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Evolve Towards Extreme Rules This Weekend

It’s a double PPV weekend on the WWE Network, but they’re bringing something new to the table this time.

Evolve 131 July 13

WWE’s indy collaborator Evolve is putting on their 10th anniversary show this Saturday, and it’s being broadcast live on the WWE Network. It’s long been rumored that WWE might program some of their indy partners on the Network, but this is the first time it’s actually happening. NXT is even providing two matches for the evening to help draw viewers. If you look closely, some other familiar NXT talent is also involved elsewhere on the card. I don’t watch enough Evolve to provide a full breakdown with predictions, but here’s the official card for Saturday night:

-NXT Championship: Adam Cole (c) vs. Akira Tozawa

-Winner Take All — Evolve Championship/WWN Championship: Austin Theory (c) vs. JD Drake (c)

-Evolve Tag Team Championship: Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy vs. AR Fox & Leon Ruff

-Matt Riddle vs. Drew Gulak

-Anthony Henry vs. Arturo Ruas

-Shotzi Blackheart vs. Brandi Lauren

-Babatunde vs. Colby Corino

-Curt Stallion vs. Sean Mulata vs. Stephen Wolf vs. Harlem Bravado

-Josh Briggs vs. Anthony Greene

WWE Extreme Rules July 14

Mixed Tag: Winners Take All: Universal Champion Seth Rollins & Raw Womens Champion Becky Lynch vs Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans

I know a lot of people who have not enjoyed this feud. I am not one of them. It has admittedly not been great, but it was a fine enough summer program to help establish Corbin and newcomer to Raw Evans as serious threats even if they aren’t quite ready to carry the belts. WWE will try to keep things interesting of course, but the outcome is inevitable. There’s absolutely no way they’re rolling into Summerslam, the 2nd biggest show of the year, with Corbin and Evans as the top champions of the brand.

Prediction: The Man and the Man’s Man retain their titles and move on to bigger challenges next month

WWE Title Match: Kofi Kingston(c) vs Samoa Joe

As noted elsewhere in this report, Kingston is currently dealing with some back issues. He’s been given much of this week to rest up and be ready to go on Sunday though. Joe has been phenomenal in building this feud. He’s fired up and ready for a run at the top. There’s also the looming threat of MitB holder Brock Lesnar.

Prediction: It would be great to see Kingston continue his Cinderella run with belt into Summerslam at least. However, depending upon the severity of his back issues, they have some options. He could barely survive the match with Joe only to have Lesnar cash in on the already broken champ. IF Kingston is not healthy enough for a rematch next month, Reigns (recently transferred to SDL if that even matters any more) would be available to step up and fight Lesnar at Summerslam Kingston retains with a possible Lesnar cash in..

Smackdown Womens Title: Handicap Match:  Bayley(c) vs Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross

Supposedly the reason Bliss missed tv this week and left Cross to promote the match is that she’s battling a bad sinus infection of some kind. That may not seem like a big deal, but I can tell you from experience that if you have a history of concussions a sinus infection can sometimes be much worse than it was before your head injuries. Since Nikki is the one who picked this stipulation on TV, it will be easy for Alexa to blame her when they somehow fail to win a two on one match. My hope is that this finally leads to their inevitable feud and the return of crazy NXT Nikki.

Prediction: Bayley retains

-Smackdown Tag Titles: Triple Threat: Daniel Brian & Rowan(c) vs New Day (Woods & Big E) vs Heavy Machinery

I’m not entirely sure what the point is of making this a heel/face/face match. Classic wrestling logic says the makes the bad guys the underdogs. Regardless, the talent involved should make for a relatively entertaining match.

Prediction: Champions retain

-Raw Tag Titles: Revival© vs Usos

This match was added pretty late, but they’re two of the best teams in wrestling today. I’ll watch them fight almost any day.

Prediction: Revival retains… I have no justification. I just don’t want to see another Revival push cut short too soon.

-Cruiserweight Championship: Drew Gulak© vs Tony Nese

I don’t watch enough 205 Live to know the full story behind this match. I do know that Gulak won the title from Nese in a triple threat at the last PPV, so this is something of a rematch. It should be a great fight.

Prediction: Gulak retains

–No Holds Barred: Roman Reigns & the Undertaker vs Drew McIntyre & Shane McMahon

Even though this is most likely a one off pairing for Reigns and Taker, the merch department went all out and made them a shirt. The front says “we run this yard,” and the back refers to the tandem as the “Graveyard Dogs.” Get them while their available if you’re into that sort of thing.

As far as the match is concerned, I’m not sure what we’ll get. Taker should’ve hung up the boots after Reigns beat him at Mania, but he continues to appear with diminishing returns. His recent bout with Goldberg was particularly panned. On one hand, that’s a bad sign for the quality of this match. On the other hand, the Phenom knows how bad that match was and may be particularly fired up to provide a much better showing this time. Add to that he has a partner this time and that all of the other participants in this match are better workers than Goldberg. We might just be in for an unexpected treat.

Prediction: Shane is moving on to a feud with Kevin Owens, Taker is supposed to setting up a program with McIntyre, and Roman is Roman. If I were booking, the heels would go over to fuel those next feuds. The faces are Reigns and Taker though, so I wouldn’t bet against WWE giving them the win just because of who they are.

-Aleister Black vs Cesaro

Black has yet appear in a match since being moved over to SDL a while back. Instead he has appeared in increasingly passionate backstage promos begging for someone to challenge him to a fight. 2 weeks ago, someone finally made that challenge. This week we found out that man is Cesaro. Regardless of the actual outcome, the winners of this match are we the audience, because these are two of the most talented guys on the roster today.

Prediction: Black wins (he’d be dead in the water if he lost his 1st big match, and that would be a waste)

-Last Man Standing: Braun Strowman vs Bobby Lashley

Strowman has been in creative limbo for a while now and Lashley just can’t get over. Then they started having them do a series of lame challenges such as arm wrestling and tug of war. This helped neither man. A recent Falls Count Anywhere match ending without a winner when they crashed through the LED wall on stage, and that brings us here to this Last Man Standing match.

Looking ahead, rumors have Lashley as the 1st opponent of a returning Bray Wyatt. In fact, some folks probably expect Wyatt to show up during this match. New head of Raw Paul Heyman is said to be a big fan of Strowman and has him in line for a renewed push. Ideally, both men need the win if those rumors are true, which makes this hard to predict.

Prediction: Strowman, because it’s a basically a coin toss.

Injury Report

WWE Champion Kofi Kingston has been working overtime the last few months. He often works multiple matches in a single night as his character overcomes stacked odds. Apparently this is now taking its toll via back issues. Kingston was kept out of the ring this week to allow him some rest before his title defense against Samoa Joe at Extreme Rules. Hopefully pulling back a bit and resting up is all that will be needed to keep the champ rolling. He’s in the midst of a long overdue run at the top of the card, and it would be a real shame if injury cut that run short prematurely.

Randy Orton has been absent from TV since facing Triple H back at the June Saudi Arabia show. Word is that he jammed up his neck somewhere around that time and has been taking time off to let it heal. Given the amount of star power and name recognition Orton brings to the show I would expect that he’ll be back sooner rather than later if all is well. Summerslam is fast approaching followed by a busy fall season that includes Smackdown moving to Fox. The powers that be are going to want all of their top stars on hand in the coming months.

Kevin Owens

It’s been something of a roller coaster year for the character of Kevin Owens. He was built up to return from injury as a babyface challenger to Daniel Bryan’s WWE Title. He did get that opportunity, but the incredible momentum of KofiMania overshadowed KO. Then he turned heel to challenge Kingston and had remained in something of a holding pattern after falling out of the main event scene. Owens showed off his phenomenal mic skills this week with what has been described as a “pipebomb moment” that seemingly has brought him back to babyface. It’s being said this is the beginning of a major push during which he will feud with Shane McMahon. The hope is that this is the story that will finally take down the currently overexposed McMahon.

NXT News

Match number 3 of the ongoing Breakout Tournament took place this week. Chinese athlete and long time resident of the PC Boa took on Jordan Miles. Miles is probably best known as ACH and had been making appearances for NXT under his real name Albert Hardie Jr. Boa had the size and strength advantage for much of the much, but the charismatic Miles is clearly a star and rightfully came out on top. He moves on next to face Angel Garza in the 2nd round.

Coming Soon…

NXT TakeOver Toronto Aug 10

WWE Summerslam Aug 11

NXT UK TakeOver Cardiff Aug 31

WWE Clash of Champions Sept 15

WWE Hell in a Cell Oct 6

NXT TakeOver Wargames Nov 23

WWE Survivor Series Nov 24

WWE TLC Dec 15

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