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, Team B’N’B and Day One Glow demonstrated the importance of trust in tag team wrestling as they defeated Mahalicia and Ravishing Rusev Day, respectively. Now, let’s dive into this week’s matches:
Match One (Raw): Team B’N’B Versus Monster Eclipse
I admit I’m still a little hung up on the contrast between Team LittleBig and Monster Eclipse. Last season we had babyface Braun Strowman teaming with a heel Alexa Bliss, and we got this surprisingly sweet semi-romantic storyline that showed off her sweet side while making him look sincere and a little goofy. This season we have heel Braun Strowman teamed with babyface Ember Moon, and their strictly platonic partnership is giving Ember a chance to show off her nasty side while making Braun look as dangerous and dominant as he ever has. Ultimately a big part of it might just be that Ember Moon has an all-time great grin, so when she’s grinning with other babyface women in a multi-woman tag match on Raw, she looks friendly and fun, but when she’s grinning while she watches her huge heel partner dismantle somebody, it gives her a Nikki Cross vibe.
Bálor and Bayley continue to be great together, so I was happy to see them as a team on Monday Night Raw this week, especially since they got a win there against Mahalicia that mitigates the inevitable loss to Braun and Ember here. The ideal version Bayley’s character, at least as far as I’m concerned, should be a bit of a dweeb while still being fun and easy to root for. I’m in favor of her doing stuff like getting overenthusiastic about Too-Sweeting, and excitedly pointing out that she’s taller than Ember Moon, as if that balances the size difference between Finn and Braun.
I also like how scared she is of Braun, putting her arms in the air and fleeing when she accidentally gets too close to him, because it’s not about Braun being a big man who might hurt her — even heel Braun seems like too much of a Southern gentleman to use his strength against a woman — it’s just that Braun’s a big scary monster, and Bayley’s the sort of character who thinks monsters are scary.
This match itself was fine, if a bit outweighed by the match that followed. Bálor never really stood a chance against Strowman, but he got in enough offense to not look weak and generally held his own admirably. Bayley and Ember Moon were more evenly matched, and their segments were a lot of fun to watch. If either of them ever does turn heel, they could have some amazing matches together. There were some fun spots like Finn manually setting up Bayley to Hurricanrana Ember, but overall despite two good times, I wouldn’t call this match a standout for the season.
Match Two (Smackdown): Fabulous Truth Versus Fenomenal Flair
Maybe I’m just misremembering, but it seems like during Season 1 WWE put more effort into keeping Smackdown (and even Raw) business from directly affecting the MMC, whereas this season there’s something every week. Last time it was Milwaukee, this time it’s fact that Charlotte Flair teamed with AJ Styles just a couple of hours after spearing Becky Lynch through the set following a long hard-hitting match on Smackdown Live. So many fans were convinced that Charlotte’s arm was seriously-for-real messed up that Smackdown GM Paige had to take to Twitter to proclaim that Charlotte (unlike Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, and Kevin Owens) would remain in the Mixed Match Challenge. As for Charlotte, of course she gave it her all, despite selling her arm injury more than once by holding it up and saying “I hurt my arm.”
There’s an interesting kind of social role reversal that happens here, and I’m all in favor of it. Charlotte and AJ are on the top of Smackdown Live. AJ’s a current, long-reigning WWE Champion and Charlotte has been Women’s Champion more than anybody and is feuding for the belt right now. In WWE terms, these are the cool kids. R-Truth, on the other hand, can sometimes seem like little more than an over-the-hill comedy jobber. Carmella was Smackdown Women’s Champion pretty recently, but it was a reign that earned her more infamy than glory.
But when the story becomes about dancing as much as wrestling (and what I love about the MMC is that it can and often does), Truth and Mella are with it and have the moves, while AJ Styles comes off as the least cool dad in the world and Charlotte (despite learning a few moves from her own dad) seems like a jock who never had time to get good at dancing. This is exactly how it should be. For a team like Fabulous Truth to work, they have to be cooler than the people who wrestle better than they do. WWE often has a problem with insisting that the same people are the cool ones in every scenario, so it’s nice to see that the MMC can break that rule too.
As great as it was watching AJ Styles fail at doing a split and then yell “I’m a grown man, okay? I have kids!” the wrestling was good too. Obviously Carmella’s transition into her Cone of Silence hold was a thing of beauty as always, and so was Charlotte powering out of it. I also loved how the finish involved all four competitors at once, with Truth grabbing Carmella’s hands to stay upright, until Charlotte snuck around the ring to pull her off the apron. Obviously Fenomenal Flair are going to remain a dominant team in this tournament, but Fabulous Truth are doing such great work that I hope they get at least one win before it’s over (it’s round robin, so they do have to fight Mahalicia at some point).
That’s all for this week. Join us next time, when Natalya and a new partner go up against Country Dominance (Mickie James and Bobby Lashley), and Awe-ska (Asuka and the Miz) face Ravishing Rusev Day (Lana and Rusev).