The Post’s Joseph Staszewski brings you around the world of professional wrestling every Tuesday in his weekly column, the Post Match Angle.
Will we ever see the WWE women’s tag team championships again? It’s a question that, at least once “SummerSlam” is over, will need to be asked.
It’s been more than two months since former champions Sasha Banks and Naomi walked out on “Monday Night Raw” over creative differences about the direction of the division. A few days later, WWE said there will be a tournament to crown new champions. Not only has that not happened yet, but there has barely been any women’s tag team wrestling — without singles-match implications — on WWE programming since.
Yes, you can say WWE had to make quick changes to salvage its singles-title storylines for “Hell in a Cell” after suspending Banks and Naomi. Also, the “Money in the Bank” pay-per-view doesn’t exactly lend itself to tag-team feuds when so many women are needed to fill out the ladder match. All good arguments for now.
It’s why post-SummerSlam will be an indicator of how much WWE values the women’s tag team titles — though not having a tournament that ends in Nashville should be at least a slight indicator already. WWE’s current main roster — after massive cuts over the past two years, Banks and Naomi’s suspensions and injuries — isn’t exactly built to have a healthy women’s tag team division with the brand split in place.
“Raw” and “SmackDown” currently have 11 active women on each roster. If you remove champions Bianca Belair and Liv Morgan and top title challengers Becky Lynch, Rhea Ripley, Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair from the equation, it leaves eight women on each roster – if you include 24/7 champion Dana Brooke. So you could potentially make four teams for each brand if you keep everyone else out of singles action, the minimum for a substantive tournament. But that seems like a tall task when WWE needs women to keep its single champions and challengers busy before they face their main challenger at a pay-per-view. That’s what Carmella and Natayla are doing at the moment, though a Bayley return will help.
So WWE only has a few options here. It can have a quick four-team tournament and go back to the half-hearted effort it had been putting into the division and prove Banks and Naomi right. It can call up a strong influx of NXT talent because adding them to a tournament is just a Band-Aid. Or WWE can just continue to act like the championships don’t exist. This is the same company that did the all-women “Evolution” pay-per-view in 2018 and hasn’t done anything like it since. Also, WWE turning a six-woman tag match into a cheap 24/7 championship segment on Raw this week isn’t exactly the best way to promote the division other than finding a silly way to get the performers on TV.
The answers for the division are there in NXT. After Mandy Rose drops the brand’s women’s championship you can move up her, Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne of Toxic Attraction along with the team of Chance and Carter. Also, if Io Shirai is sticking around, I’d move her up, too. Yes, that would strip NXT of plenty of star power, but at some point it needs to be the feeder system for the main roster it was meant to be. These call-ups would immediately inject two new singles main eventers and two tag teams that are main-roster ready and are well known to the WWE audience.
The fix is there, it’s a matter of whether WWE will go that route. Putting the titles back on the table after SummerSlam would give them a month to build to a match to crown new champions at “Clash at the Castle” in Cardiff. If it’s not done then, you can make the case it will be a very long while before we see those championships again.
Bron Breakker … you’re next!?
NXT champion Bron Breakker has talked about how Bill Goldberg, who he is a fan of, has been a mentor to him both in his football career and now in wrestling. Breakker, the son of the legendary Rick Steiner, also has the same arm tattoo as Goldberg and uses portions of his move set such as the Jackhammer and Spear.
Goldberg, when asked by The Post about his relationship with Breakker, said he’s known him since before he was a teenager and they “gravitated toward each other” because he is close with both Steiner brothers. He considers him “a nephew.”
“I would do anything for him,” Goldberg said in a Zoom interview. “I tried to help him out [to get] into the NFL world, whatever help I could give him. I love the kid. He’s a Steiner, he’s a Rick Steiner. How could you not love him? I adore the kid, I really do. I hope nothing but the best for him.”
Goldberg then paused for a second and at least floated the idea of the two of them getting to step into the ring together at some point.
“I guess, hey, I don’t know. I’d like to bust his little ass in the ring,” Goldberg said. “That might be fun. But he’s always respected me, which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for a lot of people in this business.”
Don’t end an era in error
The idea that WWE and USA Network have talked about changing the program from PG to TV-14 was reported this week by the Wrestling Observer — though there wasn’t clarity on when and if it would actually happen. It feels time for WWE to make the switch in some form, but it needs to be done the right way and have some build-up to it — like putting “the Raw energy back in Monday Night Raw.”
There are other issues that need to be ironed out. If Raw is TV-14 — like AEW is — and SmackDown remains PG, then it could feel like a very different product than what we are seeing over on Fox. NBC Universal sounds open to that differentiation if it’s being discussed, but is Fox?
So to me, there are two answers if WWE does want to go to TV-14. Both shows need to do so or you could make the third hour of Raw TV-14. It’s later in the night when you would think fewer kids are watching, it would give people more of a reason to stick with Raw for the final hour and it would be hard for Fox to take any issue with it — if they have any at all — since SmackDown is only two hours. I’m all for WWE dropping the PG era in some form, but it feels a lot more complicated than a quick change.
The 10 Count
Conrad Thompson and the crew really nailed Ric Flair’s final match, pitting The Nature Boy and his son-in-law Andrade vs. Nashville favorite and questionable Four Horseman Jeff Jarrett and training partner Jay Lethal. They had Flair tell Lethal in a storyline video that he originally wasn’t good enough to be in the card. It leads to Lethal and then Jarrett attacking him and leaving him bloody in the parking lot. You have two guys who can really work with two legends. Jarrett will be working double duty that weekend as he will also referee The Usos vs. The Street Profits at SummerSlam.
I’ve been saying Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland need to be AEW tag team champions since I saw them at UBS Arena in May and AEW delivered that in a big way. Adding in some on-screen internal strife made them hoisting gold after an awesome triple-threat main event that much sweeter. A clash with the Young Bucks appears next after Swerve pinned Ricky Starks and not Matt or Nick Jackson.
Pro wrestling is very, very lucky to have Jon Moxley and everything he is giving it right now.
Keep your eye on honorary Bloodline member Sami Zayn at SummerSlam. I predict he will take a guitar shot from Jarrett and thwart Theory’s cash-in attempt.
The fist bump Wardlow gave Orange Cassidy after their match on “Dynamite” made the clash of two top babyfaces worth it. I was kind of questioning the pairing a bit, but Cassidy kicking out of the F-10 scored him some major toughness points and the show of respect smoothed some of the edges on Wardlow and made him feel like a truly good guy.
It feels way too soon to start a rift between the brand new NXT women’s tag team champions. But how Cora Jade turned on Roxanne Perez certainly has my attention now because of the added complexity of them being champs. More than likely it just spins off into a feud. We will see if it’s all worth it.
Logan Paul and The Miz nailed the final segment of “Monday Night Raw” — which overall felt like it had way too much talking and video packages. Paul came off natural, passionate and motivated and they set up a solid storyline of Miz telling him he’s not really ready to be a singles competitor yet after their tag-team win at WrestleMania 38.
Britt Baker delivering a sandbag to Thunder Rosa and saying “you try carrying her for a month” — in reference to claims the AEW women’s champion has “sandbagged” opponents — is the kind of blurred lines we need more of in their women’s division. But we also got yet another run-in, this time Mercedes Martinez, after a match.
Seth Rollins vs. Riddle at SummerSlam feels like such a big deal for both, but especially for the Original Bro. It’s another chance for Riddle to establish himself as a true main eventer and potently have a long-term feud with Rollins. But at what point does Kevin Owens, who deserves it, get one of these again?
A motivated and angry Chris Jericho remains one of wrestling’s best promos. He gave us a reminder of that last week. And in Eddie Kingston’s rebuttal, Santana and Ruby Soho didn’t exactly feel like they were wholeheartedly behind the New York native. But maybe I’m seeing things.
Wrestlers of the Week
Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland, All Elite Wrestling
Lee and Strickland have only been a team for a few months in AEW, but their chemistry and potential seemed limitless from the start. AEW wasted no time cashing in on it — even adding a bit of a red-herring breakup angle — and made them world tag team champions. Lee and Swerve went over clean against the Young Bucks and Ricky Starks and Powerhouse Hobbs in a five-star quality “Dynamite” main event. Having the belts around their waists feels like a chance for some new possibilities in the tag division and well deserved for two studs who never got a chance to soar on WWE’s main roster.
Match to Watch
Jonathan Gresham (c.) vs. Claudio Castagnoli, Ring of Honor world championship (Death Before Dishonor, Saturday, 8 p.m., Bleacher Report)
Castagnoli rejoining Ring of Honor was Tony Khan’s original plan before he was Bryan Danielson’s fill-in at “Forbidden Door.” Khan wasted no time getting Castagnoli a world title shot. It’s his first since facing Roman Reigns for the Universal championship at “WrestleMania Backlash” in May 2021. It is also his first time challenging for the ROH world title — which he’s never won — since losing a four-way match that included champion Nigel McGuinness, Danielson and Tyler Black (Seth Rollins) at the 2008 “Death Before Dishonor.” Gresham is one of the industry’s top technical wrestlers, so this one is can’t-miss if you like that style.