All posts by brian

PPRe-View: WWE Survivor Series (2018)

OH BOY Survivor Series. This is a show that’s one of the big four, has been around for decades, and almost never results in major story impacts since the brand split. With the rosters on each brand being separate, Survivor Series has become “the only time Raw and Smackdown compete against either other”, which isn’t true and means that things that happen in these matches have little to no effect on the weekly shows themselves. It’s all fighting over “bragging rights” that don’t come up until next year’s Survivor Series.

This year’s show has had a hell of a weird build. It went almost unmentioned until after Crown Jewel, which only gave it two weeks of build. From the start: three matches were a lock: Seth Rollins v. Shinsuke Nakamura, Ronda Rousey v. Becky Lynch, and Brock Lesnar v. AJ Styles. In those two weeks, Lynch was injured and Styles lost his WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan, so those matches changed to Rousey v. Charlotte Flair and Lesnar v. Daniel Bryan in the go-home Smackdown. The other matches were built utterly haphazardly, with most of them settled on the go-home show, but still mixed up their rosters before Survivor Series started. With these messes in mind, let’s tackle the show.

Pre-Show: 10 Person Tag Team Survivor Series Match (The Revival, The Ascension, The B-Team, Lucha House Party, and Roode/Gable for Team Raw vs. The New Day, The Colons, Sanity, Gallows/Anderson, and The Usos for Team Smackdown)

Holy hell, the first two thirds of this match were a damn disaster. Just a mess of miscommunications, missed tags, worked injuries, messy action and unceremonious eliminations. Where it clearly improved was after three teams were eliminated from each side and we were left with The Revival and Roode/Gable vs. The New Day and The Usos. We got teased with some action between Chad Gable and Big E that demands a singles match someday in the future. Big E nailed his signature, utterly self-destructive, spear through the ropes to the outside, which impaled Dash Wilder and looked real nasty. We wind up with The Revival vs. The Usos and both teams looked amazing. They’re great tag teams and I can only hope this spells better fortunes for The Revival on Raw. Usos land a win for Smackdown, which doesn’t count because it’s the pre-show.

Between this match and the start of the show, the women’s Survivor Series match gets their rosters set for both shows. For some reason, Raw ditches Ruby Riott and Natalya after they attack each other and replace them with Bayley and Sasha Banks. Both of these women should’ve been in their lineup from day 1. Smackdown lost Flair from their team to her singles match with Rousey, and they replace her with Mandy Rose and also select Naomi as their replacement captain. Being the captain of a Survivor Series team is more or less meaningless.

Women’s Survivor Series Match (Nia Jax, Tamina, Mickie James, Sasha Banks for Team Raw vs. Naomi, Asuka, Carmella, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose for Team Smackdown)

Jax was identified on Smackdown’s go-home show as the person who injured Lynch, so she’s greeted with boos on entrance. The match starts with a “Becky” chant from the crowd, and it’s not a great match from there. James gets a lot of time in the ring and shows some good offense, and Rose gets more time in this match than she’s been on TV in months. Banks and Bayley, being the only babyfaces on the Raw team, end up conflicting with the rest which ends with Jax (to tons of boos) causing Banks to be eliminated by Asuka, and then defeating Asuka to win the match for Team Raw. Jax, triumphant, eats more boos and seems surprised that the crowd hates her. Hello, you’re a heel, and you injured a super hot champion. You should be drinking this in and feeding off of it.

Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins vs. United States Champion Shinsuke Nakamura

This is a great, if predictable, match. Rollins is fire in the ring and Nakamura is fresh because we haven’t seen him compete in months. However, they’ve been forced to wear their show colors, with Rollins bringing back a half-and-half Raw shirt, and Nakamura wearing an out-of-character all blue outfit. They look silly but the match is good. Rollins kicks out a Kinshasa and comes back with a Stomp to win.

Raw Tag Team Champions The Authors of Pain vs. Smackdown Tag Team Champions The Bar

It’s not really worth talking about this match because it’s only okay. Four hosses going at each other should’ve been more exciting. The Bar wrestled in a babyface style, which is an odd choice as they’ve been heels for quite a while. No, what’s worth talking about is the ending. Authors manager Drake Maverick pulls an Author’s foot onto a ring rope to cheat and save his team, which results in him being confronted by The Bar’s friend(?) Big Show. Big Show puts Maverick in a one-handed choke and Maverick pees his pants. This distraction causes the Authors to hit Sheamus with a tag team powerbomb, giving them the win for Team Raw. I expected Maverick to play a role in this match. I did not expect him to pee his pants. I love Drake Maverick and his commitment to entertaining a crowd is unmatched, but come on. Couldn’t he do something slightly less embarrassing?

Cruiserweight Champion Buddy Murphy vs. Mustapha Ali for the Cruiserweight Championship

For once, the cruiserweight championship gets main show (not pre-show) billing and they make the most of it. These guys put on amazing matches every week on 205 Live and go underappreciated by the bulk of the WWE audience. They both play their roles perfectly, with Ali being the high risk, high flying all-heart fighter and Murphy tossing him around like a mini-Brock Lesnar. The crowd starts dead but eventually gets into this match in a serious way and garners the first “this is awesome” chant of the show. It is awesome, and you can see these kind of matches every single week! Ultimately, Murphy is too much for Ali and pins him to retain his cruiserweight championship. This is a great match and both competitors looked fantastic.

Men’s Survivor Series Match (Finn Balor, Bobby Lashley, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, and Braun Strowman for Team Raw vs. Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, Shane McMahon, and The Miz for Team Smackdown)

I’m beginning to believe the rumors that Samoa Joe is working injured based on how he was immediately bodied by McIntyre and eliminated within three minutes. I can’t say it’s downhill from there as it never really gets great. The Raw team fights each other, McMahon jumps very far three times, and Strowman eliminates four out of five of the Smackdown team to ultimately get the victory for Team Raw. Listen. I know Raw had the big body boys, but a team with legends like Hardy and Mysterio should’ve gotten at least competitive booking. It ends with Best Wrestler in the World Shane McMahon as the last member of Team Smackdown. It just wasn’t a good match.

Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair

I am biased here; I do not like Ronda Rousey the person. However, this was an amazing, very physical match. Flair, as usual, is amazing and looks so good in almost every match she has. Rousey has diversified her moveset and it pays off here. It doesn’t look like a choreographed stage fight, it looks like a great wrestling match and earns another “this is awesome” chant from the crowd. It ends with Flair beating Rousey with a kendo stick, disqualifying her and giving Rousey the win. Flair, in a heel turn that is cheered by the crowd, beats the holy hell out of Rousey with the kendo stick, plants her with Natural Selection into a chair, and stomps on that same chair as it’s wrapped around Rousey’s neck. The crowd loves it. They chant “thank you Charlotte”. Does WWE expect the crowd to boo Flair here? They barely like Rousey before the match started. She limps to the back to a “Becky” chant and boos. This heel turn is maybe the only thing that mattered on this show but its payoff won’t come until Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania. Unless the rosters are mixed up, Rousey has to move on to her next promised title defense against Nia Jax. I don’t know where this leaves Flair on the Smackdown roster.

Universal Champion Brock Lesnar vs. WWE Champion Daniel Bryan

This match could have been bad. Recent Lesnar matches haven’t been bangers, and the switch from Styles to a now heel Bryan was sudden and unexpected. But it turns out to be a great match. It starts like all Lesnar matches, with lots of German suplexes from Lesnar and zero offense from Bryan but it takes a turn when Bryan hits a low blow after a ref bump. From there it’s all about Bryan outsmarting Lesnar. He’s working the leg, he’s escaping Lesnar’s holds, he’s reversing Lesnar’s attacks. The story here is that Lesnar is a beast, but Bryan is a technician and he’s smarter than Lesnar. Eventually, he gets caught in a F5 and eats the pin, but this was easily my favorite Lesnar match in recent history and Bryan doesn’t look like a joke coming out of it.

Final Thoughts

This whole show was a big rollercoaster. The singles matches were all highlights and the team matches were mostly forgettable. Very little of this show will matter long term, but what doesn’t sit right with me is that the meta plot of it (and this weekend as a whole when we include NXT Takeover) is that Raw’s roster is completely dominant to Smackdown’s and UFC fighters will beat WWE wrestlers every time. I’m bothered by this, unless it’s signalling an intention to make major roster changes to fix the “imbalance”, and it significantly downplays the skill and talent of the wrestlers in the company who don’t have UFC backgrounds. They’ve made their own talent look inferior to “real world skills” without any obvious gain. It doesn’t make any sense, but at least this show barely matters so maybe things will improve next month with TLC.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (ACO) is a role-playing game. I know I said it was moving in this direction with last year’s Assassin’s Creed Origins, but this entry in the series is as much of a RPG as The Witcher 3. But where Origins last year pushed Assassin’s Creed further into RPG territory and further away from the focus of assassinations, ACO takes this series even further from its roots. In fact, this entry may as well be an entirely different franchise.

In ACO, you can select from the start whether you want to play as Kassandra (woman) or Alexios (man). Either way, you are a Spartan in exile, a descendant of Leonidas himself, during the Peloponnesian War. In the broad game world, Sparta and Athens are at each other’s throats. In the story’s winding path, you learn more about your destiny and how the Cult of Kosmos is attempting to leverage your bloodline to control the world.

This game is enormous, and I could spend hundreds of words describing just the game. Instead, I’ll sum it by saying this is a third person character RPG in a historical setting. Even though killing people isn’t your only course of action, most missions are resolved with murder and there are four different power structures to be murdered: the Cult of Kosmos, a seemingly endless string of mercenaries, an arena full of champions, and the national leadership of the Greek states. This may sound like a lot and it is; each of those is a different tweak on the game.

The cult is hunted through finding clues, usually by killing other cultists, sometimes through sidequests. Hunting the cult is some of the most fun this game has and it ties deepest into the main plot. While most cultists are just a name, some are given personality and character, and there are some genuinely surprising reveals.

The mercenaries hunt you when you’ve committed crimes, usually murder, sometimes theft or destruction of property. They’re an endless stream of difficult enemies with unique qualities (“takes less assassination damage”, “has a wolf companion”) in a way that sort of makes it like the Nemesis system in Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, except this is far less fleshed out. It’s one of the game’s biggest missed opportunities. With any amount of personality ascribed to these mercenaries, it might have added something significant to the mindless murder, but instead it’s just another long chain of bodies.

The arena, by comparison to the rest, is fairly simple; fight waves of enemies in an arena and then kill their champion boss. The fights aren’t particularly different from what you do in the game world, but they do take place in an arena full of obstacles to avoid and exploit. There’s a story to this arena that’s worth seeing to the end, but that’s about it.

The least fun of these are the nation takeovers. You have to first lower national threat levels by infiltrating forts and destroying supplies, stealing their war chest, and killing their leadership. Then you can take to the battlefield in a mass combat scenario that’s a lot less fun than it sounds. It’s just a lot of the same combat except with more enemies on screen, and most of them are occupied in fighting other nameless soldiers that are on your side, until one of the two nations wins. Your influence is in killing enemy captains and heroes, which are just the same enemies except with more hitpoints. If you were on the winning side, you get a big reward of gear. If you were on the losing side, you still get some gear. It ultimately does not matter whether Athens or Sparta controls a region, so it’s really just another lost opportunity but maybe it’s commentary on the game world.

I highlight these power structures because they’re the vast majority of the game, and where it loses the most Assassin’s Creed flavor. The focus of these power structures is mostly built on killing the people at the top, which is what you’d expect an assassin to do, but you’re not playing an assassin. The word “assassin” might not ever be used in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Where Origins reduced the functionality of the “single-button murder” that was a staple of the series, it’s almost entirely removed in ACO. No longer does catching somebody by surprise and pressing the murder button kill them outright. For most non-fodder enemies, it only takes a large chunk off of their health. The satisfaction I derived from this game was looking out over an enemy infested fort, sneaking around to kill all of the fodder stealthily, and then getting the drop on the cultist, national leader, general I was there to kill and fighting them without backup because I killed all their backup. This is a formula Ubisoft has been building on since Far Cry 2. It’s still fun, but Assassin’s Creed used to make sneaking in and just killing that one target without engaging in mass murder feasible.

Another major change is the addition of dialog options. Sometimes, you can talk your way out of bad situations. None of these are influenced by your character’s stats, which are solely focused on how easily you can kill someone, so the choice of dialog often feels like a guessing game. ACO doesn’t pretend that these choices are particularly meaningful, except that at six points in the main plot they can influence which of the nine conclusions the story reaches. Even then, the results are largely the same but who comes to the end with you changes.

This is emblematic of ACO. It presents the illusion of choice, but there’s really not much choice at all. Your choices don’t have far reaching consequences for being a story largely centered around your character’s special bloodline. The game world is wide open but it’s a static thing. Killing one nation’s leader just results in another filling in their place. Killing one mercenary moves you up the ladder, but another mercenary fills in behind you. Random name, random traits, no personality. The only murders that count are those against the Cult of Kosmos, but even half of those are just faceless people. I found two of the last ones just sitting alone in the woods. It seems that as Assassin’s Creed has opened up the world over the course of the series, it has reduced the player’s impact on it. Prior games were more linear affairs that could do things like jump 20 years in the future, or kill major characters and show the impacts of those deaths. In ACO, no one’s death means anything. By the end of the game, my character’s actions have had no meaningful impact on the game’s world. Maybe it’s a direct contradiction of the game’s “chosen one” story, or maybe it’s commentary on the meta narrative of the series, which is that all of this is largely meaningless because this world has been simulated to completion. Ancient aliens solved all of this long ago and humanity is just going through the motions. The ones who thought they could change things were wrong.

In this Assassin’s Creed game, you are not an assassin, you’re not part of a group of assassins, and you hardly assassinate anyone. In most aspects, this game and Origins before it are unlike any others in the series, and they benefit from it in some ways, but calling them “Assassin’s Creed” is a misnomer. The game is still historical tourism, with appearances by famous Greeks such as Socrates, Leonidas, Herodotus, and Pericles, among others, but it’s otherwise an entirely different animal from the series that came before Origins. I look back on the 70ish hours I’ve spent in the game, and I enjoyed my time playing it, but it’s a sort of hollow enjoyment. This is a popcorn game, tasty but void of nutrition or substance.


Reference: Ubisoft. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft, 2018)

Source: Purchased from Green Man Gaming.

PPRe-View: WWE Evolution (2018)

As stated before, I wasn’t happy with the build to Evolution, but the show itself was mostly good.

Trish Stratus and Lita vs. Alicia Fox and Mickie James

This was fine. It was a nothing match. No stakes, a couple of messy spots, but not a disaster. Sure, it pops the crowd to see Stratus and Lita in the ring again, and they fared better than other legends brought in for a nostalgia match, but it wasn’t my favorite if only because I have zero to little investment in those two (as someone who watched WWE before and after their tenures), and Fox and James bump like wild but rarely get a win. Tonight was no exception.

20 Woman Battle Royal

As a battle royal, it was okay. Nearly all of the legends were tossed out right from the start. Kudos to Alundra Blayze for knowing where hardcam was and soaking in it. It had the (now required) spot where someone who rolled out of the ring early in the match makes a sudden re-appearance at the end of the match, and it was the tiny Zelina Vega attempting to toss out Nia Jax and Ember Moon before Nia overhead presses her and throws her at Tamina Snuka on the outside of the ring. Nia gets the victory and that’s a good pick, though I would’ve preferred Ember.

Mae Young Classic Finals – Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai

The match was shorter than I would’ve liked, but it was still fun. Storm and Shirai are both incredible wrestlers, so there was no wrong choice here, but Storm got the victory. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of them in NXT.

Bayley, Natalya, and Sasha Banks vs. The Riott Squad

Bayley and Sasha Banks were out here to remind everyone just how absolutely awesome they are when they’re let off the leash a little bit. There were some excellent tag team spots from all of the competitors, and it was infinitely better than the matches they’ve had on Raw recently. Banks pinned Morgan for a victory after a powerbomb by Natalya, an elbow drop by Bayley, and a frog splash by Banks.

NXT Women’s Champion Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship

As I said earlier this week, another great match from Sane and Baszler, with a small tweak. Baszler did some real nasty spots working Sane’s arm, which isn’t new to her repertoire but mean looking nonetheless. This time around, Baszler’s MMA girl squad were ringside and interfered after Sane threw Baszler at them. There was a bit of ref blindness as Sane was attacked three times before Baszler locked in the Kirifuda Clutch for a victory. I can’t tell if this makes Sane look like a stronger competitor or Baszler look like a weaker champion but this locks Baszler in NXT for a while longer and frees up Sane for an upwards (or is it sideways?) move to Raw or Smackdown.

Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship in a Last Woman Standing Match

Holy hell, this is why we got Evolution. Lynch and Flair are both incredible, they’ve been incredible for years, and they took each other to hell and back. Though this isn’t the first WWE Last Woman Standing match (I guess commentary are pretending NXT, who did Asuka vs. Nikki Cross Last Woman Standing, doesn’t count), it definitely set a high bar for any future Last Woman Standing matches. After beating each other with kendo sticks, chairs, ladders, tables, the Smackdown Women’s Championship belt, and (of course) the commentary table, Lynch throws Flair off the top rope onto her back through a ringside table, and Flair fails to get to her feet before the 10 count. This match mattered and both women fought like it mattered and it was amazing.

Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey vs. Nikki Bella for the Raw Women’s Championship

This should not have had to follow the Last Woman Standing match. Everyone knew this would be the main event, but did anyone booking this think that it’d be a better match? Rousey judo-threw Nikki left and right before Brie Bella (ringside) interfered to give Nikki an opening. Nikki put in some offense before we went back to the judo throws and, finally, an arm bar. Every Rousey match could be summed up as “judo throws, selling, judo throws, arm bar”. It gave us nothing new and it was mercifully short.

Final Thoughts

This was a good WWE show, with the six woman tag match and the Last Woman Standing match taking a clear spotlight. I did notice that production on it was a lot less stable than usual, with some obvious hiccups and lower value, such as the ringside barriers being the cheap stuff they use at house shows, and the apron being a normal cloth apron and not the LED boards they use on Raw and other PPVs. I obviously wasn’t into Rousey vs. Bella but the rest of the card was fun. I hope WWE makes this an annual event, but I want even more for it to be booked properly, given an appropriate build up, and an A-team for production. Now excuse me while I ignore main roster WWE until after Crown Jewel. When’s Survivor Series?

I’m not happy about the build-up to WWE Evolution

I can’t be nice about this; the build-up to Evolution has been awful. This is the first WWE all-women’s PPV. It culminates many years of fantastic women’s wrestling, despite being constantly minimized and downplayed by main roster. There is no doubt that WWE has extremely talented women on their roster who often do not get their due. Instead, it’s been built on nostalgia and WWE’s favorite rookie. Let’s beat this card up from most appealing to least.

  • Mae Young Classic Finale

No spoiler, but I’m extremely excited to see how this wraps up. This year’s MYC has been excellent and I can’t wait to see how it ends. We’ve had the whole MYC to build it, even if the MYC has been barely featured on main roster shows.

  • Sane v. Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship

These two are very talented and this match has had a good build up on NXT, but we’ve seen this match, what, twice? Three times? It’ll be good, but it would’ve been nice to see a different opponent for either of them.

  • Lynch v. Flair in a Last Woman Standing match for the Smackdown Women’s Championship

Both of these women are incredible and two of the best the main roster has. We’ve seen this match several times over the years, but it’ll still be good. The stipulation means that the match itself will be full of slow downs as we get numerous near-10 counts.

  • NXT UK Women’s Championship Match

Again, no spoilers, and literally no build up. This is a wild card. Until Wednesday rolls around, I don’t even know who’s competing and I didn’t know this was on the card until I looked up a list. Could be great, but again, no build.

It’s all down hill from here.

  • Banks, Bayley, and Natalya v. The Riott Squad (Riott, Morgan, and Logan)

All of these women are talented, with Bayley and Banks putting on some real MOTY contenders in the past, and this is a Raw women’s match. We’ve seen pieces of this for weeks. I’m watching Banks v. Riott right now, with the rest of them ringside. This match is a waste of their talents.

  • Stratas and Lita v. Bliss and James

Here’s our nostalgia match that has seen a couple Raw promos and zero action. I wasn’t watching when Stratas, Lita, and James were in their primes, and I’m sure they’re talented, but (except James) they likely won’t be sticking around in the ring after this match. There’s no stakes here.

  • 16 Woman Battle Royal

This one is a double-whammy of being a dumping ground for nostalgia (talented, but not staying) and women who’ve had prominent programs and title runs recently. Seriously, there are a ton of great main roster women in this throwaway match. I’m glad they’re getting a payday, but that’s it.

  • Rousey v. N. Bella for the Raw Women’s Championship

Here it is. Our main event. The flag ship match. The match with the most promotion and TV time. It’s a rookie champion that WWE couldn’t wait to put a title on versus a woman that’s good but not great, obviously dividing her attention between many other business ventures, and not likely to stick around after she loses. Instead of putting the focus on the women who got us to the point where an all-women’s PPV wouldn’t immediately be written off as a joke, we’re putting them behind WWE’s favorite new MMA star and a woman who hasn’t been present, let alone putting on great matches, for the last couple years.

While I was extremely excited to hear about Evolution when it was announced, I now want to just get it over with. I hope it does well enough to warrant another one next year, because I want WWE to get past this “historic first” PPV with all of its tributes to past glory and get on with showing us the incredible women’s matches that got us here in the first place in a proper showcase next year.

Streaming Schedule – Week of October 1st

I’m really struggling. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is going to be released this week but I’m not sure if I’ll get too play it on the 3rd or the 5th. And I’ve dropped CrossCode but I need to play something so I’m playing the first two hours of Vampire: The Masquerade –  Redemption for the thousandth time. This week’s Whatever will be one of those two games, Odyssey or Redemption.

Wednesday, October 3rd – 9pm CST – Whatever (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption)

Saturday, October 6th – 7pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew

Check out last week’s streams!

Whatever 26SEP18 (CrossCode)

Saturday Night Stardew – Part 9

Subscribe! https://www.twitch.tv/emnii

Streaming Schedule – Week of September 24th

OKAY. Now we’re back on a regular schedule. I’m thinking of doing nothing but horror/scary games for Whatever in October. This week, though, will probably be CrossCode, provided I can get out of this damned dungeon I’m currently stuck in!

Wednesday, September 26th – 9pm CST – Whatever (CrossCode?)

Saturday, September 29th – 7pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew

Check out last week’s streams!

Whatever 19SEP18 (A Hat in Time)

Saturday Night Stardew – Part 8

Watch me on Twitch! https://www.twitch.tv/emnii

Streaming Schedule – Week of September 17th

So much for a regular schedule. I had a little seasonal thing, but I’m okay now! Not sure what I’ll be playing tomorrow but I got a new mini condenser mic so hopefully I sound better!

Wednesday, September 19th – 9pm CST – Whatever (???)

Saturday, September 22nd – 7pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew

Check out last week’s streams!

Saturday Night Stardew – Part 7

Watch me on Twitch! https://www.twitch.tv/emnii

PPRe-View: WWE Hell in a Cell (2018)

Hi! I’m trying something new here and I’m posting up my review of a WWE PPV in an already crowded market of average dudes reviewing WWE PPVs. Whatever. I watch this stuff, I have opinions. Enjoy!

Jeff Hardy vs. Randy Orton in Hell in a Cell

Great match with Orton and Hardy displaying their signature styles. Orton methodically tried to destroy Hardy with his punishment based offense, including a spot where Orton shoves a screwdriver through Hardy’s ear lobe and twists (which looks more uncomfortable than it is, but Hardy sold it). Hardy fought off Orton with high flying attacks and using his body as a weapon. The end was almost perfect, with Hardy hanging from the top of the cell and then dropping onto a recently-vacated table face first, the ref calling for medical, and Orton forcing the ref to count the pin because somebody has to win the match. Orton took a beating but was victorious and Hardy was carted out on a stretcher. Solid opener.

Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women’s Championship

This match was alright. Each spent the whole match working each other’s target limb for submission (Flair working Lynch’s legs for the Figure 8, Lynch working Flair’s arm for the Disarm-her), but then Lynch wins it with a roll-through after being speared and pins Flair. It all felt like WWE was course-correcting from SummerSlam. Lynch gets to be heel-ish but now she’s the champion, and Flair is a sad babyface because she lost her championship and her friend.

 

The Shield (Dean Ambrose and Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins) vs. Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler for the Raw Tag Team Championship

Another great match from these two teams. McIntyre/Ziggler aren’t exactly a tag team, but they’re great together and much better than champions than The B Team. This might be the match of the evening because everyone is on their A game and it’s pretty much non-stop chaos. McIntyre/Ziggler get the win with a Claymore/(inadvertent) Zig-Zag combo and Ziggler falling on top of Rollins for the pin. Everyone looks good here but I question why Rollins has the intercontinental title and it’s not a factor in this feud with the former IC champ Ziggler. Feels like we should be adding a champ vs. champ stipulation if WWE are keeping this feud going.

 

WWE Champion A.J. Styles vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Championship

Another great match from two veterans who know how to work with each other extremely well. The end came with Styles countering the Coquina Clutch into a pin, but there was a Dusty finish as Styles was tapping out to the Clutch while the ref counted the pin on the otherside of Joe. It was almost an exact replica of the finish to Sane/Baszler from Takeover Brooklyn III, except Sane never tapped. Styles retains but Joe still has a credible claim to the championship. Expect another match, maybe with a no DQ stipulation? But why wasn’t this match in Hell in a Cell in the first place? It’s not their first match up, and there was plenty of animosity to warrant the cell.

 

Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse

This was the lowest point in the show. Bryan and Miz are, of course, great, but the mixed match rules make no sense whatsoever, and Brie and Maryse aren’t exactly the hottest competitors in the women’s division. We got the spot where Brie and Bryan are doing the Yes kicks to Miz and Maryse in parallel, and they both do the big wind-up and miss. The big wind-up misses so often that I have to question Bryan’s sanity for continuing to use it. The Miz and Maryse get the win with Maryse pinning Brie. Everyone involved in this match deserved better.

Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship

Not a terrible match, but I have one question: why? Why wasn’t this a Raw re-match? With so many hangers-on at ringside, why wasn’t this in Hell in a Cell? This wasn’t the SummerSlam squash match we saw last month, but why not? Bliss didn’t significantly improve, so Rousey must have forgotten to do her research. Rousey gets another submission win but I really can’t tell who was supposed to look good coming out of this.

 

Universal Champion Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman for the Universal Championship in Hell in a Cell

Woof, what a mess. Let’s start with the buildup. Strowman, Mr. Monster in the Bank, goes from “I’m going to watch you two beat each other so I can cash in on the winner”, which is a smart use of the briefcase because it puts his opponent at a clear disadvantage, to cashing in weeks in advance but getting to set the stipulation that it be in Hell in a Cell. As we are reminded throughout the evening, Hell in a Cell is no DQ’s, so Reigns and Strowman beat on each other with kendo sticks, stairs, tables, etc. At some point, McIntyre/Ziggler do a run in only to climb the cell itself and the remaining Shield members also do a run in to pursue them. While Strowman and Reigns take a nap in the ring, we’re given a little side match between these two pairs on top of the cell, continuing this feud and maybe setting up a Survivor Series match, but definitely detracting from the in-ring action. The match reaches a chaotic climax when Brock Lesner makes a surprise appearance, kicks open the cell door, and attacks both competitors. Heyman sprays guest ref Mick Foley with “pepper spray”, which seems unnecessary as Foley hadn’t been a factor in the match at all. Then Lesnar walks out of the cell and a replacement ref calls for a no contest finish without any count-outs, which doesn’t make a lick of sense because Hell in a Cell is no DQ, no count-outs. The point of Hell in a Cell is that someone has to win. We end with Ziggler and Rollins laying on top of tables they’ve fallen onto, Ambrose and McIntyre somewhere on top of the cell (production kind of forgot about them), Reigns and Strowman laying in the ring, and no winner. Copyright graphic, cut feed. Terribly unsatisfying, bordering on nonsensical. It also has the ignoble distinction of being a second consecutive failed Money in the Bank cash in that didn’t have to happen the way it did. I guess the lesson here is to stop giving Money in the Bank to rookie heels.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall, an alright show that peaked with Raw tag team championship match and was terribly marred by the second half. With only seven matches on the show, a lot of very talented people were not here, but I appreciated that they gave every match time to breathe even if it ended 20 minutes early. I would have liked for less crappy finishes and more logical consistency in the booking decisions. There was just too much digging out of previously dug holes, and digging new holes that don’t add anything to the stories.