By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
Life gets busy. Sometimes you have to push things aside. But as always, somehow, some way, we still have a WWE preview for you. Ironically, it feels like WWE forgot about this show a little bit. They were so excited about their money grab in Saudi Arabia, a show which nearly resulted in the deaths of two of the biggest stars in company history, they didn’t have time to build WWE Stomping Grounds. I love this show because it feels like they named it for Seth Rollins the way they used to name the old In Your House shows after wrestlers who were on top at the time. The curb stomp is awesome and Rollins is awesome. This show, however, is not. It had plenty of potential, but feels rushed. If there’s a reason to limit the number of PPVs a year to 12 tops, this is it. There’s never too many of these previews, however, so let’s roll.
Universal Champion Seth Rollins vs. Baron Corbin
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: There’s no better example of WWE shifting to a more Attitude Era style than Seth Rollins in the last two weeks. The “good guy” sneaking up on people with steel chairs to eliminate potential heel guest referees is realism at its finest. I enjoy wrestling more when it’s clear who the face is, but there’s nothing wrong with the face trying to protect his interests. So Rollins has become a chair-swinging hero with an edge. I don’t know if it’s enough of a personality to make Brad like him, but it works for me. I just hope they don’t make him too over the top about it, like another face who acts like Stone Cold, and who also happens to be dating Rollins. As for this match, it’s not that exciting by itself, but the question of who the referee will be and whether or not Brock Lesnar shows up make it worth watching. I think the end is disappointing, only in that Rollins wins without a cash-in.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: I feel like we've done this before, don't you? The first two matches on this card, at least, are pretty much the same exact thing we just saw a couple weeks ago in Saudi Arabia. And that's not a good thing. This match I could just copy and paste what I wrote before, but I'll try and keep it a little fresh, but the underlying thought remains the same. If the WWE wants to give Corbin a run with the title, however short, this is the way to do it: Have Brock Lesnar show up at the end, tease his cash-in, which of course gains Seth Rollins' attention, all the while forgetting Corbin is right behind him. A deep six later and Corbin is your champion, and it would be a legitimate way to win, although everyone will hate it. I'd sign up for that right now, actually, because WWE needs something, anything to get some momentum back. The product is beyond terrible right now and it's a struggle just to watch the shows anymore, let alone simply fast-forward through them. Will this happen? No. Seth Rollins wins and Brock Lesnar will not grace us with his presence. And, no, Rollins hitting random guys with chairs cause they dare try and be part of a main event does nothing for me. But desperate times calls for the vanilla Rollins to try desperate things.
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston vs. Dolph Ziggler (Steel Cage Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: The rumors saying Kofi won’t have the title long stem from the feelings this match brings up. Should it be good in the ring? Absolutely. Is there a decent storyline with Ziggler being jealous of Kofi? Decent, yes. With all that said, however, do you care about this match? I sure don’t. Hopefully this is leading to something bigger for Kingston, but with Smackdown’s current setup, I’m not sure who that would be. Actually, the way WWE is currently set up, I’m no longer sure who’s on Smackdown or Raw. Whoever the new opponent is, he needs to draw out the best of Kofi’s storytelling, because right now he looks like an underwhelming champion. Kofi wins because Dolph would be even less exciting as champion, but the leash is short on Kofi, like a struggling starting pitcher. He needs to show improvement quickly or a call to the bullpen is coming. Hopefully it’s not the Red Sox’ bullpen, because it is very bad.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: Here's another match where I could just copy and paste from the previous preview column right into this space. But I wouldn't do that, but the result doesn't change. Kofi wins and waits for a new challenger to emerge, as Dolph goes back into hiding after giving WWE a nice filler over the past few months. On a side note, watching a steel cage match in person was nowhere near as exciting as I thought it would be when I was in Hartford for Money in the Bank. Maybe it was because Shane McMahon and The Miz aren't the most athletic guys out there, but the match was boring and left little for the wrestlers to actually do in the ring. It was too contained for us in the crowd to be entertained. It's one thing that plays much better on television. But alas, for this match, Kofi gets the win and continues his unlikely title reign.
Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs. Lacey Evans
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: This is a classic case of why you don’t rush a good, young heel right into the title picture. Evans has a strong character. People want to see her get beat up. She can also fly around. She has a fascinating story, serving as a Marine in real life. Sunday, however, she enters a match she can’t win for yet another PPV. I think she’s over enough to survive another loss to Becky one belt, but she needs to be really competitive or risk falling down to the midcard. She’ll need Becky to help keep her strong, and if there’s a way to keep them feuding I think it’s good for WWE and Evans. Becky wins a close one.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: WWE television is so bad right now even the sight of Becky Lynch does nothing to move the meter. Like everyone else on the roster, WWE took a red-hot Lynch and leveled her down to a lukewarm. While that makes Straub super happy, everyone else is thinking what could have been. What could have been is also a thing that can be said for Lacey Evans, who was thrust into a no-win situation against Becky Lynch, when she could have been much better suited to build her character and chances of winning up before going against Lynch. Right now, she has no chance to win the title, but in a few months, maybe she would. Or at least we would have thought she could pull the upset. But what are you going to do. WWE is really bad and AEW is taking advantage of it. Becky wins, by the way.
SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: First off, I couldn’t be happier to see Alexa Bliss in the ring. She terrifies me every time she takes a bump like the head-first one into the corner a couple of weeks ago, but as long as she can stay healthy she should live out her dream. If she ever can’t go anymore, she’ll be great as a talker or manager, as we’ve discussed. But let’s hope that’s a long way off. She’ll have Nikki Cross in her corner for this match, another person I’m glad to see in the spotlight. They’ve humanized her and made her a little less crazy, which I think works. There has been a hint or a possible Bayley heel turn here, but I don’t see it. I could much more easily see Cross realizing Bliss is using her and turning face, giving Bayley a new friend now that Sasha is gone. Bliss, unlike Evans, doesn’t need a win to stay important, and could feud with Cross for a while. Bayley wins after Cross accidentally interferes, then beats up Bliss for yelling at her.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: Of all the people to steal the show and get the biggest crowd reaction at the Money in the Bank PPV nobody would have guessed it would have been Bayley. But there she was getting the biggest pops of the night, first simply for coming in to "save" Becky Lynch from Charlotte and Lacey Evans, and then to cashing in her MITB suitcase to beating Charlotte and then celebrating throughout the crowd. It was some of the best television, or streaming, WWE has done in a long time. And good for Bayley, who was basically left for dead for several months now. So, with her back on top, there's no way she can lose the title now. Alexa Bliss being here does cloud things, cause she's been the women's division MVP in many ways over the past few years and could easily carry the division again. But Bliss will have to wait as it's surprisingly Bayley's time once again.
Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: If there were ever a wrestler who should want to go to AEW, it’s McIntyre. The guy has a perfect look for a pro wrestler, can talk (a fact WWE hid for years), and isn’t a terrible worker. Vince predicted Drew would be champion years ago, and it’s time for that push to happen. He doesn’t deserve to be stuck with Shane, who suddenly is the top heel in the company. Hey, at least he makes it to TV every week, but that’s not a good sign for WWE. McIntyre could go on a long run as a big heel, give Rollins great competition, and be a star in the company for years. Which is why, of course, Roman wins. Ugh.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: There's really nothing more to write about when it comes to Roman Reigns. The fans will never accept him. It's just not going to happen. But Vince doesn't care about that, and Roman is his new-age John Cena, which means he's going to win a lot more, a lot more, than he will lose. He's not losing here, even though Drew McIntyre is really, really good.
United States Champion Samoa Joe vs. Ricochet
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Do yourself a favor and don’t google or search for Ricochet on YouTube for a few days. Also, kids, don’t tape stuff on your phone. Nothing good happens. As for this match, it could be exceptional if they’re given enough time to tell a story. It’s a perfect case of a big man trying to ground a high-flyer. Joe is an incredible worker. I don’t know if it’s ever been mentioned here, but I love Joe. A lot. This is also another case of ruining a young talent’s push, unless he wins this match, which I can’t see. I’m picking Joe, mostly because I love Joe.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: This match has the potential to steal the show, if they are given the time and the opportunity to do it. But this match could also be done in a minute with a surprise roll-up finish. So, yeah, WWE, right? Samoa Joe is the ground and pound base for this match, while Ricochet will not only fly around with some amazing offense, he'll also make Joe look awesome when on the defensive. Let's hope WWE gives them the time. For a winner, I think WWE doesn't want to give Ricochet a title just yet, and Samoa Joe needs some time with the belt after losing it quickly to Rey Mysterio a little while ago.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions Daniel Bryan & Rowan vs. Heavy Machinery
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Heavy machinery is funny. This match is worthless. What exactly is WWE doing with Daniel Bryan, anyway? He’ll win Sunday, but sometimes he’s a title contender, sometimes he’s being protected in tag matches, sometimes he’s irrelevant. But hey, the Knicks and Nets had great nights Thursday. The Celtics, not so much. More people want to leave Boston than want to jump to AEW.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: Matt is right about Daniel Bryan, and you would have to believe it's his history with injuries that has WWE hiding him in a tag team right now, and giving him a title just to make him a little relevant. If this isn't the case, then there is no reason for him to not go after Kofi to try and get his title back. Heavy Machinery is funny? I'll have to trust Straub on that one. This spot would have been much better to elevate a team like War Raiders, but they will either be treated like super human champions soon or will be forgotten they are even on the roster. Your guess is as good as mine on that one. Either way, here, it's Bryan and Rowan that retain.
Big E & Xavier Woods vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: OK, this match has some emotion behind it. I’m excited. This would be a great opener, with Big E (Welcome back Big E), shouting to start the show. Can we discuss why Owens and Sami are friends again? This always drives me crazy, especially these two, the best, most hate-filled rivals in the company. New Day wins a fun, if confusing, match. I don’t know where either team goes after this, but this could be a fun one.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: Kevin Owens deserves more than he's been getting, as he's one of the best wrestlers around, and shines in every match he's part of. He's great on the mic and in the ring, but there isn't much for him to do. Zayn has his bright spots too, but he'll never be a main player in WWE. The New Day has been playing second fiddle right now with Kofi holding the WWE title, but gets the rub of a PPV match at least. KO and Zayn need the win more, though, so I'll go with them.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Tony Nese vs. Akira Tozawa vs. Drew Gulak
(Triple Threat Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: This is the human personification of a shrug emoji. Drew Gulak isn’t even who I thought he was. Tony Nese, not an NBA ref, but still your champion. Is 205 Live still a thing? Who should I take in the second and third rounds of my fantasy football draft? I won the league Brad and I are in last year, by the way. I was the team which often made the playoffs and finally won the whole thing after years of trying. I’m the Eagles of our league. This match is full of sleepers. As in, things which will cause you to sleep. I guess Nese wins, but we all lose for this having happened.
Brad's Breakdown and Prediction: The future of 205 Live I assume is in doubt, as the move of SmackDown to Friday nights on FOX could bring an end to a show I'm sure some of you watch. I am not one of them, but at least it exists to get some of these guys in the ring and not be more forgotten wrestlers in the company. And there are a ton of those. Anyway, I don't know the first thing about this "feud" if there even is one, so in that case, I'll just go with the champion retaining. Plus, he's from Long Island, so we have that in common. As always, follow us on Twitter @gamedayishere