SmackDown. Then, it’s Elimination Chamber just over one week later on March 8th.
NXT TakeOver: Portland
- NXT North American Championship Match: Keith Lee defeated Domink Dijakovic to retain title
- Street Fight: Dakota Kai defeated Tegan Nox
- Finn Balor defeated Johnny Gargano
- NXT Women’s Championship Match: Rhea Ripley defeated Bianca Belair to retain title
- NXT Tag Team Championship Match: The BroserWeights (Matt Riddle & Pete Dunne) defeated The Undisputed Era to win the titles
- NXT Championship Match: Adam Cole defeated Tommaso Ciampa to retain title
Star of the Week:
It’s not a person or particular person this week. It’s a match. The Symphony of Destruction Match between Braun Strowman/Elias vs. Shinsuke Nakamura/Cesaro. In just its second edition, this match was fun, physical, entertaining and all four, plus Sami Zayn, really had me invested! Unfortunately, that piano didn’t cooperate. Damn, those backs must have felt that one! Well done guys!
- Aleister Black defeated Erick Rowan
- 24/7 Championship Match: Riddick Moss defeated R-Truth & Mojo Rawley in triple-threat match
- Drew McIntyre defeated MVP
- Bobby Lashley & Angel Garza defeated Rusev & Humberto Carrillo
- Kairi Sane defeated Natalya (countout)
- Ricochet defeated Karl Anderson
- Kevin Owens & The Viking Raiders defeated Buddy Murphy & The Authors of Pain (DQ)
This one just didn’t have that “it” factor either this week. The show seemed off all night. Nothing really stuck out other than Randy Orton’s deletion of Matt Hardy. This is the Road to WrestleMania and the WWE needs to start treating that way with must-see shows EVERY week. This one seemed like a take-off week instead after some very good shows.
What we loved:
Red-hot RKO – The hottest heel on the planet continues to be one Randy Orton. We thought The Viper put Matt Hardy to pasture last week, but that attack was nothing compared to a pair of conchairto shots in and out of the ring this week. Scary to think that at one point, Orton had the crowd cheering him to give Hardy one more shot. You have to wonder what Orton has in store next.
Substance to The Street Profits – It’s good to see the WWE finally using The Street Profits for more than just comedic fodder. Their infusion into the main even match with Seth Rollins and his Monday Night Messiah Minions gives the storyline some freshness.
No squash here – How about that! Instead of a pair of squashes for Aleister Black and Erik Rowan, we get a physical match between the two. Plus, Black gets elevated into what looks to be a mid-card match WrestleMania. Nice step up for Mr. Black.
Hey Lucy, you got some ‘splanin to do:
Hard-ly any help – It always bothers me when there will be a flurry of help from the locker room for some random disturbance in the ring, yet when there’s a vicious attack on a fan favorite, like this week on Matt Hardy, absolutely no one comes out to help! Why is that? Does Matt Hardy have no friends after more than two decades in the company? He was out there getting his ass and neck killed for almost ten minutes. Makes no sense. Even Humberto Carrillo has gotten help at one point.
Becky vs. Shayna – Why exactly is Becky Lynch shelling out money for what she’ll do to Shayna Baszler? Why is Baszler’s s-bomb not bleeped and is she getting the non-PG treatment on purpose? Is it me, or is the Elimination Chamber just a mere formality?
What we didn’t love:
24/7 – It seems we’ve lost some creative and fun to the once beloved 24/7 title. The past few weeks, it’s just turned into another throwaway match. I need it to return to the wild, crazy, out of the ring, defended everywhere mayhem it was the first few months.
- NXT Cruiserweight Title Match: Jordan Devlin defeated Lio Rush to retain title
- The Grizzled Young Veterans defeated Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde
- Non-title NXT Tag Team Match: The BroserWeights (Pete Dunne & Matt Riddle) defeated Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch
- Non-title North American Title Match: Keith Lee defeated Kona Reeves
- Chelsea Green defeated Kayden Carter
- The Velveteen Dream defeated Roderick Strong
Coming out what so far could be the show of the year at TakeOver: Portland, NXT delivers another solid, but lacking big moments show. A pair of champions, Keith Lee and The BroserWeights, looked strong while The Velveteen Dream steals the show, dealing another nightmarish ending to TUE with a clean win over Roderick Strong. I am VERY curious to see where Bianca Belair will land after calling out Charlotte Flair again. Belair, despite the loss at TakeOver: Portland, remains a rockstar with a tremendous upside.
What we loved:
The Dream Delights – Great to see TVD back in the ring in the main event. Match of the night between the Dream and Roderick Strong delivers on what it promised. Plus, an expected beatdown keeps the feud going.
Ciampa’s challenge – Not only did Tommaso Ciampa challenge former partner and nemesis Johnny Gargano’s spot in NXT, but also set up a battle next week vs. Austin Theory. Ciampa’s chomping at the bit to not only get Gargano, but another shot at Goldie and the NXT Championship.
Celebrate the cruiserweights – Jordan Devlin and Lio Rush got out Wednesday night off to a hot start with a thrilling title match start. Rush has really changed my mind on him with his latest run in NXT. Devlin has definitely taken the baton and kept the cruiserweight championship at an elevated state.
What we didn’t love:
Home not-so-sweet Home – After a capacity crowd in Portland, Oregon Sunday night at TakeOver: Portland, it was a bit of a letdown to go back to Full Sail Wednesday night. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it every week until it changes, NXT has to go big or stay home (and stay safe). Staying safe isn’t going to cut it against All Elite Wrestling, who continues to bang it out in bigtime arenas on a week-in, week-out basis.
- The Usos and The New Day defeated The Miz, John Morrison, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode
- Symphony of Destruction Match: Braun Strowman & Elias defeated Shinsuke Nakamura & Cesaro
- Daniel Bryan defeated Heath Slater
- #1 Contender’s Match Smackdown Women’s Championship: Naomi defeated Carmella
What we loved:
Tag-team toughness – LOVED a little smack talk between The Usos and The New Day before a good ol’ fashioned tussle to start the night with The Miz, John Morrison, Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode. Always quality stuff from these 8 men in the ring! Plus, always a little tease for a fight down the road if a turn’s needed.
Standing O for Symphony – LOVED all the musical destruction between Elias, Braun Strowman, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura. Tag teams are ruling the night and count me as one if they wanted to push Elias and Strowman as future tag champs. Good chemistry and the crowd loves both of them at the moment.
Stalking Otis – Otis is about to snap my friends! Simmer. Simmer. Boil! It’s coming, folks! Mr. Ziggler is about to get a whooping! Can’t wait to see where they take it before getting that feel good moment we all know is coming, but will all stand tall and enjoy when it comes!
Oh so predictable:
Goldberg spears The Fiend….and that’s it – I get that you have to put some kind of notion that Goldberg could actually beat Bray Wyatt/The Fiend at Super Showdown. But, it was oh so predictable in how it was laid out, complete with Goldberg telling us how it would happen. There’s ZERO chance The Fiend loses at Super Showdown on the Road to WrestleMania.
Naomi vs. Carmella – Flat and clunky at times. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine, but for a main event, I need to be wowed. If not, it’s just there. Kind of like this whole episode of SmackDown. It was just there.
Bryan vs. Slater II – Why?
Congrats to the Bella Twins as the newest announced inductees to the WWE Hall of Fame!
How about the latest rumor – WWE in talks with ESPN to show their PPV’s on the ESPN+ streaming service. Could be a big blow to the WWE Network, but worth guaranteed money for the WWE and more mainstream publicity from ESPN. Something to watch as this one could develop quickly – BEFORE WrestleMania.
Super Showdown is next Thursday in Saudi Arabia at 12pm (ET) on the WWE Network.
- WWE Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Ricochet
- Universal Championship: The Fiend vs. Goldberg
- Smackdown Women’s Championship – Bayley vs. Naomi
- Smackdown Tag Team Championship: The New Day vs. The Miz & John Morrison
- Raw Tag Team Championship: Seth Rollins & Buddy Murphy vs. The Street Profits
- Steel Cage Match: Roman Reigns vs. King Corbin
- Tuwaiq Trophy Gauntlet Match: AJ Styles vs. R-Truth vs. Rusev vs. Bobby Lashley vs. Erik Rowan vs. Andrade (if he’s back off Wellness Suspension)
Thanks for letting us share our thoughts! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!