News by Cageside seats

The not-so-little company that cried ‘heat’ 

Tables match

Ruby Riott vs. Natalya

Kind of being involved in Ronda Rousey’s feud with Nia Jax and some personal attacks got the Riott Squad on pay-per-view (PPV) again.

The Road to TLC

This is another one which has been going on for a lot longer than you might remember, mostly thanks to Natalya being everyone’s friend backstage.

Things picked up steam when Nat occassionally filled in for Ronda in the build to Super Show-Down. The Queen of Harts wasn’t on the team that took down Ruby, Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan in Australia, but she did join Sasha Banks & Bayley to beat the Squad at Evolution. And Riott didn’t take kindly to that. She decided to focus all her ire on Natalya, and use the memory of her recently deceased father, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, to do it.

The wraparound shades-snap-heard-round-the-world escalated things, but it wasn’t until Rousey called Natty out for back-up against Nia Jax & Tamina (to end a really rough promo segment between the Raw Women’s titleholder and her facebreaking challenger) that things heated back up. The Squad’s aligned themselves with Jax, at least as long as it allows them to mess with Natalya. They jumped her when when she tried to come to Ronda’s side, and a week later when Nat was all set to start a tag match with the champ against Nia & Tamina, they struck again:

Since a table was introduced into the program on the eve of a PPV with the word “table” in its name, you knew what kind of match this was headed to. And in case you forgot Ruby was trying to get under the former SmackDown Women’s champ’s skin by mocking her dead father, we got this...

What’s at stake?

THE HONOR OF CLAN NEIDHART!

Yeah, that.

As with every match, hopefully this means something over the next few months and the winner is more likely to figure prominently in a high profile program, but who knows? What’s more interesting (to this writer anyway) is what it might say about WWE’s attempts to use personal tragedies for heat, how often they seem to be going to that well right now and the diminishing returns it seems to be bringing.

Dean Ambrose has inferred Roman Reigns’ leukemia came back because... The Shield were bad guys for most of their initial run, I guess? That’s failed to do anything but get the company some press they didn’t seem to want. They’ve mostly backtracked and Dean’s wearing a Bane jacket while making less specific remarks dissing Reigns during his feud with Seth Rollins.

Over on the blue brand, Samoa Joe is mocking Jeff Hardy’s addiction issues and the trouble they’ve caused for his family. It didn’t even get them on the TLC card.

And then there’s this one. It’ll go down on Sunday night, but is it any hotter for using The Anvil’s memory? And once you’ve gone after someone’s dead dad for heat, where else can you go?

We’ll see how the fans in San Jose react. You can give us your take right now, though.

A very dramatic video from Nikki Bella, who feels like ‘the phoenix’ 

Above is a video put out on the Bella Twins YouTube channel that is trying really hard to be artistic so Nikki Bella can explain her feelings on her WWE comeback during a tour through Europe. She gets real dramatic about it:

“It’s crazy because I looked... like, this comeback for me was totally like... I kind of felt like the phoenix. I had the biggest fall you could ever have in life, literally like ashes to the ground. I think to have recognized in life who the next Nikki is, and I don’t mean to say that I just think you sometimes have to realize that we go through different chapters in our life. You have this part of your life and that door closes, and then there’s more that open. That’s what life is. You can’t love anyone so much until you love you the most. So I’m kind of excited for this unknown, to see this. Because what a lot of people don’t understand, too, is coming back here was so soon for me because this was a place that I loved so much with someone else, where I found true love. And it just feels like my heart isn’t healed and so it makes it hard because everything is a memory, an amazing beautiful memory. So I kind of just want to walk into that unknown and feel magic. And see what I’m going to have to struggle with, what I’m going to have to survive, what I’m going to have to conquer, another barrier I’m going to have to break -- it excites me, I like the challenge.”

There’s a real lack of perspective there, but pain is relative, I guess.

Despite being part of the bad Raw angle, this should be a great match 

Finn Balor vs. Drew McIntyre

The story behind Finn Bálor’s match with Drew McIntyre is part of the larger arc on Monday Night Raw.

Corrupt General Manager Baron Corbin assembled a team of heels to run roughshod on Raw. His enlisted Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre ty his side. Standing against them are Braun Strowman, Elias, and Finn Bálor.

It’s not a terribly inspired story, and given how the ratings have been in December, it’s certainly not captivating viewers. You may have read about it in the preview for Elias vs. Bobby Lashley. You’ll likely read about it later in the preview for Braun Strowman vs. Baron Corbin. These three matches are all part of that larger story.

But despite the fact that this overarching story on Raw has been lazy, this match itself should be very good.

Drew McIntyre could be a legit superstar, and it could be argued that he’s being wasted in this underwhelming trio. He’s got the look, the attitude, and the in-ring ability. This is not to say WWE doesn’t see it. He’s been booked very strong since his debut. They’ve treated him like a star, despite keeping him in pairings since his call up from NXT. He basically squashed Kurt Angle in a Raw main event. He went undefeated for months (at least in singles matches) before being pinned by Dolph Ziggler just a couple weeks ago.

That loss was because of Finn Bálor, who attacked his foe when the referee wasn’t looking, opening the door for Dolph to deal Drew his first pinfall loss.

That didn’t sit well with Drew, who used the good ol’ backstage attack as a measure of revenge. Finn was not on Raw last week because of it.

Despite taking a loss to the Show Off, he got his revenge last Monday in a one on one rematch. Similar how he treated Kurt Angle, McIntyre meticulously picked apart Ziggler. Then after the match, he delivered a couple more Claymore Kicks in for good measure.

Drew has the talent and is being treated as such. On the other end, there is Finn Bálor, who is also a fantastic talent. While he hasn’t been booked as a big star the likes of Drew, he is a former NXT champion (like McIntyre), and is the first man to hold the Universal title.

Even though they’re part of the lackluster top story on Monday nights, when the bell rings tonight, they should put on quite the show. Just do your best to forget all the Corbin stuff that got us there.

WWE TLC airs tonight at 7 ET on WWE Network. And keep it here at CagesideSeats.com for all of your TLC coverage.

Evolve 117 live results: Aichner vs. Theory vs. Strong 

Evolve returns tonight at 6PM Eastern with Evolve 117 in Queens, New York courtesy of the fine folks at the World Wrestling Network. If you need a primer on what's going down tonight, feel free to check out my preview here, but be sure to come back to this thread to chat about it with the finest pro wrestling community on the internet while you watch, whether it's through the website, Roku channel, or whatever other device you may be tuning in on.

And note that Club WWN is now a real, fully-fledged streaming service, so the live stream of this show is included with your $9.99 subscription!

Here's a run-down of the card for tonight, and we'll update with basic results here, too:

Prelim: Harlem Bravado over Joe Bailey by pinfall with Straight Cash Homey.

Post-match, ring announcer Timothy Barr announces that Johnny Gargano will be returning to Evolve on January 18 and 19!

Prelim: BSHP KNG over Joe Gacy by pinfall with a senton atomico.

Josh Briggs over Leon Ruff by pinfall with the M5.

AR Fox over Curt Stallion by pinfall with Foxcatcher.

Kassius Ohno over Darby Allin by pinfall with a ripcord rolling elbow to the back of the head.

Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford) (Tag) vs. WorkHorsemen (Anthony Henry & JD Drake (WWN)) went to a no contest when Eddie Kingston showed up handing out backfists to everybody! (Evolve Tag Team Championship / WWN Championship)

Montez calls Eddie out for the January dates!

Austin Theory over Fabian Aichner (c) and Roderick Strong by pinfall with Ataxia on Aichner to win the Evolve World Championship.

WrestleMania push on a pole match 

Ladder match*

Bobby Lashley vs. Elias

* There will be a guitar hung above the ring and whoever retrieves it can use it as a weapon. So it’s kind of like an “on a pole” match. But it’s also a ladder match, meaning ladders can be used as weapons. And ladder matches are typically no DQ, so a lot of things can be used as weapons. They’ll still need to pin or submit their opponent to win, so you don’t even really need to worry about the guitar. We’re kind of confused. That’s why the asterisk.

The Road to TLC

Lashley and Elias haven’t liked each other since Bobby was a babyface and Elias was a heel.

The Drifter still wants us to silence our cell phones, hold our applause and shut our mouths, but we’re allowed to cheer him before that now. And Bobby has gone to the dark side, aligning himself with cruiserweight motor mouth Lio Rush and calling himself “The All Mighty”.

Elias probably didn’t pick the best time to join the side of the angels, as Baron Corbin replaced Kurt Angle as General Manager right around the time he started crooning with the good guys. After a guitar attack on Corbin, Elias was a marked man. Rush & Lashley wisely aligned themselves with the heel authority figure, and some taunting of both Baron and his allies resulted in a no DQ match for Elias.

No DQ matches against gangs of bad guys don’t go well for babyfaces...

Since then, some more guitar shots have been exchanged. Rush even picked up a pinfall win over Elias thanks to one Lashley landed on the Drifter, and reluctant rudo referee Heath Slater looking the other way...

And somehow out of all that, Corbin decided to hang a guitar above the ring this Sunday.

What’s at stake?

It’s not written into the stipulation or anything, but Corbin’s status is tangentially involved. Presumably this will go down before Baron faces Braun Strowman in his own TLC match in San Jose on Sunday night, so he’ll still be in charge and can send Slater or anyone he wants out to help Lashley & Rush deal with Elias.

More practically, though, we’ll probably get a sense of which of these men is more likely to have their own feud on the road to WrestleMania 35 and which is in danger of ending up in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

Bobby’s run since signing with WWE again last spring can’t be viewed as anything better than mildly disappointing, but he is showing more signs of life with Rush by his side. A victory could be a sign the brass is going to give him a little more time to make an impression on bigger stages.

Elias seems primed for the next step, but his face character is still a work in progress. They might decide to give him some more time to work out the kinks on the undercard. Or if they’re ready to run with him, he could pick up his first PPV win of 2018 on the last event of the year.

We’ll be following along with TLC on the WWE Network on Dec. 16 to find out. Join us?

Heath Slater is suddenly a big deal on Raw 

Some places do power rankings. Here at Cageside, we do a stock report.

In this weekly series, we identify three Superstars (or groups of Superstars) who are on their way up, and three that are moving in the opposite direction. After a busy week that included Daniel Bryan versus Mustafa Ali, Lio Rush defeating Elias, and WWE acknowledging that Raw sucks, a lot of fortunes were changed.

With that in mind, let’s see whose stock has increased the most this week:

Stock Up #3: Heath Slater

Two weeks ago, Heath Slater was a superstar who rarely received TV time. Now he is a reluctantly crooked ref screwing over Elias and caught up in Raw’s top storyline with Baron Corbin.

Stock Up #2: Asuka

Asuka looked like a total badass on SmackDown when she used a kendo stick to destroy both The Man and The Queen.

Stock Up #1: Seth Rollins

Raw desperately needed a top babyface to stick it to the heels, and that’s exactly what Seth Rollins did this week when he overcame the odds to defeat Baron Corbin in a TLC match and retain the Intercontinental championship.

Now let’s see whose stock has decreased the most this week:

Stock Down #3: The Miz & Shane McMahon

I have no idea where WWE is going with this bizarre story between Shane McMahon and The Miz, but it produced the low point of SmackDown this week when the audience was subjected to putrid wrestling from Shane.

Stock Down #2: Dolph Ziggler

Dolph may have received the spotlight for one week, but he was always facing a ton of potential downside once his partnership with Drew McIntyre imploded. Now that Drew got his win back, Dolph is vulnerable towards dropping down the pecking order on Raw.

Stock Down #1: Authors of Pain & Drake Maverick

Maverick and AoP foolishly let the Raw tag titles slip through their hands in a 3-on-2 handicap match. Considering the silly nature of the Drake Maverick urincident, this is pretty much the last thing this group needed to maintain any semblance of credibility.

There you have it, Cagesiders. Whose stock do you think has changed the most this week?

You need to watch this Becky Lynch edition of WWE Chronicle 

Look, I know some of you, dear readers, are suffering from Becky Lynch overload. The media coverage has been overwhelming and we here at Cageside — a fan blog — are such big fans of her that we can’t help but cover what she’s doing every step of the way on this amazing journey she’s on as “The Man.”

So I do understand how it can feel like a bit much.

But the above video, the latest episode of WWE Chronicle, is every reason why we can’t stop. It follows Lynch in the weeks leading up to TLC, where she defends her SmackDown women’s championship against Charlotte Flair and Asuka. She tells her story along the way, and you can see it, hear it, and, most important of all, feel it, just how much she’s a star, just how big she’s become, just how far away from everyone else she actually is.

Just watch.

And enjoy the ride.

Of Dance Breaks and Fantastic Hats 

Mixed Match Challenge Final
Winner gets the 30 spot in their perspective Royal Rumble and an all expense paid trip to a destination of their choosing

The Road to TLC

Let’s be real here. Before I launch into a match by match breakdown of the MMC, be honest with yourself, you’re not here for that, you’re just here for a dance break.

Got it out of your system now? Good.

The truth is the second season of the MMC has been bogged down by injuries, awkward replacement team-ups and inconsistent story lines. Sure the teams of Naomi/Uso, Mickie/Lashley and Miz/Asuka stayed together, but many of those competitors already have matches on the TLC card. (I guess, there is Lana and Rusev too, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather watch a Mella dance break. I’ve seen too much awkward Lana dancing for a lifetime).

Taking all of that into consideration that leave the teams of Mahalicia and The Fabulous Truth.

It may seem like they got to the finals because they were the only logical choices left, and in many respects that’s true, but I think this is the best case scenario. These two teams, despite their win/loss records have been consistently entertaining both in their promos and in-ring. The MMC needed these two teams, because frankly, season two felt off from the beginning. Plus, the winners get an all expense paid trip, and I’m assuming WWE is planning some YouTube travel channelesque show following the winners. Which means the winners have to be entertaining enough out of the ring to carry a ancillary show.

Mahalicia brought us freaking FANTASTIC hats, crazy Alicia at her best and tons of screen time for the Singh Brothers. Jinder, for his part, balanced Alicia’s madness well and it made for a fun Odd Couple experience. Alicia Fox is so criminally underused and the MMC gave her a chance to shine. Figuratively and literally - again THE HATS ARE GOOD.

R-Truth is a hidden gem of WWE and like Alicia Fox is criminally underused. His team up with Carmella was unexpected, but their chemistry is amazing! I was worried about how Mella would fair after she dropped the title and shifting her into a comedy role was smart. Also, come ON, the dance breaks are amazing. If you disagree you hate fun. Why do you hate fun my dude? Maybe a dance break will help.

What’s at stake?

Honestly, not much. Sure, whoever wins get’s the number 30 slot in the Rumble, but let’s be real none of these superstars are winning the Rumble. Regardless of the stakes this match should be hecka fun to watch. Three out of four of the competitors are charismatic as hell and Jinder is a good sport.

I think Mahalicia will win because a heel in the #30 slot sounds like a very WWE thing to fall back on, but I will be happy either way. If Mahalicia wins, Alicia Fox gets some well deserved spotlight and if the Fabulous Truth wins then we have a guaranteed dance break in the Rumble(s).

It’s what we in the biz call a win/win,

Two times we were scared somebody was FUBAR at ROH Final Battle 

There were probably more than just these two, but these stuck with us.

Ring of Honor’s style of WCW-esque overbooking meets PWG-spotfest might not be for everyone, but you can’t say the wrestlers don’t go all out for our entertainment.

Their Final Battle pay-per-view (PPV) from the Hammerstein Ballroom last night (Dec. 14) was no exception. The Elite’s swan song is getting most of the press, and will probably have the biggest impact on the business of anything that happened in Manhattan on Friday, but there was plenty of action to go around.

Some of it had us legitimately concerned for performers’ well-being.

Take this spot from Matt Taven’s win over Dalton Castle. Amazingly, not only was Taven able to breathe after landing sternum first on the guardrail - he finished the match:

Then there was the main event. Ladder War is always full of crazy/dangerous moments, but if you were wondering why folks are saying they were surprised to see Nick Jackson standing for the Curtain Call, let alone speaking coherently on the mic, this is why...

It’s somehow even worse from this angle:

Thanks y’all. Also, please don’t die.

Ole pottymouth Jericho is back brawling at New Japan press conferences again 

He’s been gone with his title for so long he kind of makes Brock Lesnar look like an iron man, but with Wrestle Kingdom 13 just weeks away, IWGP Intercontinental champion Chris Jericho is back with New Japan.

Jericho was finally baited into accepting the match with Tetsuya Naito that NJPW booked for him after Los Ingobernables de Japon’s leader called him “insignificant” and accused him of stealing his merch designs. They appeared together at a press conference, trash talk led to water spitting and, you know the drill...

Jericho vows to end Naito’s career on Jan. 4, and gets a head start on things by attacking the LIJ crew after the won their trios match at Korakuen Hall during the Road to Tokyo Dome show there today (Dec. 15):

He also stalked his way through the seats and jawed with some fans (accompanied by some young boy security guards to make sure we didn’t have any Tama Tonga-type trouble):

It’s not as novel and exciting as it was when he was doing this with Kenny Omega last year at this time, but it’s still time-honored gaijin heel stuff.

Is it working for you?