Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The SmackDown Files: Ain't Too Proud To Beg - A John Cena Reprisal (2-27-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 2/27/2018
Location: Staples Center in Los Angeles, California
California Dreaming: Can John Cena dream the impossible dream and headline WrestleMania?
Pancakes Are For Suckers: Last Team Standing - The New Day vs. The Usos Part IV.

·        SmackDown Live kicked off with John Cena pleading his case to be added to the WWE Championship match at Fastlane. Shane McMahon came out to remind Cena that he could make history at WrestleMania if he becomes a 17-time World Champion. McMahon was about to make an announcement when Daniel Bryan made his way down to the ring. Bryan told Cena that he has to earn his way into the title match Fastlane and he can do just that by defeating AJ Styles later tonight as the opening segment came to an end.

·        This was a good way to start the show. Cena is in desperation mode as he tries to find a path to WrestleMania. His confidence was sky high until he realized he had to face his arch-rival in order to get a WWE Title shot at Fastlane. The solemn look on Cena’s face was spot on which heightens the drama heading into tonight’s main event. LA is in for a treat if Styles and Cena are given enough time to deliver one of the best television matches of the year.

·        Baron Corbin defeated Sami Zayn with End of Days thanks to an assist from Dolph Ziggler. Kevin Owens was being snarky on guest commentary when Ziggler blindsided him with a Superkick. The distraction gave Corbin enough time to hit his finisher for the win. The Lone Wolf didn’t get a chance to celebrate as Ziggler dropped him with the Zig Zag to emphasize that it was every man for himself at Fastlane. The match was fine while it lasted, but the heel vs. heel dynamic left the crowd cold as they started up a “Rusev Day” chant to entertain themselves.

·        Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan were having a spat backstage about Owens possibly interfering in Zayn’s match. Their constant bickering is so third grade at this point…

·        Ruby Riott defeated Naomi with the Riott Kick in a solid match. Riott won the match fair and square which keeps her strong heading into her SmackDown Women’s Championship match against Charlotte at Fastlane next Sunday. Two down. One to go!

·        The Usos and The New Day had another classic verbal confrontation as Jimmy and Jey cut a passionate promo about being sidelined at the last SEVEN WrestleManias. There was no chance in hell (no pun intended) that they were going to let The New Day steal their moment for the eighth year in the row. Fastlane would be their Superbowl where they would be the real MVPs and All-Stars heading into the biggest show of the year while The New Day sat on the sidelines.

·        Big E had a great rebuttal by stating that same old shtick that The New Day has been doing for the past five years resulted in them breaking barriers for everyone. While E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods were hosting last year’s Mania, The Usos were hanging out in catering. The New Day didn’t have a famous father to help them get their foot in the door. They forged their own path to success and vowed to become five-time Tag Team Champs at Fastlane.

·        Both teams were about to go at it when The Bludgeon Brothers made their way down to the ring. The Usos and New Day left the ring to avoid certain doom as the segment came to an end.

·        The New Day has been hit or miss for me lately when it comes to their pancake loving ways. However, they know how to flip the switch when it comes to getting serious. Big E can be so much better than he is based on his promo work tonight. Relying on comedy can only get you so far and I believe he has what it takes to be a main eventer if he’s presented as a legit badass. Tonight proved that E can deliver the goods when called upon to do so. More of that, please!

·        Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Aiden English with the Kinshasa in a decent match. Rusev tried to interfere, but the outcome was never in doubt. Rusev being at ringside created a weird atmosphere because Nakamura is supposed to be the most over guy in the match. However, the fans view Rusev as a cult hero which almost outshined the man who has a direct path to WrestleMania. It’s another case of WWE trying to serve multiple masters at once while muddling the heel-face waters at the same time.

·        John Cena defeated AJ Styles with the AA and will be added to the WWE Championship match at Fastlane in a couple of weeks. This was a very good match, but I wasn’t a fan of WWE not showing the viewers at home some of the great near falls that took place in real-time. They replayed the highlights after the commercial break, but it still should’ve been on the actual broadcast to make the bout feel more complete.

·        Minor criticism aside, Cena and Styles put on a show that was filled with high drama and near falls throughout.

·        Both men hit their respective finishers, but they weren’t able to keep the other down. Things got dicey at ringside when Cena crashed against the steel steps. The referee started the ten-count, but Styles stopped the ref mid-count and went after Cena. That was a bad idea as Cena put Styles through the announce table with an AA.

·        Miraculously, Styles managed to get back in the ring before the count of ten thanks to a fan helping The Phenomenal One to his feet. Cena went for another AA, but Styles countered with the Calf Crusher. Cena managed to roll through and hit another AA for the win.

·        Styles will now defend the WWE Title in a Six-Pack Challenge at Fastlane. Sensing that the odds were starting to swing in the opposite direction. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn made their way down to the ring to confront Cena and Styles. However, Baron Corbin fired the first shot when he attacked Cena from behind. Chaos ensued as the heels attacked the babyfaces and each other until Dolph Ziggler evened the odds by nailing Owens and Corbin with the Superkick.

·        Styles, Cena, and Ziggler stood tall in the ring but the truce was short-lived when Ziggler punched Styles in the face. Cena dropped Ziggler with the AA as the show abruptly went off the air.

·        This was a good way to end the show. Styles and Cena have had better matches on PPV, but this was still the best SD Live match of the year thus far. Both men know each other so well and their chemistry was on full display once again. The ending gives Cena one more chance to headline WrestleMania. I have a feeling that his hopes and dreams are going to be dashed once again, but a certain Dead Man will be waiting in the wings. Just a hunch…

·        The Six-Pack Challenge for the WWE Title should be very good. This match has been changed three times over the past few weeks which is a bit much for my taste. However, each man can get the job done in the ring which should elevate the quality of the bout. I fully expect Styles to retain the title and move on to his dream match against Shinsuke Nakamura at Mania. Anything less would be idiotic.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was solid. The show was more focused from a creative standpoint which was refreshing to see for a change. The in-ring action ranged from solid to very good with John Cena and AJ Styles easily winning best match of the night honors.

·        However, I am not a fan of the visual presentation of the show as of late. Besides the stupid word graphics, I hate how the camera cuts backstage multiple times during matches. WWE ditched the Second Screen Experience on their app a couple of years ago, but it appears that they are trying to inundate the audience with unnecessary shit that detracts from the overall quality of the show.

·        Watching wrestling shouldn’t be a chore. It should be an enjoyable experience with little to no fluff involved. Perhaps the company should conduct a survey to see if fans enjoy seeing giant words on the screen or various camera cuts that would make Steven Spielberg quit the film business. If the answer is no, here’s hoping that the madness stops because it’s draining me to no end.

·        To end things on a lighter note, next week’s go-home show from Green Bay, Wisconsin should be good as the creative team puts the finishing touches on the Fastlane PPV. Like Elimination Chamber, this is another speed bump on the Road to WrestleMania. It will be a predictable show, but the in-ring action should be strong. With five weeks to go until Mania, it’s time for the blue brand to get out of their winter funk and deliver the goods because Raw has been kicking their ass of late. Every Monday and Tuesday should be must-see heading into the heart of WM season. Let’s hope the creative team surprises fans with some razzle-dazzle to make up for a rough start to 2018. Fingers crossed!

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls! 

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Raw Exposé: Ghosting The Night Away - A Brock Lesnar Story (2-26-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 2/26/2018
Location: Honda Center in Anaheim, California
Personal Mea Culpa: There was no SmackDown Files last week due to me being under the weather. I am doing better as the Cold 2.0 has been DELETED!
What Did The Five Fingers Say To The Face: Slap! Stephanie McMahon just dug her own grave when she slapped the baddest woman on the planet. We’re going to pray for her…

·        Raw kicked off with Alexa Bliss patting herself on the back after winning the first-ever Women’s Elimination Chamber match last night. Bliss thanked Mickie James for having her back despite their differences in the past. Bliss proceeded to run down her Chamber opponents before proclaiming that she was going to WrestleMania. She vowed to end Asuka’s streak and was thrilled that Nia Jax left the Empress of Tomorrow in dire straits after she rammed her through the barricade last night.

·        Asuka came out to confront Bliss which led to Nia Jax coming out moments later. Asuka attacked Bliss and James first, but Jax eventually laid her out. Jax hoisted Asuka up, but she countered with an armbar. James and Bliss broke things up as the triple beat down ensued until Bayley and Sasha Banks made the save.

·        Their efforts were quickly squashed when Jax nailed Bayley and Sasha with a double clothesline. Asuka tried to attack Jax with a series of strikes, but Bliss laid her out with a right hand as the opening segment came to an end.

·        This was a good way to start the show. Alexa Bliss is great on the mic when she has something meaningful to say. Bliss was given great material to work with which complimented her narcissistic character to a tee. It was a little surprising to see James aligned with Bliss, but it plays into their frenemies storyline which has been unfolding over the last couple of weeks.

·        Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Asuka defeated Mickie James, Nia Jax, and Alexa Bliss when Asuka made James tap out to the armbar. The six-woman tag team match was good, but the last three minutes were especially strong in terms of storytelling. Banks tried to make the hot tag to Bayley, but Bayley jumped off the ring apron and stared daggers at her so-called best friend. Sasha looked hurt, but she shouldn’t be surprised after putting the screws to Bayley at the last two PPVs.

·        Asuka eventually got the hot tag and cleaned house as she delivered a series of vicious strikes to James. Jax tried to get involved but, Asuka laid her out with the hip attack which set up the tap out finish moments later. All in all, this was a nice way to forward several storylines at once while putting the heat back on Asuka after Jax’s attack last night.

·        Meanwhile, Bayley coming to Asuka’s rescue but not Sasha’s was emphasized nicely by the announcers as they sold the rift between the besties. After a year, it appears that Sasha vs. Bayley is a go at WrestleMania. It should be great based on their storied history in the ring.

·        John Cena’s path to WrestleMania gets murkier by the day after his perplexing promo. Cena admitted that he failed to punch his ticket to Mania by failing to win at the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber. He could wallow in his self-pity or pick himself up and find another route to the biggest show of the year.

·        Therefore, Cena decided to do something unconventional by challenging The Undertaker to a match at WM. The crowd popped huge for the announcement as Cena explained that both men have been a part of 39 Manias during their respective careers, but they’ve never wrestled against each other at the grandest stage of them all.

·        However, Cena stated that it’s impossible for the match to take place which pissed the crowd off to no end. Since he can’t face Taker, Cena is taking his talents to SmackDown Live to see if he can earn a spot on the Mania card as the segment came to an end.

·        I think WWE is playing a game of chicken when it comes to prolonging the inevitable announcement of John Cena vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania. Cena going to SD Live has been expected for some time because he’s scheduled to appear at the Fastlane PPV in a couple of weeks. I fully expect Taker to accept Cena’s challenge which should get the ball rolling on their Mania match.

·        Cena hemming and hawing about not having a path to the biggest show of the year is comical. The fans booed his pity party speech until he challenged The Dead Man. This appears to a match the people want to see despite Taker’s disappointing string of WM matches since his shocking loss to Brock Lesnar at WM XXX in 2014. Here’s hoping The Phenom is capable of having one more show-stealing match against Cena because he deserves to end his career on the highest of notes.

·        Bray Wyatt destroyed Heath Slater and Rhyno before challenging Matt Hardy to another match. Zzz…I am so done with Wyatt that I can’t find a reason to get mad anymore. He shall be forever known as the Killer of Feuds. No shade, just facts.

·        Seth Rollins defeated The Miz with a Frogsplash in a good match. Miz was more than halfway across the ring, but Rollins still managed to hit his target as Michael Cole sold the moment beautifully on commentary. The crowd was hot for everything Rollins did which pushed the match quality over the top.

·        Prior to the match, The Miz cut a fiery promo about Kurt Angle yanking his chain when it comes to his Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania. Angle informed Miz that he might find out who his Mania opponent is later tonight. Rollins’ win suggests that he’s earned a shot at the IC Title at WM. Before that idea could percolate further, Finn Bàlor came out to rain on Rollins’ parade. Hmm…

·        After the first match was thrown out due to interference from The Miztourage, the second time was the charm for Finn Bàlor when he defeated The Miz with the Coup De Grace in a solid match. It appears that Bàlor has also punched his ticket to WrestleMania, but Rollins criticized him for picking the bones he left behind. I smell a Triple Threat Match for the Intercontinental Title at Mania. Just a hunch. I think…

·        The face-to-face confrontation between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns never took place as Lesnar left the show 30 minutes before their segment was scheduled to take place. Supposedly… Reigns proceeded to read Lesnar for filth by stating that he always showed up to live events no matter how big or small the crowd was. It didn’t matter what city WWE was in, he always kept his word. Reigns put over the locker room for busting their asses night in and night out while Lesnar was a self-titled piece of crap who showed up on his own time.

·        Reigns didn’t respect Lesnar because he wasn’t bred the wrestling business. He capped things off by calling The Beast a bitch before heading backstage to get chewed out by the Powers That Be. Allegedly…

·        This was Reigns’ best promo of his career. He spoke with passion and conviction as he read Lesnar for 40 days and 40 nights. It’s hard to determine if The Beast went ghost, but shit just got real in a hurry.

·        Sheamus and Ceasaro defeated Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews in a 2-out-3 Falls match when Sheamus nailed O’Neil with the Brogue Kick to score the first fall within seconds. The second fall was a bit more competitive as Crews tried his best to keep his team alive, but it was to no avail as The Bar laid him out with the White Noise/Diving Neckbreaker combination for the win. The outcome was never in doubt, but the work rate was good for the most part.

·        Braun Strowman defeated Elias via disqualification when The Drifter sprayed a fire extinguisher in Strowman’s face. With Strowman temporarily blinded, Elias slammed him into the ring post before hitting him in the midsection with the extinguisher. Strowman fought back and nailed Elias with a right hand which sent him out of the ring.

·        Elias tried to run backstage, but Strowman caught him in mid-stride. Strowman attempted to powerslam The Drifter through the announce table, but he managed to escape.

·        Elias scampered backstage with Strowman not far behind. The chase was short-lived as a limo rolled up. Hmm…

·        Elias vs. Strowman was fine, but it was slotted in the 10:30 P.M. Lull Period of Death which did both men no favors.

·        The final segment of Raw featured Triple H and Stephanie McMahon trying to clear the air with Ronda Rousey after Kurt Angle dropped the dime on them last night. McMahon stated that Rousey was no longer in UFC and things worked differently in WWE when it came to respecting her superiors. Stephanie noted that Angle answers to her which means that Rousey ultimately answers to her as well. Steph claimed that Angle was suffering from Double Pneumonia which made him say crazy things last night. Therefore, she wanted to make amends and get everyone on the same page heading into WrestleMania season.

·        Rousey marched down to the ring to kill HHH and Steph on sight, but Angle managed to calm her down. Angle acted like a sad puppy as he told Rousey that he needed to keep his job. He claimed that everything he said last night was a lie. His “double pneumonia” made him delirious and apologized for his actions.

·        Rousey took Angle at his word, but she wanted Steph to apologize for the slap or she was going to rip her arm from her socket. Stephanie offered a mea culpa, but Triple H had the last unspoken word when he punched Angle in the face as Raw went off the air with Angle holding his jaw while Stephanie and Hunter headed backstage.

·        The show should’ve ended on a more explosive note, but Stephanie McMahon wasn’t dressed to fight based on her wardrobe choice. Ronda Rousey was much better on the mic tonight as she spoke with confidence while mean-mugging her ass off. She has a presence about her that stands out which will hush down any boo birds who try to throw her off mentally.

·        It appears that Angle and Rousey will team up to face Triple H and Stephanie in a Mixed Tag Team Match at WrestleMania. WWE has five weeks to milk this feud for all its worth. Here’s hoping they get the job done while getting over their newest acquisition at the same time. Fingers crossed!

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was decent at best. The first two hours were very good, but the third hour hit a lull before the main event segment. That tends to be the case most weeks even though the show has been better from a wire to wire standpoint as of late.

·        WWE is slowly piecing together the WrestleMania card. The Universal Championship match between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar is set in stone. Everything else is in limbo at the moment. The Fastlane PPV should provide more answers in a couple of weeks because I have a feeling that Asuka is going to challenge Charlotte for the SmackDown Women’s Title after The Queen defeats Ruby Riott.

·        Meanwhile, a desperate John Cena is trying to find a path to New Orleans. His Undertaker challenge was a swerve, but I still expect the match to happen. Cena being a Debbie Downer about the whole situation is unintentionally hilarious. The man has main evented WrestleMania FIVE times and been a part of WrestleMania 20-33 over the past FOURTEEN years. Hell, a rotator cuff injury didn’t prevent him from being part of WM 32 a couple of years ago. I’m sure the Wrestling Gods are on Cena’s side which should help everyone sleep easier at night. *Insert Sarcasm Here*

·        WWE has already announced a key match for next week’s show. Asuka will face Nia Jax in a rematch from the Elimination Chamber PPV. Asuka’s undefeated streak should remain intact, but I hope she is booked like a badass who doesn’t get beat up by Jax after she wins. If anything, Alexa Bliss and Mickie James should cost Jax the match which should set up the Raw Women’s Championship bout at WM minus Asuka.  

·        Most importantly, what is the status of Brock Lesnar? Did he walk out during a live broadcast or is this a straight up work to make Roman Reigns a beloved hero? WWE has gone down this rabbit hole too many times over the past four years. Is the fifth time the charm? We shall find out soon enough. In the meantime, the internet streets will be talking about Reigns’ blistering promo all week. To quote Eric Bischoff, “Controversy Creates Cash.”

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls! 

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Raw Exposé: The Seth Rollins Is The 65 Minute Man Edition (2-19-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 2-19-2018
Location: Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, Arizona (Night 1 of 2)
Iron Man of the Year: Seth Freakin’ Rollins
Back to Basics: The All-Night Wrestling Revue

·        In a shocker, Seth Rollins defeated Roman Reigns with a roll-up to survive phase one of the Gauntlet Match. This was a good match as Rollins and Reigns traded rest holds early on before picking up the tempo after the commercial break. The highlight of the match was Rollins hitting Reigns with the Buckle Bomb only for Reigns to counter with the Superman Punch. They’ve done this spot in the past, but it never gets old because it’s executed so well. Tonight was no exception as the crowd popped something fierce.

·        The finishing sequence was strong as Rollins countered Reigns’ Spear with a knee to the face. He went for the Blackout, but Reigns countered with a roll-up. This resulted in Rollins following through with a roll-up of his own for the win. Next up: John Cena.

·        In another incredible performance, Seth Rollins defeated John Cena with The Blackout in a great match. Rollins vs. Cena is one of the best television matches of the year in terms of storytelling and work rate. Rollins was running on empty as Cena tried to tell him to stay down. Rollins wouldn’t listen as he took the fight to Cena. Both men traded near falls as Rollins kicked out of the AA. He mustered enough strength to deliver a Suplex from the middle rope followed by the Falcon Arrow for a near fall. The highlight of the match was Rollins rolling through on Cena to hit his own version of the AA for a near fall. It was a shocking spot that the announcers sold to perfection.

·        Cena managed to counter with an AA and tried to roll through with another only for Rollins to counter with a knee to the face which set up the finish moments later. This was an awesome performance by both men, but Rollins was the true star as he showed up and showed out.

·        Elias defeated Seth Rollins with The Drift Away in an okay match. Rollins was favoring his left knee which ultimately played into his downfall. Rollins lasted 65 minutes and had two great matches against Reigns and Cena. He should be proud of his performance. Fans should be even prouder because this was the best first hour of Raw from a wrestling standpoint in years.

·        Finn Bàlor defeated Elias with the Coup De Grace in a solid match. This was a comedown bout after Rollins tore the down the house for an hour. Elias worked over Bàlor’s shoulder which kept him grounded for the most part. The ending was good as Bàlor hit his Slingblade/Running Dropkick/Coup De Grace trifecta for the win. Next up: The Miz.

·        The Miz defeated Finn Bàlor with the Skull Crushing Finale thanks to an assist from the Miztourage. Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel distracted Bàlor long enough for Miz to attack him from behind before the match started. Miz picked up where Elias left off by going after Bàlor’s left shoulder. Bàlor got back on offense, but the Miztourage kept getting involved until he laid them out with a flip dive. Bàlor tried to finish Miz off with the Coup De Grace, but Dallas and Axel got involved which set up the finish moments later. Next up: Braun Strowman.

·        Braun Strowman defeated The Miz with a running Powerslam to win the Gauntlet Match. The bout was fine, but the outcome was never in doubt. The Miztourage tried to help their boss out, but it was to no avail as Strowman dominated the action from start to finish.

·        After the match was over, Strowman laid out Miz and the Miztourage with a series of Running Powerslams as the Phoenix crowd egged him on.

·        Overall, this was a great way to kick off the first two hours of the show. The Gauntlet Match never dragged as Seth Rollins set the tone by having one of the best matches of the year when he defeated John Cena in a great match. Renee Young interviewing the men who didn’t survive the Gauntlet was a nice touch as they didn’t believe in moral victories heading into the Elimination Chamber. This was old school wrestling at its best and it was nice to see WWE keep it simple while magnifying the importance of Sunday’s PPV at the same time. All in all, this was a nice piece of business that made me care about who punches their ticket to WrestleMania even though the outcome is damn near academic.

·        Asuka struggled through her promo as she forgot some of her lines during her interview with Renee Young. The crowd was on the verge of turning on the segment, but the boo birds were kept at bay as Asuka tried her best to power through the segment. Nia Jax tried to attack Asuka from behind, but Asuka saw the sneak attack coming and got the jump on Jax first.

·        Jax overpowered Asuka when she laid her out with a Samoan Drop followed by the Leg Drop. This appears to telegraph the finish on Sunday in terms of Asuka keeping her winning streak intact, but stranger things can happen.

·        WWE put together a nice video package of Ronda Rousey training ahead of her contract signing at the Elimination Chamber PPV on Sunday. After a ho-hum announcement last week, the company put their production prowess to good use by hyping Rousey’s official debut to the hilt. It’s about damn time!

·        Titus O’Neil and Apollo (Don’t Call Him Crews) defeated Sheamus and Cesaro when Apollo pinned Cesaro with a roll-up. This was a nice way to set up a probable match for the Raw Tag Team Championship at Elimination Chamber because it’s currently a three-match card at the moment.

·        Make that four matches as Matt Hardy vs. Bray Wyatt has been added to the festivities as well.

·        Mickie James, Bayley, and Sasha Banks defeated Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, and Alexa Bliss when Banks made Bliss tap out to the Bank Statement in a solid main event match. Bayley and James played the babyfaces in peril early on until Banks got the hot tag down the stretch.

·        Sasha came in hot as she hit everything that moved including a sick double knees to Deville on the outside. Bliss suffered the same fate 2X, but it wasn’t enough to keep her down as she slammed Sasha’s head into the middle turnbuckle.

·        Things got chaotic towards the end when Mickie and Bayley laid out Absolution which set up the finish moments later. Sasha didn’t get a chance to celebrate as Deville and Rose attacked her from behind. Bayley tried to make the save, but it was to no avail as Absolution laid her out as well. The beat down was a bit sloppy which undercut the effectiveness of the closing angle.

·        Bliss admired their handiwork but quickly realized that she was next on the chopping block when James made the save. They nailed Deville with a Double DDT as Raw went off the air with the frenemies standing tall.

·        Despite Bliss teaming with Absolution, she maintained her alliance with James by refusing to tag in the match whenever her former mentor was in the ring. One can assume that their truce will come to an end on Sunday, but it should be interesting to see who will turn on the other first.

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of Raw was very good. The Gauntlet Match set the tone as the in-ring action was stellar due to the Herculean effort of Seth Rollins during the first 65 minutes of the show. Roman Reigns and John Cena deserve props for holding up their end of the bargain, but this was a clear indicator that Rollins can be a top babyface based on his wrestling ability alone. He has been mishandled over the past couple of years due to a shitty face turn by default, but things got better once he reunited with Dean Ambrose last summer.

·        Tonight proved that he has what it takes to still be The Man in WWE if the creative team doesn’t script him like a pompous jackass. Here’s hoping Rollins has a top tier match at WrestleMania because he hasn’t had the chance to deliver a true Mania moment despite his Money in the Bank cash-in a few years and his win over Triple H last year.

·        WWE did a great job hyping the Elimination Chamber PPV by showcasing every match on the card to maximum effect. The company shook things up by removing the obligatory promo that starts every episode of Raw. Most importantly, there was no General Manager to exert his authority while tripping over his lines at the same time (No shade to Kurt Angle, but I am simply stating the facts).

·        This was a show that had a purpose and included one of the best matches of 2018. That’s how the E should get it done heading into WM season. Despite the destination being inevitable, the creative team should make Raw and SmackDown Live must-see television every week instead of coasting their way through the biggest time of the year. Tonight was a prime example of what they can do on a consistent basis. Let’s hope the company maintains that momentum heading into the Chamber PPV on Sunday. Fingers crossed!

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The Raw Exposé. I hope you enjoyed it and I will be back tomorrow night with a brand new installment of The SmackDown Files. See you later, boys and girls! 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The SmackDown Files: Five The Hard Way - How Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler Punched Their Ticket To Fastlane (2-13-2018)

By: Keila Cash

Date: 2-13-2018
Location: Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, California
When Throwing Shade Goes Wrong: Jinder Mahal’s SmackDown Live Top Ten List Faux Pas.
Who’s The Boss?: Is it Bryan or Is It Shane? At this point, who really gives a damn?

·        SmackDown Live was supposed to kick off with Dolph Ziggler vs. Baron Corbin with the winner being added to the WWE Championship match featuring AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn at Fastlane. Owens and Zayn had other plans when they attacked Corbin backstage before focusing their attention on Ziggler.

·        Ziggler took the fight to Zayn, but the numbers game caught up to him when Zayn nailed The Showoff with the Helluva Kick at ringside.

·        Corbin attacked Owens on the main stage, but he also got his ass kicked as the opening segment came to an end.

·        This was a fine way to start the show. I wasn’t a fan of Ziggler and Corbin being added to the WWE Title match because they weren’t on the “prestigious” SD Live Top Ten List. Fortunately, WWE righted the ship by having KO and Zayn eliminate the competition beforehand. Both men deserve a fruit basket for a job well done.

·        Charlotte defeated Sarah Logan with Natural Selection in a solid match. Logan showed grit as she had Charlotte on the ropes for the most part. Logan still needs to clean up areas of her in-ring game, but she has a bright future based on her performance tonight. Two down. One to go. Ruby Riott, You’re Next! (Pun totally intended).

·        Shane McMahon laid down the law as he booked Baron Corbin vs. Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler vs. Sami Zayn. If Ziggler or Corbin win their respective matches, the WWE Championship will become a Fatal 4 or 5-Way at Fastlane. If Owens and Zayn get involved in the other’s match, they will be removed from the title bout. My fruit basket is on the brink of being rescinded. Damn it! L

·        Baron Corbin defeated Kevin Owens with End of Days and will be added to the WWE Title match at Fastlane. The match was solid, but the fans checked out emotionally due to the heel vs. heel dynamic. The crowd popped for the finish which ended things on a high note. The booking of the match was good as Corbin went for his running Clothesline only to get kicked in the face by Owens. Corbin hit pay dirt on the second attempt which prevented the bout from feeling formulaic.

·        Bobby Roode reinstated the United States Open Challenge and hoped that Randy Orton would be the first man to step up to the plate. Before the match got underway, Jinder Mahal came out to make fun of Orton for being number nine on the SD Live Top Ten List.

·        Mahal talked about Orton being a 13-time World Champion, but not being good enough amongst his peers to rank higher on the list. He tried to create tension between Orton and Roode, but his plan backfired when Roode checked Mahal for not making the list himself. Mahal shut his trap as Roode complimented Orton on his decorated career in WWE.

·        Roode claimed that Orton didn’t rank higher on the list was due to the fact that Orton RKO’s people out of nowhere. The Viper responded with an RKO to Sunil Singh. Mahal tried to attack Roode, but Orton broke things up.

·        However, the distraction gave Mahal enough time to hit Roode and Orton with the Khallas as the segment came to an end with the modern-day Maharaja standing tall in the ring.

·        The segment was fine, but Mahal trying to throw shade is laughable outside of his awesome jab on Twitter when he called out Rob Gronkowski for hindering him at WrestleMania last year.

·        The New Day (Big E & Kofi Kingston) defeated Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable when Kingston pinned Gable with the Midnight Hour in a decent match. Both teams fighting over pancakes is dumb, but it’s the newest New Day gimmick that has overstayed its welcome. New Day Pops? Gone! Booty-O’s? So passé! Booty Cakes? So meh…

·        The graphics are back…WHY?!?

·        And so it begins. The Usos vs. The Bludgeon Brothers have a future date for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. Let the awesomeness commence!

·        Dolph Ziggler defeated Sami Zayn with the Superkick as the WWE Championship match is now a Fatal 5-Way featuring Ziggler, Zayn, Owens, Corbin, and Styles. Zayn and Ziggler had a very good match that featured fast-paced and hard-hitting action throughout. This was Ziggler’s best match in at least a year as Zayn continues to bring out the best in his opponents. The heel vs. heel dynamic didn’t turn off the Bakersfield crowd as they popped for the dramatic near falls down the stretch. The highlight of the match was Zayn dropping Ziggler with a beautiful Exploder Suplex, but Zayn didn’t have enough energy to make the cover.

·        Ziggler nailed Zayn with the Zig Zag after Zayn failed to hit the Helluva Kick for another dramatic near fall. Zayn rammed Ziggler shoulder first into the ring post which put him in prime position for the Helluva Kick. However, Ziggler caught Zayn with the Superkick for the win.

·        Ziggler’s character might be a total buzzkill, but he’s a talented wrestler who needs to figure out who he is from a personality standpoint. Is he a Shawn/Bret Michaels Hybrid or is there something deeper underneath the faux Heartbreak Kid exterior that will elevate him to the next level? Careers can be revitalized on a whim. It’s up to Ziggler to find the missing ingredient that has held him back from being a top star in WWE. His talent has never been the question. The start and stop pushes have derailed things, but it’s ultimately up to him to sell his authentic self to the audience. He failed to do that on numerous occasions last year. Will the real Dolph Ziggler show up in 2018? We shall find out soon enough.

·        The Fatal 5-Way should be very good, but Styles is at a serious disadvantage because he’s the only babyface in the match. However, it appears that Owens and Zayn still have issues after they failed to take care of business in their respective matches tonight. Their rift should provide some much-needed drama at Fastlane despite the outcome being damn near academic. Unless an Act of God prevents the match from happening, Styles vs. Nakamura is a go for WrestleMania. Book it! I think…

·        Overall, I thought tonight’s episode of SmackDown Live was middling at best. The first hour was solid, but the second hour almost fell off a cliff until the main event. SD Live has been missing a spark for quite some time now. The blue brand used to be the go-to show in terms of quality in-ring action and compelling storylines. That hasn’t been the case with the exception of Kevin Owens’ stellar heel work last fall along with Sami Zayn embracing the dark side of the force.

·        The Daniel Bryan-Shane McMahon saga was downplayed this week as McMahon flexed his managerial muscle while Bryan ceded control to his boss. The constant cock teasing has to stop. Every time WWE tries to pull back, they go all-in the following week with both men bickering about the same old shit. Unless they are wrestling at WrestleMania, the company needs to hit the pause button on this feud if they can’t deliver the payoff.

·        The Fastlane card should come into focus over the next couple of weeks as The Usos will presumably defend the SmackDown Tag Team Championship against The Bludgeon Brothers while Bobby Roode faces Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton in a Triple Threat Match for the United States Title. Anything can happen between now and then, but this appears to be the current direction as the final PPV before Mania starts to take shape. Here’s hoping the next few weeks of television is good because SD Live has been a chore to watch as of late. Fingers crossed!

On that note, this wraps up another edition of The SmackDown Files. I hope you enjoyed it and I will back next week with a brand new installment of The Raw Exposé. See you later, boys and girls!