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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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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