The go-home edition of Raw is now in the record books (literally, as a matter of fact), and Elimination Chamber is right around the corner. Who has the momentum going into the Chamber bouts, and who is looking as weak as a kitten?
On SmackDown, we found out who will challenge Charlotte Flair, Bobby Roode, and The Usos for their titles at Fastlane. Let’s get to it!
The Universal Title
There’s just a few more days to go before the Elimination Chamber match to determine the No. 1 contender to the Universal Championship, and the seven combatants met this week on Raw in one of the best matches ever given away on free television. The men had to run the gauntlet, starting off with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns.
Amazingly, “The Architect” got the pin on Reigns clean as a whistle in a thrilling start to the match. It’s one thing to pick up a legitimate win over one of Vince McMahon’s pet projects, but Rollins managed to do it twice by pinning John Cena as well, smack-dab in the middle of the ring. With two massive victories under his belt, Rollins put on the best performance of the night, if not the week, the month, the year, or the decade. However, all good things come to an end, and a beaten and bruised “King Slayer” fell to Elias.
Things started to wind down as Seth left the fray, but Finn Bálor put on a good showing, knocking “The Drifter” out of the gauntlet in the process. The Miz came out in the sixth spot to topple “The Demon” with a Skull Crushing Finale, leaving it down to Miz and Braun Strowman. Even with the help of Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel, “The A-Lister” couldn’t beat Braun’s brute strength, and “The Monster Among Men” was declared the winner of the gauntlet match. Strowman then celebrated his victory the only way he knows how: by pulverising The Miz and The Miztourage.
The match started incredibly and finished with a bang. If people weren’t excited for the Chamber match before, they damn well should be now. I just hope Seth Rollins got paid a nice bonus for wrestling past the one hour mark.
The Intercontinental Title
The Miz put his Intercontinental Championship to one side (again) this week to battle in the 7-man gauntlet match. He may not have won the contest, but he might have found a challenger or two for his title just in time for Mania.
Miz entered the gauntlet match by hitting Finn Bálor with a cheap shot from behind. From there, “The Awesome One” slammed “The Demon” into the barricade, snapped his arm back using the ropes, and picked up the win after Dallas & Axel caused Bálor to lose his focus. Finn can’t be too happy with the way he was eliminated from the gauntlet on Monday, so the chances are high he’ll be gunning for The Miz inside the Chamber.
Another superstar who seems to have it out for The Miz is Braun Strowman. “The Monster Among Men” absolutely obliterated The Miztourage and their awesome leader after the gauntlet match was over. If (by which I mean ‘when’) Strowman is eliminated from the Chamber, his road to WrestleMania won’t lead to the Universal Title, but it could set him on the path towards the Intercontinental Championship. After all, he’s probably not finished with Miz yet.
The Raw Women’s Title
On Raw this week, we returned to the wonderful 6-woman tag matches that fill our hearts with so much glee. There’s nothing better than grouping all the superstars into one big tag match, am I right? Whether you care for repetitive tag matches or not, the ladies got to close Raw this week, which is always nice for the sake of equality, and we now have a much better idea of the alliances between the wrestlers going into the Elimination Chamber.
Due to the in-ring action being nothing special compared to what happened post-match, I’ll summarise the bout very quickly; Sasha Banks made Alexa Bliss tap out.
Absolution weren’t best pleased that Banks had won, so they beat her down. Bayley did her best to help her bestie, but she got knocked silly for her troubles too. “The Goddess” looked happy with the chaos caused by Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville, until they went to turn on her as well. Out of nowhere, Mickie James made the save, cementing her renewed friendship with “Little Miss Bliss” as the two planted Deville with a double DDT.
It seems that every woman in the Chamber match has a partner to help them out should they need it. Bliss has worked hard over the weeks to get Mickie on her side; she should prove to be a valuable ally to the Champion come Sunday.
The Raw Tag Team Titles
The Raw Tag Team Champions were in action in a non-title match this week on Raw, facing the opposition of Titus O’Neil & Apollo.
With most of Raw being dedicated to the gauntlet match, the bout between Titus Worldwide and The Bar felt like filler to pad out the third hour. Assuming this was the case, it was a surprise to see Apollo get the roll-up victory on Cesaro. He may have lost half of his name this week, but he certainly didn’t lose any of his skill.
After picking up the win over the champions, O’Neil & Apollo now have a chance to capture the titles at the Elimination Chamber PPV. Unfortunately, this match definitely will be filler, and will be put either on the pre-show or the dead spot after the first Chamber match. WrestleMania is creeping ever closer, and WWE need to put their belts on the best stars. Expect The Bar to retain on Sunday, and maybe a new pair will rise to the challenge next week.
The Cruiserweight Title
Tuesday night saw the end of the first round in the tournament to crown a new Cruiserweight Champion. Looking to advance this week were Buddy Murphy and Ariya Daivari, along with Jack Gallagher and Mustafa Ali.
In his 205 Live debut, Murphy showed the world what he is capable of. Everyone who has seen the man compete on NXT knows he is a fantastic superstar, criminally underused since leaving the tag team ranks. This week on the cruiserweight show, Buddy took full advantage of the opportunity given to him and bested his formidable opponent in Daivari
Hot on Murphy’s heels were Gallagher and Ali. Their match was just as good, if not better than the opening contest. “The Gentleman’s” vicious attack on Ali’s arm had us all thinking Gallagher was going to force his foe to tap out, but Ali managed to hold on and picked up the pinfall victory.
Next week, the second round of the tournament begins. Kalisto and Roderick Strong will do battle to see who advances to round three, and Cedric Alexander will square off against former Cruiserweight Champion, TJP. The tournament is really heating up, and the best part is that there isn’t an obvious winner. Thank you, 205 Live, for making wrestling properly exciting once again.
The WWE Title
WWE Champion AJ Styles kicked off SmackDown on Tuesday night by running down his Fastlane opponents, but was cut off by Baron Corbin and Kevin Owens. After a lot of bad mic work, saved only by Owens’ ability to carry a dying promo, Shane McMahon booked “The Prizefighter” in a bout against Dolph Ziggler, and put Styles and Corbin in a one-on-one match in the main event.
The former Universal Champion and Ziggler had a great match this week, with Owens picking up the win and the momentum as Fastlane edges ever closer.
Styles and Corbin delivered in the main event of the evening, with the champion besting his bigger challenger with a Phenomenal Forearm. Following the end of the match, Owens and Sami Zayn looked to take Styles and Corbin out, but “The Lone Wolf” knocked his attackers for six with the End of Days.
The muddled championship scene looked clearer this week, and Styles, Corbin, and Owens were able to stand tall and put their Fastlane opponents over all in the same show. All that said, I’m predicting a tag match pairing “The Phenomenal One” and “The Lone Wolf” against “Kami” as next week’s main event. Won’t that be thrilling?
The US Title
If there’s one surefire way to kill a crowd, it’s by having Jinder Mahal cut a promo on the completely irrelevant SmackDown Top 10 List. If that’s what the WWE were going for, then I would like to congratulate them on a job well done.
United States Champion Bobby Roode came out to put an end to the ranting and raving, followed shortly by Randy Orton. This being WWE, all three men were soon at each other’s throats. Roode got a measure of revenge on “The Viper”, hitting him with a Glorious DDT, but once again, it was Jinder Mahal who stood tall at the end.
The resulting conflict has seen Randy Orton named the No. 1 contender to the US Championship, and Mahal is on the outside looking in. Rushing Roode Vs. Orton is a mistake. It has the opportunity to be a fantastic WrestleMania match, but WWE are giving it away on a B-show PPV. Hopefully “The Modern Day Maharaja” takes Randy’s place at Fastlane to add tension to the title scene, so the real match we want to see has time to develop.
The SmackDown Women’s Title
You know, I enjoyed Raw’s 6-woman tag match so much that I was over the moon another one would be taking place on SmackDown. Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair teamed up with Becky Lynch and Naomi this week to take on The Riott Squad.
There’s just nothing to really say about these tag matches. The action goes exactly as you’d expect it to, with the bad guy leader (in this case, Ruby Riott) getting the win over one of the champion’s team mates. Becky Lynch did the honours for Riott this time, which made her look like a threat to Charlotte’s title.
Each woman involved in the tag match this week has a tonne of talent, but the repetitive match structures aren’t doing them any favours. The build to Charlotte Vs. Ruby has been pretty good though, so hopefully their bout at Fastlane will be enough to put this week’s match out of our minds.
The SmackDown Tag Team Titles
It’s Uso crazy that The Usos haven’t competed again on SmackDown this week. In fact, they weren’t even on the show. With no champions, we still needed to find some challengers, and so The New Day and Gable & Benjamin fought to determine the new No. 1 contenders.
The two teams have great chemistry in the ring; it was fantastic to see Chad Gable and Big E try to out-wrestle and out-muscle each other. The fact that Gable can hit an overhead suplex on The New Day heavy is nothing short of incredible.
In the end, Xavier Woods got the pin on Shelton Benjamin, and so at Fastlane, The New Day will challenge Jimmy & Jey for the SmackDown Tag Team Titles once more.
Whilst we wait for the Bludgeon Brothers to stake their claim for the right to wrestle for the straps, WWE had an opportunity to put either Breezango or The Ascension in the spotlight for a few minutes at Fastlane. There’s no doubt that the tag match at the SmackDown PPV will be great, but it’s too early to have New Day and The Usos square off again. I’m not 100% sure that the blue brand is the “Land of Opportunity” after all.
We did it, guys! We’re all done with this week’s editions of Raw and SmackDown, and the next stop for WWE is the Elimination Chamber. Remember to check back with us next week for all the fallout from the Chamber matches and everything else championship related.