Seth Rollins def. AJ Styles – World Heavyweight Championship
I”ll have a different column on how I feel about one of the “three main events” going on first, especially when it is for a world championship. But let’s discuss the match.
It’s Seth Rollins and AJ Styles, so it’s a pretty hard match to screw up. And sure enough, these two delivered. Although I can’t help but say, did the match feel…..weird to you guys? I don’t if it was the actual match itself, or if it’s because it didn’t have a big-match feel to it, but something wasn’t clicking with me. I can’t fully explain what that awkwardness was exactly, but let me know if you guys felt the same thing.
But as I mentioned, this was an excellent one on one match, with psychology that gradually built to a great finish. I don’t think I’d put this on the level of their previous one on one bout at Money In The Bank in 2019, but it was still a high quality showing. What I particularly liked about the match was how it wasn’t just a finisher kick-out fest. In fact, AJ wasn’t able to hit any one of his finishers because of the damage and cunning of Seth, which ultimately had him resort to using the Pedigree.
I also dug the finish of Seth having to use both the Pedigree and Curb Stomp in succession to finish AJ off while gingerly holding onto his knee. The bottom line is that this has been a long time coming for Seth. An acknowledgement of the hard work he’s put in carrying the RAW brand with Roman dominating the world title scene. Another great showing for these two and a match that was worthy of the World Heavyweight Championship. ****1/4
Trish Stratus def. Becky Lynch
It remains astonishing how Trish is (supposedly) 47, but is able to keep pace with some of the best the women’s division has to offer. You look at her match at Summerslam 2019 with Charlotte Flair and this one nearly 4 years later, and she truly doesn’t miss too many beats. While she’s obviously slower, she still performs at a relatively high level. While some spots took time to set up, I thought Becky and Trish went out there and had a very good match that completely blew out my expectations going into it. The pacing was very good, they kept the brawling simple, the near-falls and the timing was pretty spot on and few dead spots to boot. It was just a high quality showing.
My assumption is that Zoey Stark has big things in her future since she is serving somewhat as Trish’s protege at the moment. And what a way to make an impression by making Becky Lynch bleed the hard way? Overall, a very, very good showing by a crafty veteran and Becky. Maybe I’m grading this on a curve because Trish is past her prime, but I enjoyed this. Maybe a little too much. ***3/4
Gunther (C) def. Mustafa Ali – Intercontinental Championship
Don’t know about you guys, but Gunther is on an all-time trajectory at the moment. And in this short match, he also proved why he and Seth Rollins have been the biggest non-Bloodline acts in WWE for the last year. This match was about 8 minutes long, and it was just crazy balls to the wall action from the start, and they occupied the time tremendously well.
While I was a little upset we didn’t get another 5 or so minutes (because this was heading into ****1/2 territory), I do understand that you want to bill Gunther as a dominant champion, and therefore he shouldn’t take too long to handle someone about half his size. That said, this was the perfect big man, little man formula. The big guy just beats the stuffing out of the little man. You build sympathy for the hopeless highflyer, he hits his signature moves, and the big man ends things by putting him in his place. It’s a simple formula that worked very well.
I have no doubt that this would have been another banger if this wasn’t an extended squash, but regardless, I saw enough. Gunther is him. And credit to Ali for making the most of out the opportunity given to him, as they are hard to come by for him these days. ***1/2
Asuka def. Bianca Belair (C) – RAW Women’s Championship
I will say I’m somewhat surprised at the result. I understand not wanting to have the newer, darker version of Asuka lose twice in a row to Bianca. However, it just seems like WWE has been infatuated with long title reigns. Between Roman Reigns, Austin Theory, Gunther and Bianca and The Usos before WrestleMania, we were currently occupying an era where champions reign for extended periods of time. It felt like they were going to push for 500 days for Bianca.
Result aside, I thought the match was….okay-ish. I highly rated their WrestleMania match, but in hindsight, I may have overrated it a bit. I don’t really see these two having a lot of chemistry and their matches seem to be passable/decently worked at best. I didn’t think tihs match had too much of a flow or a rhtyhm. I dig the whole thing where Bianca couldn’t stop attacking Asuak out of frustration and it cost her because she couldn’t see Asuka applying the mist. But the journey to get there was kind of up and down.
I can dig Asuka winning the championship again, and Bianca’s reign was some of the best work by a women’s champion this century. I just kind of wish the end of her title reign didn’t feel so flat and uneventful. ***
Rhea Ripley (C) def. Natalya – SmackDown Women’s Championship
This one obviously doesn’t get a rating for being so comically short. What I will say is I just don’t understand flying these two out there just to do that when this could have been done on an episode of RAW. This is what th ematch always should have been, with Rhea squashing Natalya. But we don’t need to fill a slot on a primetime PPV just to give Rhea to do that. As a matter of fact, Rhea could have just taken out Natalya in a backstage segment and it would have more or less accomplished the same thing.
Brock Lesnar def. Cody Rhodes
I appreciated Brock’s efforts here in a more nuanced storytelling match than usual here. Usually, your typical Brock match encompasses big time, impactful moves and is a matter of hwo can kick out the most. Here, we went through valleys to get through each moment and Brock rightfully targeted Cody’s arm to the point where Cody couldn’t sustain it anymore. What I couldn’t help but notice is the logic of Cody being allowed to use his cast as a wepaon. Why? It’s a weapon. It’s one thing if Brock gets hit by it inadvertently. But Michael Cole proclaiming loudly that Cody is “realizing that he can use the cast as a weapon” just never made sense to me.
In my opinion, it should have been Cody trying to use his non-dominant arm or his lower body to gain an advantage and maybe use the cast off a ref bump or something. That didn’t sit well with me, but aside from that, I thought the match had very good structure to it and it led to the whole submission spot where Cody wouldn’t submit and just passed out. There was good drama, Brock played the role of the merciless mercenary well, and this was another good chapter in Cody’s road to redemption. ***1/2
Sami Zayn (C) and Kevin Owens (C) def. Roman Reigns and Solo Si’Koa – Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships
Well, there’s certainly a lot to digest here, now isn’t there? The primary thing I want to talk about is the ending towards the match, which we all could have foreshadowed a mile away. I’m surprised they pulled the trigger on Jimmy finally turning on Roman this early. I saw the inadvertent superkick coming a mile away. But I was also expecting there to just be some post-match bickering and arguing before The Usos would finally complete their turn on Roman. I assume the next step might be some kind of inter-Bloodline match at Money In The Bank. Maybe one of the Usos challenges Roman for the title or a tag team match between The Usos and Roman/Solo.
What I also loved about what Jimmy did was that he was telling Jey he’s doing what he should have done a long time ago. When this whole Bloodline story started, it was just Jey and Roman and when Jimmy returned from his injury, he was warning Jey about how Roman was using him and that he wasn’t anyone’s “b*tch”. Now that Roman is showing his true colors and Jimmy realizes he’s just a means to an end, he’s finally acting on his inner thoughts while Jey still has reluctance and a lingering sense of loyalty to Roman for helping elevate him to new heights. It makes for an interesting and consequential SmackDown to say the least.
Oh, the match. That was a pretty damn good main event, filled with the appropriate amount of drama and a seamless flow. Of course, we saw The Usos run-in coming, so it also never felt like Roman/Solo was ever going to win, so the drama was a bit tempered because of that. But that notwithstanding, Owens and Sami were made to bea. tag team and Roman/Solo were the perfect foils for them at this event. I cannot wait to see what comes next. ****1/2
Don’t know if you guys have been keeping track, but WWE has been on a bit of a roll at these premium live events. I didn’t find anything partircularly bad, if uneventufl and needless on this card. But every match either delivered, overdelivered or accomplished its purpose, making this an easy watch and an even easier thumbs up for me. As we head into the summer season, things are only bound to heat up even more.