Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! Baron Corbin and Carmella won Money in the Bank, Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe had a pull-apart brawl and Roman Reigns has something big to tell us about SummerSlam. Summer’s here! Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, June 19th 2017.
Raw (Ford Center, Evansville IN)
Announced: A SummerSlam announcement from Roman Reigns.
What to expect: In my notes for writing last week’s Raw preview, the points I wanted to hit included the following:
- Dean Ambrose will seek out The Miz as soon as readily practicable.
- Possibly some idea who’s emerging from the pack to challenge Alexa Bliss next.
- R-Truth and Goldust hopefully doing something other than duelling video packages.
- Apollo Crews and Titus O’Neil hopefully not taking it in turns to wrestle Kalisto again.
- Surely some advancement of the two mysteries involving attacks on Enzo Amore and texts about Kurt Angle.
- Waiting to find out what’s next for, among others, Roman Reigns.
To be honest, I stand by pretty much all of that for this week. To note progress where it’s due, Elias Samson is getting a decent rub on his Raw initiation, Crews and O’Neil are trying to drag Akira Tozawa into the picture with Kalisto, Emma is back, the tag titles match was excellent and left me wanting more, Big Show is definitely tied up in the mystery with Enzo & Big Cass, and Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins are definitely locked into a program (which needs more sneak attacks than spooky promos, but don’t hold your breath).
Brock Lesnar isn’t due on Raw this week, so expect a recap of last week’s brawl and Joe to make some capital out of standing up the Universal Champion. Meanwhile, if you’re betting against Reigns’ SummerSlam announcement being related to said Universal Championship – and then getting interrupted by Braun Strowman – then the best of luck with that.
Spotlight: The tag division on Raw is in transition at the moment, but at its peak looks very healthy. Last week’s two-out-of-three-falls match for the Raw Tag Team Championships was a really entertaining affair and, despite concluding with a crowd-baiting double count-out finish and no clear winner, still ended hot and did a lot for the feud. The Hardys remain two of the most seasoned, dependable performers in the industry and no matter what hopes we may have tied up in their legal wrangle with Impact Wrestling don’t need to be ‘Broken’ in order to work on the 2017 WWE roster. Sheamus and Cesaro are now working slickly together as the tag champions (even though I’m not sold on the name ‘The Bar’). These two teams will surely be tangling again in the near future and keeping the championship picture interesting.
Elsewhere in the division, however, there’s a little bit of churn. Some teams are breaking up, while other teams are yet to form to take their places. Goldust and R-Truth have gone their separate ways, although with nothing but a few weeks of video packages being used to capitalize on Goldust’s betrayal – when the heat that moment drew has now largely dissipated – one wonders why there was such a rush to do it now. Meanwhile the signs are pointing to a split between Enzo Amore and Big Cass, which I’ve previously noted I’m not entirely on board with. Should Cass be revealed to have turned on Enzo, Big Show is likely in line to be his first opponent – but is it possible Amore could transition to a tag partnership with Show as a result? It would help keep some depth in the division.
Otherwise the next tier that would need to step into the championship picture contains Rhyno and Heath Slater – who themselves split up acrimoniously on SmackDown Live, only to be quietly put back together when it was realized there was no real plan for them – and The Club (which I’m still resolutely using as shorthand for Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson). I’d like to see a bit of a renaissance for Slater and Rhyno, who were entertaining as champions on SmackDown and great character actors, but have a feeling The Club are the more likely to be in contention going forward. Gallows and Anderson suffered more than most under The New Day’s record-breaking championship run, but regained a fair amount of credibility with their own title reign earlier this year.
The good news is that the other team in the division – The Revival – should be back in circulation imminently and are absolutely big players (‘Top Guys’, if you will). After spending time on the shelf to recover from a broken jaw, we heard last week that Dash Wilder has reportedly been cleared for in-ring action. That’s great news, and very timely for the duo to start establishing themselves on Monday nights. At the start of the year, in the 2017 TJRWrestling staff predictions, I put out the suggestion that Samoa Joe and The Revival would both win main roster titles before the end of the year. Whether or not Joe can win the Universal Championship at WWE Hot Balls next month, I’m still feeling very confident on the other half of that prediction. I’ll be even happier if the division gives us more tag matches like the one last Monday on our way there.
SmackDown Live (Wright State University Nutter Center, Dayton OH)
Announced: Daniel Bryan will address the controversial ending to the women’s Money in the Bank match.
What to expect: We should find out what’s next for the two Money in the Bank briefcase holders. Baron Corbin likely won’t be cashing in on Jinder Mahal any time soon, so expect the possibility of Shinsuke Nakamura seeking revenge for Corbin’s pre-match attack last night. Mahal, meanwhile, will need a new contender having seen off Randy Orton’s rematch (note that John Cena is back in two weeks). Carmella and James Ellsworth may get retribution for their cheap route to victory in the women’s match, either from Becky Lynch, the show’s authority figures or all of the above.
The other remaining members of both ladder matches will likely start to find new things to do, from Kevin Owens’ continuing reign as the new face of America to a new short-term challenger for Naomi (unless Carmella’s diving straight into that program). Into all this comes Mike and Maria Kanellis who make their Tuesday night debut this week, and we should see what’s on their agenda. In the tag division, The New Day will obviously continue to chase The Usos for the championships after last night’s count-out ending, while The Hype Bros are back together after Zack Ryder’s injury absence and may get a bit of TV time too.
Spotlight: It was a mixed night for the empowerment of WWE’s women at Money in the Bank. So much has been said on the subject of the ‘Women’s Revolution’ in the company – plenty by myself and other writers here, but the majority by the company itself if we’re honest – and many good things have come from it. I don’t wish to denigrate those things, because they do represent progress and they do matter. Pay-per-view main events, inaugural gimmick matches, more characters, more promo time; the platform for WWE’s female performers now is light years removed from where it was five years ago. But for all the broad-brush improvements, there’s occasionally some miserable detail; an Emmalina here, a multi-woman WrestleMania match (or two) there. And so it was at times last night.
Let’s address the biggest downside first: The women’s ladder match, for the Money in the Bank briefcase – both the first Money in the Bank match for women and the first ladder match in WWE for women – was won by a man. I don’t care how you dress it up, it was won by a man. I’m not going to rush to judgement on Carmella as the Money in the Bank briefcase holder (although you know it’ll get blinged up by Tuesday) or even the concept of James Ellsworth interfering to help her win, but couldn’t we at least have had an ending where the woman climbed the ladder and retrieved the prize herself rather than one where the man did it for her? For me this was a case of a good match and historic moment that I was invested in being utterly punctured. Apparently the ‘cheap win’ plot point will be addressed at SmackDown Live on Tuesday. Best solution: Carmella vs Becky Lynch in a ladder match for the briefcase, Ellsworth banned from ringside. Worst solution ever: Ellsworth is declared the official winner and we’re in a ‘Santina’ Marella situation again.
The return of Maria Kanellis to WWE with real-life husband Mike Bennett is a bit more of a mixed bag, with some definite upsides. Firstly, for any long-time WWE viewers who remember Kanellis from her first run with the company but lost track of her through Ring of Honor, TNA, podcast appearances and other media ventures, she’s enormously intelligent around the industry and sharp as a tack. Bennett is a well-capable wrestler, but it is likely to be Kanellis who will really make their gimmick fly and more than any other male-wrestler-female-manager combination, this should come across as a partnership of equals. If anything, it feels a bit like Miz and Maryse with gender roles slightly reversed. One downside of Kanellis being to the fore and her husband taking her name – especially on a show with JBL on commentary, as we saw last night – is the accidental/purposeful casting of Bennett as some sort of cuck, which I really hope we can rise above. And I’m not sure I prefer “I was looking for a man” to “I was wrestling and performing in several different promotions on my own terms” as the given reason for Maria’s time spent away from WWE. But let’s not rush to judgement
Finally, Lana! The Women’s Championship match last night was functional and not too adventurous, but it served its purpose. It’s good to see Lana get the opportunity to define herself in the ring, although it’s clear she’s not the finished article yet. As noted last week, she’s been working NXT shows in preparation and hopefully more time in the ring at house shows will help her to string things together more smoothly (and lay into those punches a little more). She might not be stretching SmackDown’s women’s division at the top, but she should work out as a good addition to the roster – and I doubt anybody predicted a few months back she’d make her in-ring debut on the blue brand before Rusev did. Personally, I’m just relieved WWE didn’t make her wrestle in the dress. Because I absolutely wouldn’t have put it past them.
Also This Week
For a division that’s ‘exclusive’ to Raw, virtually all of last week’s in-ring cruiserweight action took place on 205 Live (Tuesday). It looks as though Akira Tozawa may be a future contender for Neville’s Cruiserweight Championship; any 205 Live with more Tozawa content is a good thing. NXT (Wednesday) has a couple of solid matches announced, with Kassius Ohno vs Aleister Black and Ember Moon vs Peyton Royce. The first of those looks especially intriguing and worth seeing.
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!
- How would you like to see the story between Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe advanced next?
- What should be next for Randy Orton?
- What would you like to see Mike and Maria Kanellis doing on SmackDown Live?
Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.