OCTOBER 28, 2018

Watch: WWE Network


  • Kelly Harrass: Everytime Kelly sees a new face join the VOW staff, he thinks, “Good. More meat for the review machine. May they please Lord Titan and offer themselves to his hideousness.” Follow Kelly on Twitter @comicgeekelly.
  • Lawson Leong: Co-host of the Talking Smark and Talking Naruto podcasts. Writer of Match of the Month for this very site. Here mostly for the history. Suspensefully waiting to see if they make it. @Lawsoncomedy89.
  • Steve Case: New meat for the review machine, according to Kelly. What better show for my first review than the historic, first all women’s PPV that WWE has understandably been promoting like crazy in order to make the show feel so spec….oh. Follow Steve on Twitter @coachcase44.
  • Rich Kraetsch: The Captain finds his way back into the PPV reviews with this historic show. Follow him on Twitter (of course) at @VoicesWrestling and be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter at voicesofwrestling.com/newsletter to stay up to date on all the great content the site produces each week.


Kelly: I turned on the show as this match wrapped up. Based on the crowd reaction, this seemed like a fun match. NR

Lawson: This was a fun, crowd-pleasing opener. Despite my undying Lita fandom, she has clearly lost a step. It was also so stark seeing the old guard being at times unable to run the ropes properly. They truly felt like from a past era. Trish did some fun stuff in there, though, and clearly tried to put on a show. I appreciated her effort. I enjoyed the crowd popping for Mickie and Trish’s face off. Mickie looked great, for her part. Alicia missed her cue to break up a nearfall towards the end, which hurt this a bit. ***

Steve:  This match going on first can only be known as the “Alicia Fox Affect.” The crowd is liquid fire hot to start for this. Can tell a lot of women are at the show going nuts by the sound, which is awesome. The Mickie/Trish standoff came much earlier than I thought, but still got the humongous pop I expected.

Seeing Trish and Lita in a match was a lot of fun, and both ladies looked solid, with Trish showing some impressive athleticism. Lita may have been a step slow on a few spots, but not near as slow as Alicia Fox was on that pin break up. WOOF. The crowd ate up the finish though, so it was a great way to get them going, whether that was always the plan or not with Bliss’s injury. ***

Rich: This was far better than I expected despite the fact that Lita was clearly a step slower than where she was at her prime. She looked sloppy and unathletic at time which is a shame as she was one of the better workers in her era. Thankfully, she didn’t kill anyone on a moonsault attempt so we’ll consider it a win. As far as the others in the match, Trish and Mickie both looked great with Trish, in particular, looking like she hadn’t missed a step. It’s amazing to remember the raw parts she started as on how through hard work and astute training she became not only the best of her era but one of the best ever. We saw tonight that if she were to come back, she’d be able to go neck and neck with any woman on the roster today. Alicia Fox was inoffensive for the most part but blew a big spot at the end of the match when she was supposed to break up a pin. Botch aside, this match delivered in a big way and was played to a hot crowd who were way into all things Trish & Lita. ***1/2


Kelly: I docked the match for the appearance of that Fortnite dance. Even disregarding that, this couldn’t hold a candle to the women’s Royal Rumble earlier in the year. As far as battle royals go, this felt just a touch better than your average one. All the women got to have their own moment in the spotlight, which is pretty much the number one criteria for having a good rumble. The action in the ring wasn’t very exciting and was downright sloppy at times. Ultimately the entrances may have been the best part of the match. Once Asuka was eliminated, it was pretty obvious that Nia was winning. They went with the safe finish, which is expected, but disappointing. **¾

Lawson: Having the present roster surround the past generation was a fun way to start. It was weird seeing Maria lumped in with the past era but, sure, I suppose. Tamina got the biggest pop of her life by looking at Nia Jax. The pop of recognition for the Asuka/Ember faceoff and the ensuing chant tells me that the hardcores were out for this one. Ember was pushed strong here which is a good sign despite the outcome. The crowd heat helped elevate this, it was fine. **3/4

Steve: The crowd reacting for every entrance of this battle royal reminds me of the late 80’s, early 90’s rumbles and that makes me smile. The IIconics’ shtick leading lead to a cool past versus present dynamic was a really nice touch to start the match. From that point, this was wall to wall action and a ton of fun. For me, this was better than the women’s royal rumble by a pretty good margin. Lots of ladies got a great chance to shine from both the current roster and the past. The crowd was going crazy for everything everyone did, which I’m sure boosted the level of every lady in the match. Ivory in particular looked great for her age, jumping from and taking bumps off the top rope. The crowd really wanted Ember to win, but Nia was eventually too much. Her aunt’s non-reaction to the win made me laugh. ***1/2

Rich: Battle Royals are hard to screw up and not only was this a perfectly competent rumble, it was pretty damn great. The blending of nostalgia along with current feuds and beefs helped the match feel both important and like a bit of a spectacle. It’s a tough line to walk but they were able to do it here. The current women ultimately felt more important and in the end overshadowed the nostalgia acts but each of the acts from the past was able to shine even if for just a brief moment. Ivory, who is 56 and hasn’t wrestled in years, looked great. Like Trish, she could come back tomorrow and be able to mix it up with the main roster women easily. Nia Jax picked up the win here which seems, uneventful. She’s had her crying promo in the ring, she’s had her time to shine. I would’ve loved to seen someone else, someone new, someone fresh get that spotlight. The woman she eliminated (Ember Moon) could have worked well in that spot. Regardless, Nia is big and WWE has long been a territory where monsters win battle royals. This was fun and this show is off to a great start. ***½


Kelly: For my money, this was the best match in WWE this year. After seeing these two battle in Stardom, it was surreal seeing them face off in a WWE ring. It felt out of place in a very welcome way. This wasn’t worked in a WWE style, it felt like the joshi match I was hoping we would get. The hits were hard and some of the bumps (most notably the German on the edge of the ring) were insane. Even though Toni Storm picked up the win, Io Shirai didn’t feel like a loser when this was all said and done. I do believe that they’ll both go on to do great things in this company, but Toni is clearly going to be the top woman in WWE someday. Toni may have came off as the bigger star, but Io was the better wrestler to me. Her moonsault might be the best in the world and it looked incredible when she landed it on the outside. If I had one critique of this match, it would be that it wasn’t long enough. I would have loved to have seen another five or so minutes. A really hot closing stretch could have launched this match from being the best WWE match to being one of the best matches of the year overall. ****½

Lawson: This match had noticeably less heat than the previous matches on the show. But that didn’t stop this from being the best thing on the show up to this point, easily. The action here was on a level above everything we’d seen on the show so far. Whether it was the inside out moonsault, or the German suplex on the apron, these two were a clear step above the rest. The first false finish didn’t convince me, I would’ve preferred if Io had reversed a Strong Zero or two first. Besides that minor gripe this was great but I know these two could do even better in a main event position. ****

Steve: I had heard a lot about Io Shirai. I saw some highlights from her work in Japan, but outside that, I wasn’t very familiar. I saw flashes of it in the MYC, but saw it all here. Toni is a bonafide STAR, and should be in the main event scene on Raw or Smackdown yesterday. This was excellent. Hard hitting, high flying, crisp action from bell to bell. This match would have fit right in with the NXT women’s classics from NXT a few years ago. It’ll be interesting to see where Toni goes from here. Io is taylor-made to go right to the top of NXT. Toni is as well, but will they have her concentrate on the UK brand, or pull double duty like Dunne, Bate, and Seven? In any case this was great match and wonderful capper to a great tournament. ****1/4

Rich:  I came in with high expectations given what these two are capable of and it’s safe to say they delivered and then some. Both women flashed the superstar potential that have made them two of the biggest stars on the women’s scene. Storm is an absolute star. You can see it in every move she makes in the ring, her aura, the way the crowd reacts to her. At 22-years-old, she’s so far ahead of her age and has the opportunity to go down as an all-time great if things continue as they are. Oh, yeah, and Shirai. I think she was the lesser of the two between her and Storm but that’s not a slight. Shirai flashed some beautiful high-flying throughout the match and played her role to perfection. This isn’t a Match of the Year contender for me, but arguably one of the best matches in WWE this year and far and away the best women’s match in WWE this year. This one will be hard to top tonight. Stellar effort from both women and a great way to cap off the Mae Young Classic. ****½


Kelly: This match would have been better if some dudes on couches were in the front row. Silly me, women aren’t allowed in fancy couch land. It took me a while to get into this one, but once it picked up, it was pretty good. Riott Squad works so well as a unit, I was honestly disappointed to see them take the loss. Hopefully this will be the end of the “ARE THEY FRIENDS OR NOT?!” story for Bayley and Banks. Another thing that I’d rather not see again is that terrible looking double sharpshooter. Seriously, Nattie, stop doing that. ***

Lawson: Every time Cole says, “It’s Boss time!” I want to dock a star. I echo Steve’s sentiments below about what could have been with Bayley. And Sasha. The triple team spot to get the heat on Bayley was very creative. Sasha and Ruby had some fun reversals and exchanges. I wasn’t looking forward to this match as I was firmly in the camp that it was a waste of the horsewomen. But the work and story wrapped me into the action. Bayley taking the bullet for Sasha was cute and the best. Bayley doing the Randy Savage elbow and Sasha hitting Eddie Guerrero’s frog splash was a terrific babyface finish. I won’t lie, I popped for that. This was way better than I expected. ***3/4

Steve: That pop for Bayley’s entrance. *Sigh, what could have been. Getting the heat on Bayley to start was very smart. The Riott Squad work so well together. Any time I’ve watched a tag or trios match with any combination of them they’ve overcame my expectations. Ruby is the unquestioned star of the group, but I think they all have the chance to do big things. This was a very strong match with good tag team psychology and creative double and triple team spots. Sasha took a nasty bump into the old school guardrail(!) after a sloppy tope being caught by the Squad, showing that she is always willing to destroy herself to push women’s wrestling forward. The crowd loved Bayley the whole match and her covering Sasha to protect her was a nice piece of storytelling. Sasha and Bayley nodding to their heroes in the finish was a cool way bow on a very good match. Nattie was in this match as well. ***1/2

Rich: The first match on the show that didn’t feel very important or historic but that shouldn’t take anything away from it. All six competitors worked their asses off and I’m all in on the idea of six-women matches becoming a thing. The Riott Squad worked like a well-oiled machine that had me reminiscing about the awesome days of The Shield vs. Wyatt Family. Sasha, Bayley and Nattie were good but didn’t quite have the chemistry Riott Squad did. They felt like a real team, a real unit, a real family and it helped the match tremendously. I saw some criticism of the finish (Banks/Bayley/Natti winning) but that was the right call. You don’t need to book towards public opinion but the optics of Bayley and Banks, two of the focal points and pioneers of the revolution, losing would have been brutal. Fun match and yet another win for this show which is shaping up to be one of the better WWE PPVs this year. ***


Kelly: Before I get to the actual match, I just want to say that my Network feed has been trash for this entire show. I actually missed a chunk of this match when suddenly my feed jumped ahead far enough that the control of the match shifted from Shayna to Kairi. Setting that aside, this was a great match. I loved the story here with Sane being the best she has probably ever been, but still having the win taken away from her by Baszler and her friends. Both women worked the match with a nasty edge to them that I loved. Most of the time Shayna works like one of the most realistic feeling wrestlers around, but there were a couple times where she reacted to hits a second too late and it came off oddly. Kairi had an awesome fire here and it felt totally organic when she threw Shayna into the crowd, a move that would eventually cost her the win. The finish of the match was fantastic. Kairi tried her best to fight off Shayna’s friends, but the numbers caught up to her and she found herself locked in the choke. Kairi didn’t Hulk up and come back from the brink of unconsciousness, she just fought to stay awake until she couldn’t anymore. After this match I can say without a doubt that this is the best WWE show of the year. ****½

Lawson: If Shayna was going to win, I’m ok with the MMA horsewomen interference. They were always going to debut as Shayna’s running buddies. It’s kind of a shame though, because Kairi is awesome and I would’ve loved to see her have a longer run. The good news is this match was really good. One of the best things on the show up to this point, Shayna’s limb work had a vicious edge to it and Kairi’s selling was fantastic. While I don’t know if Kairi has yet to display the level of edge and charisma she did in Stardom, her babyface work is elite in this company. Thus far, I’m glad I signed up to review this show. ****

Steve: Never been a fan of Kairi’s pirate gimmick. Judging by the crowd’s reaction, they aren’t that into it either.I like the idea that Shayna has brought more of the mean streak out of Kairi. Angry pirate makes her so much more enjoyable as a character to me. Shayna’s arm work was outstanding and looked agonizing, and Kairi sold it like a champ. They both excel in their roles so much and have amazing chemistry. Shayna might be the best pure women’s heel in the business. They had some great back and forth exchanges in the ring and on the outside and they both really sold the punishment. Kairi’s dive on the outside was a great shot and I feel will be a picture that’s shown for years to come. I don’t mind the horsewomen getting involved here as an introduction to all of them. They can build on NXT before their eventual feud with Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky on the main roster. This show rules. ****1/4

Rich: This was classic pro wrestling, folks, with a pure babyface in Sane and a heel in Baszler who valiantly fought all night but in the end was able to take advantage of her friends’ interference to get the win. Baszler doesn’t look week or particularly “lucky” with her win but it’s clear the interference from her fellow Horsewomen helped. Sane knocked out Baszler’s friends and survived in Baszler’s clutches for a few minutes before eventually passing out. It took a bit for this match to get going as the crowd was not as aware of these women as they were your bigger main roster stars. Like Shiari and Storm, it would take a lot of work to get the crowd invested and eventually they did. Baszler’s offense is my favorite in the company and it looks and feels so much different than anything done by men or women. Baszler’s relentless attacks combined with Sane’s perseverance eventually got the crowd invested and up until Sane finally passed out, the crowd was in the palm of their hands. This was fantastic even if it wasn’t as quickly-paced or high-actioned as anything else on the card. I said Storm and Shiari would be hard to top. Welp, it was topped. ****½


Kelly: I’m incredibly torn on this match. On one hand, these two women worked incredibly hard and took some really brutal looking bumps. On the other hand, this was everything I hate about WWE gimmick matches. You gotta break out the kendo stick, because of course you do. You have to count to ten for every little move. You have to bury someone in junk to get them to stay down. The heel has to go full chickenshit after the face gets up following a flurry of offense. That’s the one that got to me the most here. Becky does everything to put down Charlotte, but then she begs for mercy after Charlotte uncovers herself from a pile of garbage. It made absolutely no sense. Oh well, this is how this company tells stories. The performances here were fine, but I think the story they were telling was very bad. Thankfully Becky won and redeemed it a bit. ***

Lawson: This result surprised me, given how this company usually books and the way Becky turned into a coward towards the end. Suffice to say, I hated that part of the match. Besides that…I loved this. I was super into the violence and high spots these women broke out on each other. They left no table unturned, pun very intended. The figure eight with the ladder was especially cool. Becky looked like a badass through the whole match (besides the dumb, “oh no, she got up”, moment). Her character work this year has been a revelation. This did have slow parts in the first half with the ref counting after transition moves which is a weakness in how WWE does these matches. But the overall performance and action these two delivered was a home run for me. And hey, Becky won clean. So there’s that. ****

Steve: So who’s the heel in this? You really listening to the fans Vince? Give me a break. I will say this though, the tone of the crowd cheering for Becky is a bit deeper than what the crowd sounded like at the beginning of the show. Seems like the men love Becky and the women are indifferent towards Charlotte? I’m not sure what this means, if anything.

I love the way Becky carries herself now. So much confidence and aura. It’s what she should have been all along and what I hope she is for the foreseeable future. Throwing the chairs in the ring for the “ECW” pop was kind of hokey, but god they both were ruthless to either other on the chairs, ladder, and tables, taking some hellacious bumps. The Figure 8 with the chair was a great visual and would have been an incredible ending to a straight up No DQ match. This did have some LMS (LWS?) tropes that take away from all these matches like constant 10 counts and unnecessary crowd brawling. Cole’s, “She has risen,” call, when Charlotte got out of the chair pile, was also very cringe. But they both did display the kind of desperation and hatred this feud deserves. Also, Becky won clean to an amazing pop, which is awesome. ***3/4

Rich: I’ve made it well known over the last few weeks that I am not a fan of Last Man (or Woman) Standing matches. They’ve been done to death in WWE over the last two decades and have become overly tropey with a lot of standing around watching a referee count out loud. Criticisms aside, these two really went all out in this match, at times bordering on overkill. This had all the tropes that usually make me eyeroll current Last Man (Women) Standing matches so that did hurt my enjoyment of the match overall. Charlotte fought off barrage after barrage from Becky. While this type of resilience made Charlotte appear to be superhuman, it felt again, like overkill at times. Likewise, WWE refuses to allow the story to match the crowd reactions. Michael Cole continues to talk about Becky stabbing Charlotte in the back and how she only has a cult following of fans while legit 95% of the audience was chanting BECKY. It’s this type of head-in-sand optics that makes WWE main roster so disjointed right now. I’m not trying to be over critical of this match as it was one of the most violent women’s matches in history and it worked well mostly for the story being told, it just felt empty at times. It felt like a lot of huge spots happening to happen. This was a broken barricade away from being every WWE main roster main event in the last three years. Overall, this was far from bad but I feel many matches on this show did so much more with less. ***½


Kelly: I think you could make an argument that this was one of the best-booked PPV main events this company has had in 2018. Ronda came off really well and Nikki was way more competitive than I was expecting. I was thinking we’d get a Lesnar style squash, but Ronda was in trouble quite a few times here. It’s still uncanny how well Rousey is coming along for how few matches she has under her belt. She played a heel really well early on when she was toying with Nikki, showing that she’s probably best suited to fill that role. Once Brie started to interfere, we had more reason to get behind Ronda. This was a textbook heel/face match from that point on and it really worked for me. This was solid, but I can’t really say it was any better than that when it had to follow Toni/Io and Kairi/Shayna. Ultimately, it was a good match that capped off a great show. ***¼

Lawson: The technique Ronda displayed early on against Nikki was so great. Her martial art prowess blows away anyone else in pro wrestling. She also carries herself like a total badass. Ronda got tremendous distance on a missed crossbody. She then neatly evaded a baseball slide. I enjoy the little things like that. The reaction Nikki’s finish got surprised me, as did the crowd buying into the nearfall. This ruled when Ronda was on offense, and Nikki was fine. Her Alabama Slam looked good. The finish was sick too. Ronda’s great, maybe the best thing in the company. ***1/2

Steve: The start of this match shows how GREAT a heel Ronda will be once she’s got a little more seasoning and they are ready to pull the trigger. She could do that to anyone and it’s believable. Of course, Bri was going to get involved to give Nikki the advantage. Once she did, Nikki did just fine working on Ronda. Nikki was one of the better women on the roster before she took the time off (also before the women’s revolution, but I digress), and she’s still a better than average wrestler. The younger girls still love the Bellas, as you could tell when Nikki hit the Rack Attack. Ronda’s finish with the small package off the top rope into the armbar was great. The fact that she is THIS good already is crazy to see, but not terribly surprising. She’s got the amateur training, and don’t discount how important it is that she’s always been a huge fan. That’s exactly why she nails the little things. She’s the anti-Lesnar because she actually cares. Just imagine how good she’ll be in a couple years. This show was excellent. One of if not THE best main roster PPV of the year. ***3/4

Rich: There was never any doubt which match was going to, or should, main event WWE Evolution. It was always going to be Nikki vs. Ronda, the match that helped make this show a business success. This match put a cap on inarguably the best WWE main roster show of the year and capped it with arguably the best match of the night. While I probably preferred Baszler/Sane to this, it was right up there. The lone negatives of the match were Nikki on offense a little too much and at times a plodding pace. You could have easily cut 5-8 minutes off this match and given it to, say, the Mae Young Classic Final. Still, negatives aside, these two delivered big. Ronda played mega babyface all night while Nikki (with the help of corner woman Brie) leaned into their heel roles. Ronda sold well for Nikki and though I don’t love Ronda having to sell submission holds from the likes of Nikki Bella, it helped bring the match together and tell the story that needed to be told. When business finally picked up and Ronda went on the offensive, this match kicked into overdrive. Ronda was brutal in her onslaught to both Nikki and Brie. I have to give a huge amount of credit to Brie who took A LOT of punishment in this match to make Ronda’s offense look great. She’s either the smoothest worker ever and able to project pain better than any of us expected orrrrrr she’ll be sore tomorrow. I expect the latter. All in all, this match told the perfect story for the build and did its job to perfection. I give WWE main roster a lot of shit in terms of booking, storytelling and star building but someone like Ronda proves they haven’t completely lost their touch. The simplicity in her story and her dominance is the way pro wrestling has been booked for years and years. It’s an effective formula, and it still works. Pro wrestling is easy. Don’t overthink it. ****1/4