WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: Owens and Zayn “welcome” Bryan back to the ring

This week in WWE:  Owens and Zayn “welcome” Bryan back to the ring
The two thorns in the lives of McMahon and Bryan did not take getting fired very well. Photo by WWE.com

This is a weekly look at the action in the WWE:

 

Raw

Kurt Angle gave fans an update on the Universal Championship Match. Roman Reigns, then appeared from the crowd, despite being suspended, demanding to face off against Brock Lesnar. Reigns was then handcuffed by “US Marshals” in attempts to be removed from the arena. Of Course, Lesnar finally made his arrival on Raw and attacked a defenseless Reigns. The first match of the night, Asuka vs Alexa Bliss, ended in a count-out when Bliss “hurt her ankle.” She seemed fine, though, when she ran away from Nia Jax after she rushed to the ring to surprise the champion. Backstage, Angle ran into Bliss and informed her that she will, in fact, be defending her championship against Jax at ‘Mania.  

Braun Strowman explained how management informed him that he needs a partner in order to challenge The Bar in New Orleans. The Bar antagonized Strowman and his mystery partner. Strowman, then, defeated Cesaro with a Power Slam as his ‘Mania partner continues to be a mystery.  The Revival defeated Titus Worldwide. After the match, they announced they will be the first Tag Team to win the Andre The Giant Battle Royal. Mark Henry was announced as the final inductee into the WWE HOF class of 2018. Sasha and Bayley aired out their dirty laundry before their match against Absolution. The misunderstandings between the two friends ended up costing them the match after Deville pinned Bayley, who was busy arguing with Sasha.

John Cena explained how insulted he felt to not get a response from Undertaker. “You are not a God, you’re a Coward,” vented Cena. This prompted Kane, Undertaker’s Brother, to come to the ring and hit Cena with a Chokeslam. The Miz went on a long rant about being left off of the cover of the official WrestleMania Magazine. Balor Club defeated Miz and the Mizterouge in a Six Man Tag match. They did not take kindly to their loss and began a three on one attack on Balor causing Seth Rollins to save one of his ‘Mania opponents. Raw closed with its theatrical “The Ultimate Deletion” match between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. Hardy won the match thanks to some assistance from his brother and his father-in-law.

SmackDown Live

Daniel Bryan opened the show discussing the story that broke earlier that day, he has been cleared to wrestle again. “Fight for your dreams, and your dreams will fight for you,” explained Bryan. Nakamura defeated Rusev in the first match of the night. Aiden English ambushed Nakamura and the two began to attack him. Styles, who was ring-side to watch the match, got up to help Nakamura, but the Artist was able to handle his attackers himself. Baron Corbin defeated Tye Dillinger with an End of Days. Natalya instigated a fight with Charlotte, and she got it. Their match was a rough one, which motivated Carmella to try to cash in her briefcase. Charlotte took care of her, but Natalya used the distraction to roll her up and win the match.

Jimmy Uso took on Luke Harper after explaining that no matter how many times they try to bring down The Usos they will not stop. Luke Harper defeated Jimmy despite Jai’s best efforts to help his brother. A Triple Threat match for the United States Championship was announced for WrestleMania, Randy Orton, Bobby Roode and Jinder Mahal will clash in New Orleans. Becky Lynch and Naomi defeated Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan. Daniel Bryan finally got a chance to grill Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn after their attack on Shane McMahon. Bryan, eventually, fired the pair, and opened the door to a vicious attack from them. As much as Bryan tried to fight back, it was simply not enough to contain Owens and Zayn from destroying him.

We took a big step towards WrestleMania this week

As far as Raw is concerned, we finally got to see the maineventers clash. Lesnar’s assault on Reigns was a brutal one, and it should hopefully do some favors for Reigns. In a huge announcement, it was revealed that Jax will be the one to challenge Bliss for her championship. Without a doubt, this will be the biggest match of Jax’s career.

SmackDown was where it was at this week, though.  As something that everyone thought would never happen, happened. Daniel Bryan took some brutal bumps after announcing his return to the WWE ring. I am not going to lie, seeing him dish out those kicks to Owens was so gratifying. Bryan will definitely be stuck in a tag match with McMahon against Owens and Zayn, but just having him back is what we need right now. After all, the WrestleMania card looks that much more impressive with him on the card as a competitor.  

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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