WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: Chamber card begins to take shape and Fastlane gets its main event

AJ Styles’ involvement in the main event got him placed in a Triple Threat Match at Fastlane. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw

For once, Raw opened with a match, rather than a 20 minute promo. Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns faced off in a qualifying match for the Elimination Chamber. Wyatt’s Sister Abigail was countered into a Spear, and Reigns picked up the win to qualify for the Chamber. Matt Hardy appeared in the ring to congratulate Wyatt with a Twist of Fate. Finn Balor and Karl Anderson defeated The Revival after Balor fit Dawson with a Coup De Grace. Backstage, the passive aggressive tension between best friends, Bayley and Sasha Banks, rose after Bayley reminded Banks that she can beat her. Cedric Alexander and Mustafa Ali defeated Tony Nese and Drew Gulak in some awesome cruiserweight action. New 205 General Manager, Drake Maverick, sat on commentary to promote the tournament to crown a new Cruiserweight Champion.

Kurt Angle announced that Bayley, Mandy Rose, Mickie James, Sonya Deville, and Sasha Banks will be Alexa Bliss’ opponents in the first ever Women’s Elimination Chamber match. Alexa Bliss was not at all happy with Angle’s decision to place her in that match, and claimed that she should be treated like Brock Lesnar, who does not have to defend his championship that PPV. Angle, simply, reminded her that she has not defended her championship since October. Bayley put up a valiant effort against Asuka, but, unfortunately, she was unable to upset the Empress of Tomorrow. Asuka defeated Bayley after locking her up in a second Arm Bar. Apollo Crews’ athleticism kept him in a very competitive match against The Miz in a qualifier for the Elimination Chamber. It would eventually burn him, though, after getting caught up on the ropes, the Miz hit him with a Skull Crushing Finally to qualify for the Chamber.

Jason Jordan was unable to compete in his tag team title rematch with Seth Rollins, so Angle allowed Roman Reigns to take Jordan’s place, much to the chagrin of The Bar. Reigns and Rollins were on an absolute roll, and The Bar realized it, so they tried to leave the ring. Jordan came down to try to force them back into the ring, and struck Sheamus causing a disqualification for Rollins and Reigns. Nia Jax defeated an enhancement talent. She had a message for Asuka after the match, when she’s done with her, she’ll be “The Empress of Yesterday.” Alexa Bliss, of all people, rushed to save Mickie James after Absolution tried jumping her. A Triple Threat Match between Cena, Elias, and Strowman closed the show. The winner of the match would win the right to enter the Elimination Chamber match last. Elias was able to steal the match from Strowman, but The Monster Among Men got the last laugh after hitting both men with a mirage of Running Power Slams.

Highlight of the night

The animosity between Bayley and Sasha Banks is building. Banks eliminated her best friend from the Rumble, and now Bayley got the chance to throw some shade at her backstage. Both of them losing to Asuka seems to be the beginning to a story where they turn on each other.

SmackDown

McMahon and Bryan opened the show with the same disagreement they have been having for months. McMahon accused Bryan of trying to vicariously live through the careers of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. AJ Styles explained to both that he is tired of dealing with them, and asked them to stay out of the way. Nakamura found Styles backstage and, simply, told him that he is “gonna beat him at Wrestlemania.” Charlotte Flair defeated Liv Morgan, submitting her with the Figure Eight. The Bludgeon Brothers destroyed another enhancement tag team. Daniel Bryan revealed the first “Top 10 list” of the SmackDown roster. Both Zayn and Owens were not on the list, nor was Rusev.

Bobby Roode defended his United States Championship against Rusev. It looked like the challenger would steal it from the Glorious One, but the champion countered a Accolade into a Glorious DDT for the win. After the match, Randy Orton surprised Roode, English and Rusev with RKOs. Benjamin and Gable continued their journey to “bring prestige back” to the tag team division by defeated The Ascension. Owens and Zayn put on a hell of a main event match. Zayn provoked Styles, who was sitting at ring side, and the Champion got up and attacked both men causing a disqualification. Thus, Bryan announced that BOTH Owens and Zayn will be challenging Styles at Fastlane for his WWE Championship.

Highlight of the night

Sami and Kevin were putting on a great match, as they should have. I am honestly a little burned out by their bickering with Styles, but a Triple Threat Match at Fastlane will be a worthy payoff.

As we get closer to Wrestlemania, more grains of salt are sprinkled in. This week did its job because it made things just a little more clear. There’s animosity between Banks and Bayley, Randy Orton made some new enemies, Styles placed himself in a predicament. These could all be red herring, but I think, as the weeks continue to pass us, we will get a clearer sense of direction.

As far as Elimination Chamber is concerned, this week did a great job of putting more of the pieces together. Asuka got in a match, we know who will challenge Alexa, and Elias got the nod. The PPV, which will air on February 25th, will be Raw’s last PPV before ‘Mania. So far, it looks like it will do the job to get us there. Fastlane, the last PPV for the blue brand, is still over a month away, but we already know what our main event will be. It should be the match that finally gets us to Styles vs Nakamura, but I have a feeling we may be getting a swerve. We will have to wait and see.

This is always my favorite time of the year. Speculating on what is next is fun, and even our predictions do not pan out, the WWE always finds a way to put on a compelling show for Wrestlemania. This year should be no exception.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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