By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
Brad and I got to take in a live WWE show last month in Hartford, and it was really good. The Money in the Bank ladder matches were both outstanding. Several undercard matches had twists and turns to go with good storytelling, and there was 45 minutes or so of a women’s story which kept building on itself into something truly memorable. Sure, the ending was less than desirable, but at least it ended in fewer than seven hours. None of those things which made Hartford so much fun will happen Friday at SuperShowdown in Saudi Arabia.
First off, let’s just say the women won’t be featured. Secondly, all the good storytelling is out the window this month, as we get a show which is largely slapped together strictly to impress the WWE’s Saudi partners with big names. Once again WWE has itself in a weird position of trying to give the overseas crowd (and its investors) a show which feels important without affecting the storylines going on back home. And so, while both main titles are being defended, the matches which make sense in the continuity of WWE television are overshadowed this month by formerly big names doing irrelevant things for no good reason. Excited yet? Don’t worry, Brad and I will still make this interesting because we’ve put more time into this preview than WWE did for the show.
The Undertaker vs. Goldberg
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: The biggest match of 1999 finally happens on a Friday afternoon in 2019. Yay. This is the perfect example of why this show is a mess. The few matches with actual stories behind them are buried down the card, while the “here’s some guys who used to be big deals fighting for no reason” matches take center stage. They gave this match exactly one week of hype, even though we heard the announcement for it at MITB. So after missing valuable time to promote this battle of legends, they have one Raw promo and one SmackDown promo, with the theme of “this is a first-time match.” Well, unfortunately, even if you have a main event so big it can be sold only by saying “you’ve never seen this,” you can’t do it 20 years too late and have it work. Derek Jeter never faced Nolan Ryan on a baseball field, but that doesn’t mean we want to see it happen now. Hopefully this match is short. Taker, who strangely missed WrestleMania but has made his last two appearances in Saudi Arabia, wins because he has some sort of a future, while Goldberg is likely gone again.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: This whole show is basically an exhibition. The results don’t matter. The matches don’t matter. Nothing major will happen, which I learned the hard way after predicting title changes in previous shows only to watch all of them being successfully defended, which immediately changed these show's billing as "bigger than WrestleMania" to "we might be better than Fastlane." The reasons for this are simple. With the show being on a Friday afternoon, when most of the WWE audience is, you know, working, the live audience will be minimal. WWE doesn't want 12 people tuned in while they do something major, like having a world title change hands. It wouldn't be smart business. So, they hype it up with matches you won't see elsewhere to try and lure you to log in and watch it when you get home, or over the weekend. Anyway, all of this is to remind you that nothing that happens here will be remembered, so if you want to skip it, skip it. But if you do watch, just sit back and enjoy what will be something a little different, with no consequences. That actually might be the only way to enjoy this card if you do watch, cause it won't be good. Now, Undertaker-Goldberg. This match might have been exciting if we all didn’t just watch Undertaker be a shell of a shell of a shell of his former self in his tag team match with Triple H and Shawn Michaels. That match was about as bad as it gets, so putting Taker with Goldberg is a singles match will likely be even worse, much worse. But, hey, we'll get a couple of cool entrances and Undertaker wins for reasons Straub brings up above. It won't be good, but hopefully it will be short and sweet.
Triple H vs. Randy Orton
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: At least WWE made an attempt to make this edition of Old Timer’s Day work. Actually, I shouldn’t group Orton, who, despite lacking personality of any kind can still go and has made a great career for himself, with the old men. Still, this match’s backstory is “we had one of the best feuds ever 15 years ago”. I’ll give them that much. These two had one of my favorite feuds of all time. It felt realistic and more than just about wrestling. Brad likes to point out, and correctly, that people sometimes cheer for wrestlers they like even though they have committed attempted murder outside the ring. In fact, there’s a video on YouTube entitled “8 times Triple H attempted murder in WWE”. His feud with Orton, which featured him storming Orton’s house and abusing his family before an amazing fight scene ended up through the wall and outside the house, featured such exploits. But hey, you didn’t even have to get that crazy with it. With Orton liking being a “Legend killer” and crazy, couldn’t he have just attacked Triple H or Stephanie to make this match meaningful? Instead, we get a respectful promo to build this match, save for one shot by Orton which everyone saw coming. Orton should win, as he can grow his character from a victory, whereas Hunter likely isn’t fighting again until the next Saudi show this fall. Either way, I wish they’d spent the few weeks they had to build something viscous here.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I wonder if those running this on the Saudi Arabia side are saying we want Undertaker, we want Goldberg, we want ... Triple H. After all, Triple H is always here, but do you really believe those fans and Saudi leaders overseas are clamoring to see Triple H actually wrestle? Do they see him on the same level as Undertaker and Goldberg in terms of appealing to a fan base over there that doesn’t seem to be that interested anyway? Maybe. Or maybe Triple H just books himself as this returning legend for a nice payday and ego boost. I’ll go with the latter. But who knows, Saudi Arabia did want Yokozuna at the first show, even though he passed away years earlier. There is a backstory here, I guess, as I didn't watch during the Evolution days, or whatever that group was called. Randy Orton wins, as he’s still a main player on the roster. Triple H can count his money, and take the loss.
Universal Champion Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: OK, let’s just skip to the end here. This match is completely about when Brock Lesnar is cashing in. If the actual match happens at all, it will be an afterthought. I just can’t see Brock winning the title, even on a show which is nauseatingly dubbed as “bigger than WrestleMania”. I’m probably wrong, since Brock got no repercussions for hurting camera guys and Ali in Hartford with his reckless ladder tossing, and he nearly injured Rollins Monday but still gets to be the biggest talking point Friday. Still, I’m going with Rollins, who is a workhorse in the ring and can have new angles and opponents every week. By the way, I know some, including my tag team partner on these previews, think Rollins is boring on the mic, but man can the guy work a match. What he and AJ did in Hartford, telling a story and flying around with purpose instead of just doing random spots, was just a joy to watch. He deserves better than having to deal with the Lesnar stuff week after week.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Matt wants to skip to the end, with the Brock Lesnar cash-in being more or less promised to happen, but I could see it going a completely different way. If WWE really wants to get Baron Corbin into the main event picture and change fans’ perception of him, this is where they will have him win the Universal championship. He’s not going to beat Seth Rollins clean, but this easily could be a teased cash-in from Brock resulting in Corbin hitting End of Days or whatever on Seth from behind and pinning him to become the new champion. If they wanted to do it, they could, and even though it would piss everyone off, it would make sense. But this is an exhibition, so nothing like that will happen. Rollins is going to win, Brock is going to come down and beat the crap out of him again, but he’ll save the cash-in for later. Fans and critics won’t be happy with that either, but nobody will remember it come Monday night. Straub, though, has fallen in love with Seth Rollins, if you couldn't tell. He's the exact opposite of Matt's type, as he likes the big guys that can't move, which is also the preferred type of Vince McMahon. But Rollins is the new favorite. Maybe it's because Straub finally sees the future of wrestling, with "random spots" taking over, so he's going to grab onto the one "random spot" guy who is the closest to the kind of wrestler he prefers. Hence, Rollins. Am I close, Straub? And why, Straub, do you hate AEW or New Japan or any other wrestling company out there? Don't you want competition? The best times for wrestling was when WWE was going head-to-head with WCW. And you liked WCW! But now you're a WWE fanboy. Which "flippy" wrestler hurt you, Straubby?
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Wait, do we have a match between two active wrestlers which also features a storyline? Hallelujah!!! Dolph, for as much as he never reached his potential, is good enough to just show up randomly and feel like he matters at least a little bit. His approach here, being jealous of Kofi’s sudden rise, rings true and provides a reason to watch this match. I can’t believe Kofi is losing here, especially on a show which is just a money grab, but I’d really like to see this feud continue, which means I need Dolph to win. So I’m picking an upset here, especially because something major has to happen on this show, right?
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Yes, this has been played out nicely, one of the very few things WWE has done right recently. But no, there won’t be a title change, as Kofi Kingston will retain. There’s really two reasons why. 1. Dolph has gotten the better of Kofi each week since this rivalry started, which automatically points to the opponent getting the ultimate win in the end. That's Kofi. 2. This spot was likely reserved for Kevin Owens, but he’s apparently refused to go to Saudi Arabia, so Dolph was a nice way to cover those cracks and move into something somewhat interesting. A bonus No. 3, if Dolph wins, he would take the title back to Raw, thus giving that brand both championship belts, which doesn't make sense. But WWE is a mess, so maybe.
Intercontinental Champion “The Demon” Finn Bálor vs. Andrade
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: These two stole the show in Hartford. I kept asking Brad what Finn had done to anger the agents who booked the match, as he seemed to be on the receiving end of every big spot in the MITB match. Andrade, meanwhile, had a presence I wasn’t expecting in the match, and was on the offensive end of some cool stuff. Putting the two of them together in this match should be great, except for the need by WWE to ruin it with the gimmick. Now, before Brad wants to kill me again, let me make clear I have no problem with the Demon gimmick itself. It’s a cool intro. With the background knowledge that Finn only breaks it out when he thinks he’s facing impossible odds, however, it feels forced here. Forget my usual question of why, since he always wins as the demon, doesn’t he just break him out all the time. How can he feel the need to do it against a mid-carder who he hadn’t even met in MITB yet when it was announced in Hartford that he’d be the demon in Saudi Arabia? This is nothing but a chance to show off the gimmick in a new place, which is fine except it buries a young talent in the process. The Demon wins, Brad pops, and Andrade gets shuffled down the card. At least he can have Charlotte comfort him when he gets back home.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: The vision of Finn Balor bouncing high off the ladder after being flipped over by Andrade from another ladder will probably stay with me forever. It was insane and a spot where future ladder matches will look for ways to top. Good luck with that. This feud continues with the caveat of Finn pulling out the Demon persona, which doesn’t make sense, as Straub points out, but should we really complain or question it? Just sit back and enjoy the best entrance in wrestling today. Being the Demon is great, but it does ruin the Balor character when he isn’t in that persona. The epicness of Demon Balor only makes regular Balor boring in comparison. It’s not fair to his overall talent, but it can’t be ignored. Just ask yourself, which version of Balor would you want to see? Are you disappointed when it's the opposite? Well, that’s your answer. If given the proper time and build, this match will be one of the best on the card. Either way, the Demon wins because the Demon always wins. Just enjoy the entrance already, Straub.
Roman Reigns vs. Shane McMahon
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Ugh. This wins the prize for dumbest match of the night. Shane only works as the underdog face or the heel who gets lucky in victory or cheats to win. The issue is you can only go to that second well often, and Shane has done it a couple times in a row. Can he do it again? I just can’t see it. This is especially true with Roman still in his post-illness honeymoon, where the booing has stopped for him. Roman has to stay hot, and Shane can’t keep getting cheap wins or they will stop being meaningful. My fear is Shane brings Drew or Elias with him and gets a win to keep the feud going and make my pick go wrong. Still, give me the big dog.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: How many Shane McMahon matches are we going to get now? My God, it’s getting out of hand. Roman Reigns is going to squash Shane, even if he has to deal with Drew McIntyre and Elias along the way. That honeymoon, by the way, is just about over, as I have noticed the fans already slowly turning back against Reigns. It won't be as bad, but he'll never get cheered fully.
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: This is a Vince special. Two big guys with nothing else to do performing feats of strength. They even had an arm wrestling contest recently on Raw, as though this were 1988. This idea is from 10 years before Goldberg and Taker should have met, never mind the era where they actually are going to face off. It must be crushing to Strowman to see his easy angle post MITB get destroyed so he can be stuck in this match. If he didn’t tie up Sami Zayn, why hasn’t he gone after Brock, who we assume did? Why isn’t he mad about getting left out of the MITB match and chasing Zayn? Why am I trying to make logic out of a pure money grab show which isn’t trying to make sense? Strowman wins and no one cares.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Remember these two? WWE I guess does too, now anyway. It wasn’t long ago when everyone thought Braun Strowman was poised to become the new Universal champion, while Bobby Lashley got a clean victory over Roman Reigns to possibly do the same. Both are nowhere near that level of status anymore, but at least they have a match. Now, it’s nice that Straub is so worried about Braun’s feelings. I actually had no idea he was that sensitive. For the rest of us, the fast forward button will be in good use, as we all know Braun is going to win.
The Lucha House Party vs. Lars Sullivan
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Watching Sullivan throw the Luchas around was one of my favorite parts of MITB. He’s doing the old Kane bit where he doesn’t even wrestle, he just ends segments which were boring us. Is this match going to be another rendition of the same act? Is Sullivan just throwing little guys around without any plot twists going to be entertaining again? Unless Sullivan is going to be punished for the comments which came to light recently, he has to win this match, and do so easily.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Oh boy, Lars Sullivan. Vince McMahon loves him because he’s huge. He also looks like a legit monster, like he’s wearing prosthetics or something. I guess that’s cool, if you’re Vince McMahon. I am not. So I am not interested in Lars Sullivan at all. But at least he’s finally getting to wrestle a match, at least I think this is as match. Either way, he’s going to throw the Luchas all over the place and make the crowd go ooh and ahh while picking up a rather easy victory.
50-man battle royal
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Our final example of what a disaster this show is from a planning perspective is the battle royal, which may or may not happen. Sometimes they plugged it on TV, sometimes they didn’t, and there’s no mention of it on the preview at WWE.com. If it does happen, what are the stakes? Can WWE do something to make it memorable considering that the only thing we remember from last year’s massive battle royal was Titus almost killing himself on the way to the ring? Seriously, do you even remember who won last time? I’m just hoping Titus does something intentionally funny this time to make light of last year, and that the 24/7 belt is somehow incorporated into the mess. As for a winner, can I pick Brock to come down at the end and win? Because that went over really well last month. In the meantime, be comforted by the knowledge that the next time we do one of these the Knicks and Nets will both have big names on their teams and the Red Sox and Yankees will have actually played each other more than twice.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Battle royals are dumb, and having 50 people in a battle royal is even dumber. First question, can the ring even hold the weight of 50 men being in it at the same time? First answer to Straub’s question, no, there are no stakes. This could turn into something if Straub is right with the 24/7 title and R-Truth being in the match. The title could change hands several hundred times before Truth is somehow the last one standing with both the 24/7 title in hand and a battle royal trophy in the other. Is there a battle royal trophy? WWE sure likes to bring in trophies for Saudi Arabia trophies. Wait, me and Straub should develop a trophy for whoever wins this “season” of picks. Maybe a WWE style title belt? Now I’m getting excited. Way more excited than this exhibition. But it’s WWE, are you excited for anything anymore?