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:

RAW

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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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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