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G’day, TJRWrestling faithful! WWE heads down under this week for Super Show-Down; it’s a pretty awful name for a big live event but strewth, cobber, at least it’s not Great Balls of Fire. Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, October 1st 2018.

Raw (KeyArena, Seattle WA)

Announced: Ronda Rousey vs Ruby Riott. Bobby Lashley vs Kevin Owens. Shawn Michaels is advertised to appear and, though it’s not being confirmed directly in the official previews, The Undertaker is scheduled to appear too.

What to expect: This is the go-home Raw before Super Show-Down in Melbourne and the main ongoing storyline is Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre trying to get inside the heads of The Shield, with the focus on turning Dean Ambrose against his brothers. That was such a big theme last week, expect it to be the focus again here, with teases of whether Ambrose might be tempted by the idea. The other major point of this week is the final (if you believe the poster quotes) television build ever for an Undertaker vs Triple H match. With Shawn Michaels present tonight and ringside on Saturday, I’d say there’s at least a 50% chance of somebody eating a superkick here. Or, you know, there’ll just be another promo segment.

In the two announced matches, Ruby Riott has no chance of a legitimate victory over Ronda Rousey (a non-finish due to outside interference looks a good bet), but of more interest may be an update on Liv Morgan’s concussion and indication of whether she’ll be fit to wrestle on Saturday. Interference, from Elias and Lio Rush, also looks likely in the Kevin Owens vs Bobby Lashley match, as those men carry a program that John Cena will magically appear in by the coming weekend. Elsewhere, Chad Gable has wrestled a couple of singles matches against The Ascension and we await some idea of whether Bobby Roode will ultimately help him or turn on him. Jerk heel authority figure Baron Corbin has been warned as to his performance by Stephanie McMahon. Bayley and Sasha Banks are still friends…… And are not on the card for Super Show-Down.

Spotlight: Occasionally WWE’s writers drop subtle hints into the narrative around the possibility of tag team partners turning on each other. This usually manifests in promos with an awful lot of talk about having each other’s backs, or when someone is clearly playing bridesmaid to their partner (see Bobby Roode and Chad Gable). Last week on Raw, we had the interesting development of such a betrayal being addressed not only directly, but relentlessly by antagonist characters – and specifically. Not only would The Shield split, but it would be Dean Ambrose splitting. This plays into many viewer assumptions that, with Seth Rollins having jumped ship last time and Roman Reigns the face of the company, that when the time comes, it’s Ambrose’s turn.

The truth may be that betrayal from within The Shield may be the most viable way to make Reigns as Universal Champion work. If Braun Strowman’s challenge is to fail in the short term, there are few other top-level antagonists on the Raw roster to follow him (and, given the lengths WWE went to in aligning Strowman with Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, and reuniting The Shield, you’d better believe portraying Reigns as the hero is still Plan A). McIntyre has the stature, novelty value and a strong starting position – Mike Sanchez came to much the same conclusion last week – but elsewhere it’s a stretch to portray the likes of Ziggler, Kevin Owens and Elias as a threat to the champion.

Not only would Reigns facing one of his Shield brothers provide a story that’s easy to follow, it’s one which would naturally feel like a matchup of equals; among full-time members of the Raw roster, Reigns is otherwise positioned as a class apart. It’s a potential feud that hardened viewers would be less likely to see as a foregone conclusion. There’s another appealing factor too; the quest to get a majority of the audience favoring Roman Reigns is boosted if his opponent carries the fresh stigma of being ‘the guy who broke up The Shield’. That stigma demonstrably worked for Rollins first time around.

If nothing else for the time being, it’s intelligent storytelling. Not all WWE viewers and audience members spend hours on the internet pontificating on plans, rumors and fantasy booking – yeah, I know, their loss – but even fewer have memories like goldfish, however much WWE’s occasionally revisionist storytelling might appear to assume. We know teams are prone to betrayals and splits and that The Shield was never an exception. To play on those truths is not just to tease us with triggers we’re familiar with, but also to nurture and establish motives so that when the turn comes – and sooner or later, it will inevitably come – it feels more organic, and it resonates deeper.

SmackDown Live (Moda Center, Portland OR)

Announced: Mysterious things! The New Day will be holding what WWE.com is calling a “cooking demonstration”. Becky Lynch will be revealing a “surprise” for Charlotte Flair. Aiden English will be bringing what he calls “video evidence” of something that happened in Milwaukee involving Lana.

What to expect: To deal with the announced items first, The New Day will apparently be revealing Big E’s family’s secret pancake recipe, so expect a not-untypical New Day comedy segment, an interruption by The Bar (their opponents on Saturday) and some mess. Whatever Becky Lynch’s surprise might be, Charlotte Flair will probably be looking for some sort of payback after Lynch jumped her during a photoshoot last week. Aiden English’s footage….. We’ll get onto that in more detail below, but it’s not beyond probability that a match between English and Rusev could get signed for Melbourne. Another match that’ll happen sooner rather than later is Randy Orton vs Tye Dillinger.

Elsewhere on the show, expect to find out what happened after SmackDown went off the air last Tuesday when Samoa Joe turned up at the front door of AJ Styles and rang the bell. Joe has done a great job as a dirtbag heel in recent weeks and with Saturday’s WWE Championship match being no disqualification, a brawl of some sort is a possibility here on the go-home show. The focus for The Miz and Daniel Bryan will be on preparing for their match in Melbourne, but to be honest I wouldn’t hate one more week of R-Truth being involved. Finally, add Asuka and Naomi having some sort of interaction with The IIconics to the list of things likely to be seen this Tuesday.

Spotlight: I struggle to think of many phrases that make me dread the next instalment of a wrestling feud more than “next week, I’ll show the video evidence”. Perhaps “in a blindfold match” is also up there. Though they lack the predictable, miss-more-than-hit inevitability of a supposed exposé of still photographs descending into photoshopped junior school humor, the incriminating footage trope often mixes the poorest soap opera material with staging that sorely challenges suspension of disbelief. It’s also always felt like a weird dynamic to me when live theatre relies on non-live drama within its drama to make its audience feel something, but I guess this is an era when we watch reaction videos on YouTube.

So I have everything crossed this “video evidence” won’t be cheesy enough to devalue what last week was a very good start to the feud between former Rusev Day celebrants Aiden English – the curator of said footage – and the Bulgarian whose holiday is marked 365 times a year. It was a promo segment that showed the simple value of performers talking directly and with conviction in front of a live crowd, as opposed to watching second-hand footage on the TitanTron. The story was easy to follow, the scripts fitted the characters, the segment wasn’t longer than it needed to be and all three participants, English, Rusev and Lana were excellent.

Aiden English, in particular, is blessed with an attractive ability to carry over his melodic stylings into prose. The result is a promo style that’s very easy on the ear, nuanced and beautifully paced. It’s a similar gift to Bray Wyatt; once the novelty of The Wyatt Family had worn off, the millstone that began to form around the neck of Wyatt’s promos was never the way he talked but the fact he stopped having new things to say. English certainly has the talent to make a good run as a singles performer, standing and talking for himself rather than just singing an introduction for somebody else. Like Wyatt, I don’t think I’ll grow tired of hearing him talk.

Lana was also on point here, despite dropping the Russian accent virtually completely. I know WWE’s reality shows obviously make no effort to sustain the illusion, but my favorite unofficial kayfabe reason is still that she’s gradually adopted an American accent since immigrating. However the central subject of discussion this week, “that one night in Milwaukee”, does have echoes of the character’s previous encounters with Dolph Ziggler and Enzo Amore, which were both uninspired stories. Let’s hope Aiden English’s video footage is a bit more original (if not slightly more highbrow) and we get to see more of these three performers doing good things with good material.

Also This Week

We’ll dive through the detail of these quickly, as we’ve got a big stadium show to get to. NXT (Wednesday) has Johnny Gargano vs Tony Nese, Lacey Evans vs Candice LeRae, Lars Sullivan vs EC3 and a tag match featuring The Forgotten Sons, while 205 Live (Wednesday, not live) is leading with TJP vs Kalisto and Jack Gallagher vs Akira Tozawa.

This week’s Mixed Match Challenge (Tuesday Facebook Watch/Thursday WWE Network) features Jinder Mahal & Alicia Fox vs Finn Balor & Bayley, plus Rusev & Lana vs Jimmy Uso & Naomi. Finally, the second round of the Mae Young Classic (Wednesday) gets underway with Meiko Satomura vs Mercedes Martinez, Lacey Lane vs Taynara Conti, Toni Storm vs Hiroyo Matsumoto and Rhea Ripley vs Kacy Catanzaro.

Super Show-Down (Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia)

Announced: Coming live from Australia, Saturday night local time, Super Show-Down unsurprisingly has a pretty unique broadcast schedule. The show starts at 5am Eastern Standard Time and is set for five hours on the WWE Network. The announced card is as follows:

  • The Undertaker (w/ Kane) vs Triple H (w/ Shawn Michaels)
  • The Shield vs Braun Strowman, Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre
  • WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs Samoa Joe (no countout, no disqualification)
  • Ronda Rousey & The Bella Twins vs The Riott Squad
  • SmackDown Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (c) vs Charlotte Flair
  • John Cena & Bobby Lashley vs Kevin Owens & Elias
  • Daniel Bryan vs The Miz
  • SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The New Day (c) vs The Bar
  • Asuka & Naomi vs The IIconics
  • Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander (c) vs Buddy Murphy

What to expect: Just to mix things up a bit, we’ll start with what my draft notes refer to as ‘the Australian stuff’. The Melbourne Cricket Ground is an oval (near-circular), open-air stadium with a capacity of 100,000 for sporting events. A couple of weeks ago the Wrestling Observer reported WWE will be setting up for around 70,000, though ticket sales were speculated to be nearer 50,000 at the time. 50,000 Aussies should provide a pretty good atmosphere! Sunset will be about half an hour before the show starts. Two matches at the foot of the announced card have Australians involved; interestingly from the point of view of crowd reactions, heels in both cases (The IIconics and Buddy Murphy). Murphy winning the Cruiserweight Championship in his hometown feels like a no-brainer, as it’s absolutely the right moment to change up the title picture on 205 Live.

The main event seems likely to be The Undertaker vs Triple H, End Of The Last Time In This Era Ever. Yes, it’s easy to mock the branding or observe that the passing of time since their last ‘last’ match in 2012 might work against the in-ring quality here, but the performative calibre of the four men involved ought to wash all those concerns away. Forget match quality or decisive winners (a tag match to follow this is widely expected in Saudi Arabia next month, so obviously there’ll be shenanigans here involving Kane and Michaels), this should be pro wrestling theatre at its finest. The only other two matches that look like potential main events – the six-man tag and the WWE Championship bout – will provide plenty of strong wrestling at the top of the card; The Shield vs Strowman, Ziggler and McIntyre in particular should be outstanding.

On the undercard, SmackDown is providing three matches that look very good on paper too; Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair, Daniel Bryan vs The Miz and The New Day vs The Bar. As befits a big stadium show, this certainly looks like being one of the best wrestling cards WWE has put together in a while. John Cena is making a rare appearance, though being dropped randomly into the program between Bobby Lashley and the combined forces of Kevin Owens and Elias is likely to make this a cookie-cutter tag match and little more. Finally, internet smarks will be looking out for whether Liv Morgan (if cleared) lays in any stiff shots on Brie Bella, like some sort of grizzled vet who runs their locker room with an iron fist. Also: Ronda Rousey.

There’ll be a full preview of Super Show-Down here at TJRWrestling on Thursday, then John will be awake bright and early on Saturday morning to bring you the play-by-play, live. Fair dinkum.

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!

  1. Is Dean Ambrose ultimately going to turn on his Shield brothers during this program?
  2. What do you hope Aiden English’s video footage consists of?
  3. Which match are you most looking forward to seeing from Melbourne this Saturday?

Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.

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