Hello WWE fans and welcome to a new column available through Ambush Sports. I’ll be guiding you for the foreseeable future through all things Monday Night Raw, Friday Night Smackdown, and WWE Premium Live Events. Other writers here at Ambush will be covering alternatives, like All Elite Wrestling, Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and the like, and I won’t be covering NXT at this time, as that group of talent really warrants its own area here on the site.
But when it comes to Monday Night, Friday Night, and the big lights of PLEs, I’m your man. A little about me… like most of you, I’m sure, I’ve been a wrestling fan for a long time. Some of my first memories were attending live events in a long-since demolished building in Central Florida with my father when the concession stand t-shirts weren’t my size, and the show was being recorded for national tape release, not the USA Network. I attended Indy events in my area before leaving home, crossing the country, and getting involved myself. I currently work the Indy Circuit myself, and occasionally am fortunate enough to work as an Extra for WWE as I continue my journey.
My intention with this column is two-pronged… I intend on bringing you the weekly reviews and happening within WWE in both an objective way… where I tell you the facts, and what happened, as well as a subjective way… where you get to read some of my opinions on what’s happening in World Wrestling Entertainment. We’ll weave in and out of telling you the story that’s happening, some insider information, some insight, and some opinion.
The thing about opinions is, everyone’s got one, and sometimes yours, dear reader, and my own will align. Sometimes they will not. But if there’s anything you need to know about me and my opinions on Professional Wrestling / Sports Entertainment it’s this… I feel that the best part of the business is that there’s something for everyone. Not everyone is going to like everything, and we’re blessed in this day and age of wrestling that we have a LOT of options when it comes to content. If you don’t like something, you have the option of turning it off and turning on an alternative. Hell, when fans of my age were in our youth, if we didn’t like something, we just distracted ourselves until the segment or match was over, or switched from Raw to Nitro (or vice versa).
Today you have the option of fast-forwarding your DVR or sliding the streaming bar forward to skip a match or segment. There’s so much in this world of entertainment we love, that I feel bickering, arguing, and comparing is just not worth the time and irritation it causes. This is why I’ve decided to cover WWE’s main two products alone and allow other writers to cover the alternatives, or compare them if that is their wish. I enjoy what I enjoy… you enjoy what you enjoy… they enjoy what they enjoy… and that doesn’t have to clash. It can just all exist in the same space and time, and we can all indulge in the product we prefer.
So, with all that out of the way… shall we get to some wrestling? Or… as the current number one contender to the WWE Undisputed Universal Heavyweight Championship of the World (/ Paul Heyman Mode) might put it……. What do you guys wanna talk about?
Friday, March 3rd Edition of Smackdown:
Smackdown opened, as it often does as of late, with inarguably the biggest, longest-running, and most involved storyline in all of WWE (and some might argue all of the sport right now)… The Bloodline. In a segment that we were promised last week on Smackdown, they again told us what was happening by Cody Rhodes on Raw. There was no delay as Roman, Jimmy Uso, Solo Sikoa, and The Wiseman himself Paul Heyman made their way to ringside.
Speaking of a lack of delay… Roman got just enough time to get his catchphrase out of his mouth before Cody made his own entrance. It was just months ago, really, that we might go a month before we got a break from the 11-minute-long promo or speaking segment to begin every WWE broadcast. But tonight we got 11 minutes of pyro, crowd reaction, excitement, lights, and sound… everything we love about the carnival… before more than just a few words were uttered.
The pomp and circumstance to draw in the casual onlooker is back in the Triple H Era, there can be no doubt. With a dig about Roman feeling he may “need” The Bloodline present at all times, Cody and Roman took center stage alone. Paul Heyman, as he exited the ring, took a moment to carefully, but purposefully, place both titles on either of Roman’s shoulders, a great visual tying together The Bloodline leaving the ring, and Roman alone, and Roman now assuming the weight… literally and physically… of the dual Championships on his shoulders.
Roman came out on all cylinders, offending Cody by laying the titles at both their feet, something he knows Cody isn’t a fan of, and at the same time creating a literal line in the sand between them made of gold and leather. After weeks of waiting, we have our main event of Wrestlemania, we have the challenger and the Champion face to face in the ring, and we have mics in hand. Roman embraced his role as “Head of the Table” by setting it.
If you haven’t watched the segment, you should, I’m not going to quote it here verbatim, but it establishes the focus for the weeks to come, and the match that will cap those weeks. Roman invoked Cody’s father’s training, Cody’s lack of previous contenders, and lack of main event status in his past, and Cody responded back by putting the underlying narrative on the table. This match isn’t finishing the story… it’s “One of Dusty’s Kids” versus Dusty’s Kid.
There is a well-established pool of talent in WWE that claim to be “one of Dusty’s Kids”, and rightfully so, the Icon took many under his wing and turned them from developing talent to just talent. But Cody is the man’s blood, and looks to take the spot he feels was denied his father, wrongly. Many would agree with him.
Rhea Ripley w/ Dominick Mysterio VS Liv Morgan:
It’s hard to argue the fact that Rhea Ripley is one of the hottest female talents in the business right now. Between her push, her fan following, and her spot on this year’s Showcase of the Immortals… as such, it shouldn’t be too surprising that leading into said Showcase, Rhea is going to be fed some fodder, and tonight that role was filled by Liv Morgan.
This was a pretty standard Monster Heel versus smaller, faster baby face affair, and Rhea finished things in dominant fashion after giving Morgan some pretty decent shine, submitting Liv. Per the commentary team, Rhea attempting to show the Smackdown Women’s Champion that she’s more than capable of finishing a match in more than one way.
While the match may have been pretty standard, the way the blocking for the show was put into place, and what bled away from this match was very well done. After the match was over we see Dom and Rhea backstage, and they were approached by Santos Escobar.
After a brief promo against Dom, Santos challenges him to come out and face him man to man… ie, without Mammi there to protect him. Dom does come out to face the challenge… but didn’t understand the assignment well enough to leave Rhea backstage.
Santos Escobar VS Dominick Mysterio w/ Rhea Ripley:
It appears that WWE is testing a solo Santos Escobar, away from Legado Del Fantasma as we approach Wrestlemania, or perhaps are just utilizing a singles talent they can rely on and not involving the stable in an unnecessary way, either way, Santos has no problems, at all, showcasing his talent in a singles way and never has. He seems to be the perfect pairing for Convict Dom right now as well, as their characters contrast one another rather perfectly.
Santos has always made a point to include the love, respect, and honor he holds for his own father as part of his character, be it more obvious, or when he took the mask off and told the world he’d make his own name, building atop the legacy… still, the respect and the love was there. Dominick is now portraying someone who, seemingly, hates everything his father has ever done, attempted to teach him, and stood for, and openly spits in the face of his legacy (literally, at one point in this match, spitting on the mask gifted to Santos Escobar weeks ago by Rey himself as it sat on a ring post).
Santos makes a perfect opponent right now for Dom in other ways as well, as a more seasoned lucha star, Santos cleans up areas of Dom’s game that are still lacking, or look weak, being able to improvise if something doesn’t go just right in very masterful ways. Dom still has an issue of doing a pretty decent job pissing off the crowd, working them in the right ways, and doing an ok job during segments.
But this IS Professional Wrestling, and at some point, you have to… you know… wrestle too, and Dom’s in-ring work still lacks the polish a seasoned worker like Santos offers. Long story short, Santos made Dom look great, which is assuredly the job he was given tonight. Dom picks up the win due to interference, as tends to be the case any time he’s in the ring as of late.
Post-match the drama between Dom and Dad continued. The aforementioned mask gifted to Santos by Rey was at ringside, and after the win, Dom took it. As he backtracked up the ramp, mocking Santos for losing, he ripped the mask to shreds… or at least, attempted to. This is the second time they’ve had Dom tear one of Rey’s masks in this angle, and both times he’s done it… he’s struggled.
One would imagine they’d gimmick the mask in some way to prevent this but… so far, no luck there. Despite the struggle, Dom managed to ruin the gift given to Santos, which prompted Rey to come out to confront him about it. Still refusing to put a hand on Dom, Rey demanded the mask back, which Dom threw at his feet. When he went to retrieve it, Dom delivered a cheap shot that looked better than anything he’d done in the ring with Santos minutes ago.
We headed into to commercial with the still very torn Rey Mysterio sitting on the stage, nursing his jaw, and staring down into the ruined mask, a physical symbol of Dom’s disrespect and hatred for his father.
The grassroots movement of Sami Zayn continued when he showed up inside the concession area of the arena, black hoodie and all, and cut a promo against The Bloodline and Solo Sikoa specifically. The fans have really gotten behind this movement, but we’ll discuss that more in a minute.
It’s Wrestlemania season, as we all know, and that means one of two things for the Intercontinental Championship… it’s either going to be ignored, entirely, as if it doesn’t even exist, OR there’s going to be a lot of chaos/mess involving it, and WWE did not disappoint this year. Drew McIntyre comes to the ring next and challenges Gunther, openly, for the title at Mania. But this prompts Sheamus to come down and demand to know why his “brother” is going behind his back to challenge for a title that’s so important to him, and that he knows he’s still chasing.
McIntryre flatly reminds Sheamus he’s challenged for, and failed to win, said title multiple times now and that they’re not father and son, he doesn’t need permission to challenge Gunther. This prompts the very entertaining but still floundering L.A. Knight (YEAH!) to make HIS intentions for the IC title known, which the Celtic and Scottish Warrior… basically ignore entirely. But the New Day was HAPPY to make a comment on L.A. Knight’s interest and reminded him he hasn’t won a match on Smackdown recently, let alone about to win anything at Wrestlemania.
BUT WAIT KIDS, THERE’S MORE! Karrion Kross, who has had eyes solely for Rey Mysterio and ruining his golden years in WWE recently and hasn’t even sniffed the air near the Intercontinental Championship since he returned has decided that there’s not going to be a hot mess in the ring without HIM involved, so out he and Scarlett come to join the fun, which finally gets started as he arrives, in what was clearly an attempt to keep the Ed Hardy brand alive in well… the man’s shirt selection is… interesting, sometimes.
Now, while I have a little fun and mock this hot mess the company puts itself in every year, I will say whoever Produced this segment, along with the talent involved, blocked out the brawl they had VERY well. In a business where, oftentimes, the fight is just chaos from the get-go, this was really well done.
Each person had a part to play and did it cleanly, and convincingly and it all made sense, which was very refreshing. I hope whoever Produces the Fatal Five Way that’s been announced for next week’s show to determine who gets to Challenge Gunter at Wrestlemania is done just as well, because those, too, can rapidly go from entertaining to a bathroom break. Gunther cut a pretty decent promo a few minutes later in the show to announce it, and it really does seem like the company has plans for him moving forward, which many of us watching are eager to see.
We next hear word that, due to a brawl backstage earlier in the day, the planned Tag Team match between Natalia & Tegan Nox, and Shayna Baszler & Rhonda Rousey is now going to be a singles match, due to Rhonda injuring her arm in some way… which wasn’t specified, but clearly done for storyline purposes as was evident when she and Baszler made their way to ringside later. According to the commentary team, Rhonda was “so tough she uses her own black belt to synch up her injured arm”… anyway…
Tegan Nox w/ Natalia VS Shayna Baszler w/ Rhonda Rousey:
It’s no new concept in Professional Wrestling to work a limb throughout a match. It’s tried, tested, and relied on throughout the business and the years as something that works, and can tell a story when one is lacking otherwise. Not in a long time have I seen such a short match show how well this can work so clearly.
Tegan Nox had her left arm stomped on and worked by Baszler in this match early, and that is what caused the submission win for the Submission Magician at the end. But Baszler’s continued work, and focused work on the limb, and Nox’s ability to sell it, not forgetting it was injured during any comeback/shine, and the after-match selling of it was all done beautifully.
By most, this was probably just seen as a quickie squash to make Baszler and Rhonda look good, fill a little time… what’s next? But if you’re truly a fan of the business and what these athletes do with what they’re given, you’ll see that these two accomplished the old wrestling dream… they turned a tiny nugget of chicken shit, into a small, briefly enjoyed bowl of chicken salad. Well done ladies.
We’re then treated to an “unannounced, unplanned appearance” by the All Mighty himself. Bobby Lashley came to Bray Wyatt’s house to demand the man come speak to him face to face, instead of being treated to another round of the Muscle Man Dance Music Video (I STILL want my MTV…). He’s joined in the ring, however, by Uncle Howdy instead, who decked him on the back of his head and attempted an ambush.
Lashley countered, dropped Howdy, and set up to punish his ribs with a spear, but before he was able to deliver, the lights go out and Uncle Howdy is gone. While there are complaints abounding about the length of this storytelling by Bray Wyatt, and wanting to know where it’s going already, it would be prudent to remember that Wrestlemania is just around the corner, as is the Raw after Mania.
Bray and Lashley will meet on the Grandest Stage this year. If YOU were in the WWE writers’ room, and Bray had something big on the horizon, would you want him to do it on a random edition of Smackdown in the weeks leading up the Wrestlemania, or ON that stage, using it as a launching point for what he’ll (or they’ll) be doing for the foreseeable future?
Solo Sikoa w/ Jimmy Uso VS Sami Zayn:
It was main event time, and before we get into that, we have to discuss The Bloodline for a minute. Regardless of what you think about Roman Reigns and his continued title reign, it has to be said that The Bloodline storyline, which exists DUE to Roman’s lengthy title reign, has really produced a lot of beneficial assets to WWE.
Both Usos, Sami Zayn, along with several others who were obviously ready for the main event scene, at least on the weekly show level, have all been brought to the dance as this storyline has progressed. Where once the WWE Champion needed to be a part of the main event each night to draw in viewers, now Jimmy Uso, Sami Zayn, and the “will he / won’t he” of Jey Uso is enough to not just have a main event, but to have the entire crowd, loudly, invested in said main event.
The still undefeated Solo Sikoa, once Sami’s pet project and the focus of at least 75% of his hype each night, was now poised to eliminate the “Sami Zayn Problem” for his family. Solo has done a masterful job in the last several months blending his own style and presentation with that of the legendary Umaga, and that was on full display tonight as the Monster Heel and Muscle of The Bloodline battered Sami like a ragdoll.
The match was, more or less, what one might expect. Sami hit and moved, snuck in attacks where he could, but was ultimately overwhelmed. Jimmy, as expected, got involved and after the match, continued the punishment. Solo was pushed away from a mounted punching position so Jimmy could take over, and when the hip attack in the corner, with a chair over Sami’s head, looked to be the end of the night for Zayn, again, Solo was stopped and Jimmy insisted on doing it. This resulted in Sami being able to counter, land a hit on both, and scurry away, living to fight another day.
Two things as the show closed came to mind… one, Solo is being perfectly set up to be sick and tired of being told when he can and can’t destroy someone, and being held back from being the Monster he can be by the rest of The Bloodline (Paul Heyman may have his next project after Roman’s historic title reign ends and the Tribal Chief moves from the Island of Relevancy to the Island of Vacation).
And two, as Roman looked on from the back, having informed Jimmy earlier in the night that he had a week to get Jey back into the fold or take the blame… the Tribal Chief has prepped, loaded, and aimed the gun right at his foot. The shot is coming, and the irritated face we saw on the screen as the show came to a close was proof that he likely knows it’s coming sooner than later.