WWE WRAP-UP

This week in WWE: Celebrating 25 years of Raw and closing the Royal Rumble build

This week in WWE: Celebrating 25 years of Raw and closing the Royal Rumble build
The Miz wins his eighth Intercontinental Championship leaving fans to wonder what is next for Roman Reigns. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw

The 25th Anniversary edition of Raw opened at the Manhattan Center. The venue was designed to look like the original Monday Night Raw set, and it featured Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler on commentary. They then sent it to the Barclays Center where our weekly commentary team welcomed the audience. In the ring, Stephanie and Shane McMahon explained how the night would work with one show coming from two arenas. They, then, welcomed Vince McMahon to “smell the roses” and celebrate the achievement of 25 years of Raw. Vince turned it, of course, explaining that the only person he had to thank was himself. This prompted Stone Cold to come out and give both Shane and Vince a few Stone Cold Stunners, for old times’ sake. An Eight Women’s Tag match saw Sasha Banks, Bayley, Asuka, and Mickie James defeat Absolution, Alicia Fox and Nia Jax. After the match, Asuka turned on her teammates and took turns throwing them out of the ring. Raw returned to the Manhattan Center where Undertaker made his return to the ring to recount all the victims he has “buried.”

The APA played cards backstage with Rhyno, Heath Slater and Ted Dibiase. The Miz challenged Roman Reigns for his Intercontinental Championship. Per usual, the Mizterouge did all they could to ensure Miz would not lose. The referee, eventually, caught them and ejected them from ringside. Reigns would crash into an exposed turnbuckle and, after a second Skull Crushing Finale, was pinned by the Miz, who won his eighth Intercontinental Championship. Christian hosted a special edition of The Peep Show featuring Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan. The Bar crashed the party and caused Rollins to accidentally knee Jordan. Backstage, Alexa Bliss and Charlotte exchanged insults. Ric Flair decided to pop in and explained to Bliss that his daughter will be the champion “until she decides to hang it up.” Bray Wyatt defeated Matt Hardy after hitting him with a Sister Abigail.

Backstage, Chris Jericho put Elias on The List. This inspired Elias’ song of the night, a song where he insulted all the WWE Legends who were on the show that night. John Cena came to the ring after Elias said he “has no balls.” Cena went for an Attitude Adjustment, but Elias countered with a Low Blow and broke his guitar on his back. Titus Brand tagged against Rhyno and Heath Slater. The match ended in a DQ after the two teams started brawling. The Dudley Boys came to the ring and took care of Heath Slater, putting him through a table with a 3D. Degeneration X welcomed Razor Ramon to the Manhattan Center. Ramon explained that the celebration has been “too sweet” prompting The Balor Club to come to the ring where all the men shared a Too Sweet greeting. The Revival crashed the celebration in order to get their match against Gallows and Anderson started. It did not take long for Gallows and Anderson to put them away. After the match, Scott Dawson tried confronting Ramon and ended up getting attacked by every single member of DX and Finn Balor.  Raw closed with a big brawl between Kane, Strowman, and Brock Lesnar. Lesnar took care of Kane, but Strowman got the last laugh after putting the Champion through a table with a Running Power Slam.

Highlight of the night: I am going to cheat here, only because they made it too hard for me to choose. Typically, I couldn't care less about WWE’s constant use of nostalgic wrestlers. I really liked how they did it this week, though. Raw has become an unmissable show, this was especially the case this week.

SmackDown Live

Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens opened the show warning AJ Styles. They are not only going to take his WWE Championship, they're going to hurt him. They suggested Styles take on both of them, individually, that night. Styles hesitated, but eventually accepted when Daniel Bryan came out to the ring. Backstage, Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan argued about Styles being placed in two matches. Bryan asked him if he was questioning Styles’ ability. McMahon responded that Styles was not the one whose ability he was questioning. Chad Gable defeated Jey Uso after a beautiful suplex sequence. Nakamura explained that he is going to win the Royal Rumble. Naomi defeated Liv Morgan with a Sunset Flip pin. After the match, the women’s division brawled and previewed the Royal Rumble as they began throwing each other over the ring.

Shinsuke Nakamura took on Baron Corbin. Just when it looked like Nakamura was going to win the match, Randy Orton surprised him with an RKO, and hit Corbin with one himself, for good measure. Bobby Roode teamed up with the New Day and defeated Mahal, Rusev and Aiden English in a Six Man Tag Match. McMahon came out before the main event to explain that if Owens or Zayn got involved in each other’s match against Styles they would be fired. AJ Styles made quick work of Kevin Owens submitting him with a Calf Crusher. Styles refused to let go of the submission, so Zayn raced down and began attacking Styles before their match.  Zayn’s attack continued outside of the ring. Eventually, the match got started. Styles kept leaving the ring to attack Owens, who was being treated after apparently being hurt. Styles did it one time too many, and it cost him the match against Zayn, who pinned the champion after a Blue Thunder Bomb.

Highlight of the Night: I’m not crazy about Randy Orton, but, I’ve got to say, the RKO out of nowhere never fails to be a highlight.

How do they compare?

Maybe I am feeling extra optimistic this week, or maybe my expectations are too low, but I thought SmackDown had a good week. Considering the fact there was no way it could match Raw’s special show, it did all it could to bring the brand home for the Royal Rumble.Raw’s anniversary show got a lot of criticism. Some of it was warranted, like making those in the Manhattan center sit in the dark and watch Raw from Barclays for over an hour. Overall, the show wrapped everything up for the Royal Rumble, as well, it provided some funny moments featuring DX and The Balor Club, or the APA Poker matches. Of course, Raw gets the edge, but SmackDown did enough to keep me interested in what they will bring to the table this Sunday at the Royal Rumble.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome