SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
We are less than two weeks away from Wrestlemania and the final card is really starting to take shape. Wrestlers on both shows are doing their best to put themselves in the best position as they move closer to April 2nd as both shows showcased progression in every major angle. Lets take a closer look at who stood out and who missed the mark.
RAW ALL STAR: CHRIS JERICHO
My goodness, has Chris Jericho cemented himself as one of the greatest of all time or what? His performance during the Highlight Reel segment was off the charts, and the chemistry he has with Kevin Owens is so dynamic and compelling that no matter they say to one another, it always seems so impactful. Y2J easily got the pop of the night amongst the Brooklyn faithful, who undoubtedly appreciate all he is doing for Monday Night Raw at the moment.
Jericho’s versatility in the ring and during promos was on full display Monday as he was able to utilize the same or similar heel catch phrases and get them over as a babyface while still maintaining a serious tone when it got down to brass tax. Playing up the teenage photo of Owens was a nice touch, almost humanizing The Prizefighter who has gone back to his ruthless and selfish ways since turning on Jericho.
The most impressive part of this entire segment, however, was the way Jericho was able to turn the Brooklyn crowd against Owens, who normally gets an extremely positive reaction in the New York market. His ability to sell for KO in the beatdown that followed their argumentative promo was so well executed that Owens left the ring to a rousing “BOO” which sets up the heat perfectly for WrestleMania.
Candidly, I would like to see these two stay away from one another next week as this was the perfect set-up going into their showdown in Orlando. Jericho has been brilliant in the weeks leading up to this and these two will most certainly be a candidate for match of the night on April 2nd.
RAW UNDER PERFORMER: BAYLEY
Each week I tune into Monday Night Raw hoping that the creative team will take steps forward in legitimizing Bayley’s character and stray away from the hopeless fan girl character she has been playing. If her portrayal wasn’t bad enough, Bayley lost another non-title match on TV this week setting up insurmountable odds stacked against her at WrestleMania with the inclusion of Nia Jax.
While the epidemic of non-title match loses has effected wrestlers far beyond Bayley, she is the last person who should be acting as a doormat while holding the Woman’s Championship. Given how much Charlotte was able to “expose” Bayley for being nothing but a fan who will never be championship material, WWE had the opportunity to establish Bayley as a legitimate threat in the woman’s division when she defeated Charlotte for the title then ended her PPV streak. Instead, Bayley’s win and those that followed have been laden with outside interference and other shenanigans that have made her look weak and incapable of being successful on her own.
Her run as champion suffered another blow on Monday after being absolutely destroyed by Jax. Sure, Bayley did get her share of offense in but showed that she was no match for her opponent. Given that the Raw woman’s match at Wrestlemania now features four competitors, WWE has a huge choice to make – Put Bayley over with a very convincing finish and start to erase the stench that has attached itself to her first championship run, or go in another direction which will no doubt leave her between a rock and a hard place.
SMACKDOWN ALL-STARS: THE MIZ & MARYSE
There have been people who have tried to parody John Cena and Nikki Bella but I am not sure anyone can hold a candle to what The Miz & Maryse did on Tuesday. As someone who has never been an avid viewer of Total Bellas, I had only heard about how scripted and awkward John & Nikki come off on television. After seeing the “lost videos” presented on Tuesday I am not sure I ever have to tune in to the show.
Both Miz & Maryse were all in on this skit and it was perfect fodder to get under the skin of WWE’s premier couple. What worked so well here was that behind all of the comedy these two provided was a massive attack on the legitimacy the relationship Cena and Nikki are currently in. There was an exorbitant amount of humor, but the personal digs both Miz and Maryse took are perfect material for Cena and Nikki to respond to next week which will act as the final confrontation before WrestleMania.
That being said, aside from what Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens were doing on Raw as a team, I have not laughed that hard at a wrestling segment in quite some time. It was by far one of the best “out of the box” ideas WWE has presented in a while and it most certainly did not disappoint.
My only concern with this is that while Miz and Maryse still come off as villains in these skits, many fans at home were probably nodding along and wondering how true their claims about Cena and Nikki really are. It is no secret that many fans question how legitimate their relationship actually is and could side with Miz here as he paints Cena as a dishonest narcissist. That said, it was extremely well done and added more fuel to the build-up of this match that most originally did not want to see.
SMACKDOWN NOTABLE ALL-STARS: THE USOS
With the way American Alpha has been forgotten more and more each week it was only fitting that The Usos won the Smackdown Tag Titles this week. As Alpha floundered, The Usos utilized their recent TV time to establish their new attitudes and move set. It was a slow, and sometimes awkward transition, but the finished product could lead to something special from Jimmy & Jey.
Many fans have forgotten how well The Usos can perform in the ring as their babyface move set and predictable comeback maneuvers were getting extremely stale. Since their turn they haven’t gotten more that 7-10 minutes in the ring on TV to prove that they should be taken seriously. This match with Alpha, by far, was one of their best performances to date as the two teams wrestled a tremendously entertaining match with a great mix of mat wrestling and some high spots.
It was great to see these two brothers come out on top and head into Wrestlemania as champions, most likely to face Alpha in a rematch. What was most important and impactful in this match was the way they carried themselves as the match progressed. There is a renewed intensity and aggression from The Usos that have helped them get over as heels and legitimizes them and the spot they are now in. If they can build on this, these two can have a fantastic run as champions. I only hope Smackdown can help rebuild their tag division around The Usos and America Alpha as it has been a very weak part of the show.
All around, Smackdown was quite an entertaining show with very few low points. I could nitpick the woman’s segment or the Bray Wyatt-Randy Orton encounter, but I have been hard enough on them of late. No one’s performance this Tuesday, in my opinion, earned them the label of Under Performer.
Lastly, I would like to send my deepest condolences to the great Jim Ross and his family after the passing of his wife, Jan. My thoughts and prayers are with him in such a difficult time.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: ALL-STARS & UNDER PERFORMERS: Roman Reigns, Gallows & Anderson, Dana Brooke, Styles, Orton