Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, June 12th 2017.
Raw (Cajundome, Lafayette LA)
Announced: Sheamus & Cesaro (c) vs Matt & Jeff Hardy in a contractual rematch for the Raw Tag Team Championships; Brock Lesnar appears for the first time since WrestleMania weekend.
What to expect: Expect Brock Lesnar to be on the warpath after Samoa Joe choked out his manager Paul Heyman last week; those viewers hungry for a Lesnar pull-apart brawl might finally get fed tonight. The announced tag titles match, happening at short notice on a TV episode, has the whiff of an angle about it – there’s a chance the Hardys may win the belts back, but more likely this will be a transition to whatever’s next for both pairs of men. In contrast, Dean Ambrose was demanding his contractual rematch for the Intercontinental Championship happen quickly last week, but it looks more likely that’ll be strung out until the Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view; expect more crazy Ambrose shenanigans this week. Also expect more hints to Raw’s two ongoing mysteries of who keeps attacking Enzo (and Cass) and what’s going on with Kurt Angle. If one of those (possibly the former) needs to pay off at – *sigh* – Great Balls of Fire, we should get some pretty big advancements some week soon.
Tonight should hopefully establish the next cycle in the women’s division; Alexa Bliss managed to dodge Nia Jax out of her title opportunity, thanks to the unwitting involvement of Mickie James and Dana Brooke. With Jax unhappy at all three women, we’ll probably see a title feud and a secondary program of some sort emerge from it. Elsewhere it would be nice to see some progress from combinations of Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil wrestling Kalisto, and Goldust and R-Truth do something outside of duelling video packages. Perhaps all those guys could swap their spots around for a week? And while Seth Rollins will probably want some measure of revenge on Bray Wyatt for distracting him in last week’s main event, Wyatt did note he was out for revenge on everyone in his Extreme Rules match – and we wait to find out what’s next for Finn Balor and Roman Reigns, both of whom are between things at the moment.
Spotlight: So far, we know two things about Raw’s next brand-exclusive pay-per-view: the Universal Championship match and the name. One of those things is significantly better than the other. Even the great Paul Heyman, arguably the best promo working in the business today, couldn’t hype the upcoming title match without me cringing at his mention of the name of the show. It’s terrible. Truly terrible. If even Heyman can’t sell me something, heaven knows how others on the roster will fare as the rest of the card begins to be set up tonight. And although I stand by what I said last week about still being on board with Enzo Amore’s work, you just know he’s going to turn it into a joke about his own personal undercarriage and just, no, please, it’s too crass and lazy. There’s low-hanging fruit and then there’s low-hanging fruit on the subject of low-hanging fruit. Let’s focus on the positives instead – on July 8th, at WWE Hot Balls, Samoa Joe will wrestle Brock Lesnar.
I say ‘wrestle’. Perhaps it should be ‘fight’. Lesnar is due to show up to Raw tonight to respond to Joe putting his hands on Heyman last week (and his arms around his throat), which the working theory goes can only end in violence. Although one can’t have Heyman getting beaten up every time in order to put Lesnar on the offensive, this is exactly what the Universal Champion should be doing every time he appears. As viewers, we’ve come to terms with the fact that our glimpses of Lesnar are going to be rare – even when he’s a show’s premier champion – but his time tied to the fate of Bill Goldberg, when by necessity he’d bounce around on his toes while his advocate cut a promo because there was little else for him to do from week to week, has slightly hurt his image of potency. When Lesnar shows up, you should expect shit to go down.
Joe might be the perfect opponent for 2017-spec Brock Lesnar. He can monologue with the best of wrestling villains to fill time on weeks when his opponent is absent, he is sold on a platform of intensity and thuggishness that makes him a believable problem (or ‘worst case scenario’) for his decorated opponent, he is well capable of wrestling for two when a series of german suplexes would otherwise threaten to make a match two-dimensional. Lesnar vs Joe is the sort of heavyweight clash that Lesnar vs Goldberg could never have been; there was no logic by which those matches could run more than five minutes without compromising quality, while Joe could stand toe-to-toe with Lesnar for 20 minutes and absolutely look the part. More than that, he can make it into a spectacle.
It seems odd to be saying this about a veteran performer, renowned across the world and who performed outstandingly in NXT, but this could be a big moment of reckoning for Samoa Joe in WWE. Being put into a spot opposite Lesnar is a serious vote of confidence, but his performance in that spot could absolutely make him in the eyes of the company’s top executives. We are led to understand that AJ Styles, despite his outstanding reputation and track record, really cemented his place as a future WWE Champion thanks to his series of matches with Roman Reigns last year; that was the proof some within the company needed that they were dealing with a special talent.
Joe has come out of the starting blocks quickly here, doing an epic job with Paul Heyman last week and totally taking the audience with him in establishing himself as a nasty, aggressive, dangerous, bad man. A few more weeks of the same, plus a physical and thrilling heavyweight bout at the end of it, might secure his spot as a top-tier heel on Raw for the foreseeable future. Might he displace Lesnar for the Universal Championship? That doesn’t seem to fit the assumed long-term plan, but a few more weeks of Joe on maximum attack and you never know what those in the corridors of power might decide.
SmackDown Live (Smoothie King Center, New Orleans LA)
Announced: Nothing formally announced at time of writing.
What to expect: Pretty straightforward this week. Money in the Bank is on Sunday, and there are some big matches to sell in very straightforward ways. The six men in one of the ladder matches have spent the last few weeks going up against each other in various combinations, but apart from Sami Zayn getting thrown into a set of ladders by Baron Corbin last week (which he may well try to avenge) there’s been no hardware involved. Same goes for SmackDown’s women – who have never gotten involved with ladders before. Basically what I’m saying is, if you’re interested in people meeting ladders, this week’s episode will probably be for you. And jumping ahead a little bit, if we’re assuming Jinder Mahal will be continuing as WWE Champion beyond Sunday, surely Randy Orton leaves him staring at the lights after an RKO this Tuesday?
Naomi will probably go after Lana ahead of their Women’s Championship match this coming weekend – which was only made last week and sorely needs to develop some sort of personal edge – while there’s a good chance The New Day and The Usos will get physical after a lot of talk; possibly one of those singles matches between a member of each team, or some sort of sneak attack. We should also expect a bit of time dedicated to setting up a couple of undercard matches for Money in the Bank, as the card needs at least two more bouts while currently there isn’t a huge amount else going on in the SmackDown roster apart from Breezango segments and feuds involving Tye Dillinger, Aiden English, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan that we’ve already seen plenty of.
Spotlight: It’s been a pretty eventful last week or so here in the UK, as many of our brothers and sisters living outside of this damp little island may well be aware. In theory a huge national conversation about politics was meant to come to a head with last Thursday’s General Election, but as it turned out the debate is likely to rage on. As such, it’s something of a relief for me to be writing about pro wrestling again – although I’ll need to triple-check before sending this to publish in case I’ve spelled ‘Corbin’ with a ‘y’ anywhere. And call it subconscious conditioning or cheeky catharsis, but when I was thinking what to write about this week for SmackDown Live I couldn’t really escape the thought of Baron Corbin winning Money in the Bank this coming weekend. So putting aside The Absolute Boy, it’s time to talk about The Lone Wolf.
Last week’s episode of SmackDown ended with Baron Corbin laying out Shinsuke Nakamura. Almost everything about how Corbin has been presented over the past few months is consistent with the recurring rumor of him being seen as a future main eventer by WWE. He’s been floating around the championship scene, handily beating most midcarders and coming up short more often due to hubris than to a deficiency of talent. His End Of Days finisher is one of the most protected on the show. He’s shown himself to be a great athlete who can draw heat when he talks and pull a few better-than-expected matches out of undercard filler. Sure, there’s been the odd mis-step (his WrestleMania match with Dean Ambrose looked like it was being wrestled by two men who’d been dumped onto the pre-show of the biggest event of the year at short notice, which it had), but on the whole he’s been made to look the part.
One of the big plus points of the men’s Money in the Bank match this Sunday is that, with such a great parade of talent involved who would all be believable WWE Championship contenders, predicting a winner is especially hard. That’s helped by the fact that the winner isn’t necessarily committed to a championship program straight away; Corbin could win and resume a feud with Sami Zayn to its conclusion, Kevin Owens can carry a briefcase around with his United States Championship without any great conflict, Nakamura could win and cash in for a WrestleMania match with WWE Champion AJ Styles when we get to next April. The timing is fairly open, so predicting is hard – but Baron Corbin is many people’s favorite for a reason. We all know he’s going to get pushed to the top at some point soon. Being Mr Money in the Bank is a very likely route to achieving it.
There’s more to say about this weekend’s pay-per-view below, so I’ll leave it at that for now. Winning Money in the Bank would without doubt be the biggest result of Baron Corbin’s career, though the irony is that it would only be a signal for an even bigger result all but guaranteed to eclipse it in the near future. If Corbin can hold off his more esteemed, polished rivals for one night this week, he’ll likely find himself on top of the mountain in the next 12 months. Funny old world, isn’t it?
Also This Week
On NXT (Wednesday) this week, there’s an elimination match between Asuka, Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross for the NXT Women’s Championship and another in-ring outing for Drew McIntyre. NXT has a couple of months to really stoke the fires before the third TakeOver event in Brooklyn, and recent events like Hideo Itami’s heel turn and Ember Moon’s long route around to another shot at Asuka are doing a good job getting the pieces in place.
Last week’s Cruiserweight Championship match on 205 Live (Tuesday) was a pretty great contest. WWE could still be onto something with the show if they book more of those important matches and give the performers a bit more leeway to shine; TJP has been a little underwhelming since becoming the division’s first champion, but showed his value opposite Neville last week.
Money in the Bank (Scottrade Center, Saint Louis MO; SmackDown Live pay-per-view)
Announced: As always, the card is subject to change and additions during the week are likely. Official matches at time of writing:
- WWE Championship: Jinder Mahal (c) vs Randy Orton
- Kevin Owens vs AJ Styles vs Baron Corbin vs Sami Zayn vs Dolph Ziggler vs Shinsuke Nakamura (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)
- Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair vs Natalya vs Tamina vs Carmella (Money in the Bank Ladder Match)
- SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The Usos (c) vs The New Day
- SmackDown Women’s Championship: Naomi (c) vs Lana
What to expect: The Money in the Bank pay-per-view has arguably established itself as the fifth of WWE’s ‘big four’ annual shows and generally always delivers. This year’s card, the first since the company split its roster across two brands, looks a little bit ragged in places but the centrepiece – a six-man ladder match to secure the eponymous briefcase – is sure to stand comparison with anything on offer from previous years. I’ve already touched on the chances of Baron Corbin and others, but the bottom line is this: It’ll comfortably be the longest match on the show and the quality of talent involved will make it a must-see.
I’m delighted there’s a women’s Money in the Bank match – it’s about time, and there should now be one every year going forward – but have to admit my expectations could be higher. The number and intensity of big spots will likely be pretty conservative in comparison to the men’s match, while I’m still not entirely sold on all the competitors; I still have memories even of Charlotte, one of the most dependable performers among them, slightly bottling a table bump in that Hell in a Cell match last year, while arguably the most dynamic woman on the show – Naomi – won’t be in the match at all. I dunno, perhaps Carmella will start wrecking shop with a ladder and prove me wrong, but my pace isn’t quickening yet.
Elsewhere on the card, I’m also not hugely optimistic about the second time around for Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton; they had a pretty good match at Backlash, but no longer have the element of surprise from that result and may need to find another gear. Seeing what Lana brings to the table in her first televised match since WrestleMania 32 – she’s been working NXT house shows in the last couple of months – will be intriguing, but should surely be a routine defense for Naomi. Finally on what we have of the announced card, The New Day challenging The Usos could be a real high point with both teams at the peak of their powers. Expect a New Day win or a schmoz finish, as this is likely the first of several matches between these guys over the summer.
Even with the Money in the Bank match(es) running long, there should be space on the undercard for guys like Luke Harper and Tye Dillinger and – hopefully – a bit of time for some of the other tag teams too. Expect a couple of low-stakes matches to be announced during the week.
As usual, check back here on Friday for the full TJRWrestling preview with John and the gang.
Three Burning Questions
Some of this week’s most pressing but least publicized talking points. Throw down your answers in the comments section as usual!
- What should Roman Reigns be doing next?
- Which of The Usos or The New Day do you think would make the most interesting tag team champions coming out of Money in the Bank?
- Would you mind if I keep calling Great Balls of Fire ‘WWE Hot Balls’ from next week to protect my sanity?
Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.