Well here we are again, after another seven days in the topsy-turvy world of professional wrestling. It's been a relatively quiet week, although there was still a few very noteworthy bits of news, and some genuinely crazy happenings in the grappling game. Beware, there is some MMA talk towards the end, but for good reason given the impending return of a certain Mr Lesnar. However, as is so often the case, we start with this week's Raw.
Raw is Bore
In very much expected fashion, this week’s Raw was something of a throwaway affair. With it taking place on July 4, American Independence day it was all but expected that this would be an all-time low rating (that should be likely confirmed by the time you’re reading this), and as such the company made very little effort. This wasn’t a complete washout, but you certainly got the feeling they were holding back from putting anything too significant into motion this week.
That said there were a few talking points, the most obvious of which for me was the interesting twist in the feud between The Wyatts and The New Day. Rather than going down the road of some sort of hokey possession storyline, they seem to be showing cracks in the armour of New Day by having Xavier Woods be deeply affected by the mind games of Bray Wyatt. Their confrontation this week was more reminiscent of the early Wyatt Family vignettes with the compound in the background, focusing on the cult-like roots of the family gimmick. Even more intriguing is the invitation for The New Day to meet The Wyatts face-to-face said compound, which has the potential to be brilliant or possibly awful depending how this plays out. Could we be about to get further members of the family, a returning Luke Harper, or the often alluded to Sister Abigail? Probably not, and WWE will likely mess this up and turn it into a silly comedy angle, but if they play this straight it could be one of the more intriguing segments they have produced in a while.
The other major talking points from Raw were some smaller developments in the two big feuds going into Battleground, Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose (and Roman Reigns, I suppose), and AJ Styles/The Club vs John Cena. In the case of Rollins and Ambrose, they had a couple of fun segments that continued to push their rivalry, which was nice. Although in many ways it’s beginning to feel like Reigns only role in this story in the short term might be to take the fall in this match, such is the quality of the chemistry between Rollins and Ambrose. As for AJ/Cena, this was another stellar segment here with the save from a beat down by The Club being made by Enzo and Big Cass. This is a great opportunity to give Enzo and Cass the rub from the main event, while setting up a spin-off feud with Anderson/Gallows for the summer, and providing an excellent six-man at Battleground. Plus, this allows them to stretch out the programme to Summerslam where we can have see AJ and Cena face off on the second biggest show of the year. Good work WWE.
The Final Deletion
Normally, I don’t pay a huge amount of notice of TNA; such has been the company’s downfall over the past couple of years. However, there has been a pretty substantial buzz on the internet over the past few weeks over the Final Deletion match (ok, well match might be a bit too linear a term given the scenario), taking place at the Hardy Compound in North Carolina, with Jeff "Brother Nero" Hardy taking on "Broken" Matt Hardy. If you’ve not been following TNA recently, essentially Matt Hardy has had something of a metamorphosis in recent weeks, and is easily one of the most random, bizarre and possibly brilliantly out there characters in wrestling history. This match seems to be the culmination of their feud, and I won’t spoil it but whether you love it or hate it, as a wrestling fan you owe it to yourself to watch this. You certainly won’t be bored. It’s available on the usual legal streaming sites now, or UK viewers can wait and see it in all it’s glory on TNA Impact on Sunday night on Challenge. Not one to miss, potentially something that might be talked about for many years to come for good or for bad.
Lesnar’s Summerslam opponent
This week has been very Brock Lesnar-heavy, but very little of that has been with regard to WWE. Lesnar’s UFC 200 fight is this weekend (more on that shortly), and with that in mind WWE have done precious little promotion in order to hype said fight. To me this is curious, given the potential extra eyes it could direct towards WWE’s product via Lesnar, even more so given that many former WWE fans jumped ship to UFC after the end of the Attitude Era. However, WWE have even gone to lengths with interviews in the past week, including with Stephanie McMahon herself to distance themselves from the Lesnar situation and dismiss UFC as competition. It’s an odd one, that I will say and I feel this is a mistake by WWE. That being said, if Lesnar wins in dominating fashion I could very much see WWE making a huge deal out of the result. Regardless, WWE have moved to shift the focus towards Summerslam and Lesnar’s return to the four-sided ring against a mystery opponent, to be announced on this week’s Smackdown. They have even gone to the lengths of not announcing it to the live crowd at the tapings to keep it under wraps till Friday. Obviously there is a laundry list of potential opponents, with Randy Orton the current favourite. It makes sense, but I’m not sure anyone is clamouring for that match, and I’m hoping there is swerve planned, maybe have a Samoa Joe, or Shinsuke Nakamura come up from NXT, or something else equally unexpected. I just want to see something more exciting and unpredictable happen, rather than a simple Randy Orton return. Here’s hoping they produce a shock.
Ok, so I know this is primarily a wrestling column, but I feel it would be remiss not to at least mention briefly one of the biggest events in MMA history. Pro wrestling and MMA have more crossover than you might expect, and there is certainly an overlap in audiences, especially with Lesnar appearing on UFC 200, and being a former UFC Heavyweight Champion. We are even gearing up for CM Punk’s UFC debut in a month or so, and given Ronda Rousey appeared at Wrestlemania last year, I feel justified in covering this.
UFC 200 is shaping up to be one of the best cards in in the company’s history, on paper at least. Obviously you never know how these things will work out but it certainly looks good. Sadly we have lost Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier due to a potential USADA violation from Jones, although by the time you read this we may have someone else in his place. It's a shame for Cormier, who seems to consistently suffer in recent times every time Jon Jones screws up. Jones is such a talented performer, but clearly a troubled young man, and I really hope this is not another scandal in a very rocky few years for him. He could well be a candidate for GOAT in the Octagon, so I hope he gets his act together soon. Equally, it's possible that he is exonerated on his B sample, or has legitimate grounds for this infraction. Let's wait and see, but for now he is definitely off the UFC 200 card.
From the bottom up, this card is stacked. Ignoring the prelims (which themselves feature the likes of Johnny Hendricks, TJ Dillashaw, Gegard Moussasi, and Cat Zingano all of whom have been in major headlining fights in recent years), the main card is full of 5 main event fights. Cain Velasquez is opening the card, which seems absolutely insane. We also have Frankie Edgar vs Jose Aldo for the Interim Featherweight strap, Miesha Tate vs Amanda Nunes for the Women’s Bantamweight title, Lesnar vs Hunt, and possibly Daniel Cormier vs someone for the Light heavyweight Title. That is absolutely unprecedented, and I’m confident this is not a card to be missed. Even for the most casual MMA fan, that is huge. Just for the record, I have Velasquez, Aldo, Nunes, and Lesnar on my bet slip, but I’m probably miles off. We shall see on Sunday morning.
Well that's it from me this week, join us next week for all the happenings from the next seven days, as well as the fallout from UFC 200 as well as hopefully a bit more information on the upcoming draft. In the meantime keep it Screenjabber for all your Movie, Game, and Blu-ray reviews, news features and opinions.