Welcome to Wrestling Wrecap, a column focused on discussing and dissecting the week in pro wrestling.
This has been something of a week for controversial decisions in wrestling thanks to both WWE and New Japan. Which means that I’m mostly going to be defending these choices as I happen to enjoy them for the most part. Let’s start with the more complicated one, Charlotte being added to the Becky Lynch vs Ronda Rousey match.
I’ve stated before that Charlotte’s addition to the match is a natural conclusion to her and Becky’s feud, not to mention an extension of her unfinished business with Rousey. A quick glance at wrestling Twitter will tell you, it is also an excellent way to generate heat without having the crowd boo Rousey out of the building for the next two months. The problem, as is typically the case with WWE, is in the execution.
Last week, Lynch was suspended after refusing to see a WWE doctor for her leg. She was still back on Raw this week, having apparently learned from John Cena how to serve a suspension without missing a single show. As it turns out, Becky was cleared by her own doctor and all was right with the world, other than the McMahon’s continued pettiness, which resulted in them demanding an apology before she could officially go to Wrestlemania. If this seems like a pretty easy decision to make then you are not The Man, or whatever version of Lynch the writer’s concocted this week. Because Lynch spent the whole show seeking the advice of people she looks up to (Finn Balor), and people she should care less about (literally everyone else.) They even interrupted matches to show her contemplating the decision like a complete goober.
The goobering did not stop there, sadly, as Lynch finally came out at the end of the show to address Stephanie and Triple H. And she apologized. You know, the same woman who beat up both of them last week and looked like the second coming of Stone Cold? Yeah, she flat out said sorry for all that. You could hear how deflated the crowd got from it as well.
That wasn’t all though, the rug was not sufficiently pulled out from under the audience yet. Vince waddled his way out to the stage to suspend Becky anyway for her actions, completely making her apology a moot point. He then decided to make Charlotte the new contender for Rousey’s title.
With a couple day’s remove, I can sort of see where they are coming from with this story. Becky is constantly railing against Charlotte for being handed opportunities because of her heritage. So, it makes a certain sense to take that somewhat subtle note and make it as overt and obvious as possible. My real problem is with the McMahons.
We’re over twenty years removed from the beginnings of the Austin/McMahon rivalry and the WWE has been unable to escape the allure of constantly having its talent fend off the machinations of the CEO and his family. Even after the audience has long sense stopped caring about it. The last time it was actually successful in the long-term was with Daniel Bryan and they were partially forced into that story.
The fact is, none of the women in this feud need the McMahon’s involvement. Charlotte is going to get heat either way, Becky was already over without needing to thwart a 70-year old man and Ronda still has the aura of a badass (until she talks.) It is making a simple story convoluted for the sake of it. Not to mention how terrible the whole closing segment makes Becky look. I doubt the crowds are going to be any less hot for Becky and it is entirely likely that I am wrong and this will make the whole build to Wrestlemania more compelling. From where I’m sitting now, however, it is another missed shot from a company that should know better.
The Cutthroat Era Begins
Another glance at wrestler Twitter will show you that some are not pleased with our new IWGP Heavyweight champion, Jay White. While I disagree with those assessments of him I can see where they are coming from.
White debuted as “Switchblade” a little over a year ago and a disappointing match against Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 12 was not the best of starts. However, it quickly became clear White was on a path to stardom in New Japan after he attacked Kenny Omega, won the US title from him and kickstarted the Bullet Club Civil War. This is where Jay White started to shine for me.
Most dismiss White because of his “edgelord” attire, but Switchblade’s actual character is engaging in a way that his appearance does not do justice to. He is a disruptor, the type of ego-centric person who comes in and only worries about himself and will take out anyone to get there. Enter his feud with Okada.
White had been described by multiple people as the best NJPW prospect since the Rainmaker so, when he turned on Okada, with the help of Gedo, Okada’s former mentor, he set out to prove he was better than him. This continued with him successfully defeating the Rainmaker at Wrestle Kingdom, cleanly no less.
And so, it came back to Tanahashi, the first man he faced as the Switchblade. This time around they had a terrific match that played into Tana’s resiliency and White’s viciousness, but it was White who came out on top, just as Okada did to capture his first title over six years ago. Aside from being a fan of White, I also find the decision to put the belt on him a great storytelling move. It furthers the Okada comparisons by giving him a similar “shock” title win and helps fill the gap in the main event scene left by Omega’s departure. He isn’t going to put on the greatest match you’ll see that month, but for the time being, White is the right character for the title.
The Chamber Looms
This Sunday is another stop on the fabled “Road to Wrestlemania,” Elimination Chamber. The Chamber is usually a fun match itself and while it has gotten a bit stale with years of use the two matches being contested in the structure leave me hopeful. The rest of the card? Yeah, not so much.
WWE Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy vs Akira Tozawa
The Cruiserweights are once again on the pre-show and honestly this match kind of justifies it. I like Tozawa and Murphy is on a different level as champion, but it would be hard to call this match compelling. It will be fun and will probably get decent time but there’s no way the title changes hands right now. Winner: Buddy Murphy
Elimination Chamber Match for the Women’s Tag Team Championship: Nia Jax & Tamina vs The Riott Squad (Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan) vs Mandy Rose & Sonya Deville vs The IIconics (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce) vs Bayley and Sasha Banks vs Naomi & Carmella
While I understand why people might want tag belts for the women I can’t quite get excited for it when WWE doesn’t even bother to book the men’s tag titles well. Still, this match should be fun even with the uneven build-up. Expect Jax and Tamina to wreck shit early and probably be the last eliminated. While I’d love to see the IIconics win since their one of two actual tag teams in this the match is made for Bayley & Sasha and I don’t see WWE moving away from it now. Winner: Bayley & Sasha Banks
WWE Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Miz & Shane McMahon vs The Usos
This is part of what I mean, the Smackdown title is treated better than Raw mainly because they at least have the decency to make a storyline for these two teams. Jimmy Uso’s recent trouble with the law might indicate a change in plans, but I’m still on the “Miz turns on Shane” train. Winner: The Usos
Elimination Chamber Match: WWE Champion Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles vs Jeff Hardy vs Randy Orton vs Samoa Joe vs Kofi Kingston
This is a surefire match of the night and after Smackdown this week, I’m pulling for Kofi big time. That said, the odds are firmly against him winning as fun as that would be. Instead, I’ll settle for him not being the first eliminated. This will come down, once again, to Styles and Bryan to continue their never-ending feud. I’m guessing that Bryan wins with help from Rowan and other members of his “family.” Winner: Daniel Bryan
WWE Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey vs Ruby Riott
I’m interested to see how this match goes since there is zero drama in Ruby potentially winning. Even if they had some kind of story attached to this it’d be hard to get the audience invested. We all know Rousey is going to Mania as champion. Hopefully Riott gets the chance to turn some heads here. Winner: Ronda Rousey
Handicap Match: WWE Intercontinental Champion Bobby Lashley & Lio Rush vs Finn Balor
If we’re treating house shows as canon, Balor apparently requested this match which is the type of dumb shit that makes it hard to root for babyfaces. Yeah, you’re a good guy but you’re not an idiot! Why give yourself a disadvantage? To prove a point? Why not win the match despite potential interference and make your point there? Ah whatever, Lashley wins anyway to save Finn’s big moment for Wrestlemania. Winners: Bobby Lashley & Lio Rush
No Disqualification Match: Baron Corbin vs Braun Strowman
I feel kind of bad that I called Style/Bryan “never-ending” up above. This is a more accurate version of that term. Corbin is the reincarnation of X-Pac in terms of my disinterest and Strowman has cooled off so significantly that I can barely muster a shrug when he arrives now. Braun should hopefully win and end this interminable feud for good. Winner: Braun Strowman
Performer of the Week: Kofi Kingston
Replacing the injured Mustafa Ali, Kofi had a great deal of work to do to convince people that he could potentially pull off the upset come Sunday and win the WWE Championship. Pinning the champ himself is a great first step, but lasting nearly an hour in the gauntlet match and putting on a defining babyface performance solidified it. Kofi won’t be taking home the strap this Sunday, but it will be a crime if he doesn’t get a hold of it eventually after this showing.
If you made it down here, thanks for reading! Tell me what you thought about this week’s events in wrestling in the comments and, as always, any feedback is appreciated. Cheers!