Welcome back to the WWE Mixed Match Challenge Season 2, a half-hour show featuring a 1o-team round robin mixed tag tournament between Raw and Smackdown. The episodes air live on Facebook Watch at 10 p.m. every Tuesday night, but you can watch the new episode any time you want. Each week, I’ll be taking you through the ins and outs of this compact two-match card.
Last week, Country Dominance beat Mahalicia in both a mixed tag match and a pushup contest, and Awe-Suka were better wrestlers than Fabulous Truth, although Fabulous Truth were better dancers. Now, let’s dive into this week’s matches:
Match One (Raw): Team B’N’B Versus Mahalicia
Finn Bálor and Bayley bring out the absolute best in each other, and I think that’s always been true. It’s not just that they’re obviously great friends and always have fun together, although that helps. It’s that their personalities and characters push against each other’s in ways that make them both better. Having Bayley there cuts through Finn’s performative cockiness, and seems to remind him that he’s also a goofball who loves wrestling. In turn, having Finn around gives Bayley license to cut lose and treat wrestling as serious combat. That’s something she used to be great at in NXT, and was robbed of when she arrived on Monday Night Raw. In recent months she’s been getting her aggressive side back, and it was in top form here.
Both matches this week were about how one team loves and trusts each other and the other doesn’t. Nobody’s romantic in this first matchup, but it’s between two old friends who love each other and two old acquaintances who don’t see eye to eye (and also have Sunil Sing creating further chaos). Alicia Fox is chaos personified, starting with the beginning of the match when she demands to fight Bálor instead of Bayley.
My favorite bit of storytelling also comes from Foxy, unsurprisingly. When she first enters, she waves from the stage and calls “Hi Bayley!” like a friend, which suits her gimmick of always seeming like she’s shown up expecting a fancy party and being personally offended when the fighting starts. Then late in the match, after a very awkward spot of Sunil catching Bayley in his arms and not knowing what to do with her, Fox grabs Bayley and slams her face into the ring post. As Alicia lifts an immobile Bayley off the floor, she growls, “Hi Bayley.” Then she mutters “shanti,” revealing what really gives her inner peace.
This is Mahalicia’s second loss in a row, putting them solidly at the bottom of the current round robin rankings. That works for their story though, in which the team will no doubt further disintegrate over the course of their final matches. If it culminates in Sunil Singh taking a Northern Lights Suplex, I doubt anyone will object. After all, he already took a Bayley-to-Belly this week.
Match Two (Smackdown): Day One Glow Versus Ravishing Rusev Day
I’m going to be honest: I don’t want to talk about Milwaukee. This isn’t the first time WWE has tried to create kayfabe strife between the obviously happy Lana and Rusev, and it’s as much of a mistake now as when Dolph Ziggler was involved. So I was disappointed that the Milwaukee storyline played such a major role this week. Especially when it determined the ending to this match, with Jimmy Uso grabbing a mic to ask Lana about it just as she was about to beat Naomi, enabling the latter to turn the tables.
Don’t get me wrong, there was still some really great stuff in this match. I’m always here for Naomi and Lana’s arguments about who’s a better dancer. We all know it’s Naomi, but Lana just tries so hard with her unique combination of moves she learned in class and a complete lack of natural rhythm. I’ve come around to enjoying Lana as an in-ring performer, but part of what makes her fun to watch is her ability to embarrass herself without seeming to realize that’s what she’s doing, and also without making you feel bad for her. She’s a strong, confident woman, she just has a tendency to overestimate her skills in certain arenas, which can be oddly endearing.
Another fun spot is when Jimmy Uso and Rusev briefly recreate the famous moment between Jimmy’s dad Rakishi and Too Cool at Royal Rumble 2000. It works because it’s a fun moment between two wrestlers even if you don’t realize it’s a reference to a thing from 18 years ago. The parallels are also interesting, with Jimmy taking on the role of Grandmaster Sexay, while Rusev plays the similarly solid Rakishi. But of course, Rusev lacks the patience to do a whole routine before turning it into an attack like Rakishi did. He just goes for it the first chance he gets.
I worry that if the Milwaukee story continues for long on Smackdown Live (which seems likely, alas), Rusev and Lana’s only story for this season of the Mixed Match Challenge will be about being unable to get on the same page. That would really be a shame, since they make such a fun team when they’re fully supporting each other, and the first MMC season was the best spotlight they’ve ever gotten for that.
That’s all for this week. Join us next time, when Monster Eclipse (Ember Moon and Braun Strowman) go up against Team B’n’B (Bayley and Finn Bálor) and Fenomenal Flair (Charlotte Flair and A.J. Styles) face the Fabulous Truth (Carmella and R-Truth).