Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! We’re through Thanksgiving and into Advent, we’ve got a brand new in-ring show to look forward to and hang on – it’s another pay-per-view week? Pity’s sake, WWE, show us writers some mercy! Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, November 28th 2016.
Raw (Spectrum Center, Charlotte NC)
Announced: Charlotte Flair (c) vs Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship. The New Day (c) vs The Club for the World Tag Team Championships.
What to expect: Two title matches, two retentions? It would require a couple of assumptions to be made. Firstly, that WWE wouldn’t have The New Day get this close to Demolition’s record tag team championship reign if the record wasn’t going to be broken – my head hurts just trying to entertain the possibility of The Club winning here – and secondly that Charlotte and Sasha are finally going to break the cycle of Sasha winning every title match on Raw and Charlotte winning every title match on pay-per-view. Charlotte vs Bayley is surely imminent; a Nia Jax assist here to launch Banks into a ‘David and Goliath’ feud would neatly move things on.
The women’s match will likely be the better of the two and I have visions of the tag match being quite similar to previous offerings. Elsewhere, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns are still at odds with Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho (who are, themselves, inching towards being at odds with each other), while Enzo and Cass are mixing it with Rusev. Raw’s Roadblock pay-per-view is on December 18th, which is where these things are likely to be heading. Finally, Sami Zayn was, bizarrely, the only person to be ‘punished’ by Raw’s authority figures after Survivor Series, being fed to Braun Strowman. Will he be on the show this week?
Spotlight: Every time I see Chris Jericho on Raw of late, I’m usually hit with a little moment of sadness. The reason for this is that Fozzy are scheduled to release a new album next year, their first since 2014, and they’re already taking bookings on the festival circuit for the coming summer. Those songs don’t write, practice and perform themselves, so make the most of Jericho with his wrestling hat on – this stint with WWE may not go too much longer.
We don’t really do Thanksgiving here in the UK, although we do do Black Friday now (because apparently the message doesn’t matter; it’s the capitalism that counts). But here are three reasons I’m thankful for Chris Jericho:
- I’m thankful for how Jericho evolves his act through a remarkable level of understanding for small detail. I love dealing in small detail, but have to defer to a true master. It’s the extent to which Jericho is in tune with everything he’s doing and knows what to change to keep things fresh and to stay ahead of the audience. The obvious things – the great mic work, The List (the refusing to put people at house shows on it when he knows doing so will get a pop) – are one thing, but who else could get a scarf over? Who would even know you can, let alone how you go about doing it? Watch his facial expression when he makes his entrance. Watch how slowly he walks. Watch how he holds his right hand in front of him. Look at his fingers. It’s all deliberate.
- I’m thankful for how keen Jericho clearly is to work with new talent. How many times in recent years, when new stars have emerged in NXT or been brought into the company, has he been at the front of the line? From one month in 2013 where he put over Fandango at WrestleMania and turned up on NXT to wrestle the fresh, exciting creation that was Bray Wyatt (the latter of which is sadly remembered less than the former), to this year when he was AJ Styles’ first WWE feud and worked with Shinsuke Nakamura in the summer’s Japan live shows. This isn’t just a sign of a veteran hand and somebody who can give a rub to the ‘new guy’, but somebody who clearly has an interest and investment in telling stories with new partners rather than waiting for them to come into his orbit in the fullness of time.
- I’m thankful for how Jericho’s recent work with Kevin Owens has shielded Owens from some of the more difficult obstacles WWE seems to put in front of its heel champions. Jericho has been the one to take the Pedigrees from Seth Rollins. He’s been the interference for cheap title match victories, which makes Owens look like a canny asshole who can leverage his friendships to stay on top rather than just being Triple H’s corporate puppet, as initially looked possible. His presence has allowed Owens to focus on character work and get over a personality, rather than his mic time being sunk into recap monologues every week. Contrast all of that with the hand dealt to Rollins in 2015.
When his current run in the squared circle comes to an end – and it should absolutely be via powerbomb on the ring apron – we’ll feel his absence. Come back again soon, Chris.
SmackDown Live (Colonial Life Arena, Columbia SC)
Announced: American Alpha vs The Wyatt Family (Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton) to determine the number one contenders for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
What to expect: One thing you should absolutely expect from this week’s episode of SmackDown Live is for an epidemic of wrestlers deciding to grab a very specific foreign object, despite the circumstances in which they’ll do it being no different from or less excusable than any other week; WWE has a gimmick-heavy pay-per-view to sell this weekend. AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose are headlining again, and we should expect James Ellsworth – now signed as a full-time SmackDown superstar – to very much remain within that orbit.
The build to TLC on Sunday, despite featuring a number long-standing feuds, has been rushed through a bit (more on the detail of that when I get to TLC itself below), so expect a lot of scene-setting here – the kind of stuff WWE will need to check off the list for Sunday’s video packages. I wonder if it’s possible this could be a relatively promo-heavy show, although I won’t be complaining if the announced tag match between Alpha and the Wyatts lives up to its potential. If Bray and Randy turn up in their working boots and it goes 15 minutes, it could be pretty awesome.
Spotlight: A brief look-in on the career renaissance of The Miz, now, and an attempt to see ahead to how his ongoing spat with Daniel Bryan could and/or should develop.
In an ideal world, it would end in the ring. Sadly, we do not live in an ideal world; Bryan’s previous injuries make it extremely unlikely WWE would ever clear him to compete again. But that doesn’t have to mean this story is a dead-end – there’s still a lot at stake for Miz, who is doing the best work of his career (and with his wife now on the road with him, is surely only in a more settled position).
I think the most compelling point of this story – asides from Miz co-opting Bryan’s moveset (which is not only great heel behaviour but also some genuinely versatile in-ring work) – is how the SmackDown GM sees his Intercontinental Champion as a coward; how Miz backs down from a challenge and a fight, and the implication that he wrestles a ‘safe’ style.
An obvious way forwards for this feud, and a path that could genuinely lead Miz further up the card in the future, is for Bryan to play on this by pushing Miz outside of his comfort zone. Have him defend his Intercontinental Championship in progressively less safe and more challenging environments, where cowardice is not an option. And then have Miz survive them.
When I was considering this, I thought of when Randy Orton was coming to prominence with his ‘Legend Killer’ gimmick. In the early going, this mostly consisted of him being a fairly routine Intercontinental Champion and occasionally hitting RKOs on retirees for cheap heat. Then he had a match with Mick Foley at Backlash 2004, where he endured barbed wire, thumbtacks and being thrown off the stage through tables before winning, and it went a long way towards legitimising him. It showed he could get it done when he was outside of his comfort zone.
A similar and logical next step for The Miz would do him a lot of good. Handy, then, that the latest instalment in his and Dolph Ziggler’s Cleveland Civil War this Sunday will be a ladder match. That’s a pretty good start.
205 Live (Colonial Life Arena, Columbia SC)
Look, I’ll level with you: I have no idea what we’re going to expect from 205 Live, or even if there’ll be much reason for me to carry on previewing it after this week. Best case, it’ll be a living, breathing, evolving replica of the Cruiserweight Classic that was broadcast on the WWE Network during the summer. Worst case, it’ll be Hour Three of SmackDown in front of a flat crowd with no distinctive difference from the cruiserweight segments we’re now used to seeing on Raw.
What we do know is that it’ll be an hour (which may fly by or drag), Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves are a two-man booth full of promise and The Brian Kendrick will defend his Cruiserweight Championship against Rich Swann. That match will presumably feature; Swann is getting over with the main roster crowd and Kendrick is a known quantity, but otherwise how we – and the Colonial Life Arena – will react to the other action on offer remains to be seen. The likes of Akira Tozawa and Jack Gallagher are still noted on WWE.com and appearing in publicity material for the show, but even their additional presence is no guarantee of success.
NXT (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa ON)
A rare collector’s item for NXT this week, as the yellow brand taped this episode’s content at last Tuesday’s SmackDown Live event in Ottawa. This gives us a chance to see NXT’s stars in front of a main roster crowd, and it’ll be interesting to see how ready the Canadian Tire Centre was to engage.
The announced features this week are No Way Jose going one-on-one (as much as one can where SAnitY are involved) with Eric Young, and Samoa Joe’s first appearance since regaining the NXT Championship. Joe and Young should be familiar enough faces to the Ottawa crowd, so this could be an amusing little detour on our way to the champion’s title rematch with Shinsuke Nakamura in Osaka, Japan. That match happens this coming weekend, so will probably air on NXT next week.
TLC (American Airlines Center, Dallas TX; SmackDown pay-per-view)
Announced: As always, card is subject to change and additions during the week are highly likely. At time of writing though:
- WWE World Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs Dean Ambrose (TLC Match)
- SmackDown Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs Alexa Bliss
- Intercontinental Championship: The Miz (c) vs Dolph Ziggler (Ladder Match)
- SmackDown Tag Team Championships: Heath Slater & Rhyno (c) vs TBC [American Alpha or The Wyatt Family]
- Kalisto vs Baron Corbin (Chairs Match)
- Nikki Bella vs Carmella (No Disqualification Match)
What to expect: You’d never have thought Survivor Series – one of the ‘big four’ pay-per-views from the WWE stable – would be seen as something of an inconvenience, but here we are. The need to build and execute a trio of elimination tag matches has resulted in the blue brand kinda farting out most of the above card last week with no fanfare. As with most things SmackDown, you suspect the delivery of it will be great, but there’s little here that we’ve not seen before. These are mostly just twists on old recipes.
That said, these are tried and tested recipes and there is plenty to like. AJ Styles in a TLC match? Yes please. As I touched on last week, all of SmackDown’s potential big money matches at the Royal Rumble and through to WrestleMania start with Styles retaining here. Other progressive decisions, in my view, would be Miz retaining (and moving on from Dolph Ziggler) and The Wyatt Family – assuming they do get past American Alpha on Tuesday – ousting Slater and Rhyno (to capitalise on Survivor Series momentum and the Orton angle).
I also think the chances of Alexa Bliss beating Becky Lynch for SmackDown’s women’s title have slightly improved. Bliss has been a solid TV performer for the last several weeks and, unless the WrestleMania plan is to do Lynch and Nikki Bella – and we’re still four months away from that – she’s the only potential heel champion on the horizon. If that does happen this Sunday, good luck reading my preview for next week as naturally I’ll be blind drunk when I come to write it.
As usual, check back here on Friday for the full TJRWrestling preview with John and the gang.
It’s back! Remember kids, anything can happen on WWE programming – some things more than others. Here’s a grid of 25 such things; red for Raw, blue for SmackDown, yellow for NXT, purple for 205 Live – no idea yet whether we’ll continue with that bit – and grey for any of the above or anything else. Cross one off if it happens, and we’ll have a celebration here next week if we get a vertical or horizontal line. The drinks are on me if all 25 come good.
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!
- At time of writing, a TLC match, chairs match and ladder match have all been booked for this Sunday’s pay-per-view. Which existing match – or new match of your choosing – would you add a tables stipulation to if you had to?
- When The New Day do eventually drop the tag titles, who do you think should be the team to beat them?
- Will you be watching 205 Live and if so what are you expecting from it?
Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.