Happy Monday, TJRWrestling faithful! Uncle Vince is back on telly, Braun Strowman is back on a tear and the Mae Young Classic concludes live in Vegas. Welcome to the Week In Preview for World Wrestling Entertainment, September 11th 2017.
Raw (Honda Center, Anaheim CA)
Announced: Nothing formally announced at time of writing. Brock Lesnar is back this week though.
What to expect: Last week, Braun Strowman was once again booked brilliantly and befitting of his ‘monster’ label. What Brock Lesnar does this week will be interesting. Will Lesnar and Strowman be kept apart until next week’s go-home show for No Mercy? It’s quite possible. The other big match at No Mercy – and it’s a huge one – has been built on John Cena’s fourth-wall breaking and the gruff bluster of Roman Reigns. Hopefully they can change it up a bit, but expect it to continue as we’ll probably be made to wait for the physicality. WWE loves a reality-style work and will bleed this dry before the men finally step in the ring together. The Raw Women’s Championship match at No Mercy is now a four-way, so expect Nia Jax and, in particular, Emma to stake their claim for the title this week to fill in the narrative gaps.
The tag titles match between Dean Ambrose & Seth Rollins and former champions Sheamus & Cesaro is now official for No Mercy, so we should see these men refocus on each other after last week’s separate tag matches – although that said, a good outside bet for a likely match tonight would be Sheamus & Cesaro vs The Club, after those guys tangled last week. Elsewhere in the tag division, we may see what’s next for Matt and Jeff Hardy after Jeff’s unsuccessful tilt at the Intercontinental Championship last week, while The Miz will presumably look for a new opponent to defend against. Possibly it’ll be time to revisit that program with Jason Jordan? Speaking of revisiting programs, we have two more weeks of Bray Wyatt toying with the non-demon version of Finn Balor; I hope it won’t be more of the same old ‘mind games’ material, but am braced for disappointment. Finally, Enzo Amore is the new official contender for Neville’s Cruiserweight Championship, so that’s likely to be addressed here.
Spotlight: Slightly shorter Spotlights than normal this week, but I just wanted to collate some notes on what Matt and Jeff Hardy are currently up to. Last week, Jeff failed to capture the Intercontinental Championship, doing The Miz a fantastic (and sorely overdue) service of being a creditable challenger who the champion could beat cleanly in an entertaining match. Not to be outdone – never to be outdone – Matt posted a short video in his familiar ‘Broken’ gimmick style, talking about being ‘Woken’, as his family’s legal tussle with Anthem Sports/Impact Wrestling/TNA/Global Force/Whoever’s Holding The Ball This Week rumbles on.
But as The Miz rolls onwards with the Intercontinental Championship and Impact/GFW stubbornly stumble on as they slowly disappear up their own arses, what’s next for Matt and Jeff? As a former WWE Champion, Jeff Hardy is a valuable name to put up against champions and newer talent who need a rub on their way somewhere, while even if he’s unsuccessful in his battle for the ‘Broken’ gimmick, Matt Hardy has always been creative enough to survive and evolve. But as a duo, they’re currently starting to drift a little. Their retro Hardy Boyz stylings are still well received by crowds, but are yet to be developed since they returned to the company and they appear to be slipping down the order in the tag division. Surely there must be more on offer for them?
If reports concerning other parts of WWE’s tag team output are accurate, there’s certainly one limitation the Hardys may be facing. Following SummerSlam, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter noted that the reason The New Day lost their SmackDown Tag Team Championships to The Usos (and why it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility they might win them back in the very near future) is because WWE want Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods to break the all-time record for most championship wins currently held by the Dudleys. Matt and Jeff are only a couple of wins behind the Dudleys so, unless WWE wants to make life harder on themselves, are unlikely to rack up too many more titles together in the company.
The Dudley Boyz, of course, returned to WWE after SummerSlam in 2015 and worked exactly one year before departing the company again. After an initial program upon arrival with The New Day during their first championship reign, the Dudleys never got near the championships again and spent most of the rest of the year putting over younger, newer teams. Is that the direction the Hardys are currently headed in? If so, we should be grateful that Matt Hardy has an admirable track record of refusing to be pigeonholed, and a long-term feud with his brother – Broken, Woken or otherwise – is probably the best option on the table for both men in the medium-term future.
SmackDown Live (Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas NV)
Announced: Tuesday night is stacked! The Usos (c) vs The New Day in a street fight for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships, Natalya (c) vs Naomi for the SmackDown Women’s Championship and AJ Styles (c) vs Tye Dillinger for the United States Championship. Vince McMahon will also be on the show to deal with the situation with Kevin Owens threatening to sue the company.
What to expect: Will there be any time for anything other than the announced segments? The expected face-to-face time between Kevin Owens and Vince McMahon could be very watchable and potentially a big career moment for Owens. The tag match should be great, and a title change shouldn’t be ruled out – Hell in a Cell next month still seems like the right gimmick to settle the Owens/Shane feud once and for all. The chances of Baron Corbin showing up to wreck Tye Dillinger’s shot at the United States Championship are reasonable, as Dillinger’s presence is very much a side-plot (albeit a welcome one) before Corbin vs AJ Styles finally swings into life. Natalya vs Naomi was surprisingly good at Summerslam and warrants a re-run. No idea whether Carmella will be sticking her nose in, or if she’s going to be preoccupied with whatever-the-hell-it-is she’s got going on with James Ellsworth.
What else might we get? Shinsuke Nakamura is once again number one contender to WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, and based on last week’s Mahal promo it looks like we may get a feud around ‘who’s the best representative of Asia’ (note WWE has an Asian tour booked imminently). Dolph Ziggler’s bizarre rant last week at wrestlers with extravagant entrances surely has to result in him clashing with Bobby Roode, while Sami Zayn and Aidan English will likely continue to wrestle short matches that Zayn loses to build to a short match that Zayn will win. As with last week, time constraints may limit any appearances by Breezango, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, while Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch are more likely to be busy with the Mae Young Classic later in the night.
Spotlight: Whatever Dolph Ziggler’s wrestling epitaph ends up being, it sure as hell won’t be “could’ve tried harder”. Dolph Ziggler tries as hard as anybody on the roster. Whether it’s portraying passionate beliefs in interviews, selling opponents’ offense in the ring or every little movement when he comes down the ramp, Ziggler’s effort is a visceral process. You can see the strain. Sometimes, in the right circumstances – like his feud with The Miz last year – this comes out as babyface perfection, but in others you sometimes wish he’d underplay things for a change. His earnestness becomes aggravating. In short, more often than not he belongs in the world of villainy.
We’ve always known this though. #Heel Dolph Ziggler has always been the best version of his character – most departures from that have been as a reaction to crowd appreciation for his work – and last week’s slightly bizarre segment where he parodied the flamboyant entrances of a number of other wrestlers helped to reposition him somewhere where he can have a greater impact, even if the methods employed were a little bit odd. The segment was obtuse and a little frustrating, and dragged on for longer than it possibly should’ve as Ziggler oversold his point. But then, that was the idea.
I tend not to complain when WWE looks to try something new, even if it ends up looking like a dog’s dinner. Take the program between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt earlier this year; the bug projections and the House of Horrors may all have been executed in a way that made us cringe, but I’m glad to see the company try something different. It’s better than another cycle of people interrupting each other’s promos, being booked in a tag match and losing to the ROLLUP OF DEATH~! off a distraction. And I thought this worked for two reasons: First, Ziggler hating on the audience for liking what they like is a very effective bit of meta-trolling, without necessarily hurting the quality of the show, and second, hypocrisy is a really effective heel character trait; Ziggler has been milking his entrances for all they’re worth for years.
This has to end in Dolph Ziggler vs Bobby Roode, doesn’t it? Roode is the current big noise in the world of crowd-pleasing flamboyant entrances and, given that WWE clearly isn’t expecting the main roster audience to turn on Roode’s gimmick in the immediate future, this is a lay-up for the former NXT Champion’s first proper SmackDown feud. It’s here in the use of both men that I have my only complaints. Bobby Roode as the arrogant, aloof champion in NXT was too good a character not to see on the main roster, and the quicker they get back to him the better. Dolph Ziggler, meanwhile, resumes an oft-adopted role of ‘big-name opponent for the new guy to beat’ which hasn’t served him well in the past. However, if it feeds into his increasingly neurotic, bitter character, hopefully some good may come of it.
Also This Week
The Mae Young Classic Finals (Tuesday) will air live on the WWE Network following SmackDown in Las Vegas. Japanese pirate princess Kairi Sane will face former MMA star and Horsewoman Shayna Baszler. There’s also a good chance of some further developments going down between Baszler and Ronda Rousey’s Four Horsewomen faction and their WWE namesakes. If you need to catch up, there’s a recap show on the Network following Raw tonight (with an exclusive tag match) – or you could just read the first part and second part of the review I wrote and am now plugging shamelessly.
205 Live (Tuesday) will air on the WWE Network around half an hour later than usual, as it follows the conclusion of the Mae Young Classic. We have the rare pleasure of a match announced in advance, Rich Swann vs TJP, which evidently has the potential to be good.
There’s another championship match this week on NXT (Wednesday), as Pete Dunne defends the United Kingdom Championship against Wolfgang as we wait to see if there’s anything outside of NXT for that division to get their teeth into. Also this Wednesday, Ruby Riot will find a partner to wrestle Peyton Royce and Billie Kay in a tag match. This seems a perfect chance to reunite Team Slap Happy – had to get a Dakota Kai reference in here somewhere, folks – but this week might be a bit soon for that.
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!
- What should be next for Matt and Jeff Hardy?
- What do you make of Dolph Ziggler’s new gimmick of running down other people’s gimmicks?
- Will you be watching the finals of the Mae Young Classic and, if so, who do you think will win?
Until next week, strap in, enjoy the ride and remember to stick with TJRWrestling.net for your show recaps and analysis.