I’m so happy that during the kickoff show the crowd is already chanting “Rusev Day.” But you know, I was on the crowd early about how they were for TakeOver but they ended up being great. A hot crowd is a hot crowd, I just hope they don’t try to hijack the show.
SMACKDOWN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: LUKE GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON VS. THE BLUDGEON BROTHERS (c)
Gallows and Anderson come out hot and the Bludgeons are in trouble for the first time since they formed this team. Not for long as they quickly recover and get down to the business of destruction. Karl Anderson is not a cruiserweight, but he is getting manhandled like one by the Bludgeons. He hits a beautiful spinebuster on Harper before his hot tag to the one guy in the tag team division who can measure up to the Bludgeons. Gallows gets the crowd fired up, they’re definitely behind the good brothers in this one. Harper has some terrific kicks for a big man, and you guys know I love my kicks. They tease a Magic Killer from the club, but Rowan makes the save and the Bludgeons hit their finisher for the win. That was a damn good opener. Great in-ring action, really good psychology, excellent finish.
Match Rating: Eight Gold Medals
TO THE MAIN SHOW!
DANIEL BRYAN VS. BIG CASS
Lots of heat on Cass as he makes his entrance. Early on Bryan is showing Cass he doesn’t need to be seven feet tall to be a good wrestler, but Cass begs to differ with a big shot that knocks Bryan off the apron and into the barricade. It looks Bryan’s ribs will be the target for Cass. It’s always smart and wrestling 101 for the heel to pick out one body part and focus on it, and the ribs are a great point of attack since Bryan’s offense is based on speed and endurance. You can’t win if you can’t breathe. Cass can take his rests and he won’t have to keep up with DB’s speed. He can slowly and methodically break down the smaller man. Cass makes the mistake of getting too aggressive and Bryan is smart enough to use his tremendous counterattack skills to go after Cass’ previously injured knee. with Bryan’s array of submission holds it was critical for Cass to not let Bryan get at his injured knee but unfortunately for Cass that’s exactly what happened. Bryan gets the Yes! Lock in, but I think better psychology would have been to lock in a knee bar or something similar. With Cass’ knee hurt Bryan won’t need to be as quick and use up all his gas.
The major heat on Cass continues throughout the match, and it means he’s doing his job as a heel. The best way to get someone heat is to put them in a match with Daniel Bryan, but I think it’s more than that, he’s a great performer and a great heel on his own. This feud is definitely helping him out. He smartly gets back to slow and methodical attacks and not being so aggressive as to let Bryan counter him. Of course as I type that he runs at Bryan and lets himself get caught up in the ropes. Bryan goes back to his smart attacks on Cass’ knee with a couple chop blocks. Just when Bryan seems to have all the momentum and gets the crowd fired up with a Yes! chant, Cass stops him in his tracks with a big boot, makes a huge mistake in letting himself get frustrated by a two count and distracted by the “Daniel Bryan” chants.
Bryan hits the running knee and then locks in the leg submission that I thought should have been locked in earlier, but it turns on DB locked it in at the perfect time since Cass quickly taps out. Just the fact that I was able to type up two full paragraphs following the excellent ring psychology in this one makes it a terrific match, even if you don’t consider how tremendously technically sound both guys were in the ring. The main roster picks up where NXT left off last night with top-notch matches, and the crowd goes nuts for Bryans’ win.
Match Rating: Nine Gold Medals
I love Kevin Owens buttering up the New Day with a garbage bag full of pancakes. He tries to convince them to take out Strowman, just like he tried to convince Samoa Joe to do the same thing on the kickoff show before Joe basically told him to fuck off before he got his ass kicked. Owens reveals he doesn’t like breakfast therefore does not have a soul. He says he can’t stand Chicago yet I’m sure they’re still gonna cheer and chant for him later because OMG KEVIN OWENS RING OF HONOR INDIES ALL IN AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Segment Rating: Six Stacks of Pancakes
SAMI ZAYN VS. BOBBY LASHLEY
I hated this feud until last week, and I think I’m gonna hate it tonight because the crowd is cheering Sami which I think may actually ruin the match. The best thing about this feud was how the crowd got behind Lashley the last two weeks when Sami questioned his military record, but because fuck Chicago it’s pretty much shot. Lashley has been horribly boring since returning but they really had something with the military angle. Maybe it’s not even so much the crowd’s fault as it is the bookers for not seeing this coming. You know they’re gonna cheer for Owens, Zayn, Samoa Joe, and Finn Balor no matter what.
There’s really no way Zayn should win this match. Even if he pulls some dirty heel shit, it wouldn’t really make any sense at all. Lashley does get some cheers for the stalling suplex. A second stalling suplex hopefully ends this feud. I was expecting a much worse match, something long and drawn out and illogical, but this is exactly how this feud needed to end: Lashley going over in a near squash. He even won over the crowd a bit. The feud was bad but I’ll be god damned if they didn’t nail the kiss off. Nothing special technically but smart and logical.
Match Rating: Six Gold Medals
INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: ELIAS VS. SETH ROLLINS (c)
Mixed reaction for Elias, which is the best you’ll get as a cool-type heel in Chicago. It’s like getting booed out of the building anywhere else. It certainly helps that he’s feuding with Seth Rollins, who has an almost Daniel Bryan-like following in the Chicago, Brooklyn, and Philly at this point. He says the truest thing ever said about a Chicago crowd, and they respond with “we are scumbags.” I recently learned the a scumbag is a used and full condom. The more you know.
I think the best heel move Elias could have pulled is exactly what he did and just say “you’re not worth it” rather than sing an insulting song. The crowd is still pretty hot, starting the match with a “burn it down” chant. This feud feels personal so I’m surprised with the excessive mat wrestling early in the match. I would think one or both of the competitors would be overly aggressive right from the opening bell. Very slow pace early on, not much flow, and Rollins barely touched Elias when he launched himself over the ropes to the floor. These two don’t seem to be gelling very well in the early going, both guys seem off their game.
Once Seth seems to hurt his neck, Elias turns it up to 11 and shows some ruthless aggression, quick and hard attacks. Big Cass needed to be careful against Daniel Bryan because being too aggressive opened him up for missed strikes and reversals. In this match, though Seth is the same type of wrestler as Bryan, I think Elias needs to keep up the aggression and take more risks, because if you don’t put Rollins away early, he’s going to outlast you. A good false finish moment with Rollins’ knee buckling and Elias pouncing with a knee strike for a near fall.
The toe-to-toe punches in the middle of the ring seem like they should favor Elias but Rollins get the upper hand. Rollins makes a highly-questionable decision to climb the ropes with his bad knee and go for a frog splash, and the slow climb allows Elias time to get his knees up. I like Elias going to the top, because like I said, he’ll need to step out of his comfort zone and be more aggressive to top Rollins and take his title. Great job by Elias to evade both the Curb Stomp and the suicide dive and then to be all over Rollins, throwing him into the post, then the stairs, then hitting the diving elbow drop. Rollins is just so resilient, Elias has done everything he could so far and wrestling the exact match he needs to. If he can’t win with this performance tonight, then he just can’t beat Rollins right now period. Elias’ performance was so good that Seth had to pull the tights illegally to get the pin and retain his title. I’ll be very interested to see if they take that storyline any further on Raw tomorrow night. The announce team did acknowledge it so it’s out there, and Elias has a real gripe. It makes me wonder just a little if a Rollins heel turn is coming. Probably not, but it’s in the back of my mind.
Once again, a perfectly logical match and Elias showed why RIGHT NOW he is a main event talent who just needs the right opportunity. He stole the show in this match, which is hard to do when you’re in there with Seth Rollins. This was a near-perfect match to me.
Match Rating: Ten Gold Medals
WOMEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH: BECKY LYNCH VS. EMBER MOON VS. LANA VS. NATALYA VS. NAOMI VS. ALEXA BLISS VS. CHARLOTTE FLAIR VS. SASHA BANKS
Chaos from the start! Ladders mashing into titties! These girls put the ladders to use immediately. Unfortunately it looks like it may be a way to do what I hate and keep all but two competitors on the outside for an extended period. HOLY SHIT Sasha got CRUNCHED onto a ladder by Ember Moon’s cross-body. At least the moves sending the women to the outside and keeping them there are logical ladder attacks that would keep anyone down. Nearly every move so far has involved a ladder. Becky has the crowd backing as she and Charlotte fight over the ladder, until Naomi ends the fight real quick, dropkicking the ladder into both of their faces.
These ladder attacks are really smart because to win a match like this you have to make sure your opponents STAY DOWN for an extended period of time. Naomi has taken a few big bumps onto ladders, she gonna be sore tonight. It doesn’t make sense to see any of these ladies roll to the outside on their own, how can they either win the match or stop someone from winning from the outside? If they are tossed out or knocked out of the ring it’s one thing, but don’t roll out on your own.
It starts to get a bit more chaotic in the ring as the ladies finally start to climb the ladder. Natalya power bombing Banks into the ladder and knocking Becky off of it was really fucking awesome. The crowd gets behind Lana and she ends up in the ring alone, but instead of climbing the ladder so puts Alexa in the Accolade, which gives Naomi time to stop her once she finally does start to climb. Naomi nearly gets the win in what seemed like a moment where Becky missed a cue to stop her sooner. I don’t like this one woman at a time getting up and getting back into the ring, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Rest in the corner, don’t rest outside. The crowd pops hard for Becky climbing the ladder and she nearly gets the win until Alexa knocks her off face first into another ladder and climbs the ladder to grab the briefcase, as I predicted she would.
I’m amazed and how much all of these women put their bodies on the line tonight. As I wrote earlier the logic was a bit lacking with the women voluntarily rolling to the outside throughout the match, and I would have liked a lot more instances of five or six or seven or eight women in the ring at once, but the action was terrific especially with all the ladder spots early. Still, gotta take some points away for the lack of ring psychology.
Match Rating: Six Gold Medals
ROMAN REIGNS VS. JINDER MAHAL
In Chicago. Hot damn. This reaction is gonna be bad. Even if this is a good match, because ROMAN SUCKS BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO nobody will appreciate it and will probably chant “CM Punk”. I’ll be the first one to say so if the match sucks, but I’m sure most of this crowd won’t give it a chance. I’m sure wheelchair-bound Sunil Singh is going to be used as a weapon or prop in this one as well, and I look forward to it. CM PUNK LOLZZZZZ WE’RE GREAT!
Thankfully all the douchy chants are cut off pretty quickly. Sunil Singh shows he’s FAKING IT and helps Jinder get the upper hand. This match is boring but I blame the crowd because what the hell are the performers supposed to feed off of? I wouln’t be motivated one bit to entertain a crowd that starts chanting CM Punk and Rusev Day the moment the match starts. At least at some point they started to react to the match. Then they start chanting Y2J.
Reigns hits an awesome leg drop on the apron that takes Jinder from the second rope to the floor. Sunil Singh goes for another push into the post but Roman defends it and hits a Superman punch on both guys to a chorus of boos. YES! BOO HIM! REACT TO THE MATCH! WHAT A CONCEPT! The douche portion of the crowd was just the loudest, it looks like quite a large portion was quite happy with the outcome. If you get past the crowd, which really mostly ruined the match, it was still pretty decent. You’re not gonna get a technical masterpiece with these two, but they know how to go. It was just unmotivated and for very good reason. Unfortunately, it was very hard to enjoy this match for a variety of reasons, the crowd, the uninspired attitudes of the wrestlers probably due to said crowd, and the lack of a direction or real purpose to the feud. The first stinker of the weekend.
Match Rating: Three Gold Medals
SMACKDOWN WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: ASUKA VS. CARMELLA (c)
Carmella is a great chicken-shit heel, and I’m surprised how confident she is, because you’d think she’s delusional thinking she can actually stand toe-to-toe with Asuka in the ring. She should be doing more of the hiding behind the ref and in the ropes and looking for shortcuts, because there’s no way she can believe it when she claims to be better than Asuka. It’s smart for her to cut those promos saying she is, but she’s smart, and I’m sure is also self-aware.
Asuka is not wrestling the smartest match, letting herself get pulled face first into the ring post. Asuka does not have to be overly aggressive or be too fast-paced in this match, since she is such a brutal striker and a submission master. She should be letting Carmella make mistakes and be ready to capitalize. It doesn’t make any sense to me to see Carmella winning a technical wrestling match.
Carmella is wrestling a much smarter match that Asuka is, she’s the one capitalizing on Asuka’s mistakes. Finally the crowd wakes up and starts chanting for Asuka as she makes a comeback. If it sounds like I’m saying Carmella is not a good wrestler, that’s not it at all. Her character right now is a good wrestler but she’s money because she takes shortcuts and doesn’t let herself get into fair fights. Asuka again is way too aggressive and Carmella gets her to fly through the ropes to the floor. The crowd is not into this match, because it’s not how it should be booked. It’s just not logical with the way both wrestlers have been built.
Asuka is shocked to see… ASUKA show up on the ring apron. It HAS to be Ellsworth. IT’S ELLSWORTH! The distraction allows Carmella to kick Asuka’s head off and retain. I predicted this one exactly, unfortunately.
This wrestling was great but the match was booked totally backwards. Carmella should not have been in control most of the match. The psychology was all wrong and really took away from the match for me. The finish was the only way Asuka should lose, but her mystique and the aura of her streak is all but demolished at this point.
Match Rating: Four Gold Medals
LAST MAN STANDING MATCH FOR THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP: SHINSUKE NAKAMURA VS. AJ STYLES (c)
I loved Corey’s “Google translate” dig at Saxton. Sounds like the crowd is about 70/30 for Styles. I would think the smartest area to attack in a last man standing match is the spine. As someone who recently had spine surgery I can attest to how hard it is to even stand up with extreme back pain. AJ uses a back breaker and a kick to the spine early on so that may be his plan. My problem with both guys here is that, come on, you know these early moves are not going to keep either man down for a 10 count, so instead of standing around waiting for the ref to count to three or four and giving the opponent time to recover, keep up the attack. Make it more likely that sooner rather than later, he won’t be able to answer the count. It’s also annoying to hear the ref count so often.
Nakamura is smart to attack the midsection of AJ, that’s another area that is vitally important in a match like this, because if you get your opponent gassed, he won’t have the energy to get up. Nakamura is taking his time, not expending a lot of energy, while attacking AJ in spots that will affect his wind and endurance later in the match. Shinsuke also seems to be in AJ’s head, so psychologically it may be smarter for him not to continue his attack and let the ref count. It could be demoralizing to AJ’s psyche to constantly have to beat the referee’s count.
Nakamura looks so relaxed and confident as he picks AJ apart. Styles fights back but already looks exhausted. He looks like he’s about to expend his remaining energy for a phenomenal forearm on the outside, but Shinsuke continues to be one step ahead of the phenomenal one. I don’t think AJ can afford to be overly aggressive at this point in the match because of the punishment he’s already taken. He can’t afford a big miss and a big counterattack from Shinsuke. Shinsuke gets caught with his hand in the testicle jar as AJ sniffs out the low blow. I think Shinsuke picked a bad time to go for the Kinshasa, it should have been earlier when he really had AJ on the ropes, because at this point AJ is getting his second wind and was easily able to counter it.
TABLE TIME! NOW is the right time for the Kinshasa, but wrong place, as AJ just hand to drop his legs over the side of the table to break the referee’s count. Shinsuke should get him in the ring and hit it again instead of getting a table. A chair would had been a better idea for some quick hard strikes, because setting up the table gives AJ time to recover. It almost cost him big time as AJ slipped out of the superplex, but ultimately Shinsuke got him through the table. AJ somehow still has something left, but Shinsuke has a lot more in the tank. Interesting to see Shinsuke’s knee go into the exposed turnbuckle as that will no doubt play a part in how the rest of the match goes. AJ is smart to immediately pounce on the injured knee. The Calf Crusher is the perfect hold for the moment but Nakamura still somehow makes it to his feet afterwards. This would be a perfect time for a Styles Clash, but AJ goes for a chair instead. Very smart to continue to attack the knee, because eventually Shinsuke’s leg won’t allow him to stand up.
Shinsuke digs shallowly into his bag of tricks and pulls out his favorite, the nut shot. He follows with another Kinshasa. I really thought it was over right there. Good job by Shinsuke selling the injured knee as he’s unable to lift AJ up on the announce table. Phillips’ reaction to the Styles Clash was priceless: “HOLY HELL!” That was the best/worst kick to the dick I’ve ever seen. And holy shit that phenomenal forearm, THROUGH THE TABLE! What a fucking war as AJ finally pulls out the victory, to my surprise.
Is there anything this match was missing? We finally, FINALLY get a decisive victory and in this feud, and god damn it was worth the wait. That one was almost exhausting to watch because it was so exhilarating.
Match Rating: Ten Gold Medals
RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: RONDA ROUSEY VS. NIA JAX (c)
Nia blitzes Rousey before she even knows what’s happening. Nia is overconfident with Rousey on her shoulders and Ronda turns it into a key lock. A power bomb thwarts that effort. Ronda sells a concussion from the power bomb and I’m sure they’ll run with that. This is a smart way to go, Nia has greatly improved in the ring and is carrying this match well. She’s the veteran compared to Ronda and is doing a good job at being the ring general in the match. It’s scary to see Nia keep banging Ronda’s head off the mat, I know they’re just selling it but concussions are a scary thing. The Samoan drop on Ronda looked nasty.
Ronda goes to the top rope for the first time and hits a nice cross body after looking wobbly standing on the top rope. Ronda and the crowd get pumped up as she hits a Judo throw for a two count. Rousey keeps the momentum going with a ROCK BOTTOM and finally locks in an arm bar. She looks poised to win until ALEXA BLISS ATTACKS and gets a DQ win for Rousey. ALEXA CASHES IN!
RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH: ALEXA BLISS VS. NIA JAX (c)
Alexa hits Twisted Bliss for the win!
Holy shit, I didn’t see this one coming. The Ronda-Nia match was very good, and Bliss timed her cash in perfectly. She’s so evil and conniving, a terrific heel, and now, once again, a terrific heel champion. Rolling both matches into one:
Match Rating: Nine Gold Medals
MEN’S MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH: SAMOA JOE VS. FINN BALOR VS. RUSEV VS. KEVIN OWENS VS. BOBBY ROODE VS. THE MIZ VS. BRAUN STROWMAN VS. KOFI KINGSTON
I really thought it’d be Woods from New Day. My predictions have sucked tonight anyway, so it’s whatever. The rolling out of the ring begins immediately. God dammit. Miz nearly outsmarts everyone by going for the briefcase as the rest of the field buries Strowman with ladders. I’m not sure why Kofi is so over with this crowd. There’s no reason why this early in the match there should only be one or two people in the ring. Nobody should have any chance to get the briefcase yet but there’s already been a few close calls. I hate the flow of this match. Climb a ladder, get thrown off, roll outside. Climb a ladder, get thrown off, roll outside.
Finally Braun rises from the dead and we start to get some great action on the outside. Well, Owens might be out of the match. Strowman is a bulldozer. I’m so glad he wasn’t taken out in that table spot because we need more destruction. You’ll never see so many moves send guys out of the ring than in multi-man matches. At least the action in this one seems to have gotten better as the match goes on with more than one or two guys in the ring at once.
It doesn’t make sense in this match but Rusev panders to the crowd and teases a triple Accolade. Rusev blatantly gestures to Miz to stop him from getting the briefcase as he climbs the ladder. Derp. Balor hits a Coup de Grace from a ridiculous height but STROWMAN IS UP! Strowman kills Kofi Kingston then GRABS THE BRIEFCASE! MR. MONSTER IN THE BANK!
This one took a bit to get good but once it did, it fucking rocked the house. I love that Strowman one. No champion can ever rest easy now.
Match Rating: Seven Gold Medals
A few missteps in the middle of the show but overall an above average show.
Overall Show Rating: Six Gold Medals
What did you guys think of the show?