WWE Wrap-Up

This week in WWE: The WWE closes out the year with two great shows

The unlikely team of Rollins and Jordan raised the bar and won the Tag Titles. Photo by WWE.com

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


John Cena welcomed the Chicago crowd to a very special Christmas edition of Raw. He was soon interrupted by Elias, who decided that this week he would be the interrupter not the interrupted. He got John Cena involved in his performance, and ended up surprising him with a punch to the face. Elias, then, issued a challenge to Cena. The two faced off in the first match of the night. Elias got a lot of offense in, but Cena proved to be too much putting him away with an Attitude Adjustment. Brian Kendrick returned to Raw to issue a challenge to the cruiserweight division’s newest competitor, Hideo Itami. Kendrick, smartly, grounded Itami in the early parts of the match. Eventually, Itami took over and put away Kendrick with a GTS. Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins made a case to Kurt Angle backstage; they both want to get their hands on Samoa Joe. Angle explained that it was not going to happen. Instead, they will be challenging The Bar for the Raw Tag Team Championships. He, then, told Roman Reigns that he will be the one facing Samoa Joe, and it will be for his Intercontinental Championship. Absolution took on Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James. Just when it looked like the faces were finally going to top Absolution, Paige knocked Bayley off the top rope and pinned her after hitting her with a Rampage.

Backstage, Samoa Joe bragged about injuring Dean Ambrose the week before, and explained how he will become the next Intercontinental Champion. Heath Slater tried to “toughen up” by challenging Kane to a match. The match did not go as well as he may have hoped, though, as Kane easily defeated him with a Choke Slam. After the match, Kane hit Rhyno with a Choke Slam, as well. Curt Hawkins issued an open challenge in hopes of ending his losing streak. Unfortunately for him, it was answered by Finn Balor who defeated him with a Coupe de Grace. Bray Wyatt made his way to the ring, and he was ambushed by Matt Hardy. A “Miracle on 34th Street” Fight saw Ali, Tozawa, and Alexander defeat Amore, Gulak, and Daivari.

Samoa Joe challenged Roman Reigns for his Intercontinental Championship. Joe looked like he was going to win the match when he placed Reigns in a Coquina Clutch, but Reigns was able to get to the ropes. Reigns shoved the official causing disqualification, but that did not stop Reigns from attacking Joe, targeting his arms as payback for injuring his brother, Dean Ambrose. The Mizterouge came to the ring for their handicap match against Braun Strowman. Of course, Strowman had his absolute way with them and won the match. Alexa Bliss explained that she does not care who wins the Women’s Royal Rumble next month. That, of course, changed when Asuka announced she will be entering the match. Jason Jordan and Seth Rollins challenged The Bar for their Tag Team Championships. It was clear these guys were not on the same page, but some way, somehow, Jordan and Rollins pulled the upset and won the Tag Team Championships.

Highlight of the night:

Rollins and Jordan winning the tag team championships was an absolute surprise. Ambrose’s injury might have thrown a wrench in the WWE’s plans, and it is clear they are going another direction.

SmackDown Live

Daniel Bryan opened SmackDown addressing Dolph Ziggler leaving the United States Championship the week before. He announced that a tournament will be held to determine the new United States Champion. Jason Jordan and Shelton Benjamin demanded their chance at the Tag Team Championships. Aiden English made a case for Rusev and himself by singing a new rendition of The Rusev Day song. The New Day tossed pancakes and facts as they explained why they should be challenging The Usos. Eventually, Bryan issued a Triple Threat between all three teams to determine the next number one contenders. The match absolutely rocked the house, and Benjamin and Gable proved to be victorious after pinning Big E. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon continue to butt heads over Bryan’s “favoritism” for Owens and Zayn. The Ascension got Breezango the worst possible gift ever, a rematch against The Bludgeon Brothers. They quickly realized their mistake, though; as they raced to the ring to cause a disqualification in order to save them. Riott Squad used the numbers game in order to help Ruby Riott defeat Naomi. After the match, they attacked Naomi. Charlotte attempted to save her, but the group made quick work of her. Natalya, Carmella, Tamina, and Lana raced down and cleared the ring of the Riott Squad.

Bobby Roode rolled up Baron Corbin and advanced to the next round of the United States Championship tournament. Jinder Mahal advanced as well defeating Tye Dillinger. Backstage, both Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura announced they will be entering the Royal Rumble. AJ Styles came out on all cylinders in his match against Kevin Owens. The challenger was able to turn the tables after throwing Styles out of the ring, though.  What ensued was an absolute train wreck. Shane McMahon came to the ring to eject Sami Zayn after he tried to get involved in the match. Owens used this distraction to roll up Styles and upset the champion.

Highlight of the night

The tag teams absolutely killed it. At one point, the tag team division was the weakest division on SmackDown Live. Now, it’s undoubtedly the best. The Triple Threat match to start the show was great.

How do they compare?

I honestly had a really bad feeling about this week. WWE loves to do get really cheesy when it comes to Holiday themed shows. Both shows proved to be good, though. Raw delivered two awesome title matches. SmackDown did the same with two awesome matches, themselves. The United States Tournament spiced things up for the blue brand. Rollins and Jordan winning the titles was a genuine surprise. All in all, both shows were entertaining. SmackDown felt better than usual, so it probably should get the edge. With a new year comes new shows, and it will finally be time for the build to the Royal Rumble, and I cannot wait.

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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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