Kane helps Braun Strowman defeat Roman Reigns in a Steel Cage Match. Photo by WWE.com
This is a weekly look at the action in the WWE:
Raw was live this past Monday from Portland, Oregon for the go home show for TLC. Kurt Angle opened the show to talk about The Shield taking on The Miz, The Bar, and Braun Strowman at TLC. Before he could get too far, The Shield would make their way to the ring. Reigns, Rollins, and Ambrose, would take turns explaining their reunion before ultimately calling out their TLC opponents. Strowman would come down to the ring, but before he could get too far, Angle would stop him by explaining he would not be taking Reigns tonight in a steel cage if he came down to the ring. Elias, along with Gallows and Anderson, sat in the ring to sing songs about their opponents Jason Jordan, Apollo Crews, and Titus O’Neil. Crews would go on to pin Karl Anderson after hitting him with a Spinning Power Bomb.
A package for Asuka’s debut aired. Renee Young would, then, interview her opponent at TLC, Emma. Alexa Bliss interrupts her interview and asks her to team up with her against Mickie James and who ever she finds as a partner. Cedric Alexander then took on Jack Gallagher. Brian Kendrick would accompany Gallagher, as he has been for a couple of weeks now. Later, Rich Swann made his way to the ring to be Alexander’s back up. Swann eventually takes out Kendrick, and Alexander would defeat Gallagher with a Lumbar Check.
Miz TV starts the second hour of Raw. This week, The Intercontinental Champion would interview his partner at TLC, Braun Strowman. It was here that The Miz attempted to add a fifth member to their team. Angle would quickly interject not allowing Miz or Strowman to do so. Instead, he explained that they could only add a fifth member if Strowman defeated Reigns in their Steel Cage match. But, if Strowman lost, he would be removed from the match. Sasha Banks then takes on Alicia Fox and submits her with The Banks Statement. Banks is then interviewed backstage after her win and is blindsided by Alicia Fox who explains that Banks is going to learn to respect her. Enzo Amore made his way to the ring to explain how upset he is to have lost the Cruiserweight Title the way he did. Kalisto would come down to explain that Amore had no one to blame but himself. Davari, Gulak, Neese, and Dar attack Kalisto from behind as Amore explained how he deserved it. Mustafa Ali then races down to the ring and attempts to save Kalisto, but the numbers were not in his favor as both him and Kalisto were laid out by Amore and his new friends. The Tag Team Champions, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, defended their titles against The Bar. Cesaro would take knee to the face from Rollins and a Diry Deeds from Ambrose before taking the pin allowing The Shield members to retain their titles.
Finn Balor addressed his issues with Bray Wyatt. He explained that Wyatt has his tricks, but he has his Demon, and he’s dying to meet Sister Abagail. A second Asuka package aired before the tag match between Alexa Bliss and Emma took on Mickie James and Bayley. The latter team won after James hit Bliss with a Mick Kick. Curtis Axel attempts to confront Reigns and The Shield, instead, The Shield would leave him hanging upside down on a forklift. Renee Young then attempts to interview The Miz about having to replace Axel if Strowman won. Miz would, simply, explain to Young that Axel was never the fifth man he had in mind. Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns finally faced off inside a steel cage. Reigns tries to escape the ring, but Strowman catches him and Superplex him off the top of the cage. The Bar attempted to get involved, but Ambrose and Rollins raced down to take them out. The four ended up brawling backstage, and The Miz would lock them out of the arena so they would not get involved. Just when it looked like Reigns was going to win, Kane made a surprise return and helped Strowman win the match. Raw closed as The Miz announced that Kane would be the fifth member of their team at TLC.
Highlight of the night
Seeing Strowman and Reigns face off again. What can these guys not do together? Strowman superplexing Reigns off the cage made me jump out of my seat. I am not sure how I feel about Kane’s involvement, but everything about this match was great. Without a doubt, it was a main event to remember. I am so ready for TLC.
Daniel Bryan opened SmackDown Live. He announced that there would be a six women tag match featuring Natalya, Tamina, and Lana taking on Naomi, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair. He went on to explain his disappointment for Sami Zayn, prompting Zayn to come down to the ring. Bryan tried to sympathize with Zayn explaining they are similar. Zayn, then, explained that they are not the same, as the fans never supported Zayn like they supported Bryan. Zayn always worked “smarter not harder” and did not see his career come to an end the way Bryan did. Kevin Owens came to the ring to congratulate Zayn, and to explain how Bryan has become the very thing he hated. Daniel Bryan has become The Authority. The Six Woman's Tag match was the first match of the night. Charlotte later submits Lana with her Figure Eight finisher. Women’s Champion, Natalya, drags Charlotte out of the ring before she could even celebrate the win. Charlotte then recovers and gets the upper hand, causing Natalya to cower away and escape through the crowd. Bryan would find Owens and Zayn backstage to tell them they would be facing Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura in the main event. Breezango and The Ascension presented the latest edition of Fashion Files. This week, it was a parody of Pulp Fiction. United States Champion, Baron Corbin, made his way to the ring for a match against Sin Cara. The match would end in a count out victory for Sin Cara after diving into Corbin on the outside. The Usos closed the first hour with an exchange backstage against Gable and Benjamin, the number one contenders to their Tag Team titles.
A new promo aired for the Bludgeon Brothers, the new team of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Jinder Mahal, along with The Singh Brothers, made his way to the ring. He explained that since he had already defeated everyone on the blue brand, he would be challenging Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. AJ Styles then interrupts Mahal’s promo to clarify that Mahal had not defeated him. Styles goes on to attack Mahal to end the segment. Dolph Ziggler would finally have his rematch against Bobby Roode. Ziggler pulls on Roode’s tights and steals the win via a roll up. Aiden English and Rusev had a confrontation with The New Day backstage. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn took on Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura in the main event. Owens would distract the referee so Zayn could hit Orton with a low blow. Zayn pins Orton after hitting him with a Helluva Kick. Owens and Zayn would run into Daniel Bryan backstage. He then tells them that Shane McMahon is deciding what’s next for them next week.
Highlight of the night:
Fashion Files. Of course it is. Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies so this was a no brainer. Tyler Breeze and Fandango have really found their place on the blue brand.
How do they compare?
SmackDown Live is really, really, average right now. There seems to be too long of a gap between now and Survivor Series for them to do anything other than a filler episode. With Survivor Series still over a month away, they could put on another PPV like episode together. This would explain AJ Styles attacking Jinder Mahal. TLC is this weekend, and Raw could not be on a higher high than they are now. For the majority, all of the feuds matter. There’s clear direction for their characters. Nothing feels stagnant like it does on SmackDown Live. It will be interesting to see how the brands intertwine as they begin to build towards Survivor Series. Stories will begin to mesh together as they try to make sense out of their traditional brand vs brand matches. Hopefully the intertwining elevates SmackDown Live. If not, I am not sure many will care about what the blue brand has to offer next month when they are in town for Survivor Series and SmackDown Live.
Houston Astros skipper Joe Espada wasted no time this week at spring training by answering one of the most talked about questions of the offseason.
Espada revealed that newly-acquired free agent Josh Hader will be the team's closer and will pitch the ninth inning, with Ryan Pressly working as the setup man.
Bryan Abreu will be tapped to pitch the seventh inning, but it wouldn't shock anyone if he had the best season of the three. But after Abreu, things get interesting in the bullpen.
Who pitches the sixth inning?
Astros GM Dana Brown gave Rafael Montero a vote of confidence, saying he's “legit.”
While we have our concerns about Montero after he finished with an ERA over five last year, there's reason for hope. The nature of relief pitchers halving up and down seasons from year to year could work in Montero's favor.
And with the salary that's already committed to him, Brown will likely give him every opportunity to justify his contract. It will be fascinating to see how Espada deploys him early on. You have to think with the boss man backing Montero, Espada will be on board too.
But if he does struggle, will Espada quickly stop using him in critical situations? The good news is, the team won't often have to turn to him in high leverage situations with Abreu, Pressly, and Hader ready to handle those duties.
Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion about the Astros 'pen, and much more!
Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel!