WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: The build to the Royal Rumble continues

Becky Lynch returned and gave Riott Squad a dose of reality. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw

Alexa Bliss chased down Kurt Angle to talk him out of her match against Asuka later that night. Angle, then, came to the ring to wish fans a Happy New Year.  He explained that the Women’s Royal Rumble match will feature 30 competitors. The Bar interrupted Angle. They are still upset about losing their titles to Rollins and Jordan. Jordan came to the ring, and Angle decided to put his son in a match against Cesaro. Jordan won the match after Sheamus’ plan to get involved backfired thanks to Seth Rollins. Bray Wyatt defeated Apollo Crews in a very competitive match. Matt Hardy appeared on the big screen after Wyatt’s win and warned him, he cannot escape his woken wisdom for much longer.  Alexa Bliss asked Nia Jax to support her ring side during her match against Asuka. Jax declined as she has to tend to a sick Enzo Amore.

Bliss and Asuka put on a great match to start hour two of Raw. Asuka upset the champion submitting her with an arm bar. Samoa Joe explained he is going to take Roman Reigns’ Intercontinental Championship. It may be Roman’s yard, but this is Samoa Joe’s world. Braun Strowman’s match against Rhyno somehow turned into a handicap match when Heath Slater got involved. Strowman, of course, won the match. After the match, much to the crowd’s delight, he destroyed both men with Running Power Slams. Backstage, Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan, for some reason, cooled Reigns down before his match against Samoa Joe. Kane explained to Strowman that together they can stop Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Finn Balor found Kurt Angle backstage to tell him his good brothers, Gallows and Anderson, will be his partners in his match against Elias and the Mizterouge.

Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe put on another great Intercontinental Championship match. The added stipulation that Reigns would lose his title if he got disqualified only made the match that much better. Reigns escaped a Coquina Clutch and pinned Joe after hitting him with a Spear. Cedric Alexander and, for some reason, Goldust tagged and defeated Drew Gulak and Diavari. Finn Balor, Gallows and Anderson defeated Elias and The Mizterouge. After the match, they celebrated with “two sweets,” much to the approval of the fans that’ve been following them since NJPW. Paul Heyman spoke about Lesnar’s match at Royal Rumble against Kane and Strowman. Kane came to the ring and hit Lesnar with a Choke Slam. Lesnar got up, quickly, and a brawl ensued to close the show.

Highlight of the night:

Samoa Joe is an absolute SAVAGE. In his promo, he told Renee Young that Dean Ambrose is a stay at home husband living off his wife’s checks. Well, Young is the exact wife Joe was talking about. Young’s face when Joe said this was absolute GOLD.  Add to that the fact that Joe and Reigns have had some absolute great matches on Raw, and we see why Joe has been one of the brightest spots currently in the WWE.  

SmackDown Live

The WWE Champion, AJ Styles opened SmackDown Live. He shared his New Year’s Resolution: to hold the WWE Championship until WrestleMania. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, then, came down and continued to bicker about their issues with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The two “agreed” that McMahon, Bryan and Owens will be ringside for the main event between AJ Styles and Sami Zayn. The Usos defended their Tag Team Championships against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin. The challengers pinned Jai Uso after their finisher, but Gable was the one that went for the pin, not Benjamin-the one who was the legal man. The referee realized his mistake, and restarted the match which the Usos won after a barrage of Super Kicks to Benjamin. The Bludgeon Brothers destroyed Breezango before their match could even get started. The Ascension raced down to save their buddies, but suffered the same beating the Fashion Police received.

Xavier Woods spoiled Rusev Day after hitting English with a Big Elbow Drop to win the match and advance to the next round. Natalya, Tamina and Carmella tagged against The Riott Squad. Sarah Logan hit Tamina with a nasty knee to pick up the win for Riott Squad.  Ruby Riott took to the mic to explain how The Riott Squad is a dose a reality, and declared all three members as entrants in the Royal Rumble. This prompted Charlotte Flair, Naomi, and a returning Becky Lynch, to give them “a dose of reality” via a beating. Of course, Bryan and McMahon’s issues got in the way of the main event, again. Kevin Owens prevented the referee from reentering the ring, causing McMahon to toss him from ringside. Bryan, then, said it would only be fair if McMahon, himself, left too. This distraction allowed Zayn to hit Styles with a Helluva Kick and win the match. Styles expressed his frustrations with all parties involved, and suggested taking on both men. Bryan took his rant as serious and explained that Styles will be defending his championship against both men at the Royal Rumble in a Handicap Match.

Highlight of the night:

The shenanigans in the tag title match were great. The Usos continue to show us why they are the best tag team in the WWE. They, along with Gable and Benjamin, made a TV match memorable.

How do they compare?

Thank goodness we are out of the end of the year filler purgatory. The Royal Rumble build continues with a successful week of build. We now have more participants announced for the rumble matches, US Tournament matches, and even got a WWE Championship match. Raw proved once again why it is so dominant. At the end of the day, it comes down to them using their stars so much better, generally speaking. Samoa Joe is an absolute savage, himself, and he is not even in the main event title picture. Raw establishes what we have come to know as the norm by winning this week.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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