WWE had their best match in years in January at the Royal Rumble. It’s always tough to follow up a match like that, but WWE still managed to put on some really good matches even if their booking has been struggling. NXT is the prime example of the struggle that this company is having with regards to keeping the shows fresh. With the best talent in NXT leaving or seemingly getting ready to leave, a lot of the weekly NXT shows have just limped from Takeover to Takeover with no real stand out moments. Thankfully, a quartet of wrestlers from the UK came over and helped build a little excitement in the product. Tyler Bate and Trent Seven had a tremendous match for the UK title on the 2/15 episode of NXT. This was a level below the Bate vs. Dunne match from the UK shows, but it was still ****1/4 and was a really good, hard hitting title match. Seven looked better here than he did during the tournament and Bate continues to look like the best 19 year old in wrestling. Both guys carry themselves like stars and know how to go out and have a main event style match. If you have the WWE network, you should go out of your way to watch this match. Probably the best 1 on 1 wrestling match in WWE this month.
The following week, Pete Dunne and Mark Andrews had a rematch of their UK tournament match. While not as good as the title match, this was a ***3/4 match that was a showcase for Dunne and you could see the groundwork laid for a Dunne vs. Bate title match at Takeover Orlando. Andrews is an amazing athlete and he makes the most mundane things spectacular. The suplex counter into the stunner is something I will never get sick of. The background story of Dunne vs. Regal is really amazing as well, with Dunne being the new Regal as far as being an underhanded British asshole and Regal almost warning him not to go down that road. Two really good matches worth checking out.
On the main roster, pickings were slim as far as top flight matches. There were two matches on the Raw brand this month that I really enjoyed, and only one from the Smackdown brand. On Raw, Bayley and Charlotte had one of the best women’s matches in months. The two of them went out there in the main event spot and delivered a main event style match. The ending was a little rough, with Dana and Sasha interfering, but it did help build to the next step in the story, and I don’t think it took too much from the match the two had leading up to that. I had the match at ****1/4, just below the MOTYC level, probably due to the finish, but this was easily my favorite women’s match in months.
The big news on Raw this month, aside from the death of friendship, was the debut of Samoa Joe. The debut segment, where he attacked Seth Rollins and actually hurt Rollins, was very well done and created a lot of buzz. Unlike a lot of things that create buzz in WWE now a day, WWE actually followed up on it the next week with a really good one on one match against Roman Reigns. Of course, this was a WWE tv match, so the finish was less than clean, but these two had an amazing chemistry for having never been in the ring together before and the match really felt like a big deal. I’d probably say this was around ***3/4 and was really an appetizer for a potential big time match between the two of them down the road. I would say these are the two Raw matches worth going out of your way to see this month.
On the blue side, Smackdown had the lone WWE PPV of the month with the Elimination Chamber. I found the show somewhat boring and tough to get through, but there were two matches that I really enjoyed on the show. The opener of Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch was a good match that featured some good in ring work and a solid story with Becky taking on the more experienced and bitter James. I had this at ***1/2 and I think a lot of that has to do with watching the show on mute. One of the big complaints about the match was how the commentators ignored Mickie James’ time away from WWE. I can’t stomach the Smackdown announce team, so I watch anything blue on mute and find I enjoy the matches a lot more. I know people are expecting Orton vs. Harper to be listed here, but like most Orton matches I found it exceedingly boring for 90% of the match. I don’t need to see Orton lay in a chin lock on a WWE PPV ever again. I would still say it was around *** due to the hot end, but it was far from the best of the month.
The best match on the show was the Elimination Chamber main event. I am not a huge fan of Chamber matches, or Cell matches, or cage matches, in the modern business because if a guy is getting thrown into metal and his face grinded into metal, he should bleed. If you aren’t going to have a brutal match, the gimmick loses a lot of the appeal. I went back and watched the first War Games match this month, and the work was better in the Elimination Chamber, but the War Games match connects more because of the brutality. That said the work in the Chamber was REALLY good. Styles, Cena and Wyatt were tremendous, and Ambrose, Miz and Corbin did a great job playing their roles. Corbin as the destroyer is still a bit of a stretch, because there really isn’t much impressive about him, but he worked well here. The last bit with Cena, Styles and Wyatt was amazing and helped make this match memorable. I’d probably say ****1/2 if you like this kind of match. Not my cup of tea, but I can certainly admit that it was a very good match.
NEXT UP: The Indies!