WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: Stephanie McMahon announces the first ever Women's Royal Rumble match

Stephanie McMahon made the historic announcement at the close of Raw. Photo by WWE.com

Raw

Before Kurt Angle could discuss the fall out to last week’s Raw, Braun Strowman raced to the ring to make a claim for himself—he wants Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. Of course, Kane came to make a case himself. Then, The Universal Champion, Brock Lesnar, confronted both of them in the center of the ring. Then and there, Angle announced Lesnar will be taking on both men at the Royal Rumble. Seth Rollins defeated Jason Jordan with Samoa Joe at ringside. At one point, Jordan and Rollins worked together to beat up Joe. He would get the last laugh, though, laying out both Jordan and Rollins. Backstage, Angle told Ambrose, Rollins, and Jordan that they are going to be tagging against Samoa Joe and The Bar later that night.

Finn Balor took on both Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas in a handicap match. He won via disqualification after both men attacked him. Hideo Itami made his debut on Raw when he raced to the ring to save his buddy Finn Balor. The two, then, tagged in a match and defeated The Mizterouge after Itami hit Axel with a GTS. Drew Gulak took on Cedric Alexander in a match to determine who the number one contender to the Cruiserweight Championship. Gulak, who has become a fan favorite, put up a valiant effort, but Alexander defeated him after a Lumbar Check. Alicia Fox finally got the chance to lose to the undefeated Asuka.

The Six Man tag match between The Bar and Samoa Joe vs Ambrose Rollins and Jason Jordan started the final hour of the show. The victory went to the heels after Sheamus hit Rollins with a big boot. Ambrose was tended to in the outside after it appeared he sustained an injury. Samoa Joe made matters worse when he attacked Rollins and Ambrose backstage with The Bar. He slammed Ambrose’s trapped arm into a crate in what appeared to be a way to write Ambrose off. The Revival made their return to Raw defeating Heath Slater and Rhyno. Elias’ concert was cut short by Sasha Banks, Mickie James, and Bayley who did not want to sit around and wait before their match against Absolution. Rose and Deville never allowed the match to develop as they began attacking Banks. Nia Jax came down and absolutely wrecked Absolution. Paige blindsided Jax prompting the entire roster to run down to the ring. Stephanie McMahon, then, came down to stop the brawl and to announce that, for the first time ever, there will be a Women’s Royal Rumble match.

Highlight of the Night:

As awkward as this segment was, without a doubt, the announcement of the Women’s Royal Rumble will live forever. It has been a long time coming.

SmackDown Live

Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon opened the show airing out their differences after the fall out from Clash of Champions. The two threw passive aggressive shots at each other. Bryan explained why he used a fast count on Sunday, and how it was done to guarantee the land of opportunity. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin upset the Tag Team Champions, The Usos, in a non-title match. Charlotte Flair expressed how happy she is that there will be a Women’s Royal Rumble match next month. The Champion explained that, no matter who wins, she will be ready to defend her title against her. Naomi congratulated Charlotte for retaining her championship at Clash of Champions and announced that the two will be facing each other after she wins at the Royal Rumble. Riott Squad came to the ring, and Naomi issued a challenge—two of them vs. Charlotte and her. The latter team handed Riott Squad their first loss after Logan accidentally took out Morgan allowing Naomi to pin Logan.

The new United States Champion, Dolph Ziggler, took fans down memory lane airing highlights of his accolades. He explained that the fans are not worthy of him before walking out of the ring leaving his United States Championship in the middle of the ring. The New Day, Rusev, and Aiden English faced off in a very festive tag team match as they all wore different Christmas themed costumes. Rusev and English got too cute setting up a pancake and whip cream pie for Xavier Woods. Of course, English ended up going through the pie, and The New Day won the match. The main event of the night was a Six Man Tag Match between AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Randy Orton vs Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Jinder Mahal. The faces sent the crowd home happy after Nakamura hit Sami Zayn with a Kinshasa to win the match.

Highlight of the night

The slow dissension between McMahon and Bryan continues. It has been a long time coming. I am unsure whether it will lead to a match between the two or not, but, if it does, it will be one of the best, longest, builds to a feud in a while.

How do they compare?

This week was a weird one, in the sense that a lot happened, but it was surrounded and smothered by a reiteration of what we’ve seen the last few weeks. Rollins and Ambrose against The Bar, Orton dealing with Zayn and Owens, The Usos dealing Gable and Benjamin, rinse and repeat. It is clear, we are at that point of the year where it is a little early to start building for next year and things are just coasting along. That being said, the announcement of the Women’s Royal Rumble was huge. Sure, fans have telegraphed it, but seeing the moment actually materialize is nothing short of great. The Women’s Revolution is here to stay. The debut of Hideo Itami was well done. 205 Live is a hidden gem on the WWE Network, but him debuting there could have been inconsequential. Itami showing up on Raw was a great moment because it allowed fans unfamiliar with him to be introduced to a dynamic wrestler. Michael Cole putting him over on commentary shows those watching at home that this guy matters. Rusev and Aiden English are shining bright on SmackDown Live, but this week, again, goes to Raw.

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The Astros need to beat up on the lowly Rangers. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Collectively so far this season the Astros would not make for very good garbage men. Meaning they haven't been so good at taking out the trash. Swept in a series at Detroit when the Tigers were terrible, swept at Minute Maid Park by the sorry Orioles, swept in an early season series at the Rangers. Presently the Rangers are an atrocity. A nine game losing streak has them 35-62, buried deeply in last place in the American League West, 23 games behind the Astros. So the Astros need to whip up on them in this weekend's three game set, before the Astros head west for a three city road trip with stops in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

15. The number of home runs Jose Altuve has hit over his last 37 games. Multiply by four and that's a 60 homers in 148 games pace. Over those 37 games, Altuve is batting just .242. But slugging .577.

.029. Carlos Correa's batting average dating back 10 games played. One hit in his last 34 at bats. 14 strikeouts and just one walk over the stretch. That is what you call a funk. Certainly not a way to curry 300 million dollar contract offers.

The Rangers have just two 100 loss seasons in their history, their first two seasons after becoming the Rangers upon moving from Washington D.C. In 1972 the Ted Williams managed squad went 62-100, Ted quit, and the next year the Rangers finished 57-105. If the Astros sweep them this weekend, the Rangers will be on pace to lose 105 games.

It will be a decade ago this October that the Rangers came as close to winning a World Series as any team has ever come without winning the Series. In 2011 the Rangers carried a three games to two lead into game six at St. Louis. The Rangers led game six 7-5 with two on, two out, and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. The Cardinals' David Freese drilled a ball toward the base of the right field wall. Rangers' right fielder Nelson Cruz didn't make an error but didn't play the ball well, going back awkwardly and reaching out at the last second as if afraid of the wall. It went for a two run triple to tie the game. Two innings later Freese hit a game winning homer to force game seven.

The inning before that the Rangers again came within one strike of winning it all. A Josh Hamilton two run homer had the Rangers up 9-7 going to the bottom of the 10th. The Cards got within 9-8. With the tying run on second and two out, Rangers' Manager Ron Washington opted to intentionally walk Albert Pujols. Albert was still a tremendous player in 2011 (his last with the Redbirds), but he was not better than Lance Berkman that season, definitely not against right-handed pitching. Walking Pujols brought up Berkman to face right-hander Scott Feldman (a matchup of former Astro and future Astro). Berkman lined a two-two pitch to center field tying the game 9-9, ahead of Freese's 11th inning walk-off homer. One of the most incredible games in World Series history.

NCAA

Quite the story hitting that Texas and Oklahoma may be plotting to bolt the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. That neither UT, OU, nor the SEC denied it has smoke billowing. The Sooners have won the last six Big 12 football championships. The Longhorns last won in 2009. Oklahoma St., Kansas St., Baylor, TCU, all have more recently won at least a share of the conference title. An SEC UT could be looking at being in a division with Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M. UT marketing folks should be exploring a huge sponsorship deal with 7-Eleven. You know, Big Gulp. But as usual, follow the money.

The week ahead…

Wednesday: The Texans open training camp! Wait. Delete the exclamation point. Whither Deshaun Watson?

Thursday: The NBA Draft. Unless the Rockets pull off a thunderbolt of a trade to move up to number one and select Cade Cunningham, the winds of opinion are blowing in the direction of the Rockets taking wing Jalen Green second overall pick. That would be fine. Green is generally considered the most potential-laden explosive scorer on the board. The Rockets can use just about everything, a premium wing scorer would be excellent.

Friday: The MLB trade deadline. Does James Click bolster the Astros' shaky bullpen. The Astros have also been linked to Marlins' center fielder Starling Marte. Growing from his wretched start Myles Straw has been plenty acceptable. Free agent-to-be Marte would be a notable upgrade.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. First big beat the deadline win goes to the Rays. 41-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz still mashes. Simple frame of reference: he's been notably better than Yordan Alvarez this year.

2. The delayed by a year 2020 Summer Olympics are underway. Any interest at all?

3. Baseball's greatest Cruzes: Bronze-Jose Jr. Silver-Nelson Gold-Jose Sr.

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