By David Dodgson (@DodgeeWriter)
The wait is finally over for one of the most unpredictable pay-per view events of the year. We have witnessed a build of cross-show invasions, late title changes, and ….err… twitter spats. Nevertheless, just the card suggests this will be a high-octane event. We are going to see The Shield and The New Day duke it out, The Usos take on The Bar, Alexa Bliss clash with Charlotte, and AJ Styles v. Brock Lesnar – wow… And that is before we even get to the elimination matches. Let’s see which show establishes ‘brand supremacy.’
Cruiserweight Title Match: Enzo (c) v. Kalisto – My prediction: Enzo
The kick off show hosts the only actual title defence of the night. Kalisto gets a huge spot in early on as he performs a stiff-looking sunset flip powerbomb off the ropes. Enzo soon takes control though and grinds the high-flying luchador down. Late in the match, Kalisto goes for the Salida del Sol but Amore holds onto the ropes. He then quickly hits his opponent with a boot to the face and that is that.
Winner: Enzo Amore
Prediction Count: 1/1 – off to a good start. There was only one guy ever likely to come out winner here. Hopefully, we will see a new challenger rise from the cruiserweight ranks now. Cedric Alexander please.
The New Day v. The Shield – My prediction: The Shield
After an age of pre-match promos, hype packages and entrances, we finally get the event underway with one of many hotly-anticipated matches on tonight’s card. Both teams are red-hot babyfaces (can we include Roman in that yet?) so it will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts. Duelling chants for both teams ring out as the competitors measure each other up. The Shield soon take control, sending Big E and Kofi to the outside as they isolate Xavier Woods. A quick tag to Kingston turns things around and Ambrose soon finds himself on the wrong end of a Unicorn Stampede in the corner.
Big E nearly gets the win after a huge spear through the ropes to the Lunatic Fringe. Ambrose takes some more punishment until a hot tag to Rollins. Reigns then gets into the match and runs through his usual set of moves but gets the spear countered by a boot from Woods. A couple of quick tags later and Ambrose lands Dirty Deeds on Kofi but Woods makes the save. Seth shouts out ‘end it now’ but Big E pulls Reigns out of the ring just before the triple powerbomb. The New Day then pull off a double midnight hour with Big E holding both Rollins and Ambrose. A pear from Reigns prevents the pin though as the first ‘this is awesome’ chant of the night goes up.
Both teams stagger to their feet in their corners before it all breaks down into a brawl. Woods and Big E eat finishers on the outside leaving Kofi all alone. A triple powerbomb off the top rope (off the top rope!) earns victory for the Hounds of Justice.
Winners: The Shield (RAW 1 – Smackdown 0)
Prediction Count: 2/2 – again, I did not see this match going any other way. Both teams delivered an exciting contest with the newly re-united Shield getting the win. It will be interesting to see what both teams do next.
Women’s Elimination Match – My prediction: Team RAW
We see Stephanie McMahon give Team RAW a pep talk backstage before Team Smackdown come out – Becky Lynch, Carmella, Tamina, Naomi, and…. Natalya (hmm, I guess Paige will have to wait a bit longer to return). The first elimination comes quickly as a blind tag from Alicia Fox to Bayley leads to Becky Lynch getting rolled up for a pin. Bayley soon gets trapped in the Smackdown corner. A Carmella superkick and a Tamina Superfly Splash later and it’s 4 on 4 with the two biggest babyfaces out early.
We then get Tamina and Nia Jax in the ring together to engage in a powerhouse showdown. As Jax goes for a Samoan drop, Lana jumps on the apron and gets blasted to the floor for her troubles. Tamina hits two superkicks to send her opponent to the outside. The Smackdown team beat her down outside and Jax gets counted out. Alicia Fox is furious but soon finds herself in a botched elimination as she gets pinned by Naomi, who then switches to a submission hold despite the three-count. Sasha Banks jumps into the ring for the first time and immediately makes Naomi tap to the Banks statement.
The crowd have been chanting for Asuka all match and she finally gets in and unloads strikes on Carmella. Miss Money in the Bank makes the mistake of slapping the Empress of Tomorrow and one stiff kick later she is out. The advantage goes back to Smackdown as Sahsa Banks submits to the Sharpshooter leaving Asuka alone to fight Natalya and Tamina. The Japanese superstar takes a beating for few moments before slapping the Asuka Lock on Tamina. She then escapes a Sharpshooter attempt before making Natalya submit.
Winners: Team RAW (RAW 2 – Smackdown 0)
Prediction Count: 3/3 – right on the money! Team RAW win with Asuka as the sole survivor – exactly what she needed to avoid being lost in the shuffle early in her main roster run. Asuka looked every part the dangerous fighter we have been expecting. Tamina and Natalya come out of the match looking strong as well.
Baron Corbin v. The Miz – My prediction: The Miz
Onto our first champion v. champion match of the night as the social media feud finally makes it to the ring. Both wrestlers are wearing their brands t-shorts and Curtis Axel is even sporting a red neck brace at ringside. Corbin has the advantage early on but, as usual, loses it by trash talking at ringside (this time to Maryse who is watching from the front row). The Miztourage also cause distractions with Axel taking the ref’s attention while Dallas chops Corbin’s knee from behind (does that make Corbin the face here?) The Miz focuses on the knee some more before applying the Figure Four. Corbin makes it to the ropes and then nets a near fall off after Deep Six. The Lone Wolf takes out The Miz’s henchmen, then nearly loses after The A-Lister counters End of Days to a DDT. The Miz uses Daniel Bryan’s Yes Kicks (and actually has the crowd chanting ‘Yes!’ for once) but as usual misses the last kick. End of Days soon follows, and Corbin gets the first mark on the board for Team Blue.
Winner: Baron Corbin (RAW 2 – Smackdown 1)
Prediction Count: 3/4 – that was a surprise! Not only the result but also the fact that Corbin was booked stronger than he has been in a long time. He took out the Miztourage and got the win against one of the craftiest superstars on the roster. Is this the start of a big run for him?
The Usos v. The Bar – My prediction: The Usos
The Usos cut a great promo against Seamus and Cesaro on their way to the ring and take control early on. Momentum swings to the RAW tag champs when Cesaro counters a dive to the outside with an uppercut. They keep Jimmy isolated and take Jey out at ringside to prevent the tag. The hot tag eventually comes and Jey unloads on Cesaro, including a rough looking backdrop into the corner. Jey gets distracted by Seamus attacking Jimmy on the outside and soon finds himself in the Sharpshooter. A brogue Kick to stop Jimmy breaking things up looks to have the match won but Jey Uso somehow gets to the ropes. He is soon on the receiving end of a White Nose double team move but Jimmy recovers to make the save. Up on Cesaro’s shoulders, Jey manages to counter to a Samoan Drop on Seamus from the top rope for a near fall. A hot tag to Jimmy leads to double superkicks for both sides of The Bar. One final tag/dive to the outside brings Jey back in and takes Cesaro out and The Usos win with the splash.
Winner: The Usos (RAW 2 – Smackdown 2)
Prediction Count: 4/5 – it took a while to get going but both teams delivered a very good match in the end. Having The Usos win makes sense to keep their momentum from Hell in a Cell going.
Charlotte v. Alexa Bliss – My prediction: Double count-out/DQ
Bliss starts the match trying to avoid confrontation in true heel style while the RAW commentary team try to sell her as an aggressive, hard-hitting competitor (they really need to make their minds up as to what kind of heel she is). The RAW champ takes control with a series of kicks and cheap shots. Charlotte for some reason tries a moonsault but that only gives Bliss a window to keep the momentum. The Queen then blocks a DDT by grabbing the rope and grabs a near fall off a sit-out powerbomb. Another near fall comes after Natural Selection – a big surprise that Bliss kicked out of a move that has finished off Sasha Banks in the past. Another moonsault attempt fails and Alexa finally hits her DDT, but Charlotte gets a foot on the rope to break the count. The Smackdown champ then counters Twisted Bliss by getting her knees up, ‘hits’ a big kick (betrayed by the camera angle), and slaps on the Figure 8 to make Alexa tap out.
Winner: The Usos (RAW 2 – Smackdown 3)
Prediction Count: 4/6 – makes sense that the recently crowned Charlotte gets the win, but I honestly expected that they would go for a no contest to avoid giving one champ a loss (no Carmella cash-in either). Like the tag match, this one took a while to get going but had a strong finish.
AJ Styles v. Brock Lesnar – My prediction: No contest
Competing chants of ‘AJ Styles’ and ‘Suplex City’ help add to the red-hot atmosphere for this one. Brock overpowers the much smaller Styles in the opening moments. He soon takes AJ to Suplex City, tossing him overhead and bouncing him across the mat. Five minutes in and the Phenomenal One has not got in any offence! The Beast taunts his opponent inviting him to throw punches but ducking every one of them. Styles escapes an F5 attempt and finally lands some blows, nailing a DDT in the corner before hitting Lesnar with strikes to the legs and head. AJ tries for the Phenomenal Forearm but ends up right back in Suplex City.
AJ takes control back as the fight spills to the outside. Back in the ring, he lands some stiff kicks and hits a 450 splash off the top rope but Lesnar kicks out at two. Both men counter each other’s finishers leading to Styles locking in the Calf Crusher. Lesnar, though, powers out by smashing AJ’s head into the mat. The WWE Champ connects with the Phenomenal Forearm but again Lesnar kicks out. Another forearm attempt is countered into an F5, and that is all Lesnar needs.
Winner: Brock Lesnar (RAW 3 – Smackdown 3)
Prediction Count: 4/7 – I will avoid predicting cop-out finishes next time! A pleasant surprise that WWE didn’t take the easy route out with any draws or inconclusive finishes. This match was booked in the right way though – Brock shows us why he was the favourite, but AJ Styles put on a hell of a show as well.
Men’s Elimination Match – My prediction: Team Smackdown
The match gets underway with Strowman throwing Shane McMahon right across the ring (“he finally understands the power of Braun Strowman!” exclaims Michael Cole – yeah, like he had no idea just because they are on different shows). After a few early exchanges, there is a huge pop as Shinsuke Nakamura tags in to face Finn Balor and an “NXT” chant fills the arena. They trade moves and taunts until Triple H tags in to face one of his former NXT protégées (I love the slow, anticipation-building tags they are deploying here). Bobby Roode joins the match and tries to draw out a ‘glorious!’ chant but gets a smack in the face for his troubles. He finally gets the pop he was looking for after hitting his former boss with a spinebuster.
Kurt Angle tags in and unloads with German suplexes until both guys knock each other down. Nakamura re-joins the match and blasts Strowman off the apron before taking out the rest of the RAW team one-by-one. The Monster Among Men then tags in and eliminates Nakamura with the running powerslam. Roode runs back in and has Strowman reeling until he gets caught in a powerslam as well and RAW get a two-man advantage.
Team Red fail to capitalise though as Strowman and Joe and then Angle and Triple H get in each other’s faces. We then witness Orton and Cena double teaming Braun, but he fends both of them off. It takes the entire Smackdown Team (including the eliminated Nakamura and Roode) to deliver a suplex through the announcer’s table to Strowman in our first major ringside spot of the night.
Samoa Joe then gives Cena a pounding with half the audience chanting for the 16-time champ and the other half responding, ‘Cena sucks!’ Balor tags in and sets up for the Cup de Gras only for Joe to tag himself back in. As they argue, Cena recovers and delivers AAs to both men. A second AA to Joe is enough to eliminate the Samoan superstar.
We then roll back the years as Cena and Angle face off. They trade some signature moves until an Angle Slam nets a near fall, broken up by Shane. While the referee tries to get the Smackdown Commissioner out of the ring, Balor hits the Coup de Gras on Cena followed by another Angle Slam and Cena is out. Finn Balor then goes on a tear, taking McMahon out at ringside and setting up Orton for his finisher. The Viper avoids the stomp though and hits an RKO to send Balor to the back– not a great showing for the NXT alumni here.
As Orton goes for a tag to Shane, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn appear and pull McMahon off the apron. The Commissioner gets a chair to fight them off and Orton lands an RKO on KO to send the heels scurrying to the back. In the meantime, Strowman has recovered from the table smash earlier in the match and re-enters the fray. He quickly eliminates Randy Orton and Shane McMahon is left alone.
We see more dissention in the RAW ranks as the remaining team members tag each other out. Shane hits some moves on Kurt Angle until he ends up in the ankle lock. Shane holds on for an age until Triple H breaks the hold and Pedigrees the RAW GM, allowing Shane to get the pin. The crowd is stunned into silence, but we soon find out Triple H just wanted to win the match himself. His celebrations are cut short by an irate Braun Strowman, who puts the Game down with two running powerslams to stand tall at the end of the show.
Winners: Team RAW (RAW 4 – Smackdown 3)
Prediction Count: 4/8 – not so hot on my predictions this time! That was a strange match – Strowman aside, it was all about the veterans. This could have been a platform for Joe, Balor, Nakamura, and Roode to make their marks but all were eliminated quite easily. The KO-Zayn run in happened as predicted but both guys looked weak for being sent scampering so quickly. In the end, only Strowman came out of this one strong and even then, he spent half the match out on the floor after that table spot.
This was a great show until the main event. All the champion v. champion matches delivered, the Shield and the New Day had a fun bout, and the right booking made the Women’s match a memorable showcase for Asuka. I was not a fan of the main event, however. This was the time for the new guys to shine, not the authority figures.