Welcome to the Weekly WWE Wrap-up where I pick my match of the week and decree who won in the weekly battle between Smackdown and RAW.
Although there was a lot of fluff this week (please God, let this Titus O’Neil vs. Darren Young rivalry end), this was a pretty good week for WWE overall with several standout matches. The two contenders this week are highly deserving of praise, but alas there can be only one winner. Below are the honorable mentions.
Contender: Cruiserweight Classic: Brian Kendrick vs. Kota Ibushi
I’m not sure there’s anybody in WWE that’s a better all-around performer than Kota Ibushi. The man can do it all from striking, to flying, to selling, and he may be the best in the company at all three. On paper, he should’ve destroyed Brian Kendrick, but Kendrick is a master psychologist and one hell of a cheater, and he scraped and clawed his way into a fantastic match with his superior opponent. The storytelling in the CWC has been fantastic, and Brian Kendrick’s story of redemption or failure, reinforced constantly by Daniel Bryan from the commentary table, makes this one the best story of the tournament. The in-ring moment after the match between Kendrick and Bryan, in particular, was quite moving. Thankfully it appears as though Kendrick has, once again, been signed by WWE to partake in Monday Night RAW’s upcoming Cruiserweight division, an addition I applaud as Kendrick has been on a career high in this tournament and the division will need some great heels to combat the plethora of babyfaces. Who knows if the RAW writers will be able to keep things as intriguing as the CWC writers have (I have a bad feeling about this), but for now, drink it in.
My Rating: ****
Contender: Monday Night RAW: Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns vs. Big Cass
Though the HHH-heavy ending left a bad taste in the mouths of many (most notably Brian Alvarez of Figure4Online), I was too excited for the swerve to care. The action was great, particularly after Big Cass got eliminated (he needs a bit more time in the incubator before he’s ready for these big matches), and all three of the remaining men deserve credit for making this one of the best Monday Night RAW main events in history. Best of all, the ending got people talking and I expect that RAW’s ratings will retain their September surge next week as viewers tune end to see what the hell all of this means.
My rating: ****1/2
Match of the Week: Cruiserweight Classic: Gran Metalik vs. Akira Tozawa
The competition was fierce, but no match got me more emotionally invested than the CWC opener between the incredible Gran Metalik and the impressive Akira Tozawa. Both men would be right at home in Monday Night RAW’s Cruiserweight division, but the right man won here as WWE has been looking for somebody to fill the void that Rey Mysterio left upon his departure a couple of years ago. English may be a barrier, but this man is so good, it may not even matter. He can do things I’ve never seen before and his finisher is one hell of a nasty move (though not near as rough as the Burning Hammer). That doesn’t take anything anyway from Tozawa, though, who in my mind has been a breakout star in this tournament (even if he does still have heat with me after eliminating Jack Gallagher). The action was flashy and crisp, everything was on the mark, but what makes these matches in the CWC so great is it matters who wins. For the losers, not only are they out of the tournament, but we may never see them in WWE again. With their jobs literally on the line, everybody has to fire on all cylinders to make sure they stand out from the pack. It’s what made Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander such a classic, and it makes Gran Metalik vs. Akira Tozawa my pick for match of the week.
My Rating: ****1/2
Smackdown vs. RAW
As much as I’m pulling for Smackdown in this battle of the brands, I have to give the edge to RAW this week. In fact, it really wasn’t even close. Outside of Renee Young’s trip to Heath Slater’s bungalow, nothing happened on Smackdown that was memorable. RAW was far from perfect and delivered what may be the worst match on the show in years with Darren Young vs. Titus O’Neil, but The New Day with Bayley was great, Cesaro vs. Sheamus continue to deliver solid performances that will hopefully only build with time, Chris Jericho vs. Neville was fun, and the main event was the showstopper that it was meant to be with a shocking end that leaves a lot of question marks and intrigue. As sad as it is to say, this week was a squash match and RAW emerges as the Braun Strowman to Smackdown’s Mr. Americo.
It appears as though Alberto Del Rio is, indeed, gone from WWE for good. Although he does have legitimate gripes about how he was booked, the bottom line is the man failed to deliver upon his return. His match with John Cena when he won the United States Championship was absolutely forgettable which hurt his momentum badly after Cena had delivered so many fantastic performances throughout the year, and his pairing with Zeb Colter and then the even worse League of Nations buried him deeper than that one guy’s voice from The Ink Spots. Smackdown does lose a hand with his departure, but after the lackluster-at-best year that Del Rio has had, I doubt he’ll be seriously missed. The real question: what is Paige going to do? Monday Night RAW desperately needs her as their women’s division with Sasha Banks on the shelf is even weaker than Smackdown’s. And that’s not a good sign. WWE may not need Del Rio, but they desperately need Paige. Otherwise, Dana Brooke’s reign of terror over the RAW division will continue to be prominent. And that’s something that nobody wants.