And so we begin a new chapter in WWE. What did the first Raw and SmackDown post-Mania have in store for the title scene? Let’s find out.
The Universal Title
Brock Lesnar successfully defended his Universal Championship at Mania and he celebrated by taking the night off this past Monday. Not to worry though; Roman Reigns was around to cut a promo which is…something, I guess.
You’d think getting rag-dolled and split open by a former UFC World Champion would humble Reigns, but clearly it didn’t. “The Big Dog” continued to bash Lesnar for his part-time contract and mentioned that a rematch is in place at the Greatest Royal Rumble — inside a steel cage! According to Reigns, this story will end with him becoming the Universal Champion.
And then came along a returning Samoa Joe! Joe put the former WWE Champion in his place much to the delight of the crowd. “The Samoan Submission Machine” called Roman out for being a failure and a liar, and once Lesnar is finished with Reigns, Joe will be at Backlash to put “The Big Dog” to sleep.
If there’s one thing the fans obviously don’t want, it’s another clash between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. The chants of ‘boring’ and ‘this is awful’ must still be ringing in their ears. What they do want is to see Samoa Joe kick Roman’s arse. People have been speculating that Reigns will become champion at the Greatest Royal Rumble because the crowd in Saudi Arabia care more for “The Big Dog.” If that’s true, fans should prepare themselves for Samoa Joe to lose at Backlash. There’s no way Reigns is beating Lesnar just to lose the strap a couple of weeks later to Joe.
The Intercontinental Title
Fresh from the best championship match at WrestleMania, Seth Rollins came out to celebrate his IC Title win with the fans. But in WWE, no one gets long to celebrate.
Finn Bálor interrupted the proceedings to challenge Seth for the title, only for The Miz with Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel to put a halt to everything. The former champion told “The Architect” he will invoke his rematch clause at Backlash. As for that night, The Miz was more than happy to team up with his cohorts in a handicap match against Rollins and Bálor. A returning Jeff Hardy evened the scores for some odd reason, and the six men wrestled in the main event.
Every competitor put on a great showing; Rollins and Bálor seemed barely knackered at all after Mania. The match ended with the IC Champ picking up another win at the expense of “The A-Lister” with a text-book Curb Stomp. After the match, Seth, Finn, and Jeff had fun hitting their finishers on Dallas & Axel.
It’s always good to see a healthy Jeff Hardy in a WWE ring, but it seemed strange to put him in the middle of an ongoing feud. With Miz declaring his rematch for Backlash, it means an IC Title shot is up for grabs at the Greatest Royal Rumble. A No.1 contender’s match between “The Demon” and “The Charismatic Enigma” might be right around the corner.
The Raw Women’s Title
Nia Jax won the biggest match of her career last Sunday, but as Alexa Bliss has proven, a good friend is worth her weight in gold when it comes to staying on top. Teaming up with the new Raw Women’s Champion to take on Alexa and Mickie James was the debuting Ember Moon.
This match was all Moon. She hit a flurry of awesome offence on “Little Miss Bliss” (albeit she did botch the springboard cross body just a smidgeon), and ended with a huge Eclipse that Bliss sold perfectly. The champ didn’t do very much, but the crowd was all for Ember anyway so it didn’t do Jax any harm taking a backseat.
There hasn’t been any mention of a rematch between Jax and Bliss for the title, and with the Superstar Shake-up next week, there might not be one. Jax beat the bully and the bully put over a debuting competitor; “The Goddess” has definitely received her comeuppance. Now would be a good time for Bliss to take some time away from the spotlight and give the other women in the division a chance to shine.
The Raw Tag Team Titles
Your opinion on The Bar losing the titles at Mania comes down to whether you’re a bigger fan of pro wrestling or a bigger fan of sports entertainment. Was Braun Strowman partnering with a child funny? Yes. Did they have to win and bury the tag division? In my humble opinion, no they didn’t.
Realising that Nicholas has to finish his education, he and Braun relinquished the Raw Tag Team Titles. The Bar will get an opportunity to win them back at the Greatest Royal Rumble, but their opponents will be decided next week. It will either be The Revival or the newly formed team of Matt Hardy & Bray Wyatt.
Hardy & Wyatt were getting huge pops from the crowd and WWE are likely to capitalise on their popularity. Expect them to advance to the GRR next week. After that, WWE have to put the straps on the Woken duo as Sheamus & Cesaro have lost a lot of credibility thanks to what happened at Mania. But with the Authors of Pain now on the main roster, maybe it’s time for The Bar to go their separate ways. Raw’s tag division needed them for so long, but now is the time for a new team to dominate.
The Cruiserweight Title
A gruelling tournament to crown a new Cruiserweight Champion came to its conclusion at WrestleMania with Cedric Alexander standing tall with the title. But in his thank you speech to the fans, the challengers for the purple strap started to emerge.
Mustafa Ali, Cedric’s Mania opponent, was the first out to congratulate his friend and make his intentions clear. A rematch would be most welcome as they put on a hell of a match last Sunday. The next man to throw down the gauntlet was Buddy Murphy, who has been killing it as of late, making the most of the opportunity given to him on 205 Live. Ali took the polite route confronting the champion, but the Aussie superstar made it clear he isn’t playing games by planting Alexander with Murphy’s Law.
No match has been made yet between the champion and either of his challengers. With the Greatest Royal Rumble and Backlash on the horizon, it looks like Ali and Murphy are both going to get a shot at the title.
The WWE Title
AJ Styles bested Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania, but Daniel Bryan was gunning after the WWE Champ this week. The Yes! Movement is back, but not everyone is happy to see it in full swing.
Styles and Bryan had a brilliant match on SmackDown that dwarfed the clash between Styles and Nakamura at Mania. “The Yes Man” obviously hasn’t missed a step even after a three year hiatus. He did grab the back of his head a lot in the match though; whether it was an angle or whether he was in genuine pain, it was oddly uncomfortable to watch once you noticed it.
Still mad at Styles, Nakamura had the match thrown out by blasting Bryan with a Kinshasa. After that, “The King of Strong Style” turned his assault to the WWE Champ with a low blow, a series of strikes, a Kinshasa, and final whack to the goolies for good measure.
Heel Nakamura has been really good so far and shows promise. A lot of fans who missed his work in NXT and NJPW weren’t that interested in him, but now Nakamura has everyone’s attention. As a fighting champion, AJ will want his revenge sooner rather than later; perhaps the final blow-out will happen at the Greatest Royal Rumble with the winner defending their title against Bryan at Backlash.
The US Title
“And the crowd goes mild,” screamed the announcer’s voice in my head when Jinder Mahal became US Champ at Mania. On SmackDown though, Mahal was at ringside to see if Randy Orton, Bobby Roode or Rusev will challenge him at Backlash for the title.
The match was about as good as their bout at Mania. Rusev received huge pops whenever he was on the offensive. In the end, it was “The Viper” who struck the final blow with an RKO to Roode for the three-count. To end the segment, Randy and Jinder stared each other down.
Logic has been thrown right out the window. No one cared when Orton and Mahal squared off this time last year for the WWE Championship, so why on earth does Vince think fans will give a damn now they’re fighting for the US Title? The only saving grace is the GRR. Mahal will be defending the US Championship in Saudi Arabia and a challenger hasn’t been named yet. If WWE are smart enough to capitalise on their hottest commodity, Rusev will surely become the new champion in time to face Orton at Backlash.
The SmackDown Women’s Title
Charlotte Flair did the impossible by ending Asuka’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, but there’s no time to rest on your laurels when you’re a champion in WWE.
The debuting Peyton Royce and Billie Kay interrupted Charlotte’s promo, savagely beating the SmackDown Women’s Champion down. The Iconic Duo’s assault included a cool-looking double powerbomb to outside that definitely will make an impact on the blue brand as a finisher. With Flair a broken wreck, Peyton and Billie left, paving the way for Carmella.
Even with the ref playing dumb for some reason, Carmella successfully cashed in her MitB contract to become the new SmackDown Women’s Champion.
Personally, I think this was the best decision WWE made on both Raw and SmackDown this week. Asuka and Charlotte played a massive role in making the women’s division what it is today, but both ladies stepped back this week to put over the next influx of female talent. Sure, Carmella isn’t the best competitor, but the Iconic Duo just did her one hell of a favour. I’m sure Peyton and Billie will make sure “The Princess of Staten Island” doesn’t forget.
The SmackDown Tag Team Titles
The Usos lost their titles to The Bludgeon Brothers and had to compete against The New Day to see which team is worthy of contending once more for the belts.
Some people are getting sick of seeing Jimmy & Jey face off against The New Day, but there’s no denying they put on spectacular bouts. Big E in particular was great in this match, planting himself hard on the ring apron and blasting Jimmy with a spear that took them both out of the squared circle. The Usos eventually picked up the 1,2,3 with a superkick/top rope splash combo, and will face The Bludgeon Brothers for the titles at the Greatest Royal Rumble.
With the Superstar Shake-up next week, and Paige being named the new SD General Manager, it is likely Xavier Woods and company are leaving for Raw. It was nice to see them face The Usos one last time, but both brands really need the draft to stop the repetitive bouts. The Bludgeon Brothers won’t relinquish their titles easily, but if anyone can dethrone them, it’s Jimmy & Jey.
And so the post-Mania shows weren’t exactly stellar, but there were a few good points. With two PPVs to build up in such a short space of time, WWE have managed to work multiple challengers into each title scene pretty well. But with the Superstar Shake-up fast approaching, we could be looking at new challengers very soon.