The Wrap Up: Getting the Band Back Together
10. Steve Maclin/PCO, Impact Wrestling
These two underrated pillars of Impact Wrestling differentiate it from other programs. Steve Maclin has been slowly building credibility, and with the chance to challenge Josh Alexander, he has shined on the mic and in the ring. PCO is so different from anything else we see in wrestling and has become a crowd favorite. Everyone should be excited to see his continued feud with Eddie Edwards.
9. Better matchups, AEW Rampage
A lot of weeks, it’s easy to knock AEW Rampage for having meaningless matchups, but I was intrigued this week. In my opinion, Powerhouse Hobbs and Rey Fenix could be a main-event match or a PPV feud. Also, we got to see Taya Valkyrie in action for the first time on AEW. Plus, Daniel Garcia and Brody King is a match that I would never consider booking, but the clash of styles immediately interested me, even without stakes. If Rampage can add more stakes and time for in-ring work, they could start contending for show of the week.
8. Mixed Tag Match, WWE SmackDown
The Mixed Tag match between Dominick Mysterio/Rhea Ripley and Santos Escobar/Zelina Vega was one of the most well-done Mixed Tag matches I’ve ever seen. The crowd is clearly ready for more in-ring interaction between male and female wrestlers, and new factions and real relationships mean there are a lot of new teams that would be ready to go. If WWE wants to do something fun over the summer, I think bringing back the Mixed Match Challenge as part of Raw and culminating in a premium live event would be great for the roster.
7. Taya Valkyrie, AEW Dynamite
Jade Cargill has long felt like an island on AEW’s roster. Her feuds lead to a dead end, and nobody in the midcard of AEW’s Women’s Division feels like a credible challenger. AEW did the best thing they could by bringing in Taya Valkyrie. This feud could either be the end of Cargill’s streak/beginning of Valkyrie’s AEW tenure or one of Cargill's biggest wins and best feuds to date. Either way it's better than where The TBS TItle was before.
6. Rhea Ripley, WWE SmackDown
While Charlotte Flair was the same as ever on the mic, Rhea Ripley brought something new this week. Flair is back to being a heel, citing her lineage as a reason for her standing in the company and offering no real story of substance. Since winning the rumble, Ripley has been selling that Flair is the one superstar she can’t seem to get a win over. Ripley seemed genuinely bothered that Flair wasn’t scared of her and she wanted to change that at WrestleMania.
5. Rey Mysterio and Dominick Mysterio, WWE SmackDown
The confrontations between Rey Mysterio and Dominick Mysterio have been electric. WWE has been building up this feud all year, and Rey is doing a good job acting like he refuses to have the match. Likewise, Dominick is doing his most impactful work since debuting. In the ring, I feel like this match is ready to steal the show, and Rey’s recent Hall of Fame announcement means it could be his last ever too.
4. Johnny Gargano and Grayson Waller, NXT
NXT has set up an interesting feud on the premise of respect for Shawn Michaels and NXT as a whole. The feud is the best possible thing for both guys: Johnny Gargano has a featured singles match on WrestleMania weekend, and Grayson Waller has a feud going into NXT Stand and Deliver that makes him feel like a star without having to go back after the NXT Championship.
3. Pillars, AEW Dynamite
What was booked as a fun celebration for MJF turned even better when the other pillars took exception to MJF saying he was the only guy who could keep the place up. While MJF has run away with the “Who is the best pillar?” debate, the other guys looked the best they have in a while. Darby Allin, Jack Perry, and Sammy Guevara all have differing levels of credibility right now, but we know they can all absolutely go in the ring. If this match turns into a Fatal Four Way for the AEW Championship, it will be a huge testament to AEW’s ability to develop homegrown stars.
2. Blackpool Combat Club/The Elite, AEW Dynamite
Both factions had great matches on AEW in their own right, but it has been the subtle long-term storytelling that makes this a highlight for me. Frustrated by their losses, Blackpool Combat Club has slowly become heels in AEW, fighting with an unrestrained ferocity like Jon Moxley’s Bulldog Choke. Returning as valiant heroes, the Elite is back to being what everyone knows they are no matter if they are heel/face. Fan favorites. At the end of the night, Adam Page stood between them, hinting that he may be siding with the Elite in the showdown with Blackpool Combat Club. Heading toward Double or Nothing, this has the potential to be the faction war of the year, much like BCC and the Jericho Appreciation Society last year.
1. The Bloodline, Cody Rhodes, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens, WWE SmackDown
I thought this storyline peaked after Elimination Chamber’s clash between Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn. Still, they have so much left in the tank. The story has made the tag team of Zayn and Kevin Owens so meaningful. Cody Rhodes looks like a mastermind for trying to get them on the same page to help him pick the Bloodline apart. At the end of the night, Owens came out to save Zayn from the Usos, and it got an insane reaction. The whole story has so many aspects I don’t even know where to start. The story going into WrestleMania is that Zayn and reunited friend Owens will be the ones to take down the Bloodline, just not in the way we thought. It should absolutely be the main event on night one, and the momentum from that could carry Cody to win the championship from an almost 3-year champion Reigns in the main event of night two.
Reverse Hipster’s Lowlights
QT Marshall and his crew doing a TMZ newsroom spoof to make fun of Wardlow was objectively hilarious. However, this segment furthered the idea that Hobbs is just along for the ride in his own title reign. When he won the title QT did all the work and now he’s a background character with one line In QT’s skits. Plus he doesn’t even feel important. Wardlow came out of this segment looking like the priority. This is not top-guy stuff. AEW needs to fix Hobbs.
3.(SmackDown) Liv Morgan & Raquel
Liv and Raquel are going to Wrestlemania and it doesn’t make sense. Why are Liv and Raquel a tag team? Liv literally beat her former random partner Teagan to go to WrestleMania with another random partner.
2.(NXT) Carmelo & Bron
This is a program that writes itself. Two of the biggest stars of the last year in NXT and I could care less because of the approach. Carmelo suddenly acting like a stand-up guy who has all this respect for Braun is boring as hell. All year Carmelo called himself "the A Champion" which was direct disrespect to Bron and now they are acting like its all love and it’s ruining the feud.
Omos is not ready for a match with Brock. He has done nothing to deserve a match with Brock other than being big. Even when WWE was trying to hype the match by having Omos throw Lesnar out of the ring, Omos botched the spot and Lesnar ended up throwing himself over. This match is Undertaker vs the Giant Gonzalez at Wrestlemania all over again. I have nothing against Omos but this is a waste of Lesnar and it will expose Omos.
Reverse Hipsters Winmer’s of the Week
6th Place Raw
Raw was just treading water this week. It doesn’t feel like Wrestlemania is in two weeks.
5th Place NXT
NXT's main title picture is messed up
and there wasn’t much to write home about in this episode, it was pretty skippable.
4th Place SmackDown
SmackDown was the best WWE show of the week and it still wasn’t good enough to crack the top three. SmackDown had some good story segments like Sami Zayn and Jey Uso's which in my opinion put the Bloodline Story back on track but it didn’t have a match good enough to propel the show forward.
3rd Place Rampage
Rampage had a great TNT title defense that carried the show and was one of the best matches of the week. Also having the Big Show on commentary was refreshing.
2nd place Impact
Impact had a really good show from top to bottom. There was the funny stuff with Swinger and Vidal. There was the excitement from the women’s division with the Coven winning the tag team belts and then there was the main champion having an excellent 6-man in the main event.
1st place Dynamite
Dynamite is on a whole other level from all the other shows. Matches and moments you name it AEW is doing it better. The trio's triple threat is a match that could have headlined a PPV and they somehow made that program even better by bringing in the Combat Club and the Dark Order. The Outcasts are getting heat and making a statement. The Four Pillars of AEW are throwing verbal haymakers and Orange Cassidy is having one of the best mid-card rubs in recent memory. Even their lowlight was entertaining. The other shows better figure something out because AEW is running away with weekly programming.
Rob’s Winners of the Week
6. WWE Raw this week was middle of the road at best, a notable step back from its last couple weeks.
5. NXT was slightly better than Raw, but it had a lot of mediocre segments that keep it from being higher on this list.
4. Impact Wrestling had only small highlights with nothing that keeps it from being any lower than here.
3. AEW Rampage was better than usual albeit still meaningless compared to Dynamite.
2. AEW Dynamite rallied this week and almost became my favorite show of the week. Double or Nothing was my favorite AEW PPV from last year, and it looks like they are stacking the card this year as well, building excellent stories and potential five-star matches in the process.
1. WWE SmackDown had the highest high this week, and it was a night full of storytelling highs. In pro wrestling in 2023, in-ring work is always in abundance, but this type of storytelling is in a league of its own.