By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
As spontaneous and interesting as we try and make our monthly previews, there is a bit of a formula to them. I start things off taking an objective look at the big matches, Brad goes over why I’m wrong, and I progressively get him angrier and angrier as we go on. This month, I’m going to start the process before we even get to the matches by telling you I like what WWE is doing recently.
In the last couple of months the company has tried some different twists to their plots and given us some matches we haven’t seen before. And when you combine the star power the company still has, even in a down cycle, and the quality of the work in the ring, Seth Rollins is right. Even a down year or two from WWE produces the best wrestling in the world. Other companies have more consistently solid matches, though none of them are in the U.S., and another company is quickly mastering how to hype itself in 2019, but no one combines it all like WWE.
This month brings us another sign of the potential rebirth of the company. While it’s not the greatest card ever, there’s promise in terms of some new faces in bigger spots and angles which aren’t the same stuff we always see. The question is, is the show worth watching? I say so, in the way you watch a top prospect or rookie on your favorite baseball team. Don’t think of this show by itself, watch it with an eye on what it may lead to down the road. This preview will be good right now, so let’s get to it.
Universal Champion Seth Rollins & Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch
vs. Baron Corbin & Lacey Evans
(Winners Take All Mixed Tag Team Extreme Rules Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Here’s a perfect example of WWE giving us a little twist which makes an otherwise boring match worth checking out. If this were just a tag match, it would be a main event of Raw, and not a great one. With all the titles on the line, however, there are a number of possibilities. Having Evans beat Lynch on Raw would be meaningless, and Corbin winning on Monday would start us down the road to nowhere. With the stipulations in place, however, the faces losing becomes a viable option. I don’t expect anyone to turn, but could I see Seth accidentally hitting Becky, or at least distracting her, leading to an end to both their reigns and friction between the two heading into SummerSlam? I sure can. Even if the faces keep the belts, it only makes sense for WWE to build some tension between its power couple, as another show ending with them making googly-eyes at each other would be painful. Making this much of the real relationship between the two has poked holes in their characters, with Lynch actually holding the ropes for Rollins recently, taking away from her badass persona, and Rollins losing his “all I care about is chasing the title and showing I’m the best” vibe. Oh, and he also had to get saved by his girlfriend last month, which wasn’t the best look for the champion of your company. I could live without the on-screen romance and I wish the heel team was different, but at least WWE is going somewhere new. The winner-take-all thing worked great at WrestleMania, but it will be even more fun here because of what it could lead to. Remember the chaos after the belts all started changing hands thanks to the Mania match? We could be going somewhere new again, and I like it. As for the pick, I originally had the faces winning, but will pick Baron and Lacey based on a pick I’m making later on.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I hate to follow said script, but my God Straub has my head spinning. First, for a guy who used to prefer WCW to WWE back in the day, or so he claims, he has really become the biggest WWE fan boy on the internet. He’s pumping them up so much you would think he owns 50 percent of its stock. (And maybe he does.) It’s likely more about him hating on any wrestling company that isn’t WWE, and that includes NXT. Why? I don’t know. Wrestling is wrestling and what’s wrong with having options? Especially since Straub lived through the Attitude Era where even he would agree having two monster companies was great for the fans. But now he wants everyone to die. I’ve always loved WWE first and foremost. I liked it so much better than WCW it’s not even funny. But going back further to make my point, when I was a kid, I loved WWF, but I also watched (and this will date me) NWA, WCW, AWA, World Class and whatever other company I can’t remember off the top of my head. I watched it all. It was actually ECW which got me back into wrestling when I was in college and I watched that religiously as well, in addition to WWF, with a little WCW thrown in. Basic point, enjoy the options, cause when there is just one, and WWE has been just one for a long while, the fans suffer. I’ve suffered so much I may be in the downturn stages (and I’ve had several) of not watching anymore. As much as there is some promise, it’s still just bad television. Give them time, sure, but I’m not going to invest anything in something that bores me. Straub, I invite you to expand your horizons, stop trolling, and just be happy there’s more wrestling out there. And this goes double for NXT, which Straub doesn’t give any credit to either, even though watching a TakeOver event would blow his mind and make him cringe at the thought he actually wrote WWE puts on the best matches. Anyway, the negatives Straub points out about Becky Lynch and Seth Rollins being in this storyline are indeed cringeworthy and does ruin both of the characters’ momentum. It’s as bad as it gets, especially for Lynch, who has lost pretty much all of her momentum after pinning Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania. They are both stuck in this stupid feud with Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans that has lasted seemingly forever, and while I understand what Straub wants in a title change, there is no way on Earth these two feuds should continue. Kill it and move on, and for Becky and Rollins that means separately. They win and hopefully we get some new challengers and fresh blood and storylines at the top of each division.
The Undertaker & Roman Reigns vs. Shane McMahon & Drew McIntyre
(No Holds Barred Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: The WWE giveth, and the WWE taketh away. This simply can’t be the main event, even though WWE has treated the build like it will be. What we have here is the potential for something new, the breakout of a new star in McIntyre, being lost in the haze of an all-too familiar setup. Roman is being held down by an authority figure? No way! We do get something new in the return of the Undertaker, whose loss of athleticism can be hidden in a tag match. I would have loved to have seen him come into this feud sooner, making it feel less random when he did arrive. I guess he and Roman are friends now. My guess here is the guy who should be in the match, Kevin Owens, helps the faces win after his fantastic verbal assault of Shane last week. By the way, if WWE is so aware of wrestlers’ frustrations about still being behind the McMahons, even after we were promised a new era, that they’re willing to make an angle about it, why doesn’t WWE just fix it?
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Cause Shane is money, Straub … don’t you listen to his theme song? And, yes, I know you're thinking of the lyrics in your head right now. Seriously, though, McIntyre is a star in the making, but WWE has put the pause button on him so many times it’s losing its cache. Just ask Braun Strowman about that pause button. This one is easy to predict, as Roman Reigns is going to spear and pin Shane McMahon. The Undertaker will be great for the entrance, but unfortunately nowadays, little else. Kevin Owens is awesome. That’s all you need to know about him.
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston vs. Samoa Joe
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Kofi is legitimately battling injuries. His run as champion, while wonderful in the ring, has only served to show he lacks the gravitas to be the champion for too long. Wrestling is better when the beloved underdog is chasing the big, bad heel for the belt. Kofi is perfect in that role. Joe has deserved the belt for a long, long time, and finally gets a moment with it while Kofi heels up, then gets ready to run a better angle where he chases Joe to get his title back, which I think Kofi eventually will.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: If Kofi is injured enough to not go through with the daily grind of being champion, then it makes sense to finally give Samoa Joe a run with the big title. But Joe has been in this position several times before in WWE and has come up short each time. So, even with the injuries, I still believe Kofi is going to win again and carry the title into SummerSlam, where a new, exciting challenger will emerge and take the title. Who that will be I’m not sure, but let’s see what Eric Bischoff has in mind for that. And on a side note, did I read correctly that Straub says WWE is the best in the world, and follow that up by comparing it to minor league baseball, and telling us to bide time until they get called up to the Show? Wouldn’t that mean those wrestlers move on to AEW or New Japan? Interesting take, Straub.
SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
(2-on-1 Handicap Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: One of the things I like so much about this show is the near guarantee it will take us to new places. The women’s division is about to get a shakeup, it’s just a matter of figuring out how. Does the Alexa-Nikki alliance end Sunday, giving us a new big feud? Is Alexa now back to the point where she can have a title run? WWE would love to reward her patience and willingness to do more than just sit home and sulk while hurt by giving her the belt. If she’s up for it, this could be the moment, with Nikki frequently fighting for her to protect her from overuse. Bayley has been given a suddenly unlikable character, as “the hugger” is now being sold as someone no one in the company likes. I don’t see it, as she’s too over with kids to turn and become the lone wolf heel type who whines about how no one likes or respects her, so she’ll do everything herself. Sunday should give us our answer about Sasha Banks, as she’s rumored to be coming back to help her old partner and prove Bayley is really loved. If she doesn’t show up Sunday, the next time you’ll see her is in an AEW ring. The more I thought about this match, the more I sided with Alexa getting a title run. It made me change my earlier pick on the tag match, but I like the way it all fits. Alexa wins and moves to SmackDown, Evans runs with the Raw belt, and Bayley feuds with a returning Charlotte to settle their MITB issues.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I think the biggest caveat here is the prospect of having co-champions in Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross, which while I do believe could work in the world of wrestling comedy, with Bliss holding Cross back even as champion, will WWE really do that? I don’t think so, especially since Bayley has finally reemerged as a leading female superstar and there’s no reason to stop that momentum now. Maybe Sasha Banks returns to give this match a little pop, but either way, give me Bayley the win, while this feud, in some way, continues.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions Daniel Bryan & Rowan
vs. Big E & Xavier Woods vs. Heavy Machinery
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: If I’m right about all the title changes happening on what would become a monumental show, this match will be a footnote to history. If the top of the card keeps things much more stable, this would be a good chance to create a little excitement. Heavy Machinery is fun, and they’re big and athletic in the ring. I’d love to see them win here, but if there’s chaos later in the night, this one ends with the champions retaining. Besides, what else are they going to do with Daniel Bryan at this point? There’s no way to get him to Rollins, and I already put Kofi with Joe for a few months. Unless Bryan is going to be in the IC picture or having dreadful matches against Rowan, he needs to be on this team for now.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Heavy Machinery would be the interesting choice to win the tag team titles, but they also bring up memories of the Bushwhackers, who never got a sniff of the belts in WWE. Heavy Machinery likely won’t get the belts either. Big E and Xavier could use them to become relevant again, as having Kofi as champion has more or less taken away the soul of the New Day. Daniel Bryan, it’s true, has nothing else to do, so having him with the tag team titles continues to keep him in the spotlight without having to carry the load an individual run would right now. So, it all points to Daniel Bryan and Rowan retaining in what will be a fun match.
Aleister Black vs. Cesaro
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Ok, this is going to be early in the night, and we’d usually gloss over it, but I can’t wait any longer to bring this match up because it might be Brad’s favorite match of the year. I can’t decide who he’s going to be more excited about, Black’s entrance or Cesaro’s tough in-ring style. I hope this match gets more than a few minutes so Brad can really soak it in. I have one of my favorite players on my favorite team now in the NBA, and Brad has two of his favorite guys against each other in WWE. Black wins because I can’t see Cesaro spinning him.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: WWE could let these two go for 12 minutes and it would be gold. But WWE also won’t ever let this go 12 minutes, with six probably the max. Aleister Black wins because he both has to and easily should be in the championship picture before long. Black is great, and Straub would know that if he bothered to stop trolling NXT and actually treat himself and watch it. Damn, Straub, watch some NXT. And good for Cesaro getting this type of exposure as a singles wrestler, even if he has to lose here.
United States Champion Ricochet vs. AJ Styles
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: WWE heard its fans complain about not doing enough with the NXT call-ups and gave us Ricochet as a champion, and a credible one at that by virtue of wins over a great wrestler in Styles. The build hasn’t been nearly as good as it should have been if you’re trying to get a new star over, but WWE figures all it has to do is get Ricochet in the ring with a star and his work will speak for itself. In the long term they need to do more with his character, like giving him one, but for now they’ll let him win a spotfest over Styles. It’s not my cup of tea, but I am excited about some new blood.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Here’s another match WWE should give all the time in the world, because it has the potential to be great. AJ Styles is always great in the ring and Ricochet can do some amazing things as well, so put that together and we have a match of the night in front of us. With the heel turn in full effect for Styles, this one has to end with Ricochet winning with a roll-up or something like it and then the Good Brothers coming in to beat Ricochet down after the match, with the three standing tall. The feud continues and we’re all winners in the end.
Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley (Last Man Standing Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Fans have also craved a return to the TV-MA style of wrestling which peaked in the late 1990s, and this feud has suddenly given it to us. If the rumors are true that at least the last hour of Raw will be TV-MA going forward, you’ll see more stuff like these two blowing up the set a few weeks ago, which shockingly led the show. With people like Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, Triple H and Bruce Pritchard taking on more prominent roles in the writing process, we’ve already seen an uptick on big, theatrical and violent segments, and much more is likely to come. See Brad, I told you things were getting better! This feud is a great example. It started with stuff Vince would love, like tug of wars and arm wrestling battles, then came explosions, violence, and a finale to the angle which promises big spots in order to make sure someone can’t beat a 10-count. There are bigger matches on the card for sure, but this one is perhaps the best harbinger of a new era coming. Braun wins a match which features cars or other giant objects getting thrown around in spectacular fashion.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: I hope Straub is right and all the things he says come to fruition, but is anyone really excited for the 100th Strowman-Lashley fight? They will do some stuff with weapons and whatever else they can make a big splash with, and it will get over, but what’s really the end game for either of these guys? Strowman is a dead character and Lashley was never even born into one. Braun Strowman wins, though, which he always does when a title isn’t on the line.
Raw Tag Team Champions The Revival vs. The Usos
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Have you ever had an epiphany about a veteran player in your favorite sport where you suddenly realize the guy is going to the Hall of Fame? Mike Mussina, Kurt Warner, guys like that who never seemed immortal at one given point in time, but piled up impressive careers, can sneak up on you. It happened to me recently with the Usos. I’ve rarely thought of them as more than good hands for the company, the way you’d consider someone a “glue guy” in a team sport. Well, guess what? The Usos are lock Hall of Famers. They’re working their way into the discussion of best tag teams ever. The Revival, meanwhile, got to be in the top heel group with Shane and Drew for an episode of Raw. At this point I believe WWE is trying to make them look bad so they are worthless to AEW down the road. It’s safe to say they are not Hall of Famers. Usos win.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Usos Hall of Famers? Yes, yes indeed. The Revival on their way to Hall of Famers? Maybe, even though Straub obviously hates them. Isn’t that what he wants in wrestlers, though? No flips, just fists. Sounds right up Straub’s alley. WWE brought the Usos to Raw for one thing, I’d assume anyway, and that’s to lead the division, so they get the titles here.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Drew Gulak vs. Tony Nese
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Speaking of our formula, now’s the time to pretend we’re interested in the 205s. I’d rather see a 24/7 title segment, which I assume we’ll also get. Maybe they’ll get thrown together into one long excuse to go get a snack. Speaking of 205 Live, did anyone see whatever Enzo is calling himself now square up with Joey Janela? I had questions. Why were they at a Blink 182 show? Blink 182 is still a thing? Has anything done more to show how fake wrestling is than seeing Janela’s real life fighting stance? When it’s scripted he knows what to do, but in real life, not so much apparently. Are there just five cruiserweights who rotate spots in the kickoff match? What happened to the guy who seemed way too fat to be 205 at the Royal Rumble? Nese wins to set up another match while I try to memorize where every NBA free agent went. I’m working on getting Brad into the NBA again. He’s going to crack soon. A Celtics-Nets conference final would be fun. So was this preview, and hopefully so is Sunday’s show.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: The preview was fun, yes! Me getting fully back into the NBA, probably never going to happen, sorry Straub. Celtics-Nets Eastern Conference final? Ehhh, at least Straub would be happy for a few moments. I got tickets to Warped Tour many, many years ago thinking Blink 182 was the headliner. Turned out they were only appearing in Minnesota, or something like that, so I was bummed. But, alas, a fun time was had on Randall’s Island, even though I had to buy $9 waters just to clear the dirt from my mouth. Randall’s Island is one giant dirt space, so add in the heat and a few thousand people and, yeah, $9 waters. Henry Rollins was the headliner for that show believe it or not, with Alien Ant Farm and Flogging Molly performances I remember fondly, while Pennywise I remember for people nearly getting trampled to death. Good times. Anyway, Drew Gulack wins.