Hard to believe folks, but we are less than one full month away from WrestleMania. In any normal year, we’d already have half the card planned for wrestling’s biggest stage. Yet, here we stand with only one match solidified going into April 10-11’s two-night event in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium.

We’ve got Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. That’s it. The only other match that’s close is the Universal Championship match with Edge taking on whoever walks out of FastLane as the champ – either Roman Reigns or Daniel Bryan. Everything else is up for grabs or better yet, Vince McMahon’s whim.

It’s a WrestleMania like no other and with the FastLane PPV, the first ever on Peacock, coming next Sunday, it’ll be a mad dash after the PPV to get things in shape and hyped up for Tampa. Sure, we have our guesses as to who might fill out the rest of the card. Bobby Lashley vs. Drew McIntyre or maybe it’s a returning Brock Lesnar could be on tap. Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair maybe? Randy Orton vs. The Fiend or whatever he’ll come back as is likely. Bad Bunny & Damien Priest vs. The Miz and John Morrison is sure to happen as well. Whichever way they go, the WWE has its hands full and not a lot of time to get it done.

RAW

RESULTS

  • WWE Championship Match: Bobby Lashley defeated The Miz to retain title
  • No DQ Match: Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus went to a no-contest
  • Xavier Woods defeated Shelton Benjamin
  • Riddle defeated SLAPJACK
  • WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler defeated Naomi & Lana to retain titles
  • AJ Styles defeated Randy Orton

I’ll give it to RAW the past few weeks. It’s been better and that trend continues again this week.

Talk about starting with a bang. No need for one of those cliche championship celebrations. All new WWE Champion Bobby Lashley did was remain dominant and make quick work of The Miz to make his case to highlight a main event at WrestleMania. It’s a quality move by the WWE to make Lashley look as strong as possible headed towards April.

We praised Drew McIntyre and Sheamus last week for a wonderful one-on-one contest. This week, Sheamus wants more after attacking Drew backstage. Now, just when we were getting more of the brutal beatdown between the two behemoths, oh my the welts on their backs with those kendo sticks, the duo decided to pick up the steel ring steps and collide into each other. Instead of taking out the other, they both take out themselves to end it in a no-contest. I’m sure match three will be on tap for Fastlane.

To complete a trio of kudos, AJ Styles and Randy Orton put on a very good main event. Of course, the ending was a bit predictable with Alexa Bliss distracting Orton from the big screen just long enough for an explosion, more black goo spewing from Randy’s mouth and a top rope forearm splash from Styles to give him the pinfall. The Fiend’s resurrection is coming. We’ll just have to wait a bit longer for it, right Miss Bliss?!

Otherwise, Xavier Woods earns The New Day a tag team title shot with a singles victory over Shelton Benjamin. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler get an uneventful championship match win over Naomi & Lana. BTW: not a big fan of putting Reginald with Nia and taking him out of the mix of SmackDown even for one show. Reggie deserves better. Plus, Riddle takes out SLAPJACK. If it’s not Riddle vs. Ali, which we get this Monday night for the US Title, I’m not interested in RETRIBUTION.

There’s so much left to be done to set up for WrestleMania and with Fastlane being the bump in the road to get there, I’m sure a lot will happen over the next 10 days. Take Charlotte Flair for instance, her only appearance of the night was to tell Dana Brooke and Mandy Rose to bring it when it comes to asking for a RAW Women’s Championship Match against Asuka. Something tells me Rhea Ripley is soon to be added to that mix.

Yes, I’ve left Shane McMahon and Braun Strowman for last. That may have been one of the worst 10 minutes of RAW in many a year. I get it that the WWE wants us to hate Shane and cheer Braun, but that promo from McMahon not only made no sense, it hurt my head to try and listen to it. And, not for nothing, why not give Braun a microphone. Nothing about that segment or the storyline is making me have any interest in it. It’s just more square pegs trying to be pounded into a round hole.

NXT

RESULTS

  • NXT Women’s Championship Match: Io Shirai defeated Toni Storm
  • Pete Dunne defeated Jake Atlas
  • NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship Match: Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon defeated Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez to win titles
  • Xia Li defeated Kayden Carter by DQ
  • Legado del Fantasma defeated Grizzled Young Veterans
  • NXT Championship Match: Finn Balor defeated Adam Cole

So, that didn’t take long! General manager William Regal wasted little time in banging out the two “game-changing” announcements for the NXT brand. First, we get a two-night TakeOver: Stand and Deliver during WrestleMania week. Then, after last week’s tag team fiasco, Regal declares Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez as the first ever NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long for Kai & Gonzalez as Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart take them out in their very first title defense. It’s a good way to keep things moving and doesn’t leave any room for doubters to say that the champs were just handed the titles. Moon and Blackheart won them in the ring and move on with the gold.

Io Shirai just keeps going strong. No matter who or where the challenge comes from, Shirai continues to prove she’s the best thing going these days in NXT. I really thought it could be Toni Time for Storm in this one, but Shirai made her tap out surprisingly clean. Next up for champ, she wants Raquel Gonzalez. Now that’s an easy way for her to forget about a quick tag team title loss.

Jordan Devlin is back from the travel ban and yes, ladies and gentleman, it looks like we’ve got a fight for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship next week!

A tip of the hat, or is that a space helmet tip to Breezango as MSK distracts the Grizzled Young Veterans enough to give Legado del Fantasma the win. But, not to be left out, Breezango arrives to give Legado a little payback for last week’s beatdown. Maybe we’ve got an 8-man tag team in our future between these teams.

Kacy Catanazaro’s got a little fire in her belly, taking the crutches to Xia Li during her match with bestie Kayden Carter. Unfortunately, while getting some payback, she also costs Carter a chance at a win, giving Li the DQ victory. This one’s far from over as Kacy gets over her knee injury at the hands of the badass Li.

LA Knight vs. Bronson Reed? Could it be with Knight’s in-ring debut coming next week?

It looks like Imperium wants to grow and is recruiting Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa. Interesting mix to say the least although it looks like Ciampa has his sights set a bit higher on WALTER and the NXT UK Championship. Now that would be a fun fight on either side of the pond. But first, it looks like we get a fight between the four coming up this Wednesday night.

Finn Balor vs. Adam Cole – thumbs up! Terrific main event between two of the best in NXT. Both men had their chances near the end and Kyle O’Reilly’s appearance ringside distracted Cole just enough for Balor to get the Coup de Grace and the win. It was a clean victory that I wasn’t sure was in the making. O’Reilly gets his licks in on Cole after the match to boot as well leaving the ring clear for the face-to-face between Balor and Karrion Kross. Finn’s line – “what took you so long” was perfect to end the show too! I hope they build it up for the main event of NXT TakeOver: Stand and Deliver instead of rushing to it too soon. O’Reilly ripping The Undisputed Era armband off Cole was nice symbolism as well.

I don’t know about you, but NXT was so good this week, it felt like it was over in about five minutes rather than two+ hours. Great in-ring matches. History-making announcements. Storylines opened and advanced. Really good show folks.

SMACKDOWN

RESULTS

  • The Street Profits, Rey & Dominik Mysterio defeated Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode, Chad Gable & Otis
  • Cesaro defeated Buddy Murphy by DQ
  • Tamina & Natalya defeated Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
  • Intercontinental Championship Match: Big E defeated Sami Zayn to retain title

Just in case there’s an upset at FastLane, Edge and Daniel Bryan sure did a nice job starting off SmackDown giving us some really good personal heat between two of the bigger babyfaces in the company. You wonder if Edge will do whatever it takes to make sure Roman Reigns wins, even if it means costing Bryan a shot at WrestleMania.

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed the 8-man tag team match. With The Street Profits joining forces with The Mysterios to get the better of the tag champs, Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode, along with Otis & Chad Gable, it set the right tone and put both teams in line to make their case for a title match. There was never a down time in the match and there were bodies flying everywhere. Solid action to start the night in the ring with the good guys going over.

Poor Reggie! Nia Jax is smitten over him! That shopping spree made me harken back to the days of the Tuesday Night Titans skits. A bit too long, but got the job done. I will say this though. Shayna Baszler is about to snap. Book it. She’s beyond tired of the Nia-Reggie show already and it’s only a matter of time before she takes them both out.

Speaking of Reginald, he cost Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks their tag match against Tamina & Natalya. Something that made Belair not too happy and continues to build the heat between Banks and Belair with Banks continued attention to Carmella’s fired old friend.

Buddy Murphy vs. Cesaro, part 2 was really just there to set up Seth Rollins attack on Cesaro of course. The most intriguing part though comes after the match. Is Shinsuke Nakamura about to join the Messiah against his former mate? Maybe the evil side of Shinsuke is about to return? I like it. And let’s be honest, Nakamura would be one heck of an upgrade over Murphy.

Oh my Big E! That’s as serious as it gets for The New Day’s biggest superstar. “I need to end you.” WOW! But, instead of getting Apollo Crews and some justified payback, Big E made Sami Zayn his latest Intercontinental Championship Open Challenge victim. Zayn’s loss only comes after he steals King Corbin’s attempt to accept the challenge. Zayn’s right, you snooze, you lose Corbin. Apparently, Crews caught Big E snoozing celebrating his victory with a brutal post-match attack. Damn, what is the WWE’s love for those ringside steps these days. It’s only a matter of time before these two will be battling again for that I-C Gold. UPDATE: WWE has added a title match between the two to FastLane.

Not too shabby! That’s one way to liven up your tired old contract signing. First, Daniel Bryan guilts Roman Reigns into signing the contract for the match at FastLane. Then, when Jey Uso tries to force him into the equation as the special enforcer, Edge ups the ante, challenging Uso next week for that job at the PPV. It’ll be the first time in over a decade that Edge is back wrestling live on the blue brand. Now, that’s how you dot the “I’s” and cross the “T’s” on a go-home show next Friday night.

Parting shots:

If you missed Talking Smack this past Saturday, you missed Peyton Royce getting as personal and as real as she’s ever gotten. Her best promo of her WWE career, hands down. Talking Smack continues to be must see watching on Saturdays on the WWE Network.

Coming up this week:

RAW:
RAW Tag Team Championship Match: The New Day vs. The Hurt Business
United States Championship Match: Riddle vs. Mustafa Ali

NXT:
Leon Ruff vs. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
LA Knight’s in-ring debut
Dexter Lumis vs. Austin Theory

SMACKDOWN:
SmackDown Women’s Championship Match: Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Edge vs. Jey Uso – winner gets to be special enforcer for Universal Championship at FastLane

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