Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! With the Australia trip now behind the WWE roster, the Sheilas are gearing up for Evolution while the Bruces re-pack their bags for Saudi Arabia. And I promise I’m finished with the Aussie slang now. Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, October 8th 2018.
WWE main roster television feels like it may be entering a weird month. Melbourne’s Super Show-Down didn’t really change an awful lot on either brand and now, rather than the usual simple formula of each show building their own stories towards a single pay-per-view, we have both brands doing similar things (Mixed Match Challenge cross-promotion, ‘World Cup’ qualifying announced for SmackDown that we’ll probably see replicated on Raw, a suspicious escalation in women’s tag team action after months of speculation about new titles) in the service of building towards two completely separate pay-per-views taking place less than a week apart.
If this sounds like me making excuses for a column which is a lot of shrugging and saying ‘let’s wait and see’, then that’s probably fair comment. I’d love to say another week of television, now that Super Show-Down is out of the way, should freshen things up by next Monday – and it almost certainly will – but next week also sees the 1,000th episode of SmackDown, which will probably be a lights-to-flag nostalgia trip. Anyway, buckle up and we’ll see what we can make of what’s coming your way this week.
Raw (Allstate Arena, Chicago IL)
Announced: Triple H and Shawn Michaels will appear to respond to the post-match attack they suffered on Saturday. Trish Stratus, scheduled to face Alexa Bliss at Evolution, is also advertised to appear.
What to expect: As before the trip to Melbourne, all the men’s championships on Raw remain tied up with six men who currently aren’t doing much other than clashing with each other. Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman are two-thirds of the Universal Championship match at Crown Jewel, so with Brock Lesnar not expected to appear tonight, those two men might start to turn their focus towards each other. The question of whether or not Dean Ambrose’s conflicted loyalties are still troubling him should also become apparent, while the tag titles around the waists of Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre may come into range of AOP before long. Off the back of the other big Raw match at Super Show-Down, expect Triple H and Shawn Michaels to take a step towards making a tag team match at Crown Jewel a reality.
Trish Stratus being back on Raw, presumably running straight into Alexa Bliss in some form of promo segment, will be good to see. I still want WWE to get in one more match between Stratus and Mickie James before Evolution, but the latter has a match with Lita to build towards too. Expect Ronda Rousey to look for a Women’s Championship opponent for Evolution (hot tip: Nikki Bella). Who knows, perhaps even Bayley and Sasha Banks (still friends) will line themselves up for something at Evolution? Lio Rush should return to Bobby Lashley’s side, but it’ll be interesting to see if their program with Elias and Kevin Owens continues like nothing happened at the weekend. We may also understand the impact of Konnor from The Ascension getting singles victories over Bobby Roode and Chad Gable in the last couple of weeks.
Spotlight: Something that happened on last week’s Raw in service of building intrigue to Super Show-Down, but possibly with wider consequences that flew under the radar, was Drew McIntyre claiming a non-title victory over Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins. We’re all familiar, by now, with the WWE convention of how you get a title shot after pinning a champion in a non-title match; it’s such a familiar trope that the writers on SmackDown recently lampooned it by way of R-Truth looking to pin then-Women’s Champion Carmella for an unrelated championship match (then meta-lampooned it by having him still looking to pin Carmella after she’d lost the title).
Let’s, therefore, keep an eye out this evening for whether McIntyre is indeed next in line for a match for the Intercontinental Championship. It doesn’t seem unlikely; to be honest though, he’s one of only three men that would seem likely right now – the other two being Dolph Ziggler (again) and Dean Ambrose. This is where Raw walling-off its men’s championships into a single program at the top of the card becomes a slight problem, because logical, progressive ways out of it that reintegrate the rest of the locker room as relevant contenders on the show start to become tricky to find. I’d love Rollins to go back to open challenges on Monday night, but does that make narrative sense? His most interesting opponents would be the ones currently around him. Where McIntyre and Ziggler go next is also difficult to see.
My assumption, when McIntyre made his return to Raw alongside Ziggler, was that it was a marriage of convenience (McIntyre needed a reintroduction, Ziggler a rehabilitation) which would end by one turning on the other. On the one hand, McIntyre going after the Intercontinental Championship – which Dolph Ziggler recently coveted – has all the makings of a pressure point in that relationship. However, on the other, they’re still the Raw Tag Team Champions, and who is there to take those titles from them? AOP look to be next in line, but as a heel team that doesn’t feel like it makes a lot of sense. The B-Team got a cheap victory against The Revival last week, but going back to Dallas and Axel would surely be a regressive step. Otherwise the only obvious candidates are Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose….. And around we go…..
SmackDown Live (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis IN)
Announced: Becky Lynch (c) vs Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship (if Lynch is disqualified she loses the title). Jeff Hardy vs Samoa Joe and a returning Big Show vs Randy Orton, both in qualifying matches for the ‘WWE World Cup’ at Crown Jewel.
What to expect: ‘If Lynch is disqualified she loses the title’. The cynic in me – and probably many of you reading this too – will be stunned if Becky Lynch doesn’t lose by countout here, keeping her title and setting up a more rigid stipulation against Charlotte Flair at Evolution. Surely that’s the logical way forward. Of the two ‘World Cup’ qualifying matches, Big Show and Randy Orton is probably the most noteworthy, as it’s Show’s first in-ring appearance for quite some time. Seems it would be an odd choice to book him for this if he wasn’t winning; Tye Dillinger and his nine working fingers might also be looking to give Orton some payback too. Samoa Joe, his tilt at the WWE Championship now over, probably starts as favorite against Jeff Hardy in the other match.
In the only result of global consequence to come out of Super Show-Down (non-cruiserweight division, which is basically banished to the WWE Network nowadays anyway), AJ Styles vs Daniel Bryan is set for Saudi Arabia on November 2nd. That should start to be built this week, although whether The Miz will be hanging around complaining about his quick loss to Bryan at the start of it remains to be seen. We should also find out how Rusev responds to Aiden English’s obviously-out-of-context ‘video evidence’ from Milwaukee. The New Day require new challengers for the tag titles, Shelton Benjamin may feature on programming again after getting a victory over Daniel Bryan last week and, if Mixed Match Challenge cross-promotion continues at its current rate, there may be something for Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and Zelina Vega to do again (the fact they couldn’t even get a slot in the MMC bracket is a crying shame).
Spotlight: It was heartening to see The IIconics – formerly The Iconic Duo in NXT – Peyton Royce and Billie Kay pick up a win in their home country on Saturday. The pair have only had scraps to feed on since their promotion to the main roster, both in terms of the patchy quality of the promo material they’ve been asked to deliver and their position on the roster, which has generally been as third-tier punching bags for those women who needed rehabilitating after unsuccessful championship challenges. On the week’s two-hour show, in a company that still (whatever they may say about revolutions and evolutions) struggles to write more than one-and-a-half to two women’s storylines on a show at any given time, it’s not the most prime of spots.
However, Royce and Kay have done everything they can with what they’ve been given and it’s a credit to them and the SmackDown writing team that with the small roles they’ve had that their unique characters are still recognizable from their time in developmental. Some weeks the promo segments have grated, sometimes the jokes haven’t landed and sometimes they’ve not looked like stars in the ring – four-minute matches will do that to just about anybody – but crucially the fact they’ve had the opportunities to try those things have prevented them from feeling homogenized. Winning Saturday’s match didn’t just feel like a righteous homecoming for The IIconics, but also a validation for them chipping away at their craft every week with the television minutes they were given. It feels like they’ve passed a test of relevancy, were such a hypothetical thing ever a concern.
If we are on the brink of seeing women’s tag team championships in WWE, it goes without saying The IIconics would now be frontrunning candidates to hold them. The common logic would be for both brands, Raw and SmackDown, to have a pair of championships each and the signs might well be there for those people optimistic to see such a thing happen. Efforts to make Asuka and Naomi look like a unit during this program – I like that stereo-kick finisher a lot – are mirrored over on Raw, where The Riott Squad are very much still a going concern, Bayley and Sasha Banks remain in a very clear holding pattern and there’s the small matter of the ‘legendary’ Bella Twins. For a good couple of months now, both brands have been wargaming for women’s tag titles; the programs have been running with everything but the straps. That may soon change. If it does, The IIconics look to be coming into form at the perfect time.
Also This Week
A big title match for this week’s episode of NXT (Wednesday), with Ricochet defending the North American Championship against Pete Dunne and Adam Cole. That should be pretty great. Keith Lee vs Kona Reeves is also on the card. Nothing’s been announced for 205 Live (Wednesday, not live) at time of writing, but we should expect a lot of the focus to be on new Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy and the question of Cedric Alexander’s contractual rematch.
The second round of the Mae Young Classic (Wednesday) continues and concludes, with Mia Yim vs Kaitlyn, Tegan Nox vs Nicole Matthews, Io Shirai vs Zeuxis and Deonna Purrazzo vs Xia Li. The quarterfinals take place next week, with the semifinals on the Wednesday before Evolution. Mixed Match Challenge (Tuesday Facebook Watch/Thursday WWE Network) this week features AJ Styles & Charlotte Flair vs R-Truth & Carmella, plus Braun Strowman & Ember Moon vs Finn Balor & Bayley.
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!
- Who would you prefer to see challenging for the Raw Tag Team Championships next, out of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins or AOP?
- Who should be the next challengers to The New Day?
- At this point, which upcoming show out of Evolution or Crown Jewel are you looking forward to seeing more?
Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.