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's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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