By Gwen Lombard
WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW
Monday Night Raw opened with a promo segment from Jey Uso, having been drafted to Raw during Payback. He quit the company three weeks ago after his twin brother, Jimmy Uso, turned on him and cost him the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. He did not get to say much before Sami Zayn came out and interrupted him, saying that even though a lot of the guys in the locker room weren’t happy he was there, Sami was glad to see him. This was one of a handful of wholesome, comforting moments in a storyline that’s been almost three years long at this point, as Sami and Jey have fought for each other’s trust back and forth for almost that whole length of time. They ended the segment by hugging each other, and it’s heartwarming to see two people who’ve been bitter rivals, reluctant allies, always weary of each other, finally be friends and embrace. It was revealed later in the show that Jey being brought to Raw had a price, and that the price was someone from Raw being sent to Smackdown, and was warned that who was going to be sent would upset the Raw locker room.
There was a small segment that happened later in the night where Seth Rollins called out Shinsuke Nakamura for a title rematch, despite being told he shouldn’t due to the condition of his back. Shinsuke even denied the request for a rematch, and instead had a match with Ricochet that Seth was ringside for. It didn’t take long before Shisuke got himself disqualified in his match, and brawled with Seth anyway. Neither man wants this story to be done quite yet, and there is certainly a rematch in the future.
Near the end of the night, Dominik Mysterio approached Jey Uso to offer him a place in the Judgement Day faction, because he too knows what it’s like to come from a messed up family with a Hall of Fame father. This sounded like Dominik trying to induct Jey into a cult of sorts, and though Jey didn’t give Dominik an answer, he’s just recently gotten out of the Bloodline faction, the epitome of a toxic family environment. This seems to be setting Jey up for his first rivalry on Raw against Judgement Day, and I’m excited to see it happen.
The main event of the night was the match between Intercontinental Champion Gunther and Chad Gable. The stakes couldn’t have been higher, because if Gunther retained in this match, he would break The Honky Tonk Man’s record-setting Intercontinental reign of 454 days back in 1988-89. Chad Gable has proven himself as a viable threat to Gunther’s reign of terror over the title, handing Gunther his only main roster loss just a few weeks ago. Throughout this hard-hitting and brutal match, Gable showed his best and gave Gunther a solid run for his money. Unfortunately, in the end, even with Gable’s heart and determination, Gunther proved too much and retained his title. He’s officially broken a record that’s stayed near untouched for over thirty years, and congratulations are certainly in order for such a historic accomplishment. This was most certainly my match of the night.
After an amazing main event match at All Out last Sunday, Orange Cassidy opened this week’s Dynamite show with a promo segment, saying that even though the medical team told him to stay home, he’ll be here week after week, championship or not. This was a short segment, fitting Cassiy’s MO, but it served to endear the fans to him even more if that’s possible at this point. He’s been a mainstay on Dynamite for months, having matches every week with a new opponent for the Intercontinental Title, and he assured the fans that he’d remain that way, and we’d still see him every week. This promo served as another piece of proof that even in defeat, Orange Cassidy is still standing tall.
Jon Moxley came out next to continue the tradition of the International Championship being defended every week, and the camera captured Cassidy standing on the ramp, his usual deadpan expression not revealing his thoughts as he stood with Moxley’s theme song playing around him. This seemed a not-so-subtle hint that these two aren’t quite done with each other yet. Moxley had a quick and dirty match defending against AR Fox, with his Blackpool Combat Club faction members there to back him up. This match was a simple and quick television match but was a fun introduction to Moxley’s reign as champion. I hope he continues Cassidy’s tradition of defending it weekly, and as he does more appearances for independent promotions outside of AEW, as well as appearing for New Japan Pro Wrestling sometimes, there are some incredibly promising match-ups in the future of this title. As well as a chance for the International Championship to be contested on other continents, which is only fitting.
One of the biggest moments on the show came in a promo segment between Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF) and Samoa Joe. These two are both top-tier promo specialists, and putting them together created a beautiful segment that went nearly 20 minutes in total. MJF began by standing alone in the ring, preaching his greatness to the Indiana crowd that was entirely behind him. This babyface good guy iteration of MJF, a man made from the ground up to be a villain, is such an interesting character twist and I’m enjoying this new vulnerable MJF. He’s showing some of his insecurities (willfully or not, it’s happening) and it’s only adding new layers to his character. After a few minutes of preaching his greatness and his friendship with Adam Cole, he revealed that he’s contracted to wrestle on Sept. 20th at Grand Slam, a specialty edition of Dynamite. A Grand Slam Eliminator Tournament is happening, of which the winner will be the one to face MJF on the 20th, and before he could finish talking about the tournament, Samoa Joe interrupted him. What transpired was a show of skill between the two of them, trading petty insults peppered with deeply personal jabs. Samoa Joe kept pressuring MJF, asking “What’s your problem, kid?” and after daring Joe to call him a kid one more time, MJF told a story about when he was 19 years old and had a tryout for WWE. After he was told he was too young to be signed, he was allowed to appear in a minor role during that night’s NXT TakeOver event, portraying a security guard during then-NXT Champion Samoa Joe’s entrance. During the entrance, Joe had pushed MJF into a brick wall and laughed. MJF told Joe that he wasn’t a kid when he pushed him all those years ago in Brooklyn, and he sure as hell wasn’t a kid now. This came to an end in a tense staredown, until MJF finally bit at the bait Joe had been dealing him the last 15 minutes and slapped him across the face. It dissolved into a quick and painful beatdown, each man low-blowing each other and Joe put an end to the encounter by slamming MJF down on his neck. His neck was originally hurt back at All In two weeks ago and has only been getting worse with the subsequent matches. His injury selling is top-notch, and the entire crowd was hushed in concern for their favorite scumbag as the trainers helped him to the back, echos of Joe’s voice warning him that he’d win the Grand Slam Tournament, and he’d tear him to pieces on September 20th. If you find the time to take a look at anything from this show, I’d recommend this as my segment of the night.
WWE FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN
The night began with Charlotte Flair and Shotzi versus Damage Control’s Bayley and Women’s Champion Iyo Sky in a tag team match, and it was a perfectly solid match that ended in Asuka distracting Bayley and Iyo, leading to Charlotte and Shotzi getting the win. The important part of this match came when, after the bell rang, Iyo Sky confronted Asuka and challenged her to a match. Asuka accepted, saying she wants to face Iyo in two weeks.
The Bloodline factions’ shenanigans began early this week with Jimmy Uso telling Paul Heyman that, despite having seemingly left the Bloodline months ago, no one told him anything about being out, so in his eyes, he’s still in. Heyman countered that by telling him that if he was able to take care of AJ Styles tonight, then he’d talk to the Tribal Chief Roman Reigns and assure that he was still in.
One of my favorite parts of the night occurred when Judgment Day (minus Rhea Ripley) came out to talk about how they were the most dominant group in the WWE, and how they were going to keep the Tag Team Championships for a long time. However, they were interrupted by Ridge Holland and Butch of the Brawling Brutes. As a side note, Butch used to be named Pete Dunne but his name changed when he was called up to the main roster. However, it is my own opinion that Butch is a stupid name and that it is Pete Dunne who is one of my favorite wrestlers, not Butch, and for that reason, I will simply continue to call him Pete Dunne. The Brawling Brutes introduced themselves to Judgement Day, letting them know they couldn’t have made a poorer decision for their first defense, as Ridge has made a habit of breaking people like them, and that even then he wasn’t the one they should fear, but Pete. Pete accentuated the point by snapping Finn’s fingers, and they sent Judgement Day running to begin their match. The match was solid, as Pete Dunne never has a bad match and neither does Finn Bálor. The Brutes got in some good offense and proved themselves a solid threat, but in the end, Judgement Day beat them in a rather decisive fashion and began their reign with success. Though this is entirely based on my enjoyment of any Pete Dunne match, I’d say this was my match of the night. It was fun, had some great spots, and was pretty good as far as television matches go.
The main event saw AJ Styles beat Jimmy Uso while Paul Heyman Solo Sikoa watched on from ringside. The ongoing mental games happening within the Bloodline are confusing on a good day, and I’m not sure where Jimmy will go from here, as I’m not convinced Roman will welcome him back with open arms after the betrayal several weeks ago, and not being able to overcome AJ. The show ended as AJ Styles rolled out of the ring and was attacked by Finn Bálor and Damien Priest.
The night opened with Penta El Zero Miedo beating Jay Lethal to advance in the Grand Slam Eliminator Tournament that was set up on Dynamite. As Samoa Joe and Roderick Strong are both in this tournament and are already tied up in MJF’s life currently, I don’t see Penta going much further in this tournament, unfortunately, and I hope his tag team partner Rey Fenix can come back to television soon so we can see the Lucha Bros. in all of the glory they deserve to have. Until that day, however, Penta continues to show his skills in singles matches.
A 6-woman tag team match came next, with the teams consisting of Taya Valkyrie, Anna Jay, and the Bunny versus Skye Blue, Hikaru Shida, and Dr. Britt Baker DMD. This was very much an exhibition match for Baker and Shida, as they’re set to fight in a fatal four-way match on the Sept. 13th edition of Dynamite alongside Toni Storm as Nyla Rose for a chance to face off against Women’s World Champion Saraya at Grand Slam. The match ended with Baker tapping out the Bunny with the Lockjaw, and the tentative friendship between Baker and Shida continued to dissolve. Hopefully, Baker can overcome this miscommunication with Shida, overcome Rose and Storm during the four-way match on Wednesday, and get her name back into the title scene.
The main event saw Samoa Joe take on Jeff Hardy to advance further in the Grand Slam Tournament, and it was a wonderful, though short, match showcasing both men wonderfully. This was their first meeting in AEW, but far from their first match against each other, and they utilized this knowledge and experience of each other to build a credible and entertaining match. Jeff used his high-flying offense against Joe’s bruiser defense to slowly chip away at the boulder of a man before launching a come-back, his hopes of winning within reach it seemed before Joe did what he does best and ripped them away in a Coquina Clutch sleeper hold. Jeff passed out in the hold, and Joe advanced in the tournament, set to face Penta El Zero Miedo on Collision. As these are two of my favorite wrestlers, and they always put on fun matches no matter where they are or how long they have, I’d have to say that this is my match of the night.
Jon Moxley began the night in his third match of the week, and second defense of the International Championship against Action Andretti. This was a perfectly average television match, with some fun near falls and some interesting spots. It was a quick match that ended with Andretti tapping out to a Bulldog Choke from Moxley, seemingly with the promise that Moxley will continue to defend this championship as often as he has the chance.
The next match was a quick match between Kris Statlander and Robyn Renegade, which Statlander won decisively. The point of interest happened after the match finished, however, as Robyn Renegade and her sister began to beat down Kris but were interrupted by a returning Jade Cargill. We haven’t seen Cargill since May 25th at the Double Or Nothing Pay-Per-View when she lost both her TBS Championship and her 60-match winning streak to Statlander. She beat down the Renegade sisters, and then hit her finisher, Jaded, on Statlander, staking her claim as the next challenger for the TBS title. Personally, I couldn’t care less about Cargill being back, I’m not a huge fan of her and I’m rooting for Statlander to hand Cargill her second loss once the match is made.
The scheduled match between Roderick Strong and Darby Allin to advance in the Grand Slam Tournament had a delayed start as, when Darby Allin began his entrance, he was attacked by Luchasaurus and Christian Cage, getting beaten up and told that he would never be champion as long as Christian is in AEW. Doctors swarmed Darby, telling him he shouldn’t keep this match, he should forfeit, but Darby has never understood the word forfeit and forced his way down to the ring. The match that followed was Strong, known as the ‘Messiah Of The Backbreaker’, targeting Darby’s slowly deteriorating back, and Darby just trying to fight through the pain. Darby is AEW’s most masochistic wrestler, willing to fight through pain that would put others in the hospital, and it showed here. After almost fifteen minutes, Roderick hit one last elevated backbreaker, Darby wasn’t able to kick out, and Roderick advanced to the finals of the tournament.
As a breather between Grand Slam Tournament matches, Bryan Danielson had an in-ring interview. He announced that he had promised his daughter that he would retire when she was seven and that she was six now. An entire arena has never booed a six-year-old child more than at that moment, I think. Bryan said that he was someone who kept his promises and that if this next year was his last, he would be calling his own shots, and making it the most epic year of his career, comparing his coming trip to the end of the year to Odysseus’ trip home from the Trojan War. He began calling his shots by declaring that at WrestleDream, on October 1st, he would like to finally face Zack Sabre Jr. This is a dream match that fans have been clamoring for since the early 2010s, and is finally going to happen. If we do only have a year left with Bryan Danielson at this level of competition, then I hope that he’s right and that this next year is the most epic one yet.
The main event between Samoa Joe and Penta El Zero Miedo was exactly what was expected, Penta utilized his speed, agility, and high-flying against Joe’s attempts to ground him. This was a great match that showed off each man’s abilities and specialties wonderfully. Penta gunned for every opportunity he could find, whereas Joe worked slower, taking breathers and taking time to think and plan. This resulted in Penta trying to take an opportunity to hit a Pump-Handle Driver, but Joe reversed it into a Coquina Clutch at the last moment, and Penta had no choice but to tap out. Samoa Joe advanced in the tournament, and he will face off against Roderick Strong on Wednesday’s Dynamite to decide who will face MJF at Grand Slam on the 20th.