Welcome to the first ever “This Week in the WWE” with yours truly. Before we get into the historic week that was in sports entertainment, let me give you a blurb about me. I am an avid pro wrestling fan dating back to seeing Jimmy Snuka vs. Don Muraco (and yes, Pete Doherty) at the old Boston Garden in Boston and the epic King of the Ring series in Providence. But, not only was I a watcher of then WWF, but also Georgia Championship Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling, the NWA, Mid-South, WCW and yes, even Southwest Championship Wrestling. So, yes, we’ve seen the industry weave in and out of many different forks in the road. I’m a huge HBK fan (who isn’t?!) and since I’ve worked in tv & radio for 30 years, I love thinking outside the box and creativity. But, enough about me. Now, it’s onto the 2019 scene and beyond.
Before we get into the specific shows, let’s look at the landscape. Any wrestling fan with his or her head not buried in the sand knows how huge a week this was for not only WWE, but also the upstart All Elite Wrestling league as well as the entire industry. For the first time since 2001 and the Monday Night Wars between RAW and WCW’s Nitro, there would be a live competitor on TNT to WWE in the form of AEW’s Dynamite vs. WWE’s NXT on Wednesday night. In addition, for the first time EVER, the WWE would return to broadcast TV on FOX with Friday Night Smackdown, meaning a new gateway to mainstream fans is open should WWE take advantage of it. For comparison sake, a really good show on cable TV can do two million viewers. That same really good show on broadcast TV would expect to double that many viewers in order to be successful. The number one show on broadcast TV, Sunday Night Football on NBC, just did 15 million viewers with the Cowboys vs. Saints last Sunday night.
Competition is good for EVERYONE and especially the fans! We get to watch and enjoy it all! Don’t get sucked into you have to “be” with one side of the other. Watch it all. WWE, AEW, Ring of Honor, New Japan, MLW, House of Hardcore and any number of your favorite indy promotions! It will only make the individual companies strive to get better or get out of the game. The strong will survive but along the way, we should get many, many, MANY memorable moments.
So, let’s get to it. I’m not going to give you “five star (or any star) ratings.” That’s not my thing. I will tell you what I think they got right and what went off the deep end as well.
Monday Night RAW – Season premiere on USA Network
Sasha Banks defeated Alexa Bliss
Raw Tag Team Title Match: Champions Robert Roode & Dolph Ziggler defeated Heavy Machinery
The Viking Raiders defeated The Good Brothers
Ricochet defeated Cesaro
US Title Match: Champion AJ Styles defeated Cedric Alexander
Lacey Evans defeated Natalya
Universal Title Match: Champion Seth Rollins vs. Rusev went to a no contest
What we loved:
An absolute epic destruction of Rey Mysterio, JR and his son Dominic by Brock Lesnar to start the show. Lesnar’s heel stock soars!
Tag teams! Loving the chemistry with Roode & Ziggler. Heavy Machinery is downright entertaining, I’m digging the AOP vignettes too. There better be more than a one week payoff there when they debut in the ring! One question though, do Gallows and Anderson really need to lose every week?
The Fiend! What’s not to love about Bray Wyatt’s alter ego. I would love to see him start terrorizing more than just babyfaces and legends though. Be more arbitrary. After all, that would make more sense as to why he gets a Universal Title Shot at Hell in the Cell PPV without ever having a tv match, wouldn’t it?
What we hated:
Where was Seth Rollins during that beatdown? The company’s supposed #1 babyface doesn’t come out to save Rey and his son? Makes too much sense, doesn’t it? Talk about your missed opportunity!
While we always enjoy a dose of the Southern Belle, Lacey Evans, I don’t need a weekly diet of Natalya in a match we’ve seen three or four times over now. Put them in different settings, different opponents if you want to continue the feud. They both have it in them. Ditto for Ricochet vs. Cesaro. All four deserve more creativity.
Bobby Lashley & Lana? Seriously! I’m all for pushing the TV-14 envelope, but that lengthy make out session that renders Rusev useless during a Championship match was a tinge long even for Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s teenage tendencies! You knew it was just a fork in the road en route to The Fiend getting to Rollins to end the show. Which begs the question, why wouldn’t Rusev save Rollins again after doing it earlier in the night? He’s already out there! I know, I know. Too much common sense.
Team Flair vs. Team Hogan on MIZ TV. Sure, it’s a way to pay off some legends of the past for the Saudi Prince on Halloween night with a 10-man tag match featuring captains Randy Orton and Seth Rollins, but haven’t we seen this one before in TNA? I hope they find a way to showcase a few seldom used stars as part of the five-man teams to give them the rub to catapult them after the event. Let’s hope no physicality with the legend captain however! We don’t need to see that!
NXT on USA Network
NXT Championship: Adam Cole defeats Matt Riddle
Io Shirai pins Mia Yam
Johnny Gargano wins over Shane Thorne
NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baszler taps out Candice LeRae
Pete Dunne defeats Danny Burch
NXT Tag Team Championship: The Undisputed Era pins Street Profits
Bravo! For its Virgin Excursion, live for two hours on the USA Network, the men and women of NXT blew the doors down on a night in which it went head-to-head with the debuting AEW Dynamite on TNT. Sure, the rating/viewer numbers show that AEW won the battle (1.4 million viewers vs. 891,000 viewers according to Nielsen), the pure enjoyment and success showed through.
From Adam Cole retaining his NXT Championship against Matt Riddle, despite a fractured wrist, to Shayna Baszler winning a back-and-forth-balls-to-the wall war over Candice LeRae to the Undisputed ERA staving off the Street Profits in the NXT Tag Team Championship main event, the effort, pacing and sheer athleticism was there.
What we loved:
All of it! No down time, no mic time fillers and a few surprises to boot!
Finn Balor IS NXT! A nice surprise as the former NXT Champion returns to Full Sail to challenge Cole. It’s time for Ballor Club to shine again instead of getting lost in the main roster shuffle.
Tommaso Ciampa returns. Yes, Mr. Cole has a lot of his plate. Can you imagine a future tag team match with Ciampa, Balor, Johnny Gargano & more facing the Undisputed ERA? Sign me up NOW!
What we hated:
Nothing. Although in today’s age, perception is reality. While I love NXT’s Full Sail crowd, a mainstream audience vs. AEW’s larger arena crowd may make some think of NXT as small-time. Trust me, it’s not.
Friday Night Smackdown – Season premiere on FOX
Charlotte & Becky Lynch defeated Bayley & Sasha Banks via submission
Non-Title Match: Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura went to a no contest
Career vs. Career Ladder Match: Kevin Owens defeated Shane McMahon
8-man tag team match: Braun Strowman, The Miz, & Heavy Machinery defeated AJ Styles, Robert Roode, Dolph Ziggler, & Randy Orton
Lumberjack Match: Roman Reigns defeated Erick Rowan
WWE Title Match: Brock Lesnar defeated Champion Kofi Kingston
What we loved:
Amazing set! Best of the Smackdown series with a nod to the arches from yesteryear!
Kevin Owens and a ladder = success. If we don’t have to see Shane McMahon sweat his way through a WWE event anytime soon, it will be a blessing!
Daniel Bryan. Is it me or do I see a swerve coming Sunday at HIAC? I don’t want a babyface Bryan just yet! Give me a Survivor Series with Team Bryan vs. Team Reigns.
The “non-PG” Rock with The Man. C’mon, how could you not love a double dose of calling King Corbin the “Super Tough Dude” to get an STD chant. Priceless!
What we hated:
The quickness of the end to Kofi Kingston’s title reign. 10 seconds? Seriously?! He deserved better. I agree with putting the title back on Lesnar now that Smackdown is on FOX, he’s more mainstream and can attract more eyeballs, especially if he’s actually going to appear more often. But, to just dismiss Kofi to get to the surprise of Cain Velazquez coming out with Rey Mysterio, JR. to challenge Lesnar to pay off Monday’s attack is wrong. The question now is can they get mainstream fans to care about a Lesnar-Velasquez feud after their “real” encounter in MMA in which Lesnar got his ass handed to him.
Did you really think we were going to get something good out of the champion vs. champion match other than The Fiend showing up to attack Rollins? Clear as day, my friends. At least give me something before the expected comes. And yes, I know you have to build up to the PPV match, but again, don’
An 8-man tag for less than 3 minutes? Why bother. Sometimes less is more and yes, jamming 8 stars with nothing to do in order to kick off a Strowman-Tyson Fury incident seems a stretch. I applaud trying to get the boxing audience to cross over, but there are better ways to do it. Especially, if the now pay off comes next on RAW on the USA Network. I guess the split won’t actually occur until the Draft starting October 11th on FOX.
Bonus what we loved:
The 24/7 Championship! The twists and turns continue as Marshmello (yes, the DJ!) wins and loses the Title in a WWE.com exclusive. Someday soon, I can see FOX and former Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw winning it on FOX! The Truth and Carmella are brilliant with the comedy that I hope continues with this Championship. It’s OK to have some fun in sports entertainment!
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!