Reverse Hipster's What Mattered
7. (WWE, NXT 2.0) InDex and Dusia Band Together
I have not been a fan of this feud lately, but I liked the twist of Dexter Lumis and Duke Hudson working together as a tag team at Indi Hartwell and Persia Pirotta's suggestion. Not only does it cause intrigue because they have been fighting, but it changes the feud. It seems like NXT 2.0 wanted a slow burn to this Persia/Indi breakup, but it felt like they had already turned on each other until this segment.
6. (WWE, Raw) Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens was absolutely hilarious in his questioning of Ezekiel, and Ciampa was surprisingly an outstanding comedy straight man for Kevin to play off of. When Ciampa confirmed that Ezekiel wasn't Elias, Kevin lost it, and so did I.
5. (WWE, Raw) Street Profits vs. The Usos and RK-Bro vs. Alpha Academy
I was at this Raw, and these matches were some of the hottest of the night, in terms of fans reactions. Raw constantly struggles in the end, but having RK-Bro come out really lit up the crowd, even during a commercial break and other segments. The crowd reacted pretty well to Alpha Academy too, and the two teams had a pretty good match, as they always do. The most hype part was Randy Orton's hot tag.
The Usos and Street Profits also got a big reaction, and there were a lot more Uso fans in the audience than I expected. The Street Profits and The Usos delivered as the main event. I liked seeing Montez Ford flip to the outside, and I thought the 1D finisher was creatively placed to finish the match. My only criticism was that it was pretty predictable that the Street Profits would lose, given that they already announced The Usos were coming for the Raw titles.
4. (AEW, Dynamite) Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland vs. Powerhouse Hobbs and Ricky Starks
Finally, Lee and Swerve had a worthwhile match. Lee and Swerve were great as a team, and they dominated a lot of the match with flashy offense. My only criticism of this match is that AEW has already been accused of making Lee just another guy after a strong debut. So, I don't like Lee eating the pin in this match, even if Taz interfered.
3. (WWE, NXT 2.0) Natalya
Natalya returned to NXT 2.0 right after Cora revealed that Natalya was one of her influences. Natalya praised Cora as the future, and they reminisced about Natalya pointing to her at a show when Cora was eleven. Then, Natalya turned on Cora, and I loved it. I think Cora can learn a lot from Natalya, and Natalya pulled off some of her best character work in that promo.
2. (WWE, NXT 2.0) Josh Briggs and Brooks Jensen vs. The Creed Brothers
Briggs and Jensen really impressed me. They proved they could carry a feud, especially against The Creed Brothers. Briggs and Jensen proved they were not to be messed with. They were jacking The Creed Brothers up all match, brawling like Luke Harper. However, The Creed Brothers were able to separate both and hit their brutal clothesline to escape with a victory.
1. (WWE, Raw) Cody Rhodes
Seeing Cody live was fantastic. He was easily the most reacted to, and he had the crowd primed and ready for Raw. I also like WWE's choice to start Cody with The Miz. The Miz and Cody represent such different things, The Miz is a very WWE-style wrestler. Also, they even played on this dynamic by having The Miz correct Cody for using the wrong words on TV.
Later that night, after coming out to delightfully over-the-top pyro, Cody beat The Miz in one of the night's best matches.
Rob’s What Mattered
9. Cameron Grimes vs. Solo Sikoa, NXT 2.0
The only downside of this is that the champion felt like the least important part of the match. Cameron Grimes and Solo Sikoa had great chemistry, but the crowd loved everything Sikoa did. A distraction from Trick Williams led to Grimes getting the win, but I’m not sure if his motivations made sense. After watching that reaction, if I’m in charge of NXT, I think Sikoa is ready to secure a title or even go straight to the main roster to support the Bloodline.
8. Mandy Rose vs. Dakota Kai, NXT 2.0
Again, this felt like something that maybe should have been built or reserved for a bigger show. Dakota Kai is one of the few credible women left for Mandy Rose to face, and it surprised me when commentary said Kai has never been NXT Women’s Champion. Even though there was a little interference, Rose handled Kai, and it’s hard to imagine who will dethrone Toxic Attraction. The segment with Wendy Choo was fun at the end, but it still doesn’t answer the burning question about the NXT Women’s Division.
7. Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland vs. Ricky Starks and Powerhouse Hobbs, AEW Dynamite
AEW’s tag team division is already stacked, but either of these two teams would be entertaining to see every week. Ricky Starks got a good pop from his hometown crowd, and it influenced some genuine emotion and unexpected energy into the match. Swerve Strickland did an awesome top rope move off of Keith Lee’s chest to the outside, so they have some solid chemistry to work with too. Taz's interference gave his team the win, and I’m excited to see more of a feud between these two teams.
6. Tag Team Wrestling, WWE Raw
We got another good RK-Bro and Alpha Academy match on Raw. Even though we have seen it a lot in recent months, they have such good chemistry it made for a good weekly TV match. Even though the Usos were already announced, they got a huge pop from the crowd coming out to confront RKBro before being interrupted by the Street Profits. The match between the Street Profits and the Usos was even better than the match before it, highlighted by hot tags and high flying by Montez Ford, and the Usos breaking up a pin in one of the closest counts I’ve ever seen. The two matches combined naturally set up the tag team unification match. Even though I don’t want to see the belts unified, I have to admit that the way they booked and executed this in the main event slot made it meaningful.
5. Tag Team Gauntlet, NXT 2.0
This was the best way to make chicken salad out of chicken shit, as Stone Cold says. Sadly, MSK is no more from a wrestling standpoint, but the gauntlet gimmick was smart to put the Creed Brothers over huge. Legado del Fantasma and Briggs and Jensen delivered unexpectedly solid ring work in their segments here too. Having Pretty Deadly win in their debut is a tough spot to put them in. In my head, they still have to get over with the crowd, but maybe this is a good opportunity for the heel champions to make the crowd even madder at them.
4. Samoa Joe vs. Minoru Suzuki, AEW Dynamite
This was a barn burner of a main event with NJPW-styled strikes that left both guys with red chests just minutes into the match. It feels like this is the type of match Samoa Joe should be having. The reaction from the crowd and his win elicited genuine emotion from Joe, who seems, in hindsight, like he’s been trapped by WWE and injuries for the last few years. As ROH TV champion, ROH can be rebuilt completely around Joe and the other great underutilized wrestlers of AEW.
3. CM Punk vs. Penta Oscuro, AEW Dynamite
AEW is wise to start the night with CM Punk matches. The crowd gets hot, and the wrestling is guaranteed solid and meaningful. This was a styles clash match with Penta Oscuro, which is sort of to be expected in AEW now with so many styles represented. They worked really smart, turning a botch by Punk into the central story of the match, which made the following moves and finish even more meaningful. Punk looks very strong in AEW right now, where wins and losses matter, and I think he should be the next challenger for champion Adam Page.
2. Natalya and Cora Jade, NXT 2.0
Natalya coming on NXT 2.0 was another fun surprise of a WWE wrestler coming to the brand. She got a huge reaction from the crowd, and I think she was genuinely emotional to get that sort of reception when she is a trailblazer of the women’s division and still under-appreciated on the main roster. Cora Jade’s character worked perfectly here because we all know she is a huge WWE fan and would have watched Natalya growing up. Even though the turn was sort of obvious, it sets up a best-case scenario for both wrestlers: Jade will gain more credibility and experience working with Natalya and a reason to stay away from the championship a little longer. Natalya gets to wrestle in a meaningful match and feud that will let her show she’s still got it.
1. Cody Rhodes and The Miz, WWE Raw
Miz TV with Cody Rhodes opened the night to a hot crowd, and two of the best Raw has on the mic quickly made their match mean something. Rhodes’s pyro made me laugh out loud; I guess a part of his character is how over the top his presentation is, but I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be self-aware or not. I loved the tongue-in-cheek references to AEW and Vince McMahon verbiage like Titles instead of Belts and Superstars instead of Wrestlers. The main point of the feud was that Rhodes went out and made his name mean something, while the Miz stayed a WWE guy, and now he feels threatened by Rhodes’s return. It was a really good angle to form in one night.
Later, they had my favorite match on all of a Raw that was pretty wrestling heavy. Rhodes is working a higher work rate, independent wrestling style, which clashes well with the Miz’s homegrown WWE match style and working the crowd as a heel. Rhodes seems to be the most over superstar on Raw right now. My only complaint is I think this should have been the main event, and they have to be careful not to let Cody burn out too soon, or it can ruin the long-term story of his return/quest for the title.
Reverse Hipster's What Didn't Matter
4. (AEW, Dynamite) Blackpool Combat Club
This was a terrible follow-up to Yuta joining the Club. Yuta could have stayed with the best friends if he wanted to be in comedy segments with Danhausen. Also, Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley felt very out of place. Also, Hook walking out then going back was more of the same bland booking. It would have been way more interesting to see him actually interact with the stars in the ring, but Hook is too cool to entertain. Also, Bryan Danielson claimed to be annoyed because he wanted Ricky Starks, but kept getting interrupted. However, then when Ricky got out there, he was just another body.
Also, the use of The Acclaimed in this segment was the worst. Despite being praised by Cena and being one of the more entertaining gimmicks in AEW, The Acclaimed just keep getting jobbed out left and right, and it seems like a waste.
3. (AEW, Dynamite) Wardlow
I am also over these Wardlow segments because it's just the same thing repeatedly. It's starting to feel like I'm watching Tom and Jerry. However, at least Jerry finds new ways to outsmart Tom. Whereas Wardlow, on the other hand, keeps falling for the same trick repeatedly, making it more like the Coyote and the Roadrunner. Wardlow even had MJF dead to rights this time, but he wasted so much time that he missed his opportunity. His character is starting to look dumb. Also, as many times as MJF has lost to the Shawn Dean in a fluky manner, has it ever actually gone anywhere for Shawn Dean?
2. (WWE, Raw) Women's Division
The women's division was a significant weak point on Raw. Rhea Ripley couldn't wrestle, and I get that, but Naomi and Liv Morgan weren't given much time to work. Raw failed to utilize Sasha Banks at all. Also, WWE didn't take the opportunity to deepen the story between Liv and Rhea, and Naomi and Sasha in any way. Queen of the Ring, Zelina Vega, was basically squashed by Bianca Belair, which was bad for both of them. They didn't get time to show what they could do, and I had no reason to really cheer for either of them, and I say that as someone who was most excited to see Bianca. It feels like Nikki A.S.H. and Tamina are better off in the 24/7 title picture than some of the other women because at least they get time and a story. Raw could have used the energy from the women, but they were cut short.
1. (WWE, Raw) Damian Priest vs. AJ Styles
Easily the worst match of the week. The action was basic, but then in the middle of the match, the lights go out and come back in Undertaker like blue lighting. Then, Damian makes a scary face, and the match just ends with no explanation. The Edge and Damian Priest stable has been a complete flop, thus far. Both wrestlers characters were more interesting before this stable.
Rob’s What Didn’t Matter
5. Undercard, NXT 2.0
The big hitters of NXT 2.0 always have time to wrestle and meaningful storytelling segments. The undercard of NXT really needs some attention, though. After some of the best wrestling segments of the week, NXT 2.0 will put matches like Von Wagner vs. Ikemen Jiro or Xyon Quinn vs. Draco Anthony to little time and no fanfare.
4. That Debut, AEW Dynamite
The ring goes dark, and a new AEW superstar debuts. But the gimmick doesn’t really work if we don’t know who it is right away. Satnam Singh debuted with Jay Lethal and Sanjay Dutt to attack Samoa Joe, but the crowd was not interested at all. Lethal and Dutt’s new stable is interesting, and there is a lot of TNA history to play on with Samoa Joe, but I feel bad for Singh, who is just the latest big man who doesn’t seem quite ready for the big time. Hopefully, this takes a better turn next week, and they will prove me wrong.
3. Liv Morgan vs. Naomi, WWE Raw
I could be mistaken, but I thought this was supposed to be the Women’s Tag Team Championships. It feels like another Raw that was rewritten a lot at the last second, which made for messy segments like this. This replacement match was too short to be meaningful, and I fear that WWE is already reverting to the bad booking of the Women’s Tag Division. Rhea Ripley was missing for no reason, and on top of that, losing to Naomi sort of undid all the good storytelling of Liv Morgan beating Sasha Banks on Raw. The women did the best they could with the time they had, but this was disappointing.
2. Demon Priest, WWE Raw
This match was quickly slated in the what mattered section. This is a good spot for AJ Styles to feud with Edge’s faction and have great matches. The match itself was uniquely aggressive with good sequences until that awful finish. Damian Priest kneeled down, the arena went dark, a purple light shined on him, and he let out a demonic noise. Then, the match just ended with no explanation. I think this even could have worked if WWE had hinted at or played more with the concept. If Priest had more promo time to explain and he got madder gradually through the match until that moment, it could have worked. In this case, it looked sudden, silly, and creatively uninspired. On top of that, it continues to show WWE has no plan and that matches don’t matter. They should have at least noted that Styles won the match by count-out since Priest walked off.
1. Veer and Dominik Mysterio, WWE Raw
I know Rey Mysterio is actually hurt, but are we supposed to believe Veer’s brief attack last week kept him away from his son’s side this week? Like Rhea Ripley missing earlier, WWE’s failure to explain what is happening actually makes them look worse. In the match, Veer dominated Dominik Mysterio, and that was to be expected. But the post-match attack and interview were too over the top of WWE’s stereotypical foreign heel. The attack didn’t look anywhere near enough to hospitalize Dominick, and the interview after made Veer sound like he escaped from the 80s wrestling landscape. In my opinion, this is a creative fast lane to irrelevancy for Veer, who is otherwise promising.
Stay tuned to find out the overall grades of the week.
Fantasy Booking Chapter 6 Royal Rumble
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Rob's Final Thoughts
I thought all three of the shows this week were quite good, with meaningful matches and good storytelling. I have to give Raw last place. It had the highest highs. I might even say I enjoyed it the most, but the glaring plot holes and questionable spots that landed it three, what didn’t matters, mean I can’t rank it any higher. The second would be AEW Dynamite. They had a few really solid segments. The wrestling really mattered, but it’s still missing the storytelling that made it great going into Revolution. With that, I give NXT 2.0 first. It’s the safe pick. It definitely didn’t have the highest highs, but aside from the two short segments I picked on, everything was solid and meaningful. They had two titles on the line, and they continue to tell great stories with their really character-based wrestling approach.
Reverse Hipster's Final Thoughts
Dynamite is in third because it had more What Didn't Matter than ever before. It wasn't a terrible show, but it wasn't up to its standard. NXT 2.0 didn't have any major flaws and was a pretty solid show, but it didn't compare to the excitement level of number one, Raw, which I attended live. Raw definitely wasn't perfect and made some foolish choices that dampened a hot crowd in the middle of the show, but they got it back in the end and had the most enjoyable part of all three shows for me.