by Adam Salzer
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Making the Grade!
Tonight is WWE Payback, the "Raw Exclusive" PPV event that also happens to feature a bunch of SmackDown stars thanks to the poorly-timed Superstar Shakeup. I'm going to try and not let my overtiredness cloud my opinions of the show. Let's see how it goes!
By: Troy Boesen
: MNT DEW KICKSTART YOUR HEART SHOW
Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs The Club (Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson)
The Build: The Club lost the Tag Titles to The Hardy Boyz and lost the subsequent rematch. Enzo and Big Cass answered an open challenge after The Golden Truth were thankfully destroyed by Braun Strowman. Despite The Club beating Enzo and Cass, we get a rematch here on the Paycheck Kick Off Show.
My Pick: The Club
WWE United States Championship (If Jericho Wins the title, he will join SmackDown): Kevin Owens © vs Chris Jericho
The Build: Owens and Jericho fought to a disappointing conclusion at Mania and this is Jericho’s rematch. Since the Superstar Shake Weight, Owens and Jericho have been separated from each other and this should be the last we see of Jericho for a while. If Jericho does win, he gets sent to SmackDown as well, because Kurt Angle’s pill brain is worse than Daniel Bryan’s concussion brain.
My Pick: Owens.
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship: The Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff Hardy) © vs Cesaro and Sheamus
The Build: After a surprise return, The Fractured Hardyz won the Raw Tag Team Championships. Sheamus and Cesaro won a number 1 contender match to give them possibly one last chance to become two time champs.
My Pick: The Hardyzzzz, via Cesaro and Sheamus split.
House of Whores Match: Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt
The Build: What was once anticipated to be a great feud turned to rot before our very eyes man. The Eater of Worlds Bray Wyatt held the championship in his holy hands, only for the Viper to sneak up and snatch it away. Once the suits in charge decided that Bray should be moved to a new kingdom, there was one thing left to do, have a House of Whores match man. Now, I know you may be contemplating what a Waffle House of Horrors match is brother, but I can tell you, nobody knows. The title is not even on the line anymore man.
My Pick: Bray, Because Fuck SmackDown Live, Amirite!?
WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Neville © vs Austin Aries
The Build: Austin Aries is the second best Cruiser on the roster, which is why he keeps winning number one contenders matches but Neville is the best. Austin Aries is like the Buffalo Bills when they lost four straight Super Bowls. #Sportsball #StayWoke.
My Pick: Neville
Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman
The Build: Roman Reigns. Braun Strowman. Big sweaty men. Erections to be had.
My Pick: Braun Strowman via anything to keep Roman strong while not burying Braun so he can get buried by Brock.
Seth Rollins vs Samoa Joe
The Build: Joe is upset that Seth hurt Stephanie and Triple H. Joe should be upset he didn’t get paid for WrestleMania.
My Pick: Seth
WWE Raw Women’s Championship: Bayley © vs Alexa Bliss
The Build: The Superstar Weight Loss shake took Charlotte to SmackDown so she could continue to be terrible at promos and brought Alexa, who is arguably the best talker in the Women’s Division, to Raw. Alexa won a number one contenders match because we don’t know how to organically create feuds anymore. Bayley has had a very forgettable and very poorly received title run.
My Pick: Alexa Bliss.
By: Troy Boesen
Monday Night Raw was largely the ascension of Braun Strowman. Braun dominated the show and was a running theme throughout the episode. I’ve always been a fan of these types of episodes as long as the Superstar that is involved is entertaining. I don’t like it when Seth Rollins spends an episode searching for Triple H, and it doesn’t lead to anything. SmackDown Live this week proved that you can have your entire roster at odds with each other and can be great, so anytime that someone interacts with people they typically don’t, it’s usually great. Anyone who doesn’t comment on this article is a Vince Russo supporter. Just checking to see if you are actually reading this or not.
SmackDown Live was the Charlotte show. She was featured in three segments. James Ellsworth was also in three segments. The Usos and Becky Lynch were not featured. Let that one sink in. This show really felt like they did not have enough time to showcase everyone they wanted. SmackDown also has everyone mad at everyone else. While it is hard to figure out clear storylines, it’s great because people are not being segmented away from everyone else not in their feud.
By: Troy Boesen
The first of the two Superstar Shakeup episodes this week, Monday Night Raw got everyone afraid for SmackDown Live.
SmackDown Live whipped out its 12 inch dick and slapped Raw in the face in the very first segment of the night. Things just got better from there.
While we did not get what the actual trades were, we can make a fair assessment of what they could have been. You could convince me a few different ways to go on these trades, but I tried to go with what made the most sense. SmackDown got two tag teams in exchange for one tag team, and it would not make sense to make that deal, so I had to get creative. Here we go.
Apollo Crews for The Shining Stars
Deal: Apollo Crews was a touted star coming up from NXT, but could not find a direct and the small push he got once coming to SmackDown Live quickly ended. The Shining Stars are former Tag Champs and were lost in the shuffle on Raw.
Winner: SmackDown Live. Crews was doing nothing on SDL and he wasn’t even booked on Raw for the shakeup. The Shining Stars debuted on SDL and instantly got into a feud. We will finally get two tag storylines running at once.
The Miz and Maryse for Rusev and Lana
Deal: The Miz and Maryse were the best part of SDL for a while, while Rusev has been underused. Lana is being stretched out as a wrestler now.
Winner: RAW. Maybe in the long run SDL will win this one, but giving up one of the best pure heels for Rusev, who is really good, seems like a deal that makes up for SDL winning other trades. Miz and Maryse seem like they are starting a feud with Dean, something they have done before. Lana joining the womens division could be good, but they are great as a power couple. Rusev could be a top Midcard heel for SDL.
Dean Ambrose (IC) for Kevin Owens (US)
Deal: More about getting the belts swapped in non kayfabe, and also about getting the first round bust Ambrose off the show while bringing in a guy who will be the top heel on SDL.
Winner: SmackDown Live, by a mile. Ambrose failed as the World Champ and was failing as IC champ. Over on Raw, I don’t see what he will be used for after losing the belt. Owens opened the show to a huge pop, and continued to show why he is so good. Even after he eventually loses the belt, Owens is a top star.
Curt Hawkins for Jinder Mahal
Deal: Chad Hawkins for Jinder is just trading lower midcard/enhancement talent guys.
Winner: Draw. I would have given Jinder the slight edge here, but giving a concussion to Finn may hurt him. Also, being in a feud with Mojo Rawley isn’t going to help him much.
Bray Wyatt for Sami Zayn
Deal: This one was difficult because honestly, it probably should be Sami for Dean and Bray for Owens. Either way, the result is the same.
Winner: SmackDown Live. So, first off, I know Bray is a former world champion, but it was just not working out. His feud with Randy is largely to blame. Sami is a guy who the crowd is getting behind and he was instantly elevated by joining the blue brand. Zayn may have lost his first match, but he was a main event player and the future looks bright for him.
Kalisto for Sin Cara
Deal: Swapping of Cruiserweights.
Winner: RAW (and 205 Live). Kalisto should be great for the Cruiserweight division while Sin Cara will probably be a non-entity on SmackDown Live.
Slater and Rhyno for The New Day
Deal: The very first SmackDown Live Tag Champs for The Longest Reigning Tag Champs in WWE History.
Winner: SmackDown Live. SDL had a tag issue. While there were a few other guys we wanted to see join SmackDown, The New Day not only gives the division a boost, but also forces SDL to book the hottest group in the WWE.
Alexa Bliss and Mickie James for Charlotte Flair
Deal: The 2 time Womens Champ and a 6 time women’s champ for a 5 time womens champ.
Winner: SmackDown Live. Alexa is great, and Mickie is still doing great work in ring, but Alexa has the same issue many heels have today and that is people love her. Charlotte, who is one of the best in ring workers today, gets true heel heat. Charlotte can be the focal point of the division and give a face boost to whoever she fights.
David Otunga for Byron Saxton
Deal: A swap of Color Commentary guys.
Winner: SmackDown Live. Raw not only loses the great dynamic between Corey and Byron, but they also got the worst Color Commentary guy in the WWE (Not counting Percy Watson). Byron did great on SmackDown Live and we got a week off from David Otunga.
Additions: Raw signs The Drifter and SmackDown Live signs Tamina Snuka
Winner: RAW. Mostly because Tamina has very little to offer, but this could easily change.
Final Score: 3-6 in favor of SmackDown Live
by Adam Salzer
It's the Ultimate Thrillride! It's the Showcase of the Immortals! It's the Granddaddy of them all! It's WrestleMania! The card itself looked fair to middling, can the show overcome it's shitty lead-up? Let's find out!
by Adam Salzer
It is WrestleMania weekend, baby! That means everyone on every roster bringing their absolute best to the table! Will NXT once again outshine the main roster using less than half the amount of airtime? Let's find out!
By: Andrew Lister
I won't lie to you. I'm way behind on WWE NXT. I enjoy the product immensely, but I also am busy with work, podcasts, articles, family, and any number of other daily things. I barely have time for the main roster product.
That being said, I am watching NXT TakeOver tonight, so I thought I would keep track of my stream-of-consciousness reactions to watching the big event before Wrestlemania tomorrow night.
Sanity vs Dillinger, Strong, Ohno, and Riot
Cien Almas vs Aleister Black
NXT Tag Team Titles: Authors of Pain vs DIY vs The Revival
NXT Women's Title: Asuka vs Ember Moon
HOLY SHIT! DREW MACINTYRE IS IN THE CROWD!
NXT Championship: Bobby Roode vs Shinsuke Nakamura
Well, that's NXT TakeOver! It wasn't as good as some of the other events, but maybe I'm just missing the storylines leading up to the event. There was some good action, but some of the matches just felt thrown together or lasted a bit too long.
Check back for more articles on the biggest week of the year for WWE!
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