Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! Randy Orton won the Rumble, John Cena became a 16-time champion and we’re finally on the road to WrestleMania. Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, January 30th 2017.
Raw (Laredo Energy Arena, Laredo TX)
Announced: Stephanie McMahon has said she will deal with the actions of Seth Rollins from the weekend in a face-to-face meeting, but otherwise nothing’s been formally announced at time of writing.
What to expect: Life’s tough when you’re Roman Reigns. After your no-disqualification championship match is ruined thanks to perfectly legal interference by a monster you decided to spear a few weeks back without physical provocation, you’re given a shot as the last entrant into the Royal Rumble – nice of whoever would’ve been #30 if you’d won your title match to give up their spot for you (strangely not mentioned, although I choose to believe it was Jinder Mahal) – yet still finish as runner-up. Any rational man would feel hard done by. And although a conflict with The Undertaker was teased during the Rumble match, surely Roman’s first business this week is with Braun Strowman.
Seth Rollins will likely be shouted at by Stephanie McMahon for his exploits hunting down Triple H over the weekend. Stephanie McMahon will likely be shouted at by Seth Rollins for being married to Triple H and therefore being part of a perceived conspiracy. Neville is the new Cruiserweight Champion and The Club are the new Tag Team Champions; contractual rematches for Rich Swann and Sheamus & Cesaro are therefore likely, although the latter of those aren’t at their most zen after further relationship problems during the Rumble match. In the women’s division, Charlotte Flair and Nia Jax recorded clean, decisive wins on Sunday and I now find myself wanting to see a straight Flair vs Jax match at WrestleMania rather than any permutation that includes Bayley and Sasha Banks. What’s wrong with me?
A quick note that
Roadblock Fastlane is on March 5th, which is the last big stop before WrestleMania for the Raw brand. Bill Goldberg is advertised for that show, with the latest word suggesting he may be in the picture for the Universal Championship still held by Kevin Owens – whose friendship with Chris Jericho remains unbroken for the moment.
Spotlight: Last week was a complicated one for Seth Rollins – losing his spot in the Royal Rumble match via Triple H distraction before gatecrashing NXT’s show on Saturday and getting barred entirely from the Rumble event on Sunday as a result – but for the rest of us things are starting to get simpler, as the shadow games may be coming to an end ahead of the long-expected WrestleMania match between the former Authority boss and his Chosen One.
WWE takes a fair amount of stick from many of us on the internet writing previews, reviews, thought pieces, hatchet jobs and everything in between over the subject of planning ahead. We constantly hear of last-minute rewrites to Raw, title runs being nixed, character motivations being changed on the fly and entire passages of recent history being retconned or ignored. It’s therefore only fair to point out when it sticks to its guns on something and follows through. Whether or not the company’s Executive Vice-President of Talent being one of the characters involved is anything more than a coincidence, the Triple H vs Seth Rollins program has been admirably purposeful and patient in its build, and the blowoff is exactly the sort of big event that should be taking place at a WrestleMania.
The downside, of course, to such a long gestation period – when the direction things are headed are this clear – is that sometimes it can feel like we’re treading water waiting for things to happen. Are the gloves off now? Will Trips walk out tonight and beat the crap out of Rollins? Will the WrestleMania match get made?
We may yet have to be a little more patient. Stephanie McMahon noted on the Rumble kickoff show that she’d be dealing with Rollins on tonight’s episode of Raw, which suggests the short-term plot may focus on Rollins bashing heads with the weekly authority figures, questions of who-knew-what-when about Triple H’s music playing last week and whether or not Steph was in on the whole thing. There’s also a chance the man himself will remain enigmatic, only to pop up again when Rollins expects it least. Expect liberal use of his ‘Cerebral Assassin’ nickname if that path is followed.
Extra plaudits though for the angle at NXT TakeOver. Apart from taking the trouble to plug a logic gap for those who watch a lot of WWE output (Seth wants Triple H! Nobody knows when Triple H is going to appear! Oh, hang on, here he is making a heavily-trailed appearance at the UK Championship Tournament!) it also provides a great bit of cross-promotion; the clip from TakeOver will no doubt get an airing on USA tonight, and is another advert for the WWE Network (and NXT; main roster pay-per-views aside, its MVP) as essential viewing. This was a real slick, progressive bit of work.
WWE has done a lot of smart and honest things with the build for Seth Rollins vs Triple H. We may just need to be patient a little longer before we can sink our teeth into it.
SmackDown Live (American Bank Center, Corpus Christi TX)
Announced: As with Raw, it’s all about the fallout from the Rumble with nothing announced at time of writing.
What to expect: SmackDown’s Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble match and will ‘main event’ WrestleMania (a phrasing that was pushed much more than ‘receive a title match’ which, in the past, has often been a more accurate distinction). He’s still on the same page with Bray Wyatt, but both men are now certainly estranged from Luke Harper. Will the Wyatt Family dynamics play into Orton’s WrestleMania shot? There’s a long way to go until April, with Elimination Chamber rushing up fast on February 12th, so a lot could change between now and then – not least Orton’s opponent in Orlando, with a WWE Championship match scheduled to take place inside the Chamber structure. The details of that match should be formally set up this week. More on that in a moment.
As things stand, John Cena is the WWE Champion and, at present, Orton’s nominal WrestleMania opponent. The two have plenty of history, which will likely be referenced this week (along with how good Cena’s match with AJ Styles was and the record he has now tied with Ric Flair), but things could of course change. Elsewhere, Alexa Bliss took the pinfall loss from Naomi in the six-woman tag match on Sunday, which usually means a championship match isn’t far behind. Again, more on that in a moment. A surprising amount of the rest of SmackDown Live was effectively in hibernation over the Rumble weekend, with Baron Corbin – credited with the elimination of Braun Strowman – the only other roster member achieving anything of note. Expect Dolph Ziggler’s heel turn and a tag defence for American Alpha to be among the subjects built up in a hurry this week.
Spotlight: It’s a quick, quick, quick turnaround for the Tuesday night brand, with the SmackDown-exclusive Elimination Chamber pay-per-view taking place at the end of next week. The need to hold some matchups back for that show resulted in the heavy majority of Raw matches on the Rumble undercard and – outstanding Cena/Styles match asides – a relative lack of stakes.
That is likely to be put right very swiftly this Tuesday, as WWE rushes to put flesh on the bones of its next big event – for which one match and zero participants have so far been formally announced (considering the inclusion of WWE Champion John Cena is only guaranteed by default after last night). If you’re a fan of seeing significant storyline developments on your weekly programming, this week’s SmackDown should be right up your street.
Looking at the Chamber itself, it’s not hard to pick possible participants although much depends on what other matches make the undercard. Whether Dean Ambrose will defend the Intercontinental Championship against The Miz is a pivotal question, as Miz would be an obvious possibility (as would Ambrose, if he follows the example of Shield brother Roman Reigns in suddenly failing to give two hoots about his secondary championship when a bigger prize is dangled in front of him). Randy Orton, as the Royal Rumble winner, already has his place in the WrestleMania title match assured, so there’s no point him being involved here.
Apart from Cena, deposed champ AJ Styles is a dead certainty. So we have four spots left. You’d have to assume Baron Corbin is odds-on to fill one of them. Equally, if the rumoured WrestleMania match between Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton is happening, Wyatt not only makes sense as an entrant here but a likely winner. Two spots left. Dolph Ziggler perhaps? Kalisto or Apollo Crews? Unless Miz and Ambrose are free from Intercontinental Championship engagements, those look like the other remaining options that are open to on-screen authority figures Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon this week.
A final note: If you’re ever going to do a women’s Elimination Chamber match, you surely have to do it now. SmackDown has invested in featured storylines for six women that are nicely aligning at the right time. Naomi might have got the pin on Alexa Bliss on her return to action, but Becky Lynch is still fuming at both Bliss and co-conspirator Mickie James – at present still narratively joined. Nikki Bella and Natalya have a largely isolated private squabble, but it’s been a violent one and there’s no reason it should be external to the title picture. Indeed, I think we’d all be stunned if Nikki Bella wasn’t a contender by WrestleMania, right? She has to become a factor again soon. Sure, WWE could easily run three solid singles matches for the women at Elimination Chamber – Bliss vs Naomi, Lynch vs James, Bella vs Natalya – but if you’ve gone to the trouble of hanging the Chamber structure in the arena for the men, why the hell wouldn’t you use it? Especially when you’ve just merrily put all six in a tag match at the Royal Rumble.
For me, this is going to be another test of the ‘Women’s Revolution’. SmackDown’s current women’s programs can certainly support a Chamber gimmick. So book a Women’s Championship match to complement the WWE Championship match, find some other matches for the undercard (such as an American Alpha tag and something to keep Orton busy) and give them 25 minutes to go to town.
Also This Week
As is tradition following a TakeOver special, NXT (Wednesday) comes again from the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, with a handful of the dark matches that didn’t make it onto Saturday’s show (and probably a few recaps and backstage fallout videos from the matches that did). We shouldn’t need to seek out live reports to expect No Way Jose vs Elias Samson to probably be among them, given their standoff on last Wednesday’s episode. Nigel McGuinness replaces Corey Graves on the NXT announce team from this week; NXT will miss Graves, but McGuinness knows his stuff. It’s also a reminder that NXT isn’t just about honing in-ring talent for future successes.
Asides from reflecting on the results of TakeOver, with new champions Bobby Roode and The Authors Of Pain being crowned, this week’s NXT may also note Tye Dillinger’s surprise Royal Rumble appearance (a good example of how it’s possible to provide fan service without having to compromise your bigger-picture booking). It may not explain what benefit was gained by Samoa Joe spending the entire weekend sat on his arse. Yeah, I’d have preferred him over Roman Reigns at #30 too.
205 Live (Tuesday) has a new king, after Neville’s victory Sunday, but secondary stories are otherwise in a state of flux at the moment with the beef between Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar the most prominent ongoing program. Expect more of those men, plus the chance of establishing some newer narratives.
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!
- Which six men do you think should be in the WWE Championship match at Elimination Chamber?
- Who do you think should face Charlotte Flair for the Raw Women’s Championship at WrestleMania?
- Who would you prefer to see Randy Orton face at WrestleMania?
Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.