Another week, another set of TVs, and another set of crazy happenings, this week including a couple of stabbings, and a great war. As always there is plenty to cover so we'll start from the top with this week's Raw, and a very unusual main event.
There were a number of talking points coming out of this week's Raw which I feel are worth touching upon this week. First off though, we should have a look at the main event of Raw featuring a Women's Championship match. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe there have only ever been two other Women's matches featured in this slot, Trish Stratus vs Lita, and Stephanie Mcmahon vs Lita. As such this is a fairly big deal. The match was the usual standard match we get between Sasha Banks and Charlotte (and by no means is that a negative thing), although we also got a Sky Twister Press from Charlotte which is something I did not expect to see, and was bloody spectacular. Part of me wonders whether this was something of a test run to see how the crowd and the audience at home would take to women headlining, and by all accounts it see,ms to have been a fairly positive response with the third hour up from last week's rating. I suspect this leads to one final blow-off between these two at Hell in a Cell, probably in the first ever all-female cell match, which should be quite the spectacle. However, as I have expressed before I hope these two are kept apart for a while after that, because we are at genuine risk of burning out this rivalry years before it is required. I appreciate it was facilitated by the injury issue with Banks but it is unfortunate that they had to take the belt off her in the first place as this lacked some of the genuine emotion of the first title change, but this was still a good main event between two of the best performers on the roster.
This week I also really enjoyed the Roman Reigns and Rusev segment which opened the show. I felt it helped put both guys over well and set up their cell match nicely. The problem with the Reigns vs Rusev feud has never been in the in-ring stuff, their matches have been very good for the most part. It's just a feud that has dragged on for far too long now and needs to end soon. However, I am looking forward to their match, which will no doubt be hard-hitting and enjoyable, and as long as it keep Reigns away from the big belt for a while that can only be a good thing while he is a babyface. As a heel, well that would be a different story, and a whole different argument for a whole different day.
Speaking of heels and faces, I wanted to briefly touch on Seth Rollins here. His sit-down interview with Michael Cole this week was very good, and I thought he came across well, and more like a babyface than before. It helped that it gave the audience some motivation to work with for why he is suddenly someone they should cheer. Unfortunately, that reasoning is pretty flawed. his cash-in at Wrestlemania 31 is now being framed as a heroic culmination of a long hard journey, but just a few months ago it was being labelled a move befitting a coward. I know WWE work in cycles but good grief they need to do a better job with their logic if they want to keep people invested here. I'm sure Rollins vs Kevin Owens (and possibly Chris Jericho) at Hell in a Cell will be very good, but I still feel we need more of a reason to care about Rollins as a face. Again while on the subject of Owens and Jericho they were on great form again this week, and if we do get a Jericho face turn I am genuinely sad because his heel work this year has been a gift, pun intended. Things are building nicely with the Owens-Jericho partnership, but I just hope WWE have the patience to do the slow-build here and not hotshot the angle.
The Cruiserweight division also seems to be thriving again this week. We had a great non-title match between TJ Perkins and THE Brian Kendrick. The win over Perkins gives some credibility to Kendrick and sets him up nicely to challenge TJ going into HIAC. Also Rich Swann and Tony Nese had a good match too which helps further establish the depth of the division here. With Noam Dar, Jack Gallagher and others still to debut this division looks in rude health.
My final high point form Raw this week was Braun Strowman. Regular readers will have seen my affinity for squash matches and I have mentioned many times how much I have enjoyed Strowman's act. However this week was particuarly good, both in terms of the squash and the promo from Strowman who displayed way more charisma on the microphone than I expected. As with the Owens-Jericho angle if they go the slow build route with Strowman they could have something great on their hands here, maybe even someone who they could put in the ring as a legitimate challenger for Brock Lesnar in the future. Which probably means he'll be jobbing to Seth Rollins in a few weeks. Sigh. Overall this week was a good show, not a great one but certainly an improvement on previous weeks.
Smackdown this week was once again an excellent example of how to build a go-home show with simple storytelling and good matches. With No Mercy upcoming this Sunday (predictions to follow shortly) there were a few key segments that made this a really good show to watch and got me genuinely excited for the PPV. First up the segment between The Miz and Dolph Ziggler, which actually got Miz some pretty good heat essentially making Ziggler out to be a bit of a joke. That in itself would have been fine, but bringing back two members of the much-maligned Spirit Squad was a great touch and I was ecstatic to see this. The career stipulation has really upped the ante for this feud and I'm genuinely excited to see the outcome. I suspect Ziggler wins, but imagine if he doesn't, and the story they could tell there.
Elsewhere on the card we had some more excellent build up for the two women's matches on Sunday, which in Smackdown tradition was rolled into an impromptu tag bout with Women's Champion Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella taking on their respective opponents for Sunday Alexa Bliss and Carmella. Bliss has really shined since her call-up and I'm enjoying her work here, while Carmella is far more palatable as a heel than a face, despite doing very little different as part of her act. We also got some more good old fashioned heel work from The Usos to build their feud with American Alpha, which should lead to another scorching bout between these four, and involvement from Tag Champions Rhyno and Heath Slater
Finally we had the big go-home segment for the three-way for the WWE Championship at No Mercy with AJ Styles defending against Dean Ambrose and John Cena. All three were excellent here, with Cena and Ambrose trading barbs based off of Cena's interview on Talking Smack last week, as well as Styles playing the cocky heel champion. I can't see anything but a Styles win on Sunday, but it should be a fantastic match between these three. All of the titles feel important on Smackdown, and while the writing is simplified and the rivalries booked to be clear examples of good vs bad for the most part, it works really well. Smackdown is fast becoming the second best thing WWE produce week to week (after NXT, and even then it's a closer run thing than ever before), leaving Raw a distant third for me.
Stabbings - Del Rio and Noble
In concerning news this week, we had the stories of two former WWE Superstars being involved in some serious altercations outside the ring. Former Cruiserweight Champion and current road agent Jamie Noble was assaulted by two men who stabbed him in the side and the back in revenge for an alleged minor road altercation. Former WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio also had an incident with someone in Mexico where he was stabbed multiple times. Both men appear to be shaken but ok, and obviously it goes without saying these are likely not linked incidents. We can only wish both of them the best in a speedy recovery. These incidents are very scary, and sometimes perhaps we forget that the people we see on screeen are mere humans too, and they face unhinged people on a day-to-day basis perhaps more so than the average person. So next time you see a WWE Superstar keep that in mind.
TNA - Surviving politely
So despite last week's death knells supposedly tolling, TNA continues to live on even managing to stage their somewhat thrown together PPV Bound For Glory. I won't do a full run-down of the show but it was fairly average aside from Cody Rhodes debuting (meh), and a decent main event. However, we did get one highlight in the form of The Great War pitting Decay against The Broken Hardys. I won't spoil it, but if you've seen the Final Deletion or Delete or Decay this is much of the same but bigger and crazier, with a live element injected into the concept.
We don't know a huge amount more right now, other than some mysterious benefactor has financed them for a few more months, and it isn't WWE or Billy Corgan. However, Jim Ross has gone on record saying he has it on good authority WWE are close to agreeing a deal to buy the tape library and shut the company down. So at this stage who knows. TNA is certainly not out of the woods as yet either way, and I can't help but think it might be better to just let it die at this stage.
Finally, on to the Sunday's big show, No Mercy, and it is shaping up to be quite the card for the blue brand. In terms of the under-card we have the return of one Curt Hawkins after weeks of vignettes, so that should be a fun diversion if not particularly spectacular We also have Nikki Bella vs Carmella which I have a feeling will be better than it has any right to be. Carmella still seems to be finding her feet, but the heel turn has helped and whether you like her or not Nikki is one of the more solid workers in the division. I fully expect a Nikki Bella win here to push her forward into the title picture. Speaking of which we have what should be an excellent title match here between Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss. Bliss has developed in leaps and bounds since her call up and I am really looking forward to this, a match which could be the sleeper bout of the evening. Lynch is brilliant and herself and Bliss seem to have good chemistry. Still, I think we get a Becky win to set up Lynch vs Bella at Survivor Series.
In the upper mid-card we have The Miz vs Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship. Initially I wasn't particularly interested in the idea of these two going at it again, but after several weeks of superb build-up, and the stipulation that Ziggler must retire if he loses gives this a bit more interest. If WWE want to they can book this in multiple different ways with Ziggler turning, or losing and having to earn his job back, or being some sort of loose canon. There's also the Daniel Bryan issue which rumbles on with Miz; will that play a part? Sadly I suspect we'll just get a clean Ziggler win for the title, but I hope not.
In the semi-main event have the continuing odd feud between Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton, which has included a number of weird horror movie-style tropes, including a few more prominent mentions of the mysterious Sister Abigail from Bray, does she finally turn up here? In all honesty I expect an Orton win because they are short on top line faces to put into the title programme, but I could also see Bray winning and this going til Survivor Series if there is some sort of plan in place. For Bray's sake I hope it's the latter, he is just about out of credibility so it would be great if they claw some of that back here. I could also see a Luke Harper return here, even if he is technically drafted to Raw.
Finally we have the big title match for the WWE Championship, with AJ Styles defending against former champion Dean Ambrose and recent rival John Cena. As I mentioned before I can only really see a Styles win, given Ambrose has just lots it recently, and Cena is off to film his TV show American Grit again soon. Styles will likely retain and rightly so given the sensational form he's been in. This should be good, but I can see Cena and Ambrose getting caught up in one-upping each other leading to Styles sneaking the clean-ish win.
However this shakes out, No Mercy promises to be a very good card with some excellent matches and hopefully some surprises. I can certainly see it being better than Clash of Champions or Backlash.
That's your lot for this week. Join me next week for a full run down of No Mercy, Raw, Smackdown, and whatever else happens in the next 7 days in the crazy world of pro wrestling. In the meantime, why not take a look around Screenjabber.com and check out the best in Movies, Games, DVD, and Blu-ray reviews as well as opinions, blogs and much much more. Until next time, so long folks!