Historically, long-time readers have enjoyed these ventures into live arenas. Whether I was partying with ‘Cien,’ or playing the game alongside Hunter Hearst Helmsley, I usually enter these events with great optimism before leaving frustrated and at times, enraged. Tonight I’m back at the O2 in London as the RAW crew begins its wacky world tour that probably shouldn't be legal but who cares, this is the World Wrestling Federation and they play by their own rules. On paper, this show looks pretty strong and includes a DOUBLE MAIN EVENT of Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman as well as Ronda Rousey vs. Alexa Bliss.
However, there is one slight issue. Just like usual, I’m joined by some miserable cohorts, ready to analyze and criticize with a smug grin, hoping to prove that we are in fact, the smartest men in the arena and more importantly, the world. On the other hand though, we are also joined by two young children. Now, at face value that’s a good thing, children love the WWF and rightly so. Unfortunately though, these aren't just any young rasslin enthusiasts…oh no, these are rebels. Pig-tail sporting, Alexa Bliss shirt wearing rebels in fact.
In fairness, they aren't alone but there’s only one problem with all of this: Alexa is rasslin Ronda tonight which means that smart money is on screaming and crying….honestly, the kids may even cry too.
DISCLAIMER: any wild predictions I make that you disagree with will likely be proven completely wrong in the coming weeks, months and years anyway so don’t worry too much. Basically, take everything you read from this point forward with a grain of salt as its credibility is preposterously low.
ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: All grading for house show content is totally obscene and frankly, asinine. Ignore all of that nonsense and understand that it’s just mandatory as the general reader will ignore everything I write outside of those arbitrary grades at the end. It’s not my fault, it’s their fault.
Bobby Roode vs. Jinder Mahal
Whilst ‘Glorious’ is a delightful opening track, this was an…interesting choice for opener. I mean personally, I loved every minute. After a pre-match Jinder promo, we got taunting, posturing and silliness, everything you could ever want from a house show bout. On the other hand, this 1987 WWF match wasn't particularly well-suited to the children alongside us. I always enjoy Bobby live though and London was obviously on his side here no matter what he did. In fact, this was the least ‘smart’ crowd (incredible oxymoron) I’ve personally experienced here in England.
I mean that as a compliment of course, this crowd loved the babyfaces and had fun, making the rasslers job easier and generally allowing everyone to have a good time. The match itself was rock solid and after a handful of finisher teases, Roode rolled Jinder up for the quick win. This was fun for me as I remain a Roode lover but I do feel as though it was perhaps slightly misplaced as the opener.
Post-match, Mahal once again grabbed the microphone and seemingly asked for another opponent. He got Bray Wyatt, who performed his whole entrance only to hit a Sister Abigail in what wasn't even a match. Tremendous, what a tour this’ll be for big brother Bray.
Bayley, Sasha Banks & Natalya vs. The Riott Squad
There are few things on earth I want to discuss less than the WWF’s supposed failure in handling Bayley but I’ll say this, she was the most over person in this match by a distance, or at least she was where I was sitting anyway. This was standard tag team fodder, with the babyfaces flurrying early until the Rioters got the heat on Bayley. Eventually, this resulted in a Sasha hot tag, something the live crowd very much anticipated.
Ruby and Banks had the least ring time here but they were the opposing components of the hot tag which I guess makes sense. In the end, it all broke down and Banks submitted Riott after countering a roll-up attempt. Nothing much to see here but the young Alexa Bliss fans alongside me had fun, and I suppose that’s all that matters.
Side note: no I don’t consider someone an Alexa fan if they enjoy anything Sasha does, you shouldn't either.
WWE Cruiserweight Title
Drew Gulak vs. Cedric Alexander (C)
As someone that covers 205 Live every week, the initial response to this match saddened me quite a bit. There was almost a sigh as the belt’s graphic flashed on the screen and many folks left their seats of King Gulak made his way to the ring. The match itself was pretty good, especially early as the guys exchanged wacky grapples. In person, Alexander’s athleticism is truly startling, he moves in a frankly unmatched fashion, super explosive but still smooth in transition.
Well, I say smooth but I don’t know how smooth it was for poor Drew, who seemingly ate nothing but clean strikes to the brain as this match reached its conclusion. It did seem to lose its way down the stretch but still a good match and one I personally enjoyed quite a bit. The aforementioned rebels? Unimpressed and very anxious for its finish. Either way, that finish came via Alexander’s Lumbar Check after the live crowd had gradually become more invested.
WWE Tag Team Titles
Titus Worldwide vs. The Revival vs. B-Team (C)
This division…my god. Okay I’m going to be honest, I have very little to say about this match. I must mention that The Revival were genuine fun throughout though, lots of good old fashioned heel shenanigans in which they happily made fun of themselves. Always a thumbs up to that, especially on a show like this. B-Team weren't particularly over but entertained the crowd nonetheless and Titus Worldwide were Titus Worldwide.
At one juncture, a young man plugged his YouTube channel before threatening to kill us all in our sleep if we failed to subscribe. No idea what I want you to do with this information but there it is, enjoy. The finish came when the B-Team rolled Dash up just as The Revival looked set to win the titles. There was a lot of comedy in this match and I refuse to knock them for that. Considering the schedule, I personally support any rassler that opts for silliness over spots. God bless ‘em.
Elias and Bob 'The Rock' Lashley Sing Angels
This may have been my highlight of the night. It truly captured everything dumb and awesome about the art of sports entertainment. Elias was super over here, but refused to sing based on his fear that Bobby Lashley would arrive to beat him up like usual. Bob indeed showed up but whilst he was in full gear, he wasn't here to fight. Instead, Lashley explained to Elias that the people want to hear him sing. Why? Because he’s “the most entertaining guy on the show.” Agreed Bob, agreed.
Elias eventually agreed too, and together with Bob and the O2 Arena, sung ‘Angels’ with all his heart. The atmosphere for this was great and Lashley’s confidence was in stark contrast to what’s usually seen on RAW. He wasn't worried about getting his lines wrong and instead just came across as comfortable, having immense fun along the way. As for Elias, he’s just a great performer and quite visibly thrives on live crowds. Sadly though, Elias got himself beaten up after all, jumping Bob and eating a delayed suplex for his trouble.
Dolph Ziggler & Drew McIntyre vs. Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose
Probably to the surprise of no one, I must say that this was absolutely the match of the night for me. My first take was that whilst Dean was obviously popular, Seth’s reaction genuinely blew his away and that’s a credit to how revered he currently is. On the other side, Dolph and Drew really are a great act and their opposing skill-sets combine beautifully. Especially in this format, Ziggler plays an almost throwback heel, constantly up to no good and always looking to cheat.
Meanwhile Drew hardly has to bump, working as an absolute monster, and often unhinged in his actions too. This match got some time and was really well-worked, with a prolonged heat segment on Seth that hooked the crowd magnificently, making them absolutely desperate for Dean’s hot tag. They used all the tricks to maximize it too, with the referee even missing a tag at one point. It was just sound pro wrestling and when Ambrose finally came in, the people reacted in a big way.
That wasn't the finish though, with the heels turning it around and allowing for a Rollins hot tag too. After Dean had taken Drew out with Dirty Deeds, Seth closed the show, pinning Dolph via the Blackout. This match was genuinely very good and live, my main takeaway was just how visible the chemistry between Rollins and Ziggler was. They just gel and it’s a lot of fun to watch.
It was intermission time now, and controversially so, especially after 2 hours of action had already left me rather weary. Considering that it came after six matches, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that this break probably could have been placed a little better .
Finn Balor vs. Baron Corbin
Of everything on this show, nothing left me more befuddled than this match right here. From almost the first bell, Corbin battered Balor, constantly cutting him off and halting potential comebacks time and time again. This control portion wasn't exactly dynamite either and it admittedly took Baron quite a while before he got into his more exciting offense. His mannerisms were enjoyable though, including some too sweet banter that made me particularly happy.
In the end, Balor did make a comeback of sorts but Corbin stopped the Coup De Grace one final time. Moments later Finn got the win regardless, rolling Baron up before being jumped afterwards. Corbin then restarted the match under No DQ rules, and grabbed a steel chair. As I expected him to get rolled up like a silly heel though, he instead nailed Balor with the chair and hit End of Days for the win. I must say that whilst this match was quite good, I found the presentation of Balor to be quite startling.
I’m no Finn super-fan but his handling here didn't feel befitting of his popularity. Either way, a decent match even if not thrilling from the first bell.
WWE RAW Women’s Title
Alexa Bliss vs. Ronda Rousey (C)
Considering my Ale…I mean the kids’ Alexa fandom, I was very fearful of a rapid squash here but what I got was honestly well beyond my wildest dreams. Early on, Bliss kept her distance and dragged things out before running into some dope judo throws. Alexa then went to the corner, clutching her knee desperately. Another referee came out and Alexa was selling this for all its worth, staggering to her feet as the admirable Mike Rome prepared to help her out of the ring.
Then with Rousey’s back turned, Alexa jumped her from behind and Ronda sold big, almost leaping to the floor. This allowed Bliss the opportunity for some tremendous shadow boxing and she then basically just battered Rousey, hitting all her offense and going after the champ’s ribs. Praying for an upset, I edged forwa….I mean they edged forward in their seats, gripping their pigtails tightly. In-ring, they built to Ronda’s comeback and after delaying the finish a little, Rousey got the win with her armbar.
Whilst she’s quite obviously still learning and can be a little off at times, Ronda’s selling really is admirable, she even held her ribs throughout much of the comeback. Moreover, her general movement and athleticism is quite visibly on a different level and that helps her offense immensely. I feel I may have watched their Hell in a Cell match two weeks early here, but if not and they do another squash there, I still feel that this was quite smart for Ronda’s development.
This is the perfect place for her to get better and contrary to popular belief, Alexa is a sound foil for that exercise. In addition, it gave people their money’s worth and stopped mass tears from being shed. Good stuff.
WWE Universal Title
Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns (C)
Main event time now and whether they are booing or cheering, it feels as though everyone wants an action shot of The Big Dog. As for Braun, he was obviously over huge but among the younger folks around me, there seemed to be some uncertainty surrounding him after his callous attack on Monday. In a quick side-note, as we headed into the venue, my brother overhead some lads breaking down the card. This apparently culminated in one youth cautiously informing his pal that he fears that Roman could lose his title tonight.
Call me a sap but I must say, I just love that element of a house show crowd.
Back to the rasslin now, and there was only one possible takeaway here: Roman Reigns is a simply sublime professional wrestler. He sold from the first bell, flurrying in spurts but for the most part being overpowered and thrown around like a Cruiserweight. It’s truly incredible to me that Roman can so brilliantly wrestle this way considering how equally comfortable he is in the powerhouse role. I mean seriously, if you compare what he did here to what he did opposite Balor last week, it’s like two different wrestlers…but both are elite.
I don’t mean to dismiss Braun either of course, his movement is quite a sight live and I love the physicality he brings, especially when playing the villain opposite a bumping babyface. As Roman made a comeback and had Strowman stumbling, his energy was spectacular and the audience felt quite strongly on his side. The booing wasn't ever particularly loud from my vantage point though, so perhaps I was just lucky. In the end, Dolph and Drew came down with both men floored, attacking Reigns to cause the DQ.
Together, this new alliance began to work Roman over and brought in a table when suddenly, The Shield arrived to a big ovation. They run wild and after clearing the ring, triple powerbombed McIntyre through a table. This was an effective climax to the night and the live crowd was unsurprisingly delighted to see The Shield back together. As for the match, it was exactly what it needed to be, physical from the start and all action too. These guys are just made for each other.
I’m probably in a slight minority here but I must say, I just love seeing the circus that is a WWE house show. I enjoy seeing the men and women live and whilst the action may not be exactly hell for leather, it’s refreshing to see talent having fun and interacting with the crowd throughout too. The Shield matches were the clear highlight and Reigns stood out most for me. Whenever I see him in person, Roman’s presence stands out a mile to me and that was no different here, as he maximized Braun’s talent in quite brilliant fashion.
Just a very fun evening and though a little long for the younger fan, it’s a harmless presentation for folks of almost all ages. Good luck to these lunatics on their wacky world tour, I don’t envy them but I do admire them nonetheless.