As we counted down to Daniel Bryan’s possible banishment from SmackDown with his match against Roman Reigns Friday night, it made me harken back to the days of CM Punk vs. John Cena in June of 2011 when Punk was on his way out of the WWE. Punk winning the WWE Championship in Chicago could’ve been the beginning of an historic angle. They should’ve had Punk win the title, which he did, and show up defending it around the World in Ring of Honor, Mexico, Japan and other organizations that weren’t WWE. It would’ve brought some realism to the storyline and could’ve built some once-in-a-lifetime angle. Of course, since the WWE doesn’t share with anyone that could be competition, that didn’t happen. Now, why do I bring this up? I say do the same thing with Bryan. Have him lose and have him do what he has always wanted to do, wrestle the independents and in other organizations while technically still with the WWE, just not on SmackDown. It could work and be huge not only for Bryan personally but open doors never thought open to the WWE Universe. I write this BEFORE Friday night’s main event, so you’ll have to read below to find out how it all unfolds. Of course, we always write better angles than the bookers, right?!

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RAW

RESULTS

  • 2-on-1 Handicap Match: Braun Strowman defeated T-BAR & MACE by DQ
  • T-BAR & MACE defeated Braun Strowman & Drew McIntyre by count out
  • Damian Priest & The New Day defeated The Miz, Elias & Jaxson Ryker
  • Randy Orton & Riddle defeated Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin
  • Rhea Ripley, Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler defeated Asuka, Naomi & Lana
  • Braun Strowman defeated Drew McIntyre to earn a spot in the WWE Championship Match at WrestleMania Backlash

I don’t think we need three different matches between Braun Strowman & Drew McIntyre and T-BAR and MACE just to get to a count out victory by the former RETRIBUTION boys, but at least they didn’t start the show with an in-ring promo, so that’s a positive. All the machinations of Strowman attacking McIntyre after the loss for hitting him, getting MVP and Bobby Lashley involved all to see Strowman win in the main event was a long way around getting to the ultimate goal. Strowman beats McIntyre in the main event, with T-BAR and MACE involved of course, now sets up yet another triple threat match, this time for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania Backlash. The match was decent but the outcome very predictable. It would be an interesting storyline if we didn’t just go through the very same issue two weeks ago on SmackDown with Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, Edge and the Universal Championship. Have some creativity WWE!

Turning MizTV into a tomato throwing bash on The Miz, John Morrison, Elias and Jaxon Ryker was funny as heck for me. That 6-man match was pretty good too!

Count me in on #RKBro! At least give me a few weeks of what could be some entertaining back and forth between Riddle and Randy Orton before the Viper ultimately turns on him, which we know he will. Randy’s little smirks, laughs and telling Riddle “too soon” when trying to pose with him after the win over Cedric Alexander & Shelton Benjamin was hilarious.

If you can get by the embarrassment that is the Nia Jax flailing around on water after Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose threw water at Shayna Baszler and yes, that’s a big if, the 6-woman tag team wasn’t bad at all after the shenanigans. Rhea Ripley, Jax & Baszler came out with the win while Asuka, Naomi and Lana looked strong in the loss. I’ll give it this, it was better than last week’s effort.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all set with the Alexa Bliss & Lilly backstage bits on the swing. Get them out in front, in the ring and move this storyline forward please. Hopefully, it’s coming this Monday night.

Sheamus’ non-US Open Challenge brought round two to the drubbing of Humberto Carrillo and yes, I’m already tired of the US Open Challenge not being a match at all. It’s already lost its luster.

OK, Sonya Deville teaming up with Charlotte Flair, I’m down with. The idea is very good and a good way to get Flair back after Adam Pearce indefinitely suspended her along with a $100,000 fine for putting her hands on a WWE official. The execution with Flair apologizing in the ring to Eddie the referee was a little underwhelming. Having Deville pick Mandy Rose to fight Flair is a nice bit of storyline detail going back to Rose beating Deville to give her the in-ring exit late last year. I hoping for more and an eventual full betrayal of Pearce by Deville and friends.

Where are the RAW Tag Team Champions AJ Styles and Omos? Haven’t seen them since winning the titles at WrestleMania night one.  I guess we get to see them again this Monday night after not having been cleared after WrestleMania.

Overall, a better effort this week but this one could’ve gone from good to very good with a few tweaks but I did appreciate the entertaining attempts that made me put aside some of those misguided execution of storylines.

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NXT

RESULTS

  • Mercedes Martinez defeated Dakota Kai by DQ
  • Zayda Ramier defeated Toni Storm
  • Bronson Reed defeated Austin Theory to win NXT North American Championship Match
  • Imperium defeated Killian Dain & Drake Maverick
  • Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon vs. Jessi Kamea & Aliyah went to a no-contest
  • Legado del Fantasma defeated MSK & KUSHIDA

Here’s the thing about NXT. I know hold them to a higher standard. Believe me, this week’s show was good, bordering on very good, but since I’m looking for greatness every week out of them, there was one thing that left this one keeping it from being great. Too many distractions and interferences in the matches were bothersome and although they made sense to the overall storylines, there were just too many of them over the course of a fast paced two hours.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we had plenty to be positive about, but we did have run-ins during the Dakota Kai vs. Mercedes Martinez match, the Bronson Reed vs. Austin Theory match, the Toni Storm vs. Zayda Ramier match and of course, the Ember Moon/Shotzi Blackheart vs. Aliyah/Jessi Kamea match never got started due to the interference by Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell. Individually, they make sense as having Raquel Gonzalez beat up Martinez to save her friend Kai while furthering their upcoming title match is common sense. Having The Way get involved in Reed’s match to try and save Johnny Gargano from having to fight him makes sense as does Hartwell & Dexter Lumis trying to further their “budding romance” or whatever they’re calling it. Zoey Stark getting the best of Storm to give Ramier an upset victory brings more angst to their feud. So, big picture, it’s fine, but just a little annoying when it happens that many times in 120 minutes.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t love Storm losing again, especially to a rookie like Zayda Raymier, whose shooting star press almost fell a little short. But it’ll set up another day when Storm will get her revenge on Stark. If I had my druthers, I’d rather see Storm facing Gonzalez for the title rather than Martinez, but I’ll settle for Storm vs. Stark, which should be pretty good as well.

As for the good, we had plenty. The main event 6-man match between Legado del Fantasma and MSK with KUSHIDA was off the charts. Plus, having the heels walk away with the win is perfect on all fronts. They are a badass faction and loved what they did to 3 of the top stars in Wes Lee, Nash Carter & KUSHIDA.

The Adam Cole interview was brilliantly heelish and set up so many future ways to go for the former NXT Champion while introducing Arash Markazi to the NXT audience.

Pete Dunne challenging everyone to be as tough as he is works. As does the set-up to the Falls Count Anywhere match between Isaiah “Swerve” Scott and Leon Ruff in an apt-way to culminate their feud.

Speaking of being physical, Tommaso Ciampa and “Toothless” Timothy Thatcher are set for a bang-up of a match with the Grizzled Young Veterans.

I am hoping Tian Sha with Xia Li gets a return to the push soon after being left on the backburner lately. They need to pay that angle off.

Welcome home to the Million Dollar Man! A pairing with Cameron Grimes is priceless!

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SMACKDOWN

RESULTS

  • Bianca Belair & The Street Profits defeated Bayley, Dolph Ziggler & Robert Roode
  • WWE Women’s Championship Non-Title Match: Tamina & Natalya defeated Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler
  • Intercontinental Championship Match: Big E defeated Apollo Crews by DQ; Crews retains title
  • Universal Championship Match: Roman Reigns defeated Daniel Bryan; Bryan is banished from SmackDown

With Reigns vs. Bryan being the headliner with Daniel’s career in SmackDown on the line vs. Roman’s Universal Championship, this one was stacked. Entertaining open to with a fabulous six-person tag team match featuring Bianca Belair & The Street Profits against Dolph Ziggler, Robert Roode and Bayley. IMHO, it got better as the match went on ending with a Belair hair whip to Roode, an Angelo Dawkins powerbomb and Montez Ford flying from the heavens. Good stuff and yes, Ford & Dawkins are inching their way back into a title match with the Dirty Dawgs.

I liked the superstars going back and forth trying to predict the main event outcome. That, along with the pre-produced open to start the show, makes it feel special.

The train that is Tamina & Natalya keeps cruising along. Sure, looks like we’ll be getting a title match coming up at WrestleMania Backlash. After all, the matches have actually been good to above average with Tamina, Nattie and Shayna carrying the load.

Who is the Dark Father Aleister Black? I’m intrigued!

Sometimes, I’m just amazed at how agile and flexible Big E is. He was well on his way to recapturing the Intercontinental Championship until Commander Azeez interfered to stop the pin for the DQ ending. Kind of predictable, but it works rather than flip-flopping the titles every other week. Kevin Owens ran in for the save until Sami Zayn joined forces with Crews for the beatdown. Here comes Zayn & Crews vs. KO & Big E folks. Zayn is awesome no matter what side of the aisle he’s on. He surely didn’t deserve that Nigerian Nail from Azeez.

Now, let’s get to the main event. HATED the early commercial break. Give it to us commercial free if it’s so BIG a match. At the very least, do picture in picture. Why give someone a reason to flip away, especially with the NFL Draft on. But, aside from that, this match was worthy of match of the year thought through four months of 2021. For most of the first half of the match, Reigns dominated but is getting frustrated against the ultimate underdog. Bryan counters with the top rope suplex for a little offense as he targets that right shoulder of Reigns. These two are putting it all on the line in this one. Bryan with the YES lock in the middle ring. Is he going to do it? Powerbomb. Guillotine. It’s over as Bryan passes out. The YES movement is banished from SmackDown! WHAT A MATCH! Kudos to them both and your Tribal Chief reigns supreme! Love that they kept it clean and no interference from anyone during the match. Amazing and as Pat McAfee says: “Bye Bye Bryan.” Cesaro with the post-match save before Reigns can do more damage to Bryan with a pair of chairs only to see Jey Uso help out his cousin to have Cesaro tied up to watch Reigns get one last headshot on Bryan before the show ends. Excellent piece of business. Now, what becomes of Daniel Bryan? Nice little cliffhanger.

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Coming up next week:

RAW:
What’s next for the WWE Championship & RAW Women’s Title?

NXT:
NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship Street Fight: Ember Moon & Shotzi Blackheart vs. Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell
Falls Count Anywhere Match: Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Leon Ruff
Finn Balor returns

SMACKDOWN:
Throwback Edition of SmackDown – it’s The Rock’s Show, so….
Cesaro vs. Seth Rollins

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Thanks for letting us share our thoughts! Shoot me an email at jcrowe567@gmail.com. We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions! You can also check out my blog, The Crowe’s Nest as we delve into more pro wrestling, sports entertainment and the World of Sports. My apologies ahead of time – I AM a Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins fan! If you’re not down with that, I’ve got TWO WORDS for you… NEW ENGLAND.