We are not the biggest fans of endless list columns here at HOW. Say What? Culture is about more than just endless list articles churned out endlessly. That said, there are obviously some fantastic and thought provoking examples of these type of columns. We intend this to be the first in a semi-regular edition of Ten Of The Best where we will run through what we think are topical and interesting lists. We won't do them more than a couple of times a month so hopefully won't have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find an interesting angle. With that in mind, please do get in touch with us if you have a suggestion for any future articles. If we get a good one we will definitely consider it. With that in mind, read on for the first of our Ten Of The Best columns......
The Ultimate Thrill Ride is over and the hangover is kicking in. With such a focus on WrestleMania, it's very easy for everything that follows to sit in its shadow. We are hyped up to such a degree for the tentpole event that it's hard to shake that thick head and enjoy what immediately follows. The Raw After Mania (TM, seemingly) helps. Always a great way to give focus to the weekly programme again but what WWE really wants us to start looking towards is the next PPV.
Whether that is Backlash, Payback, Extreme Rules or even In Your House, it's very important that WWE can grab our attention straight away and a great way to do that has traditionally been giving us another chance to see some of the biggest 'Mania matches on the slightly smaller stage. Wisely in fact, the whole theme of these post-WM Pay Per Views has been the fact that we will see the previous marquee matches again.
It has been a formula that has been successful at times and not at others. Sometimes it has felt a bit 'after the Lord Mayor's Show' with the magic previously present having been diluted by the diminishing returns of the sequel. Think of how many classic films have been followed by a mediocre and less successful follow up. The Hobbit springs to mind. Other times though we get Terminator 2 - A worthy companion piece to the original match that enhances the overall story and sometimes even eclipses the original.
With us getting not one but two rematch themed PPVs in the next few weeks in Backlash and Payback, we are right in the midst of sequel season in WWE. With that in mind, we thought it would be a great idea to run down the 10 best WrestleMania rematches in history. Often these matches are overlooked or forgotten next to their more famous WrestleMania companions. It's time to shine a light on these and maybe get some of you to go back and enjoy some hidden gems. All matches listed are available on WWE Network.
When compiling this list we stuck to the following criteria:
- Matches presented on Pay Per View only. Anything on Raw, Smackdown etc we haven't included. - The matches must be on the very next PPV after WrestleMania. This might be Backlash the next month, it may be SummerSlam months down the line, as long as it is the next PPV. The only exception to this is in the period during the original Brand Extension where WWE had brand specific PPVs. For this period we have included both the next Raw PPV and the next Smackdown PPV. - Matches must include the exact same combatants in the same configurations. Adding a body to make it a triple threat doesn't count, nor does adding two single matches together in a tag team match. Changing stipulations or adding a special referee is fine however.
By our count there are 34 matches that fit this criteria starting with The Ultimate Warrior vs. 'Ravishing' Rick Rude at Summerslam 1989 through to Seth Rollins vs. Randy Orton at Extreme Rules 2015. Neither made our list. Read on to find out what did:
#10 - Edge vs. Chris Jericho (Steel Cage Match) - Extreme Rules, April 25th 2010.
These two originally faced off at WrestleMania 26 as Edge came back from long term injury to win the Royal Rumble and challenge World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho at the big show. Jericho came out on top in that match but his celebrations were not to last long. The following Smackdown saw the newly minted Mr Money In The Bank, Jack Swagger steal the title from Jericho following an attack from his Canadian rival. A drawn Number One Contenders match led to these guys being booked in a cage at Extreme Rules.
What followed was a damn fine match between two experienced pros. Jericho was in the midst of his acclaimed heel run and his viciousness came to the fore here, albeit in a fairly PG fashion. The intensity was great to see in this match with some brutal spots and moves focusing on injured body parts, primarily Edge's ankle. The highlight of the match was a quick fire top-rope Codebreaker from Jericho that drew gasps from the crowd. Another highlight was the cleverness of Jericho's character. Unlike most in cage matches, Jericho clearly understood that the easiest way to win was bolting for the door (An absurd way to win a match by the way) and he attempted this time after time. Thankfully for Edge, he was able to thwart Y2J each time and eventually pinned him after a spear in the centre of the ring.
#9 - WWE Championship Match: CM Punk (c) vs. Chris Jericho (Chicago Street Fight) - Extreme Rules - April 29th 2012
Neither the first time we see Jericho on this list, nor the last time we will see mention of the exceptional Extreme Rules 2012.
This match came during Punk's record setting WWE Championship run and saw them come back together after Punk had successfully defended his strap at WrestleMania 26. These two master storytellers crafted an intensely personal story based on Punk's Straight Edge devotion and Jericho trying to tempt him off that path to follow in the footsteps of his (allegedly) alcoholic father.
That this match was in Chicago ensured both a phenomenal reception for the champion and a fevered atmosphere. It really added to this match that was such a great reflection of the edgy narrative these two had engaged in. A dousing in beer and attempted humiliation of his sister at ringside saw Punk reach levels of rage not yet seen in him before this point and aided in ratcheting up the tension and the heat in this encounter. Both guys took full advantage of the street fight stipulation by bringing kendo sticks, fire extinguishers and chairs into play in a clever and structured way. This was no garbage brawl and it was never going to be with two master craftsmen involved.
The finish saw the heel Jericho get his just desserts with a Go To Sleep set up by him being catapulted in to a turnbuckle he himself exposed a few minutes earlier.
A superb match in a great feud. Would you expect anything less from these two?
#8 - 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vs. Bret 'Hitman' Hart - In Your House: Revenge Of The 'Taker, April 20th 1997
How do you follow arguably the greatest WrestleMania match of all time? Well obviously you don't but if you could bank on two men doing it, these two would be your guys.
This was a fascinating match in the sense that it was the first PPV since their fabled double turn at WrestleMania 13. Austin was just starting to embrace the cheers of the crowd and Hart had now fully given in to his crybaby, hard done by heel character. He had also just been tearfully and gloriously reunited with his brother Owen and The British Bulldog to form the embryonic version of the Hart Foundation faction that would be fully formed when Brian Pillman would join the next night on Raw and Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart seven days later.
The match itself was full of passion and hatred as one would expect from these two at this time. Rarely has there been a feud that felt so real based on the emotions and motivations of the two men involved. Obviously this pervaded this match and just like the month prior, these two superbly mixed technical wrestling with a donnybrook of a brawl. It's hard to think of many striking this balance so successfully since. The match started off with these two tearing strips off each other inside and outside the ring. As the match wore on the focus slowly shifted to Hart working on Austin's knee, slowly injuring it to ensure Austin could not properly execute his offense with him collapsing on a piledriver attempt being particularly noteworthy. The finish came when Owen and Davey jumped in to cause the DQ shortly after Austin reversed the Sharpshooter in to his own version of the move. Sometimes a DQ ending can deflate a great match but not here. It made perfect sense. The only shame was that this was the last time these two would face off one on one on the PPV stage. What a match!
#7 WWE Championship Match: John Cena (c) vs John 'Bradshaw' Layfield (I Quit Match) - Judgement Day May 22nd 2005
WrestleMania 21 the previous month witnessed Cena winning his first of 16 (to date) world championships in WWE at the expense of JBL. The match was OK but did not set the world alight. As a result, expectations were low to middling for this encounter. Cena initially took the fight to JBL in this I Quit match and it became evident early on that this would be a new type of use for this stipulation. These two would be trying to beat a submission out of the other. And beat each other they did, all over ringside and up and over JBL's limo and the truck on which Cena made his entrance.
The main body of the match was the epitome of a main event garbage brawl. Not bad by any stretch but certainly not all time great. What elevated this match on to the list was the creative finish. A great example of character work came when JBL picked up the mic himself and quit not while locked in a submission but while Cena hoisted an exhaust pipe ready to hit him. That he quit rather than take the blow, while quite capable of continuing, played to the inherent cowardice of the character. A trait that was uniquely mixed with such bravado and power to create a truly loathsome bully heel. This finish showcased that perfectly.
Of course after the finish, Cena lamped JBL with the exhaust pipe anyway. Gotta send those fans home happy!
#6 - World Heavyweight Championship Match - The Undertaker (c) vs. Batista (Last Man Standing Match) - Backlash, April 29th 2007
This encounter was a rematch of one of the most criminally underrated matches in WrestleMania history. Their encounter at WM23 in Detroit was overshadowed by John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels in the main event. For many though, these two put on the match of that particular night.
This match is easily on par with the original, if not better. At WrestleMania, most expected 'Taker to win and extend his streak which put an asterisk against the drama. Not here. It was anyone's game and these two bulls tore in to one another from the bell. Batista was as good as anyone at this point at working as a big man main eventer and of course Undertaker was his equal. The chemistry between these two was immense and the pair of them had the crowd where they wanted them at every single point of the match.
The finish came with a spear off the stage by Batista resulting in some fancy special effect fireworks and a partial collapse of the stage. A bit cheesy perhaps but a fitting end to this match that truly felt like Godzilla facing off with King Kong amidst destruction all around them. A draw was the finish that kept both guys strong and was arguably more satisfying than either of them gaining a victory over the other.
If you don't remember this match, go and watch it now. An outstanding encounter on a superb PPV. This article will be here when you get back.
#5 - Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H (Steel Cage Match), Extreme Rules, 19th May 2013
Back with us?
This was the third and final match of the trilogy between these two. SummerSlam saw Lesnar defeat HHH handily and 'break his arm' in the process. It was hugely well received and Lesnar's first big win since returning to the WWE. Their rematch at WrestleMania 29 saw HHH get his win back to level the series and bring us to this deciding encounter which marked a year since Lesnar's big return.
The story told here was old school booking 101. The cage was Lesnar's domain and within it, he ruled. However, there was an achilles heel. Early in the match, Brock 'injured' his left knee on the cage which allowed him to look vulnerable and led HHH to get strong offence in without Brock looking weak. It was clever. In handicapping the beast they allowed for a more even match and put the outcome very much in doubt.
As with many matches on this list, it is a stipulation match which means for the most part, the traditional wrestling takes a back seat. These guys adhered to that formula with a methodical power match that become a familiar staple of Lesnar's second WWE run. The finish was screwy but satisfying. The fans still react to the sledgehammer and when HHH unleashed it, the crowd went up a notch. They loved it even more when HHH grabbed Paul Heyman (A man whom the phrase 'love to hate' was surely invented for) and hit him with a Pedigree. Of course this allowed Lesnar to turn the tables on his opponent by using the sledgehammer and following that up with an F5 for the victory.
We can look back on this match really as the beginning of the dominant Brock Lesnar that was so successful in 2014 and beyond. His next outing was at SummerSlam with CM Punk and that ultimately led to him ending The Streak the following year.
#4 - World Heavyweight Championship Match - Sheamus (c) vs. Daniel Bryan (2 out of 3 falls match) - Extreme Rules, April 29th 2012
With hindsight, that 18 second loss to Sheamus the month prior to this worked out OK for Bryan didn't it? That said, it is hard to explain unless you were there just how angry that loss made the fans. Not just because in their eyes it signalled a lack of respect for Bryan but also because they felt cheated out of what should have been a great match. Whilst you can debate the validity of the former complaint, the latter was right on the money. For the second year in a row the fans had been cheated out of a WrestleMania match that they expected to be an epic battle. The clash of styles between these two really got fans excited for the prospect of a superb match and to be denied this two years in a row was frustrating. It must have been been equally frustrating for the two men involved too. Knowing what they were capable of, they were not being allowed to show their skill as performers on the grandest stage. When this match was booked, you can be certain that a big part of what fuelled this spectacular showing was an absolute determination to give the fans what they were salivating for and also sticking it right to the top brass who sidelined them.
If their mission was to show their ability then mission accomplished and then some. Everything anybody expected from this meshing of skill sets came to life. Bryan was still very much in his heel pomp during this match and that came in to play when he deliberately lost the first fall via DQ when he unleashed a flurry of kicks on Sheamus' arm and refusing the referee's count to inflict more damage. Smart strategy that laid the groundwork for the rest of the match because now the bigger Sheamus was having to battle with just one effective arm. That played directly in to the result of the second fall when Bryan applied the Yes Lock almost immediately that led to Sheamus passing out in the hold and thus taking even more damage. Bryan's cunning effectively turned this in to a one fall match with a hideously injured babyface trying to overcome grave odds. Delicious heel booking. After five or so minutes of back and forth action, Sheamus nailed Bryan with a surprise Brogue Kick and took the win, defending his championship in the process.
This was an amazing match and it had to be. Both guys had a point to prove. Make no mistake, this match was probably the most important of Bryan's WWE career at this point. He was certainly not pegged for the success that was soon to come his way but this showing opened so many eyes. It would be flippant to say this is the match that got the fans on his side because they had been cheering him for some time. This was however the match that solidified Bryan as a talent in the eyes of management and set the table for the glorious path ahead of him.
#3 - WWF Championship Match - 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin vs. The Rock (No Holds Barred Match) - Backlash: In Your House, April 25th 1999
Hands up, when you think of Austin vs. Rock on PPV, how many instantly recall this match? Very few of us I'm sure. That's because their famed trilogy of WrestleMania matches eclipses all. However, this was comfortably better than their WrestleMania 15 match the month prior and you could even argue that it was second only to their WrestleMania 17 encounter in terms of quality.
Coming at the tail end of The Rock's 1998-99 main event heel run, this match featured Shane McMahon as special guest referee in order to stack the deck in The Corporation's favour.
A caveat to this report is that this match could be described as Peak Attitude Era. By that I mean that very little of the action could be described as catch-as-catch-can, most of it took place outside the ring and the match itself was weaved in to a soap opera storyline that involved Vince McMahon going soft due to the worry over The Undertaker's stalking of his daughter Stephanie and his son Shane taking the opportunity to boot him out of The Corporation and take control himself. That's as much as I am going to recap of that....
As stated above, this match is the epitome of main event, Attiude Era matches which meant multiple finishers, throwing each other into the set, run ins, belt shots, table bumps, middle fingers, announcer's headsets being worn, ringside cameras being wielded and an absolutely rabid crowd. The belt came when Vince McMahon came to the ring and reluctantly evened the odds for Austin, allowing him to retain his title.
The placement of this match will probably raise a few eyebrows as this style is resolutely not to everyone's tastes. if however, like this writer you were 17 when this match took place, you would have eaten every last scrap of it up and if it is your bag, you will thoroughly believe it deserves it's placement.
#2 - WWE Championship Match - John Cena (c) vs. Batista (Last Man Standing Match) - Extreme Rules, April 25th 2010
In the run up to this feud we bore witness to one of the most wonderful modern heel characters in WWE. Douchebag Batista was simply a glorious heat machine in his Miami Beach style garish clothing, big shades and pompous gym rat attitude. This was the guy who would steal your girlfriend and make you thank him for the privilege. It truly was a fantastic run. Cena and Batista had tussled at WrestleMania 26 in one of the better matches on the card and this rematch was fought under Last Man Standing Rules. Put simply, it was a war.
Cena steps up in big matches. Of that there can be no dispute. Batista however wasn't thought to be on his level as a big match worker but here he more than held his own (Which to be fair, he did on more occasions than one would remember looking back at his body of work.). These two beat each other half to death and you really felt the hatred as they battled all over the arena, unleashing tables, chairs and parts of the set in an effort to keep each other down. Batista was the unstoppable monster and Cena was the hero who just would not die. Amidst the brutality we also got one of the funniest ad-libs in WWE history. When a fan audibly shouted 'I hate you Batista', Big Dave shot back, quick as a flash with 'I hate you too!' Simple but hilarious and 100% made by his delivery. Did I mention how much I loved heel Batista?
The finish came with a piece of ingenuity from Cena when he used duct tape to keep the big guy down for the 10 count. At this point inventive finishes had not been seen much in Last Man Standing matches and so this made Cena look resourceful, made Batista look super strong and also gave the cry baby element of his character a genuine reason to fuel his walk out and tantrum not long after.
A superb match. Bettered in our opinion by only one WrestleMania rematch in history....
#1 - World Heavyweight Championship Match - Chris Benoit (c) vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels - Backlash, April 18th 2004
Let's address the elephant in the room first. Many people won't accept or want to recall the finer moments of Chris Benoit's career given what transpired at the end of his life. If you feel that way then I completely understand and I invite you to read no further, consider this a nine match list and think of the prior match as the best of the lot. For anybody else who, given the passage of time can separate Benoit the man from Benoit the wrestler, I wish to present far and away the finest WrestleMania rematch of all time.
The rematch follows arguably the greatest title match in WrestleMania history and inarguably the greatest triple threat match in WWE history. Tough steps to walk in. Benoit, at the time, was the favourite of the so called smarter fan. A man who many loved for his skills inside the ring. They (well, we actually), longed for his success. His clean victory in his main event opportunity brought elation and celebration to a fanbase that could never have dreamed of him reaching that high.
That they went back to the well with the same match for Backlash was brave indeed. The easy match would have been a singles encounter with either of the two former and future DX cohorts. Credit to WWE. They knew they couldn't top what came before so instead they decided to do it completely differently.
Whilst Benoit was far from fluky in winning the first match, this encounter presented a far different version of the man in this match. Gone was the underdog and in his place was the dominant, confident champion that could stand his ground with the two legends. His adoring hometown crowd in Edmonton, Alberta furthered the aura of Benoit as a conquering hero as he took the fight to his opponents. The match went back and forth continually and the finishing sequence didn't really kick in until Michaels missed a dive on to his two foes and crashed through the announce table (That had cunningly already been prepared for impact by Edge in a previous match). From there the sledgehammer came in to play and we also had a ref bump leading in to the slightly heel leaning Shawn Michaels locking in the Sharpshooter on Benoit. The crowd lost their collective minds when Earl Hebner dashed to the ring. They were rightly fearful that Benoit's moment in the sun was going to be a short one with another Screwjob of a Canadian in his home country about to take place. Instead, we got the very best of the many callbacks to Montreal with Benoit breaking the hold to the euphoria of the crowd before soon winning with a cathartic Sharpshooter of his own. Not only was this Benoit solidifying his title reign and place on the card, this was also WWE subtly apologising to it's Canadian audience for their actions towards Bret Hart almost seven years earlier.
As I said at the start of this section, I can completely understand anyone that wants to scrub this match from existence. But for my mind it is the greatest WrestleMania rematch of all time. Not only a fantastic match in its own right. but also a match that can stand confidently next to the stellar match that preceded it.
So that's it people. The first edition of Ten Of The Best is at an end. What did you think? Like it? Disagreed with us? Did we miss any matches? Please comment and let us know your thoughts.
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Over the last week we have been posting individual match previews for the thirteen matches on the main card and kick off shows. In short, we are expecting one hell of a show. If it comes close to living up to it's potential then it will be the best show of the year quite comfortably.
Do you agree with our picks? Strongly disagree? Either way, why not enter our SummerSlam Prediction Competition. If you can prove yourself to be the wisest wrestling fan in the competition, you can win not only bragging rights over your mates but also VIP tickets to our Royal Rumble parties in January. If you want to play, just click here
So without further delay, read on to see what we expect to see from each of the individual matches on the card.
Seriously, talk about last minute! They didn't even book this on the last Raw. They waited until three days before the PPV to even tease that these guys were going to be on the card. Obviously it smacks at them mopping up the major players they hadn't booked in to a match to make sure they were featured. I would say WrestleMania seems a long time ago for Matt & Jeff but at least they're not still wrestling an owl.....
This match has face win written all over it. Why else would it be put together? Miztourage can of course take the fall, protecting the Intercontinental Champion in the process and it gives the fans a chance to pop for The Hardy's antics both old and new, and gives Jordan a chance to further his arc of blue chipper turned entitled Daddy's boy.
This should be a fun ten minutes but not too many people are going to remember it once the PPV itself starts.
Anyone else find it a bit odd that WWE gave us this long brewing match on Raw? Did they just want a different set up? Something fresher than Neville defending again? Maybe they just wanted the fun scene of Titus celebrating in front of a hot Boston crowd. Whatever it was, Neville is going to be a man possessed to get that belt back and you know what? He's probably going to get it.
His whole character is based on being the best. Being The King Of The Cruiserweights. To be that he has to actually have the belt. It's a very old school champion set up in that regard isn't it? Like Ric Flair or HHH of old. He is defined by the belt and him having it makes both him and the championship itself stronger.
For that reason, we expect Neville to walk out of Brooklyn as the two time cruiserweight champ. Long live The King!
Bold prediction....This might well end up being the greatest match ever on the history of pre-PPV shows.
That sounds like damning with faint praise but really it isn't. There have been some fabulous pre-show matches in the recent past and most of them have featured guys in this match. The pick of the bunch for me is likely The Usos Vs. Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns in 2013. I genuinely think this is going to top it.
By any measure, it's a crime that these guys have been 'relegated' to the pre-show. These are unquestionably the two best teams on SmackDown and two of the best that have come along in a long time. The Usos have reignited their careers as heels and The New Day keep on doing their thing. By all rights it should have got stale by now but somehow, it hasn't. They keep reinventing themselves just enough to stay fresh and entertaining.
This match will feature four men (Five if you count the spare New Day member) who will be desperate to prove themselves. Desperate to steal the show. Desperate to show that it was a mistake and an insult to bump them from the PPV itself. And you know what? I would bet big on them doing this match. We go in to the match, the third in the trilogy, with a very well built, old school tag team feud. Match one, the heels retained by shenanigans. Match two, the faces took the belt thanks to a career performance from their perceived weak link (Woods). Match three is the cap on the trilogy and these guys will want to put a rather nice bow on this feud.
My money goes on The New Day retaining. For one thing, it's the logical step in the story. Also, the bigger picture seemingly needs face champs. The next challengers feel like they are going to be heels. That could well be the team that have been attacking Breezango. Who could that be? Up in the air. Could be Harper & Rowan, The Bollywood Boyz or even a new team from NXT such as The Authors Of Pain Or Sanity. Whoever it is, expect them to be pushed into the challengers role quite quickly after running through the Fashion Police.
In conclusion, this is my dark horse match of the evening. Do not be surprised if this is the match of the weekend. Who needs PPV anyway?
I'm trying really hard to resist any BIG plays on words for this match....
This is the last match to preview on the main card and for many, it's going to be the most likely to be a dud, quality wise on extremely strong overall show. For fans of bell to bell action, it isn't looking good. Big Show knows his role as a giant and it's tried and true after over 20 years in the business. Cass on the other hand is still trying to put all the physical tools to good use to become a convincing big man. At the moment he feels a long way off where he needs to be. If we are being cruel, he really lacks the mean, rough look and his physique, whilst tall, is still quite gangly. More basketballer than gigantic grappler. This feud is clearly designed for him to work with a master of the craft and hopefully some of Show's experience will be passed on to the younger man. Let's hope that mission is accomplished at least.
For that reason, Cass should and will win this match. There are some wildcards in play of course. Enzo being in the cage could be a factor or it could be just another way to haze the unpopular loudmouth. Also, the interjection by The Club this past week on Raw may also come in to play at some point. But overall, this seems like a sub-ten minute Big Cass banker.
We are going to put as much effort in to this match as WWE have booking it. So, it's going to be a pretty good match and Orton will win with the RKO. Done and dusted.
Oh hang on, you want a bit more? OK, fair enough. How's this for a hot take? WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF WHATEVER HIGHER POWER YOU BELIEVE IN, GIVE RUSEV SOMETHING MEANINGFUL AND EXCITING TO DO. PLEASE!!!!
Seriously though, how frustrating to see this guy being constantly wasted. He's such a force in the ring with an incredible personality out of it. With a bit of care and investment of time he could EASILY have been part of the Raw main event with the other working brutes and he would not have seemed remotely out of place. When he came back in late June he could easily have been positioned as a face and got some great support. It was such an easy story. The one time enemy of the US has realised just how much opportunity living in the country has given him and how he now wants to right his previous wrongs and defend it against Jinder Mahal etc. It's so easy. It would be like the Nikolai Volkoff turn all those years ago only with a guy that could actually work a lick. Instead he is spinning his wheels in a tired anti-American heel role. Hell, he's not even the only one doing that gimmick on his show. Jinder Mahal and Kevin Owens (To an extent) are doing the same blooming thing higher up the card. There's two opponents for him straight away. Honestly, I'm getting frustrated even writing this!
Anyway, Orton is going to win by RKO, as above. Let's just hope that I am wrong and this is all a holding pattern for a big Rusev push. He arguably deserves it more than anyone in the company.
First of all, how refreshing is it to get title matches for both women's titles on a main PPV that are both (wo)mano a (wo)mano? It so often feels like multi-person matches are thrown together to get more superstars on the card at the expense of proper story. Well, not this time.
That said, this story hasn't been too compelling so far. That's not a huge problem as it's a fairly fresh match with a belt involved so they don't need to ladle on the soap opera but if I were to nitpick, I would quite like a bit more sizzle with this particular steak.
Naomi as champion is an interesting one. She clearly has cracked it in terms of presentation. The 'Feel The Glow' stuff is truly unique. Sure, the purists will spit out their cookies at the neon flashing title but what the heck, it's not always about us old fogies. I'm sure the generation before us would have been equally upset with entrance music at one stage. No, they've done a great job giving her a real brand but no she needs to step up to the plate in terms of the substance behind the neon. Don't get me wrong, I think she's doing fine, no complaints. But when you look at the strides Alexa Bliss has made in a similar time frame, she's lagging behind a touch. Will she get there? Actually, yes, I think she will. She's got good basics, a huge work ethic and goodwill from the fans. She's on the right path. And working with veterans like Natalya will absolutely help her down that path.
Expect this match to be a nice showcase for Naomi with the champ coming out on top. The obvious wrinkle is Carmella and her Money In The Bank briefcase. We had our fingers burned talking about SummerSlam cash ins earlier this week so we won't be so bold as to predict she cashes it in with any certainty but it does feels like the right stage for it to happen.
Clearly WWE aren't too fussed about subtlety when it comes to Bray bringing out The Demon are they? To their credit, it has been exactly a year since we've seen Finn in the paint and they've got merch to shift so who can blame them?
So far with these previews I've been largely positive and deservedly so. Unfortunately, that ends here for now and the reason is not the man from Bray, it's the man called Bray.
Most fans have long since tired with Wyatt's act. It just doesn't accomplish anything. He comes out, spouts his gobbledy gook, laughs, loses and then carries on like nothing happened. Is that even a gimmick? It's certainly not a character. Frankly, the closest comparison in terms of past superstars to Wyatt's act is The Boogeyman. Both 'monsters', both ridiculous and both use props and elaborate entrances. Neither of them were useful and neither of them engage in useful feuds that entertain or elevate other performers and themselves. The only difference is that Wyatt is a better worker. Not great but much better than The Boogeyman. I'm now of the belief that Bray Wyatt, the character, needs to go. For good. Not only is he not entertaining but he's actively dragging down other characters and performers on the show. Think back over the last few years. How many guys have come in to a feud with Wyatt with decent momentum only to have that completely sucked out of them afterwards. A few months trading wins with Wyatt in average at best matches and they come out the other side far less over than when they went in. Think about it. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, John Cena, Chris Jericho, Luke Harper, The New Day...You could probably name more. All have feuded with Wyatt (Or the Wyatt Family as a whole). How many of them have come out in a better position? None. How many have come out damaged in some way? All of them in my opinion. And unfortunately, Finn Balor is the next in line to hit the Wyatt wall. And this really is the last thing he needs. After coming to Raw last summer and immediately winning the new Universal Championship, his injury hiatus meant he returned this spring having to prove himself all over again. So far he simply has not done that and Wyatt is not helping one bit. Here's hoping whatever he does next (A heel turn, please!) can put him back on track.
The match itself will be standard Wyatt fare. Nothing exciting. It will be a straightforward win for Balor. Let's be honest, this match is all about the entrances and Balor's faceprint.
I promise I will be a bit more positive with my next review!
Has there ever been a feud in wrestling between two such beloved performers that has turned out so....meh? If there is, I can't think of one. On paper, this is a dream feud between two of the very best wrestlers in the world. What's not to love? Well, most of it in execution. In terms of excitement and entertainment it hasn't really got off the launching pad. It would be easy to blame WWE booking for this (And it has been dry in terms of entertainment value) but you would still expect these guys to turn it on when they get in the ring but they just haven't. Every match has been decent but these two should be capable together of significantly better than just decent. Why has it been such a let down? Hard to say. It's not like either has been left mired without a push for a length of time as both are coming off world title reigns and sit towards the top of the card. Maybe it's just a case of two guys just not clicking. If that's the case, that's at least a good reason to be optimistic about this match. Both men are clearly hard working perfectionists and if the matches have been less than stellar, we can rest assured that they will want to do something about it. And what better place to do that than the second biggest show of the year with a McMahon as special guest referee?
Am I expecting something great despite past mediocrity? Actually, I am. I just can't believe that given plenty of time on a big stage with a hot crowd that these two won't leave us with something quite special. Keep the faith, people!
In terms of the outcome, I'm expecting a Styles win. One would suspect that KO will attempt to pull the wool over Shane's eyes only for it to backfire and lead to Money Mac favouring Styles either inadvertently or purposefully and raising Styles hand. Expect the fallout to be the end of the feud and the start of real hostilities between Owens and the Smackdown commissioner.
Let's talk Alexa Bliss. She's not making too bad of a job of this being a champion lark is she?
She's been on the roster little over a year. Her call up was met with little fanfare. Sure, her work in NXT had been appreciated as the bitchy vixen valet for Blake and Murphy (Blurphy?) but did anyone expect her to be the standout woman in WWE this year? Because she really, really has. Nobody else has come close. She has embraced the opportunity to dial up her catty, entitled character and improve her ringwork significantly. It's phenomenal to see her rise. Not being one of the famed Four Horsewomen meant she wasn't supposed to be the crown jewel of the WWE Women's revolution, but here she is.
Her opponent has had mixed fortunes in the same timeframe. This writer was lucky enough to be at AT&T Stadium for WrestleMania 32 and undoubtedly, the person who felt like the biggest star in an actual match, after The Undertaker, was Sasha Banks. Her entrance felt like you were in the presence of greatness. Unfortunately, that momentum hasn't really been sustained. Opinions are mixed on her regular trading of the title with Charlotte in 2016 but no doubt she has taken a back seat this year. In fact, she wasn't originally booked for SummerSlam at all until Bayley went down with an injury. That said, the match she had on Raw this week was the best of Nia Jaxx's career and the memory of her NXT match with the aforementioned Bayley in the same arena as she will appear this weekend still lives in the memory. This match feels like a big deal, basically. They have met before on PPV but given the stage and the presentation, this feels different. I think we are going to see a match that's given a relatively long time and will be one of the top four matches of the night in terms of entertainment value.
Who will win? Alexa. And if I had to choose one match to put the mortgage money on this weekend, this would probably be it. For starters, her reign is going rather blooming well and it needs to continue for a good long time yet. Secondly, Sasha is due a heel turn. The likelihood is that that turn would have come at Bayley's expense which isn't happening for a few months now so maybe that will throw a spanner in the works.
One thing we want to put on record though: Alexa is doing such a good job that it's only a matter of time before she starts to get cheered by the masses. If the marquee women's match at WrestleMania 34 is likely to be WWE's Four Horsewomen against Ronda Rousey's Four Horsewomen, then expect Alexa to be the big babyface vying for one of the Women's championships on the same card.