WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: The road to WrestleMania comes to its final stops

AJ Styles gave Nakamura a taste of his own medicine after teasing him with a pat to the head. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw

The opening promo featured a “Q&A” between one of the marquee matchups of WrestleMania, Triple H and Stephanie vs Angle and Rousey. Of course, things got rather personal rather quickly. McMahon took a stab at Rousey telling her she needs to be mentally prepared as she is “not good and handling losses.” As the teams posed for a photo op, Triple H blindsided Angle leading Rousey to come to the defense of her partner. This gave Stephanie the perfect opportunity to attack her and put her through a table. Bayley defeated Sonya Deville with a roll up. To no one’s surprise, Absolution attacked Bayley after the match. Sasha Banks raced down to the ring to save her former friend. The two argued opening the chance to another attack from Absolution.

Seth Rollins and Finn Balor gave us the quality TV match that has been missing for weeks. Rollins got his revenge for last week defeating Balor with a Stomp. Braun, or should I say Brains, Strowman came to attack The Bar. Strowman teased the champions, telling them that they would finally meet his tag partner. Instead, it was Braun dressed in glasses and a white shirt.

John Cena asked for Atlanta’s help one last time, he wants to “summon the Undertaker.” “It’s obvious you left your hat here in the ring, and it’s pretty clear you left your balls at home,” stated a  frustrated Cena. Nia Jax sat with Renee Young for a sit-down interview. She spoke about her vulnerabilities and how toxic her friendship with Bliss was. She, then, spoke to Bliss directly as she promised to take her championship Sunday. Asuka and Dana Brook defeated Alexa Bliss and Mickie James. The sore losers attacked Asuka and Brook as Jax raced to the ring to get her hands on Bliss. Unfortunately, she had to settle for destroying James instead, as Bliss was able to escape from her grasps. In typical Paul Heyman fashion, the advocate antagonized Lesnar’s opponent, going as far as calling Reigns Lesnar’s bitch. Reigns got through the wall of superstars separating him from his ‘Mania opponent and hit Lesnar with a barrage of Super Man Punches. Lesnar would get the final rise, though, hitting Reigns with an F5 to close the show.

SmackDown Live

Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan opened the show talking their match at ‘Mania. The two embraced in a hug and set their differences aside. Charlotte had her hands full with Natalya when Carmella raced to the ring to try to cash her Money in the Bank Contract. Charlotte punted the briefcase away before hitting Carmella with a big kick and submitting Natalya with the Figure Eight. Her WrestleMania opponent, Asuka, gave her no chance to celebrate, though, as she came down to the ring and the two exchanged words about their match on Sunday.

Rusev defeated Jinder Mahal with a monster Machka Kick. Orton congratulated him with an RKO out of nowhere. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn snuck to the stage to “apologize” to Brie Bella and the McMahon family for what they will do to Shane and Bryan. In typical fashion, the two vacated the area when their opponents came to the stage. Styles and Nakamura tagged and defeated Benjamin and Gable. Styles refused to tag Nakamura at the end and hit Gable with a Phenomenal Forearm. Nakamura handled an attack from Benjamin but was completely caught off guard by Styles who teased him by acting like he was going to hit him with a Phenomenal Forearm. A little deja vu to close the show.

So there we have it, our stops on the road to WrestleMania end in anticlimactic fashion. Is that bad, though?

This card, without a doubt, is one of the best cards in a while. With the exception of 32, I have fondly enjoyed these past few ‘Manias, and none of them come close to the card we have this weekend.

Sure, they could have done more to build up their matches, but would that honestly make that much more of a difference to what is announced on the card? What could possibly have been done to heat up the Fatal Fourway for the US Title? The SmackDown Tag Titles? The Raw Women’s Title? SmackDown Women’s Title? Aside from those, I feel like every other match has been properly built towards.

The element of surprise is still intact. Who is tagging with Strowman? Will Cena have a match or some sort of face off with Taker? Not to mention we have no idea who will win the Battle Royals and what legends are going to make a surprise return.

All in all, I will say that I am a little disappointed with the go home shows. But it does not at all deter from my excitement for Sunday’s show. We get the dream match for the WWE Title, the return of Daniel Bryan to the ring, a smash for the IC title, the debut of Ronda Rousey, and what should be a worthy main event in Reigns vs Lesnar.

Last years card was very gloomy, and it turned out to be a memorable show. There is no way you can convince me that this card will not be better than last year's.

Stay tuned to SportsMap this weekend as Jermaine Every and I will share our predictions for WrestleMania 34!

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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