Banks
WWE

WWE Raw Recap: Sasha Banks is the boss of Independence Day

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Sometimes during the course of a television show, there will be a “window” episode. This is an episode that has a self-contained story that doesn’t have any effect on the rest of the season.

With Monday Night Raw falling on the 4th of July, it seemed like we were headed for one of these episodes, especially after the 16-man Team USA vs. Team International elimination tag team match was announced.

Seriously, who did you think was going to win that?

Surprisingly though, plenty of feuds that are set to culminate at Battleground were actually advanced. There weren’t any surprises on Monday – besides the return of Vickie Guerrero — but hey at least this episode wasn’t a total waste.

Shia

Like the Boss

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard Sasha Banks deliver a live promo and boy has it been sorely missed on Raw. Charlotte did a nice job warming the crowd up for Banks, who came out and immediately proved why she’s going to be a S.T.A.R.

The Boss just oozed confidence in this segment. Charlotte held her own because she’s fantastic at countering words with her facial reactions. The smile she had on her face during Sasha’s promo was just perfecto.

You know what was not perfect? Sasha’s kick to Dana Brooke. Not sure what happened there, but anytime Mike Cole has to oversell a botch, you know it was bad.

Besides that little mishap, this was an excellent next step for their program and hopefully they’ll get the opportunity to have a contract signing segment before their match at Battleground, just so we can see this again:

Sasha

Smacktalker, skywalker

AJ Styles very well might be the best in-ring performer in the world, but when he finally signed with the WWE, it was fair to wonder if he would be able to hang on the microphone. Over his career, Styles’ promo had improved, but it wasn’t anywhere close to his ability in the ring.

Well I’m not sure what has happened over the last month or so, but Styles has been on fire with the stick. He’s way more comfortable as a smarky heel than he was as a smiling babyface, which is in fairness the hardest role to play in 2016. His promo on Monday about beating up John Cena on holidays was simply splendid. It was so good that it woke up a dead crowd in Ohio.

It’s amazing to think that when Styles walked into the door back in January that the “Powers That Be” thought Styles was a mid-card guy at best. He’s been the company’s MVP in the first half of 2016.

Realist guys in the room

Enzo and Cass coming out to help Cena was a nice callback to a story Enzo has told about how Cena helped establish the tag team.

For those who don’t know, years ago Cena stopped at Full Sail University and made an appearance after an NXT taping for a segment with Damian Sandow. Cena asked for Enzo and Cass to come out during the segment because he saw the chemistry the two had backstage. Enzo had just debuted on NXT TV and wasn’t linked to Cass, but it was clear to Cena that the two had something special and he wanted them to be in the ring with him.

Fast forward years later and now Enzo and Cass will team with Cena to face The Club at Battleground. It’s a surprising move considering WWE’s usual booking plan of having guys face off at three consecutive PPVs in singles matches, which seemed likely with Cena and Styles, but this is a nice change of pace. When Styles and Cena face off again in a singles match (likely at SummerSlam) it’ll feel even more important.

USA, USA, USA

While it was no surprise to see Team USA defeat the Multinational Alliance, I was caught off guard a bit by seeing Zack Ryder get the final pinfall for the U.S. I just don’t understand the booking of Ryder in general. I get that he’s the lifelong fan that grew up in Long Island and is living his dream, but with the hot and cold booking he’s received this year, it just seemed like a waste to give him the “main event” shine spot.

Why not give that final fall to Apollo Crews to continue his feud (gulp) with Sheamus?  Sometimes the WWE overlooks the simplest booking ideas.

Rydergif

Match Results

Rusev successfully defended the U.S. title by making Titus O’ Neil tap to The Accolade.

Enzo & Cass beat the Social Outcasts (who were dressed up as Minute Men) with the Badaboomshakalaka.

Dean Ambrose pinned The Miz clean in the middle after hitting the Dirty Deeds.

Seth Rollins pinned Dolph Ziggler after hitting the Pedigree. Easily Match of the Night.

Golden Truth pinned The Vaudevillians in a squash match.

Becky Lynch forced Summer Rae to tap out to the Disarmer.

Team America defeated the Multinational Alliance in a 16-man elimination tag match after Zack Ryder pinned Sheamus with the Rough Ryder.

Patrick

Time to “Go Home”

Seth Rollins’ promo about how Roman Reigns is like everyone in the crowd because they take shortcuts was delivered perfectly. The crowd was initially cheering for Rollins and he flipped those cheers to boos. You can’t ask for more than that from a heel.

– Rollins and Reigns are going to get drafted to the same show aren’t they? With the way Rollins is ranting about Reigns it seems logical to extend their feud past Battleground.

– Xavier Woods finally spoke out about his fear of the Wyatt Family, which made logical sense considering the way the storyline has progressed between the two. As much as I’m against a transfixed gimmick, I have to applaud creative for the pace of this feud.

– So when the New Day head to the Wyatts’ Compound, are we going to get footage like this?

– Vaudevillians got a jobber entrance and lost to Goldust and R-Truth in a minute. Life comes at you fast bro.

– The WWE finally produced a sponsorship plug that was actually funny.

– A lot of Enzo and Cass on this episode of Raw, which no one should mind, especially when Enzo is rocking those “Gym Red” Jordan 12s.

– An episode of Raw survived without Shane and Stephanie!

– This has to be the final match between Rusev and Titus right?

– LOVED seeing the red, white and blue ropes again. It’s just the little things.

– This was actually said by Ziggler as he held a cell phone up to his ear: “Yeah mom I lost again, but I tried really hard.”

– The food fight segment was super predictable, but still fun. Kevin Owens always finds a way to steal whatever segment he’s in.

– Looks like Fandango really enjoyed the food fight.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Kurt Angle to be inducted into WWE Hall of Fame

ORANGE, CA - MAY 08:  Wrestler Kurt Angle arrives at the Lions Gate Premiere of "See No Evil" at the Century Stadium Promenade 25 on May 8, 2006 in Orange, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
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Oh it’s true, it’s true.

WWE announced today that Kurt Angle will be going into their Hall of Fame on March 31st at the Amway Center in Orlando as part of WrestleMania week.

The 1996 Olympic gold medalist is a five-time WWE world champion and regarded as one of the best in-ring talents to ever grace the squared circle. Angle last appeared in a WWE ring way back in August of 2006.

In a press release, WWE’s Executive Vice President Paul “HHH” Levesque said, “Kurt Angle’s accomplishments both in the Olympics and WWE were extraordinary. He was one of the most gifted athletes to ever enter the ring, and we are honored to welcome him into the WWE Hall of Fame.”

WrestleMania 33 will be held Sunday, April 2nd from the Orlando Citrus Bowl live on WWE Network.

WWE Weekly Recap: 2017 Royal Rumble Odds

corbin
WWE
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For the first time in many years, the favorite to win the Royal Rumble isn’t obvious. In fact, this feels like one of the more unpredictable Rumble matches in WWE history.

Five guys who would be considered a favorite to win the match (Seth Rollins, The Undertaker, Braun Strowman, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar) are rumored to have their WrestleMania programs locked in and none are scheduled to be for either of the company’s main championships.

Instead of being a device that’s used to give an established star a main event spot at Mania, the Rumble might actually be used as a launching pad for a future world champion.

trampoline

With that in mind, here’s how I would rank the field:

Baron Corbin 6/1 (+600)

The odds may surprise you, but Corbin has been booked very strong ever since his better-than-expected chairs match with Kalisto at the TLC Pay-Per-View. He was given a lot of offense in the triple threat match for the WWE title on the “Wild Card Finals” episode of SmackDown and “controlled” 80 percent of his match against John Cena this past Tuesday.

Corbin is ascending into the world title picture and it’s totally logical to picture “The Lone Wolf” ending the first PPV of WrestleMania season by pointing at the giant WM sign.

With Goldberg-Lesnar, Undertaker-Strowman, and HHH-Rollins penciled in for Mania, Corbin vs. Styles, Cena or both, is a perfectly fine match (with entrances) to fill 20-25 minutes of the show. Corbin has shown enough in the ring lately for me to buy that he’s ready for a high level match.

Finn Balor 8/1 (+800)

If either Owens or Reigns walk out of the Universal Championship match in San Antonio with the red strap, Balor has a built-in story with either guy.

Balor beat Reigns clean in the middle of the ring during his first night on Raw and after the match Roman said he would love another crack at Balor.

Owens was handed the championship by Triple H, but HHH also has a connection with Balor that could easily be worked up with one or two backstage interactions if creative wanted to go that route.

If not, Balor and Owens could hearken back to their feud in NXT, which produced a set of extremely good matches in the Summer of 2015. Their NXT title match at “Beast in the East” was one of my favorites that year and 30 percent of that was thanks to the streamers that were thrown at the end of Balor’s entrance.

jim

No matter who Balor works with, he’s going to put on a great performance and if WWE wants to have a NJPW style match at Mania, the Demon King would be the perfect person to insert into it.

Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura 9/1 (+900)

A debuting superstar has never won the Royal Rumble, but if there was ever a time to do it, this is it.

Joe is the more likely option out of the two, considering that he just dropped the NXT title to Nakamura and failed to beat him in the rematch, but if Nakamura loses the title to Bobby Roode at Takeover: San Antonio (unlikely, but you never know), he instantly becomes a favorite.

If either guy won, it would make sense for them to face Styles for the world title at the company’s biggest show of the year. Joe is one of Styles’ best friends in the business. They’ve made magic in the ring together and understand how to put on a clinic in front of a massive crowd.

Nakamura wrestled Styles in the second to last match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, which is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania. It was predictably awesome and if you haven’t seen it yet, set aside a half hour and watch it:

Chris Jericho 10/1 (+1000)

As much as I want to see Team Chris and Kevin face off for the Universal title in Orlando. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. If Owens does somehow hold onto the title at the Alamodome, Jericho would instantly become one of the three favorites to win the Rumble.

Owens and Jericho are the hottest act on the company’s flagship show. Roman Reigns may get a bigger reaction in some cities, but he’s still not ready to be a main event promo, which is exactly what Y2KO have been since September, which is why I’m still holding out hope that this match will be for the title.

If Chris and Kevin are going to feud with each other, someone is going to have to turn and it makes sense for K.O. to beat the crap out of Y2J.

Imagine the verbal jabs between a heel Owens and a sympathetic babyface version Jericho who keeps the same character tone, but plays into the cheers.

wow

Now imagine Reigns cutting a 5-10 minute promo about defending the title.

cena

Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt 12/1 (+1200)

It’s easy to see a scenario in which Orton and Wyatt square off at Mania, but what if creative actually has long-term plans for the group?

If Wyatt or Orton were to win the Rumble and wrestle for the world title at WrestleMania, it could set up a title program between the two for the May-July period.

The Miz 14/1 (+1400)

Even though he’s currently in a feud with Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title, Miz has been one of the best acts on SmackDown since the draft and deserves a main event run.

He and AJ teased a feud during a Miz TV segment a few weeks back, but I think the pair should be saved for a SmackDown exclusive PPV later on in the year.

Miz will eventually climb up the card, but sadly, he’s going to be left out of a high profile match at WrestleMania.

John Cena, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens 17/1 (+1700)

I’m expecting the losers of both title matches to enter the Rumble later on in the night. If I had to rank the four in terms of most likely winners I’d go: Styles, Cena, Reigns, Owens. It would be an interesting swerve to the Cena-Styles storyline if Cena won the title from AJ earlier in the night and then Styles responded by winning the rumble.

Owens is likely locked for a Mania match with Jericho and it would be a major letdown if Reigns won the most unpredictable Rumble in years.

Sami Zayn 25/1 (+2500)

If the Owens-Zayn storyline had any heat left, Zayn would be a logical choice. It would be a genuinely shocking moment and Zayn could use a boost after doing the job for Strowman.

With Owens likely taking on Jericho at Mania and Zayn’s current placement on the card, I don’t expect the taxi driver to make any real impact in the Rumble.

Rusev 25/1 (+2500)

The Bulgarian George Clooney deserves a featured spot in WrestleMania season because he’s one of the most entertaining full-time performers on the roster, but there are only so many spots to go around.

rusev

Big Cass 25/1 (+2500)

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Big Cass ends up as one of the “Final Four” participants in the Rumble match. Either that or he’s going to have a spot midway through where he runs through a couple dudes before going out quickly.

Any member of The New Day 28/1 (+2800)

Big E is the only legitimate option here. This would be an ideal moment to begin the inevitable breakup between the three, but it needs to be a slow burn.

Dean Ambrose 40/1 (+4000)

He’s headed for another multi-man match for the IC title at WrestleMania.

Seth Rollins 50/1 (+5000)

Rollins is obviously penciled in to face Triple H in Orlando, so there’s no need for him to be near the title picture until after Mania.

Braun Strowman 50/1 (+5000)

He’s most likely facing The Undertaker. While it may seem like Strowman isn’t ready for the level of a match, if the company is serious about pushing him, he needs to be in this spot.

The split rosters have created a need for new stars, which means a clean win for Strowman over the Undertaker could be in the cards.

The Undertaker 50/1 (+5000)

As noted above, Taker most likely has a date with Adam from Tinder at Mania.

Yes, I know I used that line last week, but why not bring it back for round two?

Goldberg and Brock Lesnar 50/1 (+5000)

I’d love to see Brock and Goldberg “draw” the first two numbers and beat the hell out of guys until Braun Strowman eventually comes out.

Kane 70/1 (+7000)

Kane has shockingly been protected since the draft, so don’t be surprised if he has a strong showing in the Rumble. Who knows, maybe he makes it all of the way to the “Final Four.”

Shelton Benjamin 75/1 (+7500)

Benjamin was scheduled to return to the SmackDown brand after the draft, but needed surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He had a six-month recovery time frame and the Rumble falls perfectly in line with his rehab, so don’t be surprised if “ain’t no stoppin me now” blares over the speakers in San Antonio.

American Alpha 75/1 (+7500)

Enjoy the SmackDown tag team titles. Jordan has a chance to win this in a few years.

Apollo Crews 100/1 (+10000)

He should still be in NXT.

Any cruiserweight 100/1 (+10000)

Nope.

Dolph Ziggler 100/1 (+10000)

The guy’s gimmick is that he loses, so there’s no way he’s going to win.

James Ellsworth 1000/1 (+100000)

Any man with two fists has a chance to be eliminated.

Holy Schnikes moment of the week:

Take it away Becky Lynch.

If you don’t know what see you next Tuesday means, Google it.

Time to “Go Home”

– Stephanie was harder to listen to than Otunga this week. Was it necessary for her to talk down to Sasha and Bayley like that? As a fan, how am I supposed to cheer either of the babyfaces if they don’t have a snarky retort ready to counter Steph’s heelish lines.

– So Nia Jax pins Bayley essentially clean in the middle of the ring just two weeks before Bayley faces Charlotte for the women’s title. Makes sense.

– Has anyone else noticed that Karl Anderson’s pants say #BC on them? I find it a bit strange that no one backstage has said anything to him about this.

– Everything about Neville’s heel turn is great, including the variety of moves he’s displaying in the ring. This week he worked a mat wrestling/submission style that resulted in him using the Rings of Saturn to get the victory over Lince Dorado.

– I like the fire Rich Swann showed when he attacked Neville after the match.

– I thought Natalya and Nikki Bella had an excellent brawl on SmackDown. Nattie caught Nikki with a kick right to the face.

So Seth Rollins is supposedly getting new music after all. Once I heard this version by Downstrait, I got bummed out every time I heard Rollins’ actual music:

– Please WWE, no more Big Cass vs. Jinder Mahal matches.

– I like that Ziggler’s heel turn accelerated this week. The worst thing for his character would have been to come out this week and apologize for his actions. Instead, he beat the crap out of Kalisto after their match and then waffled Apollo Crews with a chair when AC came out to help his “friend” Kalisto.

– This was American Alpha’s best showing since their call-up to the main roster. Gable used his hot tag effectively and Jordan had a very nice amateur wrestling sequence with Bray to begin the match.

– I LOVED Cena’s backstage promo this week. It felt a bit like a Doctor of Thuganomics promo, just all grown up.

The Twitter Machine: @ScottDargis