The Post’s Joseph Staszewski brings you around the world of professional wrestling every Tuesday in his weekly column, the Post Match Angle.
It’s pretty clear which match should main event Night 1 of WrestleMania 39, even if WWE may think otherwise.
The Internet Wrestling Community passionately debated a report last week from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer that, at least for now, WWE is planning on having the match for the SmackDown women’s championship between Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley main event Night 1. That would mean Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. The Usos for the Undisputed tag team championships would have to move somewhere else.
I get all the reasons WWE would want Flair and Ripley to be in that spot, seeing how the latter should earn a “main event” spot by winning the Royal Rumble, the two have history going back to their WrestleMania 36 match and women being in a main-event spot is great to promote the division.
That being said, Flair has only been back since December and the two have only interacted meaningfully twice on television since then, though last week’s SmackDown brawl and Rhea’s intense promo on Raw laid out a clear story and leveled things up a bit. I have no doubt Ripley and Flair will have a fantastic match, but it does not need to be the main event. Despite the narrative WWE is trying to push, Ripley is already a star and doesn’t need a main-event win to anoint her like Bianca Belair did two years ago and Becky Lynch did at WrestleMania 35.
If this had been Ripley vs. Belair for the first time at Mania and WWE has a chance to promote their new young stars, maybe you could convince me. But the case for Zayn and Owens vs. The Usos feels so overwhelming.
This is a story nearly a full year in the making as Zayn first approached Roman Reigns about helping The Bloodline on April 22, 2022 and Owens has been warning him about the consequence from the start. Zayn is arguably the hottest babyface in the WWE, and he and Owens crafted magic on SmackDown, reuniting as brothers and culminating in the hug that received a nuclear pop. The video of that moment had been viewed roughly 10 million times in less than 24 hours across WWE social media, according to Wrestle Ops. A win by Owens and Zayn would end the longest tag title reign in WWE history.
Putting this match anywhere else but in the main event means someone – or multiple matches — will need to follow it, which is a tough spot. If WWE is really hell-bent on the women main-eventing, then move the tag match to Sunday and tell that story all in Night 2.
Because by pulling Cody Rhodes into the Zayn-Owens story as friendship mediator, you have linked their two quests and made the overwhelming narrative of this WrestleMania about stripping The Bloodline of all its gold and ending their dominance. It was fitting that Zayn set off Jey Uso by telling him deep down he wished it was him and not Zayn who took the chair to Reigns — potential setting up a WrestleMania turn. By putting the tag match in the main event slot on Night 1 you have a chance to tell the first two-night story since WrestleMania changed its format.
Imagine Zayn and Owens standing tall in the ring with the tag title as Rhodes comes out to celebrate with them as Reigns fumes backstage – reminding the audience that The Tribal Chief could be next on Night 2. Then if Rhodes defeats Reigns, you end the event with a shot of the three new champions and back-peddling Bloodline to set up a six-man tag at Backlash – where the Bloodline also teamed up last year.
The Bloodline has been the story that’s captured everyone’s attention in 2022 and as Rhodes would say, it’s time for WWE to “finish the story.” WWE’s priority should be to stick the landing and tell it to its fullest potential as the main events.
It’s Pillar Time
Seeing MJF, Darby Allin, “Jungle Boy” Jack Perrry and Sammy Guevara — the Four Pillars of AEW — each standing in a corner of the ring in the opening segment of Dynamite felt a bit like a turn-the-page-moment for the company. It was an impressive reminder of the young talent its roster has and this appears to be a signal that they are finally ready to truly elevate them into a potential four-way match for MJF’s AEW world championship after they interrupted the champ’s short but entertaining re-bar mitzvah on his birthday.
Jungle Boy is ready after taking care of Christian Cage and he gave a confident promo bashing MJF for delivering the same “hokey bulls—t” he has for years. Jungle Boy also pointing out how the three of them — unlike MJF — having grinded on Dark, Dark Elevation and even Rampage is a great distinction between them.
Allin has been ready for a long time after winning the TNT championship twice. He threw his love for AEW out there and bashed MJF and others in the back crying over their contracts, whereas he never wants to leave
Guevara, as a heel, had a much harder time getting the crowd behind his list of complaints and how he overcame obstacles. He may have had the two best one-liners, calling it a re-circumcision and rebutting MJF’s line about him proposing to two women by bringing up Friedman’s fiancée leaving him.
MJF correctly hit back with all of them needing to be paired with legends such as Chris Jericho, Sting and Christian Cage to help them and that he is a proven star — unlike them.
The whole segment dripped with passion from all of them, plenty of biting dips in to reality and was a superb showcase for just how talented all of them are. A four-way match alone is a breath of fresh air for the world title picture, and so this whole segment to start a Dynamite had a lot to like about it.
The 10 Count
While Taya Valkyrie didn’t exactly answer Jade Cargill’s challenge in Canada, adding the talented multi-time women’s champion across promotions is a plus for AEW. She is exactly the step up in competition the TBS champion Cargill needs both as a character and an in-ring performer. Valkyrie would certainly be believable ending Cargill’s undefeated streak and help turn the TBS title more like the TNT belt in terms of in-ring action so the current champ can move on to bigger things. Telling the story of them having the same finisher should be simple and effective.
The more we see from Grayson Waller, the more it’s clear he’s already better than many of the heels on numerous wrestling companies’ main rosters. His segment going to Johnny Gargano’s house last week is another level for him as his overall meanness and intensity grow.
The scene with Roman Reigns once again questioning Jey Uso’s loyalty backstage on Raw was three years of storytelling all in one snapshot as we head to the crescendo of this portion of the Bloodline story. Later on, Reigns continued to land some biting verbal body shots on Cody Rhodes, but The American Nightmare fending of Solo Sikoa felt significant. Reigns has yet to truly get to Rhodes like he has everyone else but Seth Rollins.
Way too much TV time is being spent on this Roxanne Perez injury angle to make me believe she won’t show up to defend her NXT women’s championship in the ladder match at Stand & Deliver. At the least, it will hopefully let NXT restack the deck at the top of the division around her.
If CM Punk isn’t coming back to AEW soon, paying off “Hangman” Adam Page’s hints that he wants to reconcile with The Elite may be the next best thing. It was one of Dynamite’s best endings in a while after a superb trios championship triple-threat match. Then to go off the air with Kenny Omega, Matt and Nick Jackson coming to back up Hangman against the Blackpool Combat Club should leave the audience wanting to see what path this takes now. On “Being the Elite,” Matt Jackson fired up the old Elite group chat, only to see Kenny Omega exit it. This a big-time story and feud in the making.
Seriously, what is it going to take for Rey Mysterio to finally fight his son Dominik? Maybe bringing his mom into it this week on SmackDown will do it. If I’m Dominik, I tell my dad that if you beat me I’ll leave The Judgment Day, but if I beat you then you have to retire. Would that be enough?
The look of fear on Gunther’s face when he thought Sheamus and Drew McIntyre both weren’t going to answer the 10 count was great. While Imperium interfering for the DQ in that circumstance didn’t seem to make sense – outside of defending Gunther – it was the only logical way to force a triple-threat match as punishment for their actions.
MLW looks like it’s got a few things cooking with Alex Hammerstone defending his world title in a long-awaited rematch against Jacob Fatu Tuesday on “MLW Underground.” Also, the gritty-looking stuff they have done with Raven entering their Battle Riott and leading a group of Calling Card Attackers that includes Rickey Shane Page and Akira is worth keeping an eye on.
Has anyone come closer to winning a championship more times in the last few months – without actually winning – than Jeff Jarrett? If AEW isn’t going to put a belt on him, it’s time to move him out of title pictures.
Impact did a fantastic video on Gisele Shaw’s journey in the business as a transgender wrestler. Highly recommended it.
Extra: Have had a little bit of time to play WWE 2K23 and have been overall impressed with the small sample size. The character models look fantastic, wrestlers’ move-sets and styles feel unique and authentic even when facing CPUs and it may take two finishers to put away a top star. Also, WarGames is barrels of fun. Played my first one with nWo vs. Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold, The Rock and Undertaker. The Invasion match we never got.
Wrestler of the Week
Masha Slamovich, Game Changer Wrestling
The Impact star became the first woman to win the GCW World championship by submitting Death Match King Nick Gage at the “Eye for and Eye” pay-per-view on Friday night. The 24-year-old Russian, whose toughness and unique style is making her one of women’s wresting’s fastest-rising talents, got to celebrate with parents inside the ring at Melrose Ballroom.
Match to Watch
Kenny Omega vs. El Hijo Del Vikingo, AEW Dynamite (Wednesday, 8 p.m., TBS)
What constitutes a dream match is subjective, but this one is appointment television – even if it feels like AEW trying to pop a good rating. Del Vikingo, 25, is one of the best luchadores out there right now with a highlight reel that would make anyone on the old And1 mixtapes jealous. This match had to be nixed in 2021 because of injuries to Omega and will be the Best Bout Machine’s first TV singles match since that same year.
Around the Ring
“Friday Night SmackDown” will be at Madison Square Garden on July 7.
AEW announced “Forbidden Door” will happened on July 25 at the Scotiabank Centre in Toronto.