This is the eighth week of the WWE Mixed Match Challenge, a half-hour show featuring a 12-team mixed tag tournament between Raw and Smackdown, in which each team is battling to win $100,000 for their chosen charity.
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. Last week was the first match of the Quarter-Finals, in which Asuka and the Miz defeated Finn Bálor and Sasha Banks, which was a good thing since everyone suddenly decided that if the Miz gets pinned in this tournament, Asuka’s streak will be broken.
This week is the second quarter-final match, in which Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman, fighting on behalf of Connor’s Cure, face off against Jimmy Uso and Naomi, fighting on behalf of Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Going In: Happily Married Vs. Crushing Like Mad
Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman are the great romance of the Mixed Match Challenge. He’s definitely way into her, and she might be kind of into him, or she might just be manipulating him, or it might be some of both. Whatever the case, this angle has wonderfully displayed the acting talents of both performers, and made this tiny villain and enormous monster seem a little more human, which I’m always up for.
Aside from Braun’s “going all the way” joke (driven home by Alexa’s perfect side-eye), the relationship angle wasn’t quite as overt this time as in Round One, but it doesn’t need to be. Now that we’re all on board with it, it’s the subtext to everything they do. They beat Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn in Round One when Alexa hit a Twisted Bliss off of Braun’s shoulders to pin Becky.
Naomi and Jimmy Uso, on the other hand, are a real-life couple. They seem to be a pretty stable and happy one, in fact, considering that Total Divas has a hard time coming up with a more dramatic plotline for them than “Jimmy’s trying to be romantic but Naomi has a stomach ache.” Naturally their real-life loving bond makes them less exciting than the pair whose relationship is a storyline.
In Round One, they put on a pretty great comedy match against Mandy Rose and Goldust, which ultimately led to Jimmy pinning Goldust. It’s clear that Jimmy knows this match is a lot tougher, and in fact probably my favorite moment from this team in the whole tournament is in the pre-match promo, when Naomi brags that her husband doesn’t fear Braun Strowman, and Jimmy makes a face behind her back that says otherwise.
The Match: What More In The Name Of Love?
Protectiveness is a major theme of this match. Braun holds Alexa back when she tries to attack Naomi before the bell, and the image of him restraining her with one arm while she aggressively flails all four of her limbs is as delightful as it is impossible to capture in a still image. Then when it’s time for the actual match to start, Naomi can’t let Jimmy out of their corner, for fear that he’ll die facing Strowman. Of course, this ends up backfiring when Braun attacks him from behind.
Despite Jimmy’s reluctance to face Braun, this match makes clear that he’s still an Uso. He’s cocky, aggressive, seizes every opportunity, and gets every cheap shot in that he can. Braun is Braun, though, and he can knock over a guy Jimmy Uso’s size without so much as a standup bass to give him the edge.
Naomi and Alexa are much more evenly matched, and there was definitely a moment when it seemed like Naomi might get the pin for her team. She’s also more than a match for Alexa when it comes to smack talk, leading the Raw women’s champion to lose her cool a bit.
Naturally Alexa get knocked out of the ring and into Strowman’s arms, and then both of them get knocked to the floor with her straddling him. It’s their mutual awkwardness that makes all of this fun and keeps it from getting too Attitude Era. And of course Jimmy can’t resist making fun of Braun over it, causing Braun to nearly squish him with the steel steps, but he backs off in the face of a DQ. Seriously, I know I’ve said this before, but the Mixed Match Challenge is a masterclass in match-level storytelling, and everyone else in WWE should be paying attention.
Another thing I love is how Braun goes after Jimmy every time things seem to be going Naomi’s way inside the ring. I may be a known advocate for intergender wrestling, but that doesn’t mean I want to see Braun attack Naomi when they’re not even meant to be facing each other, and the fact that he won’t feels important to his ongoing evolution into a full babyface.
Anyway, attacking her husband does the job, and in fact it’s Braun putting Jimmy through the Announce Table that distracts Naomi enough for Alexa to get the pin. It’s the perfect ending to a match in which all four competitors feel involved in every moment, no matter who’s legal at the time.
Next Time: Woooo Day
Winning this match means Alexa and Braun will face Asuka and the Miz in the Semi-Finals. In this space last week, I expressed some concern over the possibility of Asuka and Alexa in the ring together so close to Mania, but honestly it’s seeming more and more likely that Asuka will decide to face Charlotte while Alexa has a match with Nia, so that’s not even a concern. Regardless, it promises to be a really fun match between two teams who’ve given their all to the Mixed Match Challenge.
Next week is the last Quarter-Final match, with Rusev and Lana against Charlotte and Bobby Roode (or Bob, as Rusev as prefers to call him). I’m looking forward to the further development of Lana’s new onscreen persona, although she’ll surely find Charlotte harder to pin than Bayley. With only four teams left in the tournament, plus whoever wins the upcoming Second Chance fan vote (Big E and Carmella, surely), we’ve reached the point where everyone on this show is doing great and I’m starting to feel sad the whole thing will be over soon.
That’s all for this week. Join us next time, when Rusev and Lana face the Robe Warriors.