This week, tears pointed to a match that will likely take place when the WWE comes to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next month.
When Alexa Bliss moved from Smackdown Live to Raw last year, she connived Nia Jax into being her pal/bodyguard as a way to avoid facing her in the squared circle. At the time, it looked like a program that could go to Wrestlemania with Jax as Bliss’ bodyguard/buddy until she realized she was being played. Then, they’d face each other with the crowd dying to see Bliss fight her own fights and get the payback she deserved.
Instead, Jax and most of Raw’s women’s division moved through the last six months almost randomly, flirting with face and heel turns that the writers seemingly forgot about before the next Monday night. Jax was Bliss’ friend, she wasn’t her friend, and she was part of a comedic storyline as Enzo Amore’s love interest. She even got a match with Bliss last September, but it took place on Raw with one week’s build and produced little drama or satisfaction because it came almost out of nowhere.
Recently, Jax has been a beast again, destroying jobbers, beating on competitors and giving Asuka all she could handle, though not enough to actually beat Asuka. On Monday night, she dominated Asuka until Asuka got Jax’s arm in a painful arm bar. Jax got to her feet two or three times and banged Asuka against the ring poles and the mat, but she couldn’t get Asuka to break the hold. She fought the hold and the pain like no one had before but eventually tapped out. After the match, the camera stayed on her as Jax sat in the ring alone selling physical and emotional pain. She stayed until the crowd sympathized and began to clap for her.
That scene was curious, but a few segments later, we see Jax backstage, still in pain and her eyes red. It was easy to imagine her anguish. She’d spent a month beating on Asuka, but she couldn’t actually beat her. Then Bliss came in the room to “sympathize” and in the process hit emotional sore spot after emotional sore spot. By the end of her consolation, Jax was actually crying—something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before on WWE television. By the end, you really wanted to see Jax meet Bliss at Wrestlemania in New Orleans April 8. With Mickie James serving as Bliss’ new BFF—How is that happening? Their feud took place just months ago—there will be a force to help give her a chance against Jax. Asuka looks like she’ll face Charlotte Flair, who Tuesday on Smackdown Live needed a more interesting nemesis than Ruby Riott. Jax’s tears, Bliss’ casual cruelty, and Asuka’s resilience made Monday a good night for the women on Raw. Let’s hope the writers remembered what happened on Tuesday.
The storyline following John Cena’s efforts to get to Wrestlemania detoured through Raw this week, where he envisioned his route running through A.J. Styles at the “Fastlane” pay-per-view Sunday night. Winning Styles’ WWE championship would get Cena on the Wrestlemania card against Shinsuke Nakamura, but since Cena doesn’t want to rob Styles of his Wrestlemania moment, he wants Styles to invoke his rematch clause so that the match at would feature all three. It’s a path with enough complications that WWE fans will recognize it as completely plausible, but I’m not buying it. I think Cena’s path has a few more improbable twists to go.
Cena’s Raw appearance took a bizarre turn on the spot when Goldust came out to challenge him because … wrestling. During Goldust’s promo, he revisited the charge that Cena uses his backstage muscle to keep other wrestlers down, which might have been true once but not anymore. Cena may get more high profile matches than people think he deserves, but these days he loses them all. Historically, aging legends spent their latter years building up the younger talent. That hasn’t always been the case with the WWE, but in the last year, Cena has put over Roman Reigns, A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Braun Strowman. If he faces The Undertaker at Wrestlemania as is rumored, I expect he’ll job for The Undertaker too so that ‘Taker can finish his Wrestlemania career with a win after losing to Brock Lesnar in New Orleans and Roman Reigns last year. Cena might suck as fans chant, but he lost more than he won in 2017, and for a guy of his stature in the WWE, that's notable.
The WWE Championship saga on Smackdown Live continued in its absurd, compelling way. Since it involves Styles, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin and now Cena, there are a lot of good in-ring performers in that mix, but all the motivations around it are muddy. Tuesday night, Styles faced Ziggler in an entertaining match that ended when Owens and Zayn ran in to beat on the two while they laid prone on the mat. Shane McMahon decided the way to handle this run-in was to restart the match and add Owens, Zayn, Ziggler and Corbin to it. At that point, Styles and Ziggler had been in the ring for 10-15 minutes and were seemingly exhausted. Still, Styles inexplicably broke up pinning predicaments involving other wrestlers even though the match was non-title. At one point, Styles broke up pins four times even though is belt wasn’t on the line. Since a pin would have ended the match and got him to a place where he could rest before doing it all over again on Sunday, it seemed crazy. The announcers praised these interventions as evidence of Styles’ fighting spirit. Whatever.
As for the Wrestlemania card, this week’s shows pointed to the Jax/Bliss match and confirmed that Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey will face Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, and that The Miz will face Seth Rollins and Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship. We also learned that “Woken” Matt Hardy will face Bray Wyatt in an “Ultimate Deletion” match at the Hardy Compound; the only question is when. Will the WWE expect its fans in the arena for Wrestlemania to watch a match on video, or will they schedule the match as part of the run-up to Wrestlemania?