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 lost to Monster Eclipse, while Fenomenal Flair defeated Fabulous Truth, even though the latter team is better at dancing. Now, let’s dive into this week’s matches:
Match One: (Raw): Team Pawz Versus Country Dominance
This match, I feel compelled to tell you, was 75% Impact Wrestling alumni and probably the closest WWE lifer Natalya will ever come to setting foot in the Impact Zone. This match was also 50% guys named Bobby (or Bob, if you’re Rusev). In fact, one of my favorite bits was Mickie and Nattie leading dueling chants, but both chants just went “Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!”
The honest truth is that, at least lately, none of these four performers have been known for being the most exciting folks in WWE (Lashley’s successful heel turn aside). This match demonstrated that they’re all fun to watch when they’re in the ring having fun without the need to sell any big storylines. They never even really addressed the fact that Lashley, in kayfabe, was the one who took Natalya’s previous partner Kevin Owens out of action. Team Pawz carries on, of course, with Bobby Roode taking the place of his Canadian countryman.
Lio Rush wasn’t as much of a factor this time, without a Singh Brother to feud with. His intro of Mickie and Bobby was great, but he mostly just made noise at ringside after that. I like that Country Dominance actually seems pretty dominant, which is more of a surprise than the other teams that are currently at the top of the divisions. On the other hand, you could argue they’ve only faced their easiest opponents so far, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare against Monster Eclipse and Team B’N’B.
This match had the kind of spots we’ve come to expected in the MMC, like Roode and Natalya putting Lashley and James in simultaneous sharp shooters or Lashley wearing the cat ears. I liked that Mickie tapped out and Lashley didn’t, although it also didn’t make too much sense that Roode just released the hold because Lio Rush yelled at him or something.
Inevitably the larger Bobby gets the upper hand and pins the smaller Bobby. Natalya is left to once again comfort a surly Canadian man (as if living with Tyson Kidd didn’t already give her plenty of that) and proclaim that Team Pawz’s day is coming. They’re going up against Team B’N’B next week, so we’ll see. My intinct says they’ll take their third loss, but the honest truth is that B’N’B is a team of two Superstars who I always expect to win more than they actually do, so I have to admit it’s up in the air.
Match Two (Smackdown): Ravishing Rusev Day Versus Team Awe-Ska
This match had a frantic energy which I actually quite enjoyed. Lana gives off a strong air of desperation, which really works for her character. Rusev is more confident in himself, but that’s complicated by his desire to also see his wife win. The Miz is also desperate, but he does his best to cover it with bravado. And then there’s Asuka, who absolutely knows she’s the best, but she’s still a manic presence because she’s just so fast, ferocious, and physical.
This all adds up to one of my favorite matches this season. These four performers have four very different characters, and know exactly how to play them, and how to play them off of each other. Asuka knows she’s better than Lana (but that doesn’t mean Lana has no chance of getting lucky and pulling something off). Miz knows he’s not as good as Rusev, but has justified confidence in his own luck. This simple but effective dynamic is aided by everyone’s in-ring skills. Lana may still have a ways to come, but Asuka is more than capable of making her look good (before inevitably destroying her).
While I haven’t been a fan of the Milwaukee story in general, I liked the way it was used here. Miz didn’t say anything about it, he just did a (literally) pitch perfect Aiden English impression into a random microphone, making Rusev and Lana completely distracted from this match as they prepare for the arrival of a guy they both want to beat up. As heel moves go, it’s simultaneously ridiculous, ingenious, and acting-based, making it a perfect Miz strategy. Ultimately, though, it’s the Asuka lock on Lana that ends things, which we all know is Asuka’s favorite ending.
Last season’s winners are still undefeated this season, but I’m curious if they can stay that way. If Naomi and Jimmy Uso don’t take them down, AJ Styles and Charlotte Flair are still on the way.
That’s all for this week. Join us next time, when Team Pawz (Natalya and Bobby Roode) go up against Team B’N’B (Bayley and Finn Bálor, and Awe-ska (Asuka and the Miz) face Ravishing Rusev Day (Lana and Rusev).