Updated: Jul 18, 2021
Introducing a new joint review series The Rundown. Rob and I will review Raw and Smackdown every week putting the noteworthily good bits in the what mattered section and the noteworthily bad bits in the what didn't section. Enjoy
Reverse Hipster's What mattered Raw edition
In Raw's opening segment, Miz announced he would no longer participate in the Elimination Chamber match. I love the Miz, but this was a much-needed shake-up. Nobody earned their spot in Raw's Elimination Chamber, and that was boring. Plus, all the participants(except Drew) were former champions whom I had zero belief in to win the title from Drew. Miz probably had the most believable chance, but even then, I could only see him doing it with the Money In the Bank briefcase.
Also, on top of the lackluster competition and a lack of qualifying matches, Raw was basically giving the chamber match away with a gauntlet match because an Elimination Chamber match is basically a gauntlet match without a cell and pods. Plus, the stipulation ruins the surprise of the last entrant. That is something that, in my opinion, should be saved for Elimination Chamber.
` However, Kofi saved the entire angle, in my opinion. He had an excellent qualifying match with Miz. He made me care about the gauntlet match because suddenly, you had to wonder if Kofi could rerun the gauntlet, leading to Kofi mania 2. Also, because of his excellent match with Miz, there was added drama. Could Kofi run the gauntlet despite having had a match that same night? Even though Kofi probably will not win the elimination chamber, I am glad I have someone to root for in the match. Kofi makes the Elimination Chamber worthwhile.
I have been a massive fan of this Lacey Evans and Flair vs. Charlotte feud. I am always excited to see how they will advance it each week, and this week did not disappoint. Lacey revealing she was pregnant with Flair's child was bonkers, and I loved it. Storyline wise this has to make the feud between Flair and Lacey even more personal. Charlotte has been trying to downplay her disdain for Lacey and remain unbothered, but the cracks show. Also, Charlotte has maintained that Lacey is just one in a long line of vultures to endure hanging around her father. However, having Rick's kid changes that, and it means she can replace Charlotte. Now rumor has it Lacey is legit pregnant, so I am very interested to see what happens with her match with Asuka? How will they continue the feud through her pregnancy?
3. Shayna vs Lana
This match was exciting because I love Lana, and I know her history with Shayna and Nia. Plus, Shayna is just a beast, making Lana even more of an underdog, and it was exciting to see if she could somehow pull out a win. Shayna won, and that makes sense, but it was still exciting to watch.
Also, the team of Lana and Naomi is bubbling. They have such great chemistry, and it is easy to believe they would be friends in real life. I would love to see them challenge for the women's tag team championships.
4. Alexa bliss
Alexa Bliss got demonic this week, telling us that Bray will return as she sat in a pentagram like she was summoning him from hell. Alexa has done such a great job keeping The Fiend and his feud with Orton alive while he has been offscreen, and I can't wait to see what The Fiend's return looks like. He could even return in The chamber; it would not be the first time. Bray attacked Dean in his hell in the cell match with Rollins, as well as Taker in his hell in the cell match with Brock and the Wyatt family attacked Daniel Bryan in the Elimination chamber.
What didn't matter
Riddle and Lucha house party vs The Hurt Business
Riddle vs. Lashley is a really good rivalry that I think has the potential to end at Wrestlemania. However, the story is plateauing. This match was not a good way to advance this feud, and the match did not mean anything to anyone involved. If they want to deliver on the potential of Riddle and Lashley, they should go deeper storyline-wise.
Rob, Raw What Mattered
1.The Miz is Awesome
The opening promo of the night was a welcome departure from The Miz’s mid-card comedy act with John Morrison. In my opinion, that’s not who The Miz is anymore. In the past few years, Miz has been at his best when he has a chip on his shoulder and delivers serious promos. In addition to bringing back a fiery Miz, the promo brought logic back to WWE. Why would the Miz want to participate in the Elimination Chamber match when he could sit this one out and potentially cash in on a depleted winner? Later in the night, while he argued to insert Morrison in his place, Adam Pearce booked a high-stakes match between The Miz and Kofi Kingston to decide who will take the final spot in the Elimination Chamber. Great character work from the Miz and a great example of progressing a storyline throughout the night to book a consequential match on weekly TV.
In 2009, when Kofi Kingston was assaulted by Edge and replaced in the Elimination Chamber, middle school me was crushed. Since then, I’ve been all in on any story that gives Kofi a chance to showcase his wrestling ability and unique passion. I have my concerns about Kofi’s participation on Sunday. Edge is back in WWE after all, and there is a certain someone lurking who I’m not sure is over being replaced in the Elimination Chamber in 2019 (that person seems to be feuding with New Day/Xavier Woods too). Either way, this was a great way to remind the WWE Universe of Kofi’s underrated greatness and delivered a great storyline throughout the night.
3.Gauntlet matches work for WWE
I can’t think of a bad gauntlet match in the last few years. They have built-in drama, stakes, and intrigue. For early entrants, it’s a test of endurance and grit. For viewers, it’s the thrill and surprise of who will enter next and what match up we will get. In this gauntlet match, the winner has a big advantage in the Elimination Chamber match. It progressed feuds and storylines too. Kofi Kingston ran out of magic, but he’s still in the championship match for now. AJ Styles looked great, but he still couldn’t best Drew McIntyre. Randy Orton got too distracted by a continuing feud with The Fiend and Alexa Bliss to compete. The blooming feud between McIntyre and Sheamus got its first sanctioned in-ring action. McIntyre was simply out of gas after fighting multiple superstars, implanting the thought in viewers’ heads that the same thing could happen Sunday.
4.Bad Bunny wins the 24/7 Championship
The 24/7 Championship is at its best an opportunity for WWE to make comedy matches, honor legends that stop in for one night, and cross promote the heck out of WWE when they get the opportunity to work with non-wrestling superstars. Frankly, I think the discourse about if Bad Bunny is deserving of the celebrity cameo slot is xenophobic. In 2021, Bad Bunny is the most streamed artist on Spotify, and he has the ninth most monthly listeners in the world. This weekend, he even took the 24/7 title to a performance on SNL, and WWE strategically placed a Raw commercial starring 24/7 Champion Bad Bunny in the first half hour. Do I think this will draw more viewers to WWE Raw and turn some people into fans? Absolutely not, but I am arguing that this is a smart business move in terms of exposure for WWE. I’m personally excited to see what Bad Bunny does in WWE headed toward WrestleMania.
5.Pay Attention to Pyro
Considering the WWE eliminated pyro for a few years, it’s clear they think the expense isn’t worth the hype (minus a few exceptions). This week, we saw pyro for Riddle, Charlotte Flair, and AJ Styles. I think there were a few others I missed, knowing Drew McIntyre usually gets pyro. It’s worth considering that these are superstars that WWE is at least financially investing in.
Raw What Didn’t
1.The Lacey Evans vs. Charlotte Flair drama continues
Sometimes, when WWE doesn’t know how to creatively progress a feud, we see the same match in different ways week after week. When Vince McMahon gets involved in that process, we usually see a “racy” angle that may include death, incest, butt stuff, and (you guessed it) pregnancy. This segment saw all of the above. This is a Vince McMahon special, involving a questionable relationship, notable age difference, and now a pregnancy. WWE has completely lost the plot with this one. Last week, they tried to specify that Ric Flair was only mentoring Lacey Evans while this week Ric Flair seemed elated she was pregnant.
On top of all of this, why are Charlotte Flair and Asuka suddenly on good terms after feuding on and off for three years? Why are we focusing on the Evans/Flair feud when Evans/Asuka are currently still slated for a championship match on Sunday? Asuka continues to get no respect from the WWE after being champion for the better part of the last year. I genuinely believe these are some of the most talented women in the wrestling world, but this feud is convoluted and aimless.
2.Lana vs. Shayna Baszler
I know having two women’s matches in the What Didn’t section is not a good look for me, but I think it’s more indicative of how WWE refuses to put effort toward booking their women’s division. I think we are headed toward a tag title opportunity for Lana and Naomi, but this didn’t do anything for me. Lana gets a shock win in a tables match over Nia Jax then Shayna Baszler (decisively) beats Lana? And Naomi is involved because…? I was really optimistic that the women’s tag division would be an opportunity to showcase undercard talent, but I’m almost ready for WWE to scrap the idea completely if they’re not going to put any effort into booking them. I don’t really know what the end game is here, but I don’t think this did anything to progress the story. Both of these teams are thrown together, and the booking has done nothing to convince us Lana and Naomi are credible threats to the champions.
Rob, SmackDown What Mattered
1.The Intercontinental Championship Picture
Big E is living his best life. He may be recently split from the New Day, but he is the Intercontinental Champion and delivering guest commentary from a bachelor pad complete with foot massages and a microwave dinner. Shinsuke Nakamura is recently revived and on track to face Big E for the championship. Most interesting in all of this is Apollo Crews, who is infamous for being a great wrestler, good smiler, and mediocre character. It seems WWE is making a good push for an intriguing Apollo Crews character, turning him heel by attacking Big E with stairs to the point he needed to be taken out in an ambulance. In my opinion, the turn isn’t black and white. Last week, Big E told Apollo to go back to catering and collect his paycheck instead of challenging for the title. I’m intrigued to see what comes out of this, what it means for all of their characters, and likely some great matches for the midcard title.
2.Welcome Back Edge
Edge has turned his rumble win into an intriguing decision about which champion he will face. At this point, I think Roman Reigns vs. Edge has to be the favorite for main event. The energy between Edge and Roman Reigns is electric. The feud feels like it could be about more than the spear vs. spear booking. In fact, Reigns is holding the Universal Championship, the spiritual successor to the Heavyweight Championship that Edge never lost. Throughout the rest of the night, Edge had a genuine and entertaining presence in backstage segments with Kevin Owens, King Corbin, Daniel Bryan. In the main event, Edge contributed great perspective and storytelling to commentary. I can only assume he got pro tips from Beth Phoenix, who does the same thing on NXT every week. Welcome back Edge!
Sami Zayn recently said he feels like his current gimmick is producing some of the best work in his career, and I couldn’t agree more. There are very few superstars in the COVID era who get me to pay attention without fail, and Zayn is one of them. My favorite part is that Vince McMahon thinks the best heel is a radical leftist. Zayn’s gimmick is undoubtedly influenced by revolutionary socialists, and he still got the gimmick over (there are also elements of this in Mustafa Ali’s gimmick). I love everything Zayn is doing. His in ring work is top tier. His character work is irrefutably entertaining. I couldn’t keep a smile off my face while he talked in the show opening, inserting himself in the intense Roman Reigns/Edge stare down and confidently declaring his WrestleMania destiny with his own cameramen in tow. Even though he tapped out in the main event, everyone delivered good in-ring action, and I’m looking forward to the SmackDown Elimination Chamber as my predicted match of the night.
4.Ding Dong, Hello!
The only ratings war I’m interested in is the one between Ding Dong, Hello and The Waiting Room with Dr. Britt Baker. Bayley is one of my favorite characters in WWE right now, and I think this a great use of her character keeping her out of the title picture after being champion for most of the last year. I’m also a sucker for anything involving Reginald. Just let me love what I love! There’s a lot about this segment that didn’t make sense: Reginald’s sudden obsession with Sasha Banks, Reginald’s ability to transcend strict WWE rules against intergender matches, and WWE’s obsession with pairing together two babyfaces that are potentially feuding over a title. I’m putting that all aside and just loving it for the sake of sports entertainment. I’m even giving bonus points for the backstage segment between Carmella and Reginald. Finally, remember, when you come on “Ding Dong, Hello!”, you enter through the door!
5.SmackDown gives us what we want
Fan favorites like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, and Daniel Bryan are getting pushes. Shinsuke Nakamura has his old music back. Seth Rollins is burning it down again. Roman Reigns is a heel. Even the show format is much more palatable at two hours. Raw could definitely cut an hour from their show, and this is a hill I will die on. Is it too much to ask now for a return of the SmackDown fist? If FOX is committed to giving us everything we want, I will continue to petition for this.
6.Cheap Plug for Bivens Enterprises
In his backstage promo with Edge, Kevin Owens wore a Bivens Enterprises shirt. I don’t watch much NXT nowadays, but I’m all for a cheap plug for our Twitter savior and meme lord Malcolm Bivens.
Rob,SmackDown What Didn’t
1.SmackDown Tag Team division is ice cold
Ever since the Street Profits lost the Tag Team Championships to the Dirty Dogs, I’ve been skeptical. RoodeDolph is a thrown together team that are still building chemistry, while the Street Profits are unified, consistently entertaining, and great wrestlers. This week’s match was cut short because the WWE decided to pay attention to their often inconsistently enforced tag rules. I’m optimistic there are some things to look forward to. Otis and Chad Gable are the best halves of their old tag teams in my opinion. The Mysterios are dynamic in-ring competitors, though I hypothesize we are headed toward a Mysterio vs. Mysterio match at WrestleMania with their recent involvements in each other’s matches. Right now, though, the whole division feels like it has no momentum.
2.No time for the women
Natalya and Tamina vs. Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan only went a couple minutes. I think the team of Natalya and Tamina has great potential, but I don’t think this quick win got them over. On the flip side, it’s disappointing to see the talent of the Riott Squad wasted in squash matches when they are one of the only real teams in the division. Everyone involved deserved better. The only saving grace was Billie Kay’s involvement in her continuing gimmick to present her resume and find a partner. Don’t worry, Billie, the job market has been hard for everyone during the pandemic.
Reverse Hipster, Smackdown What mattered
1.Elimination Chamber Feud
We get a small preview of the feud between Edge and Roman. Edge lets Roman know that he needs Edge to be the main event. I like this because it undermines Roman; he says that he is the main event the head of the table, so he should not need Edge, and yet he does. Roman and Edge have a fascinating dynamic, and creative is smartly slow-burning their feud. Part of that slow burn is getting everyone else involved.
Smackdown has handled their Elimination chamber match a lot better than Raw. It is full of people who would make not only an exciting chamber match but an exciting championship match, people with something to prove in WWE. Also, they have the insurmountable odds of having to fight in a chamber match and then face roman. So the situation overall is more intriguing.
Also, I think Smackdown handled their build-up better too. They let each participant express what the match meant to them in a backstage segment, but they also had a six-man tag, which lets you see the competitors fight in a match that is entertaining but different from the format they are fighting in at Elimination Chamber, so they are not giving anything away. Also, the match itself was already entertaining but then the finish where everyone hit their finisher, leaving Roman standing tall after he speared Edge that was incredible. It was vintage Smackdown, and I loved it.
This is a very entertaining feud. Big E is hilarious and fun in whatever he is doing. However, he has not just elevated himself. He has also elevated Apollo Crews. Crews is coming into his character in this feud, and it finally feels like he has a personality to go along with his in-ring skills. Apollo looks dangerous, taking out Nakamura and Big E viciously. I do not think I have ever seen someone throw steel steps onto someone else like Apollo did; it was vicious.
Also, Nakamura is relevant again because even though Big E and Apollo have carried the personal part of their rivalry, he is the one who has beat Apollo and taken Big E to the limit; he is a threat to regain that championship all by himself. I love the way smackdown has carried this three-way feud, and I can't wait to see where they take it next.
3.Sasha,Bianca, Reginald vs Nia,Shayna,Bayley
I loved this match. This match was a very creative way to carry multiple feuds. Intergender matches are rare in WWE, so it was fun to see them do something unique. Also, The match quality was excellent. It had a breakneck pace, and there was a satisfying finish. This match reignited the Bayley Sasha feud for a night. This match progressed the feud between the tag champs and Bianca and Sasha, and their tag team, in turn, progresses the feud between Bianca and Sasha. Also beneath it, all is Carmella. Is Reginald really into Sasha, or is this all a plot by Carmella to keep Bianca from taking the title match with Sasha? I cannot wait to find out. This is high-level Creative
4.Tamina, Natalya vs The Riot Squad
I am a Riot Squad fan, but I was okay with them losing here. They put on an entertaining match, and it served a greater storyline purpose. Natalya and Tamina have arrived. They looked dominant, and I am so happy they are together. I think as a team, they compliment each other well. They are both fierce in-ring competitors and come from wrestling families. As they refine their tag team, they will breathe new life back into their careers and become a force to be reckoned with.
Also, Billie Kay, who is one of my favorite smackdown superstars, has turned on the Riot Squad. Unfortunately, her alliance with Tamina and Natalya was short-lived, but it does beg the question, who will she tag with against the Riot Squad?
What didn't matter
Rey, Dominic vs Alpha Academy
The match ended after Otis repeatedly splashed Rey and Gable refused to leave the ring. I do not understand why they did this. This was a blink, and you missed it match. The attack did not even seem dastardly it seemed confusing, like why would you get yourself disqualified when you had the match under control and why are you happy about it?
Why are we even trying to make Otis and Gable Heel? Otis had a great face run ending in a Wrestlemania moment with Mandy. He is very likable. Gable is a beloved member of the multiple-time tag team champion American alpha team who were really over babyfaces. I think putting these two together was the right idea because they are both entertaining inside and outside the ring but trying to make them heel was a massive misstep, in my opinion. WWE should let them be the corky, talented, likable tag team they are.
Check out Rob @https://stonikro.weebly.com