WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: SmackDown has a big edge as we look to Backlash on Sunday

Samoa Joe seems to be one of the biggest benefactors of the Shake Up. Photo by WWE.com

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

Raw

Roman Reigns opened Raw upset about his loss to Lesnar. He was ambushed by Mahal, Zayn and Owens. Bobby Lashley and Braun Strowman came down for the save and set up the main event, a six man tag. Bobby Roode sustained a throat injury in his match against Elias. The Authors of Pain returned to Raw defeating an enhancement tag team.

Finn Balor stopped playing nice as he surprised Seth Rollins after the two handled Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel who tried to ambush them. Ruby Riott defeated Sasha Banks thanks to several distractions from The Riott Squad.

Braun Strowman, Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns defeated the team of Jinder Mahal, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens after a Running Power Slam from Strowman to Owens.  No Way Jose defeated Baron Corbin thanks to a distraction from Titus World Wide. Natalya, with Ronda Rousey in her corner, defeated Mickie James. Mia Jax tried surprising Alexa Bliss, who was in Mickie’s corner, but the former champion escaped through the crowd. Seth Rollins retained his Intercontinental Championship over Finn Balor in their best match of this rivalry.

SmackDown Live

Paige opened the show backstage announcing that the Styles vs Nakamura match this Sunday at BackLash will be a No DQ. The Miz tried to instigate a fight between Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton, instead, he and Shelton Benjamin were destroyed by the two. This, of course, led to a match which was won by Orton and Hardy. Orton celebrated by surprising Hardy, his opponent at BackLash, with an RKO. Cass mocked Daniel Bryan by welcoming, and attacking a little person dressed as Bryan. 

Nakamura demanded an apology from AJ Styles, who attacked him and forced a DQ in their match in Saudi Arabia. Styles awaited Nakamura in the ring. Instead, Samoa Joe came out and explained whoever has the title after BackLash will have to answer a call from him. Nakamura, then, surprised Styles with another low blow and knee to the face. Xavier Woods welcomed The Bar to SmackDown by upsetting Sheamus with a roll up. Absolution met up with Paige expecting a hand out from the new GM. Instead, they had to face the harsh reality from Paige: “Absolution is dead.” Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Asuka defeated Carmela, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce after Asuka submitted Royce with the Asuka Lock.

With that, we’ve reached Backlash. Technically, it is the first PPV of the year. Frankly, I want it to be done and over with already.

It is not that I am not excited for it, I simply think Raw drastically needs some mixing up. The show feels like a rehash from week to week. Lashley and Strowman will have tagged three times in three weeks against Owens and Zayn come Sunday. Though I suspect something will happen at Backlash, like Lashley turning, it has gotten pretty boring.

Taking a deeper dive into Backlash’s card, though, grants us a bit of an explanation. The card will feature four SmackDown Live matches, two cross branded matches, and two Raw matches. For this reason, we can probably give Raw the benefit of the doubt. The first shared PPV will have more of a focus on the blue brand.

This is one of the reasons the show has been so good, too. Heel Nakamura is everything he should be. Cass is as irritable as he needs to be for a baby face like Daniel Bryan. Carmella seems to be forming some sort of alliance. There are stories building to something on SmackDown Live.

The wild card is Samoa Joe. What will he be doing on SmackDown? There are more heels than baby faces on the top of the card, so it makes it hard to project what is next for him. I don’t see them going immediately to Styles or Bryan for him, so perhaps Jeff Hardy and the US title is next? Either way, Joe moving to SmackDown was the right call. There are so many options for him on the show.

I do not expect anything major from Backlash. If anything, maybe we see a heel turn from Lashley and a title change for a mid card title. What I do hope to see, though, is a push forward in the narratives on Raw. Specifically, something needs to happen with Reigns.

I am certain Sunday will be a fun show, but in order for the joint PPVs to really work, they need to have big impacts on both shows. If we are not surprised with something from the red side, we will not be starting on a good path.

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The Rockets are collecting a lot of young talent. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Good parents are protective of their kids. Some helicopter parents are a little too protective and take it too far. Kenyon Martin Sr came out and wanted his son traded to a contender where he can flourish in a winning environment. He felt as if Jr wouldn’t be able to flourish as much as he thinks his son can in Houston. With the arrival of the number three overall pick, most likely being a frontcourt guy, they must’ve thought his playing time would decrease. Less time means less development means less money you can ask for on the next contract. I get it. I’m a parent. I understand. But there’s a point in which you have to be realistic.

Things like this are actually a good problem to have. It speaks to the Rockets having an abundance of talent, young talent at that. Whenever a team has a bevy of young talent in the NBA, they’ve been losing a lot and have stockpiled high draft picks. That, or they’ve developed a bunch of young guys that are now getting playing time and are on the verge of perhaps breaking out. Teams love it because crafting and shaping their future is easier when there’s a ton of options. They can choose to play and develop the guys they want to keep and trade the ones they don’t…provided they have any value.

Sr may think Jr is a future All NBA guy, and maybe he is, but he hasn’t been able to beat out Jae’Sean Tate for playing time in that tweener 3-4 combo position. One of the main things people point out is his ball handling. If he can’t handle the ball and make plays, he can’t play effectively enough in this system at that position. While he’s been able to give them valuable minutes, he’ll have to continue to improve and fight for those minutes. With the possibility of yet another player at that position with lofty draft status and expectations coming in (not to mention a unique skillset), the writing was on the wall.

When Sr came out recently and stated Jr is committed to staying here and getting better and Jr reiterated that at media availability this week, it helped quiet down the rumors. Would I be surprised if he’s traded? Not at all. He’s a good young athletic player who’s improved his shot. He could be a valuable rotation player for any team that has him. Do I want him to stay? Of course! I’d love nothing more than this team to grow together and stay together.

That’s in a perfect world and that’s somewhere we don’t live. Acquiring this much talent has paid off in the recent past. I wrote last week that this team can do what the Warriors and Celtics did if they continue to draft well, develop their talent, and surround their core with the right kind of role players. If playing time and meeting their potential for too many players becomes a problem (cap-wise, playing time, or any other reasons), they can always make deals and turn that talent into more draft picks. OKC did it with James Harden and flipped assets into about 3 million draft picks over the years. Blueprints are out there for the team to follow. Let’s keep hoping Rafael Stone can push the right buttons at the right times and continue to build this team back into a contender.

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