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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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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