Both Dean Ambrose and Goldust left the WWE this week/recently; Goldust is already being advertised to face Cody Rhodes in AEW in the near future and it looks like Dean is potentially retiring. It’s a shame that Dean feels so burned out by the WWE system and his booking that he’s had to leave; kinda feels a bit like CM Punk in that both guys were getting frustrated with the system and chose to leave on their own terms, though I imagine the door is a little wider open for Dean to come back.
Anyway, Triple H kicked things off with an endorsement of Seth Rollins and to set up two triple threat matches between AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio, Samoa Joe, The Miz, Drew McIntyre, and Baron Corbin to determine Seth’s first challenger and hype the upcoming Money In The Bank pay-per-view. All the potential challengers interrupt and get a chance to say their piece but Rollins, in true Steve Austin fashion, isn’t fussed and is happy to face any of them.
The first of these matches officially started the night; AJ took control of the match to start with, taking Joe out and trying to flash-pin Mysterio before Joe got his turn in the ring by dumping Rey and attacking AJ with strikes. After Mysterio started to bring the fight to Joe, he kindly stepped away from the action so Mysterio and AJ could go back at it; so, you know, standard triple threat stuff but, with competitors like these, at least you get decent little bite-sized matches. In the end, Mysterio hit the 619 on Joe and then AJ hit Mysterio with a Powerbomb, then Powerbombed Rey onto Joe, and finally hit Mysterio with the Styles Clash (also on to Joe) to get the win.
Naomi and Billie Kay were up next; Naomi won in pretty much no time at all, which is always a great look for your champions. Miz, McIntyre, and Corbin were up next for a shot at Rollins; Miz tried to get a quick pin and ended up being brutalised by the heels, who traded shots on Miz and beat him up in and out of the ring for a bit. Corbin made the classic big man mistake of missing a corner splash, which allowed Miz to take the fight to him, but ended up being taken down with a Tower of Doom. Drew and Corbin eventually went at it but Miz kept coming back; eventually, Corbin shrugged off the Skull-Crushing Finale but dumped Drew after took out Miz with a Claymore and picked up the win over the Miz. Say what you will about Corbin, it makes perfect sense to push him towards a title shot as he is the man who retired Kurt Angle.
In addition to Bray Wyatt debuted some weird-ass puppet/kids show gimmick this week, Sami Zayn showed up to talk shit about the fans and put them down. It’s nice to see a new side to Sami but, again, I can’t help but feel he should have swapped roles with Miz as the WWE are missing the opportunity to have a super-popular babyface underdog in Sami (and some new blood involved in matches/title shots). Cedric Alexander and Cesaro were up next; Cesaro used his superior strength to shut down Cedric’s high-flying attacks, though Cedric got a great near fall off a Michinoku Driver. In the end, Cesaro picked up the win after smashing Cedric in mid-air with an Uppercut.
The Viking Experience are now the Viking Raiders…see, that wasn’t so bloody hard, was it!? Oh, and they destroyed the Lucha House Party before a match could even happen with their double team move… The Viking Experience…!
Anyway, Becky Lynch and Lacey Evans had a bit of a verbal jousting before Becky took on Alicia Fox; the crowd tore into this one quite a bit and with good reason as Alicia looked way in over her head against Becky and botched a Headscissors in a dangerous moment. Becky put her away in just under ten minutes but got laid out with the Woman’s Right after the match.
Ricochet and Bobby Robert Roode (sporting an absolutely massive moustache) were up next; glad to see both guys are back to being singles guys but it does raise the question of why the WWE bothered to put them in tag teams to start with. Still, I guess it’s better than doing nothing. Ricochet managed to weather Roode’s size and strength and spice up Roode’s admittedly kinda dull offense but, after crashing and burning on the 630, took a loss after being hit with the Glorious DDT.
Raw finished up with AJ and Corbin fighting for the number one contender spot; see, this is what happens when you drag your feet with your set-up and have to do all the qualifying matches in one night! Anyway, AJ threw strikes and kicks at Corbin, targeting his leg, and endured Corbin’s rest holds and ground-game long enough to get the Calf Crusher locked in. Corbin got out of it, though, but fell to the Phenomenal Forearm soon after, setting up a potentially fantastic match between AJ and Rollins that will probably see AJ turn heel soon before, during, or after.
Shane McMahon kicked things off this week to talk about Roman Reigns; he wasn’t too happy about Reigns assaulting Vince McMahon last week. Reigns interrupted and, wisely, chucked away his microphone and settled for just going right at Shane, which was very satisfying for a number of reasons. Elias made the save, though, and laid Reigns out was a Drift Away. While I’m glad that Elias is getting a big program with Shane and Reigns, it does bug me when guys who were previously on one brand immediately start feuding once they appear on the other brand.
Finn Balor and Andrade were up next; Andrade and Zelina Vega are just two wrestlers who have been mysteriously “traded back” since the Superstar Shake-Up. However, it resulted in this pretty hot match in which Zelina’s presence caused Andrade to take control of Finn in the early portion; Balor managed to get some momentum going with a DDT and a jumping stomp and even rolled through a top-rope Hurricanrana attempt. They started trading counters for the finale but the end ultimately came when Zelina accidentally took out Andrade from the top rope and Finn got the win with the Coup de Grâce.
Kari Sane made short work on Peyton Royce, pinning her with the Insane Elbow in less than two minutes. I get that the Iiconics are supposed to be paper champions, or whatever, but it is a bit ridiculous to have them lose like that. Jinder Mahal also popped back up on the Blue Brand but didn’t get to have his scheduled match with Chad Gable because Lars Sullivan arrived and destroyed Chad…and then R-Truth when he tried to get some retribution.
Charlotte Flair showed up to keep stirring the pot between her and Becky Lynch; Charlotte claimed that, because Becky never pinned her at WrestleMania, she (as in, Charlotte) should be first in line for a shot. Becky turned up to dispute that and try to move the Women’s Championship scene on but Charlotte dug her feet in; in the end, Bayley arrived and also voiced the need for fresh faces fighting for the title, which led to a match between the two. Although Bayley brought the fight and the fire to Charlotte, Vince’s golden girl was obviously not losing here and got the pin following a Spear but, for a brief moment, Bayley looked like a serious contender for the first time in years.
SmackDown! Live ended with Kofi Kingston and Shinsuke Nakamura going at it; a feud I could strangely get behind if done right. Nakamura pretty much dominated with his strikes and heel tactics, with Kofi playing on the defensive for the majority of the match like a good underdog; Kofi managed to keep fighting back though and eventually hit the SOS but Rusev ran in for a disqualification finish before we could get a victor. Xavier Woods helped even the odds but then, out of nowhere, Kevin Owens completely redeemed himself and his recent goofball babyface bollocks by beating the piss out of Kofi, posing with the belt, talking shit about his kids, and then beating him up some more and hitting Xavier with the Apron Powerbomb!