Here are the things (and stuff) that mattered most from WWE’s two flagship programs, Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, this week as we creep our way toward Money in the Bank.
This week’s WWE main-roster big shows continued on the work of last week’s Superstar Shake-Up (Andrade, Zelina Vega, Jinder Mahal and Aleister Black are all back on SmackDown Live, Samoa Joe and Cesaro both headed to Monday Night Raw) and started to set the stage for next month’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view. And, as is always the case in five hours per week of live WWE programming on the USA Network, we had a bunch of filler. Let’s wade through that muck and break down what really mattered on this week’s editions of Raw and SmackDown.
Another Kevin Owens heel turn
It was inevitable, of course, that Kevin Owens would turn on The New Day after being named an honorary member of the trio a week ago in response to Big E’s extended absence due to knee surgery. One of the defining character traits of Owens’ is his inability to make and keep friends; he uses friendship as a stepping stone to take out said “friend,” often for reasons of personal gain. In this case, the prize upon his eyes’ gaze is Kofi Kingston’s WWE Championship.
Owens attacked Kingston during Kingston’s main-event (non-title) match with Shinsuke Nakamura on this Tuesday’s SmackDown, a decision that will likely lead to Kingston defending his belt against Owens at Money in the Bank. While this was clearly the endpoint for “Big O” and his relationship with The New Day, it’s a shame it had to happen so quickly. Granted, we all thought Owens’ turn would come last week, but when it didn’t, it also didn’t make anyone think somehow this friendship would stand for long.
Still, a friendly Owens doing his best Big E impersonation was pleasant and entertaining. And it did, in a way, fall into line with those video promos Owens was doing before his return earlier this year. Wasn’t he supposed to have become a fairly happy-go-lucky man who just loves his family and pro wrestling and pizza nights? Character continuity hasn’t been a strong suit of the WWE’s, though, so it shouldn’t be shocking that whatever that plan was for Owens has been scrapped. And, to Owens’ credit, he works just as well as a heel as he does a face, because he knows how to portray and develop characters. It just would have been nice to have a few more weeks with “Big O” before his heel turn. We certainly have enough time before Money in the Bank to have allowed that to happen. Alas.
Though Kingston-Owens hasn’t been made official yet for Money in the Bank, four matches for the May 19 event were established on Raw and SmackDown Live this week: Becky “Champ-Champ” Lynch will be defending both the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships at the event. Lacey Evans will be challenging for the former, and Charlotte Flair will get yet another shot at the latter, having beat Bayley for the opportunity on Tuesday night.
Additionally, WWE Universal Champion Seth Rollins will defend his title against AJ Styles, who won a triple threat match against Samoa Joe and Rey Mysterio (and then defeated Baron Corbin, who also won his triple threat match) on Raw. His former Shield-mate, Roman Reigns will face Elias, fallout for last week’s punch-Vince-McMahon-in-the-face-also-spear-Elias debut of the “Big Dog” on the blue brand. Reigns did not “get fired.”
Oh, and about that Joe-Mysterio-Styles match: It was easily the best bout on either Raw or SmackDown this week, with a workrate (and a finish) that serves as a strong reminder that none of these three men — who are, by the way, 40-, 44-, and 41 years old, respectively — are anywhere approaching in-ring cynicism, let alone washedness.
The IIconics will also likely be defending their WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship at Money in the Bank in what could be a triple threat match that pits them against Asuka and Kairi Sane and Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. As for the ladder matches themselves, the entrants for both the men’s and women’s Money in the Bank matches will be announced by Alexa Bliss on next week’s Raw.
So: Lynch will have two matches, each against tall, athletic blondes with moonsaults and senses of entitlement, even though she herself made a plea on SmackDown for new competition given that she has spent what seems like her whole career in programs with Flair. She — and we — almost got that payoff, but the WWE apparently did not want to pull the trigger on Bayley being the No. 1 contender. Perhaps Bayley being passed over and/or falling short will cause a dramatic shift for her character; it at least seems like things have been trending that way since she and Sasha Banks lost the tag titles.
There’s a lot to unpack about the state of the women’s belts, both Lynch’s pair and the tag belts. The IIconics have seemed to be suffering the fate of so many other champions before them, in that Billie Kay and Peyton Royce both individually and as pairs are losing matches, Ember Moon, Carmella, Ruby Riott and other would-be contenders for Lynch’s titles were, for the most part, nowhere to be seen this week. The good news, apparently, is that the MitB ladder matches are ahead, which could infuse new life into the No. 1 contender picture, at least for the two belts Lynch currently holds.
Robert the Roode
We’ve already been over the amazing new transformation of Bray Wyatt into a twisted Mister Rogers replete with his own children’s show, “Firefly Fun House,” but another WWE Superstar got a little reboot of his own this week. Bobby Roode is finally a heel after a fairly unmemorable run as a babyface on Monday Night Raw, even though it did feature a spin with the Raw Tag Team Championship. And to commemorate this shift in personality, Roode now goes by “Robert,” and also has grown himself quite the impressive mustache.
No longer just a catchphrase-in-a-robe with a memorable entrance theme, perhaps now Roode will be allowed more personality post-heel turn and show off what made him so compelling as a baddie in TNA to a new audience.
Get to the point, Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn objectively rules. He’s always ruled. El Generico ruled, Zayn’s time in NXT ruled, this main-roster run has ruled; he’s one of the most compelling Superstars on the WWE roster, able to carry matches and promos like the seasoned professional that he is. But, with all that being said: Hey, Zayn, can you get to the point?
He hates the fans for creating a toxic environment, plans to hold us all accountable for it and keeps telling us to “go to Hell,” but what does it all really mean? How, exactly, is he going to punish us for existing, as a lone man standing in a wrestling ring with a microphone? His vacation’s greatest hits aren’t about to turn anyone off — how could they, Zayn truly does look so happy and world travel is something everyone should want to do. And until there’s some kind of payoff for his little in-ring rants, it all makes little sense.
Zayn’s screeds are along the same vein as what Daniel Bryan had been putting forth with his “eco-crusader/squasher of hypocrisy” bit, so perhaps they team up if/when Bryan returns? Clearly, Zayn is going to have to position himself in a feud with someone he believes is the embodiment of the fans he so hates. Perhaps John Cena? No one would prefer to be the righteous defender of the denizens of the WWE Universe than Big Match John himself, right?
Honestly, it sounds like Zayn is describing Baron Corbin.
Shane McMahon things
Just two notes about Shane McMahon and the promo he cut on Reigns to open SmackDown this week:
- “What type of man hits another man’s father like that?” McMahon pulling out this line just weeks removed from him attacking The Miz’s father was admittedly brilliant, and it’s just too bad that somehow the WWE couldn’t cut away to The Miz backstage at a Raw-brand house show or something to get his immediate reaction. Hopefully this wasn’t just a mindless little callback but rather a reminder that Miz has unfinished business with McMahon and that we will all get our eventual satisfaction.
That wraps up this week’s look at the biggest and best from WWE Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live. Hit the comments and let us know what else is just like defacing our most sacred national monument, Rount Mushmore.