Rob’s What Mattered
9. No Class, NXT 2.0
I loved last week’s and this week’s Chase University segments. Combining the goodie-two-shoes teacher gimmick with the hard-nosed, foul-mouthed whiplash-style mentor, I think they are really touching on something unique with Andre Chase’s character and how his students are responding to it. I’m curious to see how that will translate to a more aggressive in-ring style next week.
8. Hardys, AEW Dynamite
If this is what AEW’s undercard has to offer, I’m down to see it every week. This was a car crash of a match, highlighted by Jeff Hardy doing a Swanton Bomb off a ledge in the arena concourse through two tables on The Butcher and the Blade. This actually made me want to see more between the Hardys and Private Party, who I think have a lot of similarities. There’s also still the tease of Sting/Darby Allin, and the similarities they share with Jeff Hardy. This may be AEW’s most underrated acquisition, which is insane but true to say about the 24-year veteran and wrestling legend in a company that is less than three years old.
7. Glorious, NXT 2.0
I’m not the biggest Bobby Roode fan, but what he showed against Bron Breakker is better than anything we’ve seen from him on the main roster. The pop for the Glorious entrance return and “This is glorious” chants got the crowd super into the match. Roode’s slow, methodical style made Breakker look excellent in his victory, and the post-match attack by Dolph Ziggler built the NXT Championship feud well too.
6. Stone Cold, WWE Raw
In less than a decade, Kevin Owens is mounting a sum of heel moments that can rival anyone in WWE history. He got the crowd twice with Stone Cold’s music, and he used his promo to rub it in. If the pop here was any indication, the pop for Stone Cold in Dallas is going to be maybe the loudest ever.
5. CM Punk vs. Dax Harwood, AEW Dynamite
This was a fun return for CM Punk and an unexpectedly fun match with Dax Harwood. Highlighting both wrestlers as ultimate fans and students of the game, I wouldn’t doubt that this match had references that completely went over my head. The hardcore AEW crowd ate it up, with this is awesome chants, getting them white-hot to start the show. This was a great return for Punk, a reminder that he should soon be challenging for AEW’s top prize, and a cool spot for Harwood, who earned more opportunities like this in the future.
4. Indi Hartwell/Persia Perotta, NXT 2. 0
NXT is executing the slow burn break-up trope very well. Last week, I loved that Indie Hartwell and Persia Perotta entered together in a match against one another. This week, they continued to argue but not full-out breakup. It set up good matches between Dexter Lumis/Tony D’Angelo and Gunther/Duke Hudson. Their partners got hurt as a consequence of their petty feud: Lumis got hit by D’Angelo’s crowbar after a miscommunication, and Hudson got his chest chopped raw by Gunther. It furthered the Hartwell/Perotta angle, D’Angelo/Tommaso Ciampa’s angle, and Gunther/LA Knight’s angle, continuing to show NXT’s excellence and efficiency booking a two-hour card to make you care about multiple feuds.
3. AJ Styles vs. Seth Rollins, WWE Raw
I wasn’t sure about Seth Rollin’s WrestleMania story last week, but I have to admit when something is working. It fits Rollin's character perfectly, he’s acting his ass off, and the crowd is eating it up, cheering for a certain surprise opponent to show up at WrestleMania. It helps when this was the only meaningful match on WWE Raw. Rollins and AJ Styles showed good chemistry, and I’m surprised we haven’t seen a longer program between the two. Until Rollin's final plan is revealed, I’m down to see him in the main event challenging for someone’s spot. The finish also worked to elevate Edge’s heel character and story with Styles.
2. More North American Qualifying Matches, NXT 2.0
Opening the show with a meaningful and unique match between Solo Sikoa and Roderick Strong was smart. The match between Grayson Waller and A-Kid was even better. NXT did a great job booking these matches because it felt like anyone could win. Their midcard is so deep that anyone is a threat to enter the ladder match and win the title. They capitalized on that even further by booking a last chance triple threat between the losers of the qualifying matches, where again, I think any one of the competitors could threaten Carmelo Haye's chance of retaining.
1. NXT Women’s Division, NXT 2.0
In addition to the Hartwell/Perotta feud above, the Women’s Dusty Classic main evented, and they brought out unique and crazy spots in a fun match. Using the pillow to stop a 619 should be the spot of the year, perfectly walking the line between silly character work and meaningful in-ring spots. Io Shirai and Kay Lee Ray are absolute veterans, so their win was well-earned, and they are a great addition to the Women’s Championship match as a fatal four way. This was Dakota Kai and Wendy Choo’s best work as a team, and I think they should get rewarded with the tag match against Toxic Attraction if Shirai and Ray aren’t taking it, so as not to diminish the women’s tag division.
Reverse Hipster's What Mattered
9. (AEW, Dynamite) Dark Order
The Dark Order's John Silver and Alex Reynolds faced Chris Jericho and Daniel Garcia. Jericho's team won the match and got credibility for the stable. However, the stars of the match were the Dark Order, specifically John Silver. John Silver beat down the entire Jericho Appreciation Society almost singlehandedly.
8. (WWE, NXT 2.0) Elektra Lopez
Elektra Lopez fought Fallon Henley this week, and this was a fresh match-up tied to an interesting story. Brooks Jensen and Josh Briggs brawled with Legado del Fantasma on the outside. On the inside, Fallon showed fire and grit, but Lopez was too much for the NXT 2.0 newcomer. I'm interested to see how this story progresses.
7. (WWE, Raw) The Miz
The Miz and The Mysterios feud could have easily gotten stale this week without Logan Paul, but The Miz took things to another level by taking off Rey Mysterio's mask. The crowd booed Miz right away for his disrespect to Rey, and I'm interested to see where this feud goes now that Miz has made it personal.
6. (WWE, Raw) Seth Rollins Has A Fit
Seth Rollins had one last chance to get on the WrestleMania card by stealing AJ Styles' match and beating AJ in a match on Raw. However, Edge beat AJ with a chair, showing he wants AJ, not a rematch with Seth. Edge and AJ still don't have any momentum, in my opinion, but this was an interesting development for whatever Seth is going to do. Seth was pissed that he was robbed, and he tore apart the ring, ripped off the barricade, and flipped the commentary table upside down. I'm interested to see where Seth's story is going.
5. (WWE, Raw) Team Swerve
For weeks, Carmella and Zelina have had tension because Carmella has been too focused on Corey Graves. The tension finally boiled over in a backstage brawl, and then Zelina fought Sasha Banks, Rhea Ripley and Shayna Baszler in a Fatal 4-Way. Natalya and Shayna Baszler beat Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley to prove they belong in the title match. After the match, Carmella and Zelina beat up everyone, and stared each other down. The crowd was chanting to fight, so they did the most heel thing possible and hugged, and revealed their fight had been a ploy.
4. (AEW, Dynamite) CM Punk vs. Dax Harwood
I wasn't expecting much from this match, but I was wrong. Dax Harwood and CM Punk went out, and had an excellent match. I didn't know Dax was this good as a singles competitor. Dax and CM Punk have great chemistry, and their technical wrestling was on point. CM Punk won this match with his rarely used Anaconda Vice, but there were no losers in this match.
3. (WWE, Raw) Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens impersonated Stone Cold Steve Austin this week, and it was hilarious. He wore a ball cap, and Stone Cold stunned a production guy and gave the crowd the "What?" chant. Kevin Owens ran Stone Cold down so bad that I thought he might show up. Kevin was counting this because he did a spot, where he pretended that Austin was coming only to reveal he wasn't there and laughed at us. It was a great promo, and it definitely hyped his Austin segment. I really wish this segment was leading to a match.
2. (AEW, Dynamite) MJF
MJF was great this week. He absolutely eviscerated Wardlow. He dissed Wardlow, his mother, and his entire family. MJF said that Wardlow signed a deal with the Devil and is ironclad. He said he isn't signed to AEW, and instead, he is signed to MJF. When the crowd started chanting Jesus at MJF, he said he would nail Wardlow up to a cross like Jesus. That definitely took the crowd aback. He also told CM Punk that their beef would only end after he pissed on his grave, and JR even said, "That's a little heavy." Wardlow came out to attack MJF, but MJF had a swarm of security to stop him, and while he was held down, MJF revealed that he was going to pay him to sit at home and do nothing until he was forgotten. This seems like a definite shot at WWE, who did this to Brodie Lee and is currently doing it to Mustafa Ali.
1. (AEW, Dynamite) 8-Man Tornado Tag Match
AEW Dynamite had an 8-man tornado tag match between Private Party, The Butcher & The Blade vs. Sting, Darby Allin & The Hardys. It was absolutely crazy. Matt Hardy was hit with a Stereo Side Effect by Private Party off the stage into tables below. Sting and Matt Hardy hit a simultaneous Death Drop and Twist of Fate to win the match. But, of course, the biggest spot of the match went to Jeff Hardy when he climbed a ladder and delivered a Swanton from the window sill to the merch tables below to hit Butcher and Blade.
Reverse Hipster's What Didn't Matter
4. (AEW, Dynamite) Adam Cole
I still like Adam Cole, but I must admit he doesn't seem special anymore, not like he did in NXT. This isn't meant as hate towards AEW in favor of WWE, but just an observation about this specific situation. Adam won a good match with Jay Lethal this week, and he stole the AEW title. However, if I'm honest, I couldn't care less. I think it's because Adam Cole has lost some star power. When he was in NXT, he was cool and the leader of one of the company's best factions, and was putting on classic matches.
In AEW, he has felt like another guy from the beginning. He entered into a feud with the best friends, and despite the quality of those matches, it didn't single he was a Main Eventer.
Also, he was entered into another faction instead of being the leader of his own faction. In AEW, most people are cool, and most wrestlers have excellent matches. What sets Adam Cole apart from anyone else? In my opinion, AEW hasn't done enough to address that question, and it's making Adam Cole's outside of the ring moments fall flat.
3. (WWE, Raw) 24/7 Title
Dana Brooke and Reggie fought Akira Tozawa and Tamina in a tornado tag match, and it didn't go well. The storyline is good, and I like Tamina manipulating Akira for the 24/7 title. I also like the idea of a tornado tag match. However, the plan for the match was horrible. Tornado tag matches are about freedom. The wrestlers get to roam around and fight wherever they want without tagging in, but the way this match was planned was all about constraint. They were trying so hard to show intergender action without really doing it, and nobody was fooled. All the spots looked so staged and contrived, and on top of that, the match was short.
2. (WWE, NXT 2.0) Persia Pirotta and Indi Hartwell
I was conflicted about whether or not to give this program a pass, but I have to be honest. Last week, I complimented this program story, but it went in the wrong direction this week. I was only okay with the kissing competition because it seemed like an extension of the feud between Persia and Indi, but this week was different. They didn't even care that they had a match last week, and one of them lost. They were both worried about going viral on Instagram and took a full backseat to the men they were dating, focusing on themselves instead of using the men to play out their own feud.
1. (WWE, NXT 2.0) Dusty Cup Final
After a great Women's Dusty Cup tournament, the finale was a huge letdown. Io Shirai and Kay Lee Ray were the least interesting of the contenders, and I would have preferred Dakota Kai and Wendy Choo. They had a much more interesting story. Then, things got worse after they won because then they decided they were going to disrespect the entire tag tournament and challenge for the Women's Championship instead of the tag belts.
They shouldn't have been picked in the first place because they felt more involved as world title contenders than tag competitors anyways. But, bypassing the tag belts and challenging for the title ruins two matches in one. The tag belts look bad, and the Dusty Classic is undermined, but Cora Jade also loses her one-on-one marquee match.
Now, I have heard rumors that Gigi Dolin is hurt, and that's why this was done, but that's not a good enough reason. Why not have Mandy Rose defend the belts under the Freebird Rule? If you knew far enough in advance, you could have even had Cora and Raquel Gonzalez challenge Mandy and Jacy Jayne at Stand and Deliver, and still have Cora vs. Mandy, which would have been an attraction. Plus, Io and Ray could have turned on each other and fought, they didn't need the Dusty Classic win.
Rob’s What Didn’t Matter
1. Most of Raw, WWE Raw
I pointed out a couple of weeks ago that the Road to WrestleMania was too straightforward. This really played out on this Raw, as there were few surprises, lots of rematches, and the expected storyline segments going toward WrestleMania. Hopefully, the matches at WrestleMania will exceed the story.
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
This was a solid week of wrestling. Most of it was just okay, but a lot of it was good. Raw was the worst show this week. Most of it didn’t matter and was entirely skippable- not what you want to hear leading to WrestleMania next Sunday. AEW Dynamite was in the middle. They started hot, but it was kind of an average show by the last hour. NXT 2.0 has been a pleasant surprise to me every week since we started watching it. It seems like all of the segments matter in some way, and they give us a lot to write about. At its best, the match quality is very high, just slightly below AEW, excellent considering the roster. They are building a more entertaining WrestleMania weekend card than WrestleMania, so don’t be surprised if NXT starts to steal the show on these big PPV weekends again.
Reverse Hipster's Final Thoughts
NXT 2.0 is definitely in last place for me this week. I didn't put all of it in the What Didn't Matter section because there is a difference between things I don't like and things that are bad. However, apart from the things on NXT 2.0 that I marked as bad, there were plenty of things I just didn't care for. WWE Raw is second place. It was a pretty solid show, and it was close to winning, but it didn't have the heights of number one. AEW Dynamite is number one because it had the strongest highs in promos and matches.