WWE WRAP-UP

This week in WWE: Shake-ups to the Survivor Series card with surprise title changes

The Phenomenal One captures his second WWE Championship. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw:

The Miz kicked off Monday Night Raw with a new episode of Miz TV. His frustrations were apparent when he called his opponent at Survivor Series, Baron Corbin, “ The bathroom break of SmackDown.” He invited Kurt Angle to the ring to discuss Kane’s attack on Daniel Bryan last week. Angle insisted that he had nothing to do with the attack. The Miz, then, accused Angle of setting him up for Strowman’s ambush at the end of Raw last week. Again, Angle insisted that he was not behind the attack. Angle explained to The Miz that Strowman will be representing the red team at Survivor Series, and he was only able to persuade him to participate because he promised him a match against Miz. Jason Jordan and Elias' feud peaked this week in a Guitar on a Pole match. Essentially, the only way to win this match is by striking your opponent with the guitar that is elevated over the ring. Elias pulled the guitar down, but Jordan would win the match after striking him in the back with the guitar. Backstage, The Bar asked Kurt Angle for one last chance at the Tag Titles. Angle agreed to their requested, but insisted that this will be their last chance. Asuka defeated another enhancement talent this week with her Asuka Lock finisher. Alicia Fox, captain of the Raw women’s team, announced that Asuka will be the third member of her team at Survivor Series. Titus O’Neil requested a match against Samoa Joe after he choked him out the week before. Unfortunately for him, the match never got started as Joe would, again, ambush him. Joe grabbed a microphone and asked for real competition to face off against him.

A loud ovation welcomed Joe’s challenger, Finn Balor. The history between these two allowed for an entertaining back and forth. The match ended in a double count out after the two fought outside the ring. The result frustrated both men, and they began to brawl. It took multiple referees and “security guards” to separate them. Kurt Angle, then, announced to both men that they will be joining him as representatives of Raw at Survivor Series. Backstage, Kurt Angle told Jason Jordan that he will be the final member of the Raw men’s team. Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Alicia Fox and Nia Jax when Banks submitted Fox. After the match, Fox asked Banks to join the Raw team.

The Miz’s match against Braun Strowman started the last hour of the show. Early on, Miz did all he could to avoid Strowman, but Strowman would eventually catch up with him and began tossing him around. Kane came down to the ring and struck Strowman, causing a disqualification. The Miz and The Mizterauge attempted to attack Strowman from behind, but The Monster Among Men ended up laying out Miz. Enzo Amore explained to the audience why he is the most valuable champion in the WWE. Kalisto came down to the ring after Amore took shots at his expense in his promo. Instead of attacking him, he sat down, and WWE UK Champion, Pete Dunne, made his way to the ring for a surprise match against Amore. Despite Amore’s attempt to steal the match, all it took was one of Dunne’s Bitter End finishers to put the match away. The Bar came to the ring for their title match against Ambrose and Rollins. They took off their jackets to reveal they were wearing Liverpool jerseys, upsetting the crowd in Manchester. The Shield members dominated the match early on, but The Bar isolated Rollins after taking out Ambrose. To everyone’s surprise, The New Day’s music hit and caused the entire Raw roster to go into a frenzy in fear of another SmackDown Live invasion. The chaos allowed The New Day to get a rise out of the Raw roster and allowed Sheamus to pin Rollins. The Bar ended Raw as the new Tag Team Champions.

Highlight of the night:

Pete Dunne’s appearance on Raw was the highlight of the night. It was perfect, from Dunne’s appearance in his home country of England, to him whipping the floor with Amore. The UK tournament this past January was phenomenal. Let’s hope WWE uses the UK talent more often.

 

SmackDown Live

Just like Raw, SmackDown was live from Manchester, England. Shane McMahon looked ahead to Survivor Series, and The New Day recounted how they bamboozled Raw the night before. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn shamed New Day for their actions and called McMahon a hypocrite for celebrating them. McMahon, then, issued the first match of the night, Sami Zayn vs Kofi Kingston. The two athletic wrestlers had a great back and forth, but Kingston’s Cross Body surprised Zayn and allowed him to pick up the win. Owens attempted to attack Kingston after his win, but Big E and Xavier Woods jumped in to save their partner. Backstage, Jinder Mahal addressed AJ Styles, the man who he will be defending his WWE Championship in the main event. Aiden English serenaded Rusev before his match against Randy Orton. Rusev surprised Orton with a big kick to start the match, but one RKO out of nowhere was enough for The Viper to win. James Ellsworth confronted his opponent of the night, Becky Lynch. Yes, you read that right.

Their “War of the Sexes” match started the second hour. Ellsworth attempted to apologize to Lynch. Instead of accepting his apology, Lynch made him submit to her Disarmer. Carmella jumped into the ring after the match. It looked like she was about to brawl with Lynch, instead, she kicked Ellsworth in the face. Shane McMahon told Natalya backstage that she will be defending her Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair next week. The Usos defended their Tag Team Championships against Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin. The challengers would win via count out when Jimmy Uso could not get back into the ring because of what appeared to be a knee injury. AJ Styles challenged Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship. Styles used his speed to gain an advantage over the champion. He, then, had to take out the Singh Brothers after they pulled Mahal out of the ring. Finally, Styles saw an opening and hit Mahal with a Phenomenal Forearm to win The WWE Championship for the second time.

Highlight of the night:

The Phenomenal One does phenomenal things. Styles is without a doubt one of the best wrestlers in the company. Seeing him win the WWE title, on an episode of SmackDown no less, was an awesome moment.

How do they compare

This week was a great one. The title change on Raw was a surprise, and the possibility of it setting up The New Day vs The Shield has me on the edge. SmackDown took that ball and ran with it with a surprise title change of their own. It set up a match I never thought I would see, Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles. The best thing about these brands interacting is that they lift each other up; thus, giving fans a great build with consistently good shows. Survivor Series is a week from Sunday, and, boy, does this Pay Per View feel like a big deal.

 

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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