Reviews

WWE Mixed Match Challenge Review: Balor/Banks vs. Nakamura/Natalya – Week 1

The Mixed Match Challenge began on Tuesday night with the first match. It aired on Facebook Watch, which is only available in the United States at this point. I’m in Canada and I found out it’s going to be on WWE Network on Thursday, but I actually have the US version of WWE Network (thanks to the better archive), so I would have no way of seeing it. I had to find another method to do it and was able to find it at allwrestling.co, so thanks to them for uploading.

Finn Balor made his entrance to a big ovation. There was a clip of Balor backstage with Sasha Banks along with Shinsuke Nakamura backstage.

Renee Young and Byron Saxton were the hosts of the show setting up the tournament. They were standing by the ring as Balor finished his entrance routine.

Balor’s partner, Sasha Banks, also a got a nice reaction from the crowd. There was a backstage promo from Balor and Banks talking about how they are “Boss Club.”

The Mixed Match Challenge announce team is Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Beth Phoenix. Cole noted how he was so excited. Of course, he was.

Natalya made her entrance as they showed clips of her and Shinsuke Nakamura making their “meow” hand gesture with Phoenix putting over Natalya’s cat 2Pawz having an Instagram account.

Shinsuke Nakamura made his entrance with Natalya as the Smackdown team in this match. It was pretty funny as Natalya awkwardly danced while Nakamura made his entrance.

There were clips of some of the other Mixed Match Challenge teams we’ll see in this tournament: Carmella & Big E, Nia Jax & Apollo Crews, Natalya & Shinsuke Nakamura with Natalya holding her cat and then check out more clips on the MMC Facebook page.

Finn Balor & Sasha Banks vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Natalya

It’s women vs. women and men vs. men.

Natalya left the ring to avoid Banks, so Nakamura tagged in to face off against Balor. Slow pace with Balor grabbing a headlock. Nakamura did his spot where he put his head into the chest of Balor, so Balor shoved him and Nakamura nailed Balor with a knee to the gut. Balor blocked a kick, Nakamura missed a kick and they had a bit of a standoff. Natalya tagged Nakamura’s back, so that meant Banks had to enter the match. Hard slap by Natalya, but Banks came back with punches. Hard slap by Banks. They battled by the turnbuckle with Natalya hitting Banks with an atomic drop like move into a slam. Running dropkick by Natalya. Natalya drove Banks into the corner and was in control until Banks came back with a kick to the face. Banks sent Natalya face first into the turnbuckle. Double knees by Banks in the corner earned a two count. Natalya bailed to the floor to break free. Banks went for a dive to the floor, but Nakamura caught her and put her on the apron. Banks jumped off the apron onto Natalya. Banks mocked Nakamura, so Natalya was there with a spinning discus clothesline for a two count.

Natalya slapped on a headlock on Banks. Sami Zayn and Becky Lynch were in the MMC chat room talking to the fans. Banks tried to break free and tag out, but Natalya hit a slam for a two count. Banks nailed an enziguri kick and brought in Balor while Nakamura had to come in to face him. Balor nailed a running forearm smash, chop and a leaping kick. Reverse DDT by Balor got a two count. Nakamura took control with a spin kick, knee in the corner and a running knee lift on Balor when he was on the top rope. They battled over a suplex, so Nakamura hit a front suplex. Balor avoided the knee strike and hit the Slingblade. Balor with a dropkick that sent Balor into the turnbuckle. Balor up top, so Natalya ran into the ropes to knock him down. Nakamura with a running kick got a two count as Banks broke up the pin. Banks sent Natalya out of the ring. Nakamura charged, but Balor moved and Balor sent Nakamura into the ring post. Banks tagged in, so Banks jumped on Natalya, who was on the floor. Banks sent Natalya into the ring. Double team dropkicks by Banks and Balor at the same time. Banks took down Natalya into the Bank Statement submission and Natalya tapped out. Banks and Balor win after 13 minutes.

Winners by submission: Finn Balor & Sasha Banks

Analysis: ***1/4 That was pretty good and I think it was better than anything on Smackdown this week. My expectations for this match were pretty high considering the four people involved are all outstanding in-ring performers. The thing that hurts a match like this is you can’t do the hot tag sequence as well as in a regular tag match. They tried to set it up twice with Balor getting a hot tag early and then Banks got her turn leading to the finish, but it’s not as good as the regular tag match setting. I liked the spot with Banks jumping on Nakamura, then taunting him and jumping on Natalya after. I’m not surprised that Natalya was the one that tapped out because I can see WWE wanting to protect Balor and Nakamura by not having either one of them lose in this situation.

Analysis x2: I think Banks and Natalya would have some great matches if they were on the same show in a long-term feud. Their chemistry is good. The same goes for Balor and Nakamura, who wrestled a few times in NXT. There’s a lot of history there. This match will probably be one of the better matches in the tournament because they are four of the best wrestlers among the teams involved.

Post match, Balor & Banks celebrated the win. The charity they are wrestling for in the tournament is the Special Olympics.

Next week: Big E & Carmella vs. The Miz & Asuka. I’ll pick Miz and Asuka there.

Here are the rest of the matchups.

Analysis: I would have preferred to see Natalya win with Nakamura since I think that Raw teams are likely to win the first three matches if you look at how the brackets are set up. It’s probably going to be something where the Raw teams win the first three matches and then the Smackdown teams win the last three. I wonder if all the people that thought Banks was “buried” for losing on Raw will think she is “pushed” now. Relax, people. One clean loss on Raw is not a bury. She’ll be fine.

The show ended with Balor and Banks celebrating the win. That’s it. One match show.

Final Thoughts

It was easy to watch and follow along. One match in a 20-minute show means there will be some repetitiveness as the weeks go by, but I don’t mind it because it’s WWE trying out something new.

The announcers pushing the “make history” stuff about this being the first match on Facebook Watch was annoying. I know they are encouraged to do that because WWE loves that kind of dialogue, but it’s terrible to hear it all the time. We aren’t idiots, WWE. Say it once. We don’t need to listen to it ten times.

I’m not going to rate the show out of 10 or provide three stars of the show. It’s just one match, so the match rating of the match should suffice.

Until next time, thanks for reading.