Can’t Knock The Hustle: The Raw & Smackdown After WrestleMania 40

Last year, I did a column just like this, looking at what I personally hoped to see on the episodes of Raw and Smackdown after WrestleMania, annually viewed as the best, or at least most newsworthy, episodes of the year.


Well, unfortunately for me, that bitch ass Vince McMahon took creative control of the company again, and his bitchassness was all over the shows.

A promo from Triple H that was nothing more than a “rah-rah” speech.

Setting up a Cody Rhodes & Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns & Solo Sikoa main event match. More on that in a moment, of course.

An Omos squash match.

A Rey Mysterio promo, leading to Austin Theory interrupting him and setting up a match between both men that wasn’t anything special. It did, however, lead to the post-match angle that saw Damian Priest attack Bad Bunny, who was in the front row, which set up the Bunny vs Priest match at Backlash.

A promo from Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, which was interrupted by The Street Profits, setting up a match between the teams. The match was really good, but the outcome was never in doubt, with Owens and Zayn winning the Tag Team Titles that weekend, ending the epic title reign of The Usos.

A segment where Seth Rollins came to the ring… and then left, without doing anything.

A squash match that had Bobby Lashley destroy Mustafa Ali.

A Bianca Belair promo, leading to Rhea Ripley interrupting her, and they teased a future match. Here we are, a year later, and we’re still waiting for it.

Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez defeated Iyo Sky and Dakota Kai in a very forgettable tag match.

The Miz had a promo, leading to the returning Matt Riddle interrupting him and a fight breaking out between the two.

We never ended up getting the main event that was made earlier, as Lesnar turned heel and attacked Cody before the match. It was a swerve that nobody asked for, and it ended up leading to nothing more than what seemed like a “test” from Brock to toughen Cody up.

That’s it.

If that were a regular episode of Raw in the middle of, say, September, it still would’ve been a boring show. The fact that it was the night after WrestleMania made it one of the most disappointing episodes of Raw in a long, long time. All because Vince McMahon is an incompetent bitch that couldn’t put a good wrestling show together to save his fucking life.

The episode of Smackdown that aired three days later was a lot better than Raw, but was still forgettable with nothing of note actually taking place.

Well, now that Vince McMahon’s bitch ass is no longer around, taking Kevin Dunn’s bitch ass and John Laurinaitis’s’s’s’s’s’s’s’s’s’s’s’s bitch ass with him, I figured it was time for me to do this type of column again. Triple H hasn’t been perfect, but I have an infinite amount of faith in him compared to that ho ass Vince McMahon and his vision for what WWE should be.

With all that out of the way, let’s talk about what I want to see on Raw and Smackdown this week, now that WrestleMania 40 is officially in the rearview mirror. That’s the key… what I want to see, not what I’m predicting that we will see. Let’s take a look at things in no particular order.


At Least One Surprisingly Long & Competitive Match On Each Show: Those are always fun, even when it’s a normal episode of a wrestling show. What about something like Ricochet vs Finn Balor on Raw? You’ll think it’s a regular match, and the next thing you know, you’ve got Ricochet picking up the pin and the win in like 23 minutes. Then, on Smackdown, we’d have something like The Street Profits vs New Catch Republic, and just like the other example, the match gets 20+ minutes and gets a standing ovation from the live crowd when it’s all over. Simple stuff. These episodes feature a lot of time stretching, anyway, as a lot of people get the night off after a big Mania weekend, so if you can fill up 30+ minutes of air time (plus entrances, etc.) with one match, it really helps.

A good example of this was back in 2020, when Aleister Black and Apollo Crews battled each other for nearly 30 minutes on the night after WrestleMania 36, and it was an absolute banger. Nobody expected those two random guys to get that much time and space to work with, but they certainly made the most of it. That’s all it takes, really.


NXT Call-Ups: This falls directly into the “Duh” category. Every year, one of the things you could always count on was that the Raw and Smackdown after WrestleMania were going to feature developmental rookies making their main roster debuts, or even debuts from outside of the company itself. Bertha Faye in 1995. Mankind and Marc Mero in 1996. Brock Lesnar in 2002. Goldberg in 2003. Armando Alejandro Estrada (and technically, Umaga) and The Great Khali in 2006. Vladimir Kozlov and Natalya in 2008. Sin Cara in 2011. Lord Tensai (technically) in 2012. Paige in 2014. Neville and Kalisto in 2015. Apollo Crews, Enzo Amore, and Big Cass in 2016. The Revival, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Tye Dillinger in 2017. Ember Moon, Authors Of Pain, No Way Jose, and the IIconics in 2018. Lars Sullivan in 2019. The Forgotten Sons in 2020. Gunther, Ludwig Kaiser, and Raquel Rodriguez in 2022.

That’s quite the list.

The first thing you should notice from that list is how terrible it is. So many names that had no business being on WWE’s main roster, and even some names that would eventually belong, but didn’t belong at the time they were called up. It’s yet another example of how much Vince McMahon sucked at everything he did.

If we’re going to get some NXT call-ups this year, they should be names that people are going to care about, and they should be names that are ready for that type of spotlight. Ilja Dragunov is more than ready to be on Raw or Smackdown, but he’s the current NXT Champion (I’m typing this before Stand & Deliver). Even if he loses the title to Tony D’Angelo, that might not guarantee a call-up, even though it is being heavily rumored that Dragunov is not only in line for a promotion, but also that he could find himself with a Gunther-like push once he does end up on Monday or Friday nights.

Carmelo Hayes is also someone that is heavily rumored for a permanent main roster spot soon. We’ve seen him make a handful of appearances on Smackdown, but once his feud with Trick Williams is over, whether that’s at Stand & Deliver or beyond, he’d be a perfect candidate here.

Dijak is ready, unless, of course, he wins the NXT North American Title at Stand & Deliver (again, I’m typing this before the show).

Speaking of the NXT North American Title, current champion Oba Femi is someone that I could see getting called up, as his meteoric rise plays right into that. However, I still think he has some “seasoning” that needs to happen for him. After all, the man currently has a grand total of EIGHT matches wrestled on television or pay-per-view in his career.

Roxxane Perez is in a similar spot to Dijak. If she doesn’t win the NXT Women’s Title at Stand & Deliver, I would think she’s on the verge of being called up.

There are a lot of good options. We don’t need a half-dozen names coming up this week, but even if we just get one, it has to be a good one. For the first time in a while, I do have faith that a debut could be the right person. Triple H running things up top and Shawn Michaels running things in NXT? Needless to say, their communication is strong, and I think that works in the favor of Raw and Smackdown viewers here.

We just need Triple H to follow through on giving main roster fans a reason to care about anyone called up, and not just having him throw new names out on television with no introduction, no reasoning, and no protection.


MJF: Oooh, there goes the butthole puckering again!

Look, let me just get this out of the way right now… not only do I not think we’re going to get MJF making his WWE debut this week, but I think he really did re-sign with AEW, as many have speculated he did.


Can you imagine the reaction he would get if he made his WWE debut? I’ve seen people say he should debut in a storyline involving Cody Rhodes, based on their connection and friendship from their time in AEW. While that makes sense, Cody is going to be a little busy with The Bloodline, win or lose at WrestleMania. Unless, of course, you want MJF to debut as extra backup for Cody.

Honestly, we wouldn’t even need anything with a target for MJF. He could debut to a huge pop, cut a promo that would undoubtedly include some controversial comments about AEW (even if they’re veiled shots), set social media ablaze, and then leave. That would be more than enough for now.

Again, I don’t think it’s happening at all.

Just imagine it, though.


Not Just The WWE Draft, But A New Take On The WWE Draft: It’s difficult to tell when the WWE Draft is going to take place in any given year. In the entire history of the event, here is a list of when it happened during the year… March, March, June, May, June, June, April, April, April, July, April, April, April-May, October, October, October, April-May. I’m simply going off of last year’s Draft, where it was announced immediately after WrestleMania and took place a few weeks later. (Writer’s Note: After I finished this column, Triple H revealed on Logan Paul’s IMPAULSIVE podcast that this year’s Draft will take place “In a month.”)

With Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn out of the picture, almost everything about the on-screen WWE product has been completely different. The feel, the camera shots, the presentation… it’s all different. If we’re going to get another WWE Draft coming up soon, why wouldn’t that be different, too?

I’ve made it very clear in previous columns that I want to see the WWE Draft take on a more “real” sports presentation on TV. “War Rooms” with the Raw and Smackdown teams going over their “big boards” to figure out their next selections. Trades. “Analysts” discussing future pick possibilities, which brand could use which wrestlers, and why. The NFL Draft is HUGE business on television every year. “Borrowing” from some of the NFL’s presentation would greatly behoove WWE.

Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn were both famously stuck in the WWE “bubble” at all times, not really watching or knowing anything outside of whatever WWE was doing. You can safely bet that neither man had ever watched the NFL Draft at any point in their lives. Now that both of their worthless asses are no longer working for the company, it’s time for more changes to be made.

Go ahead and announce the dates for the 2024 WWE Draft, and then really shake things up with the way you present it to people.


A New Beginning For The Bloodline: Again, I have to point out that I’m writing this before WrestleMania even begins, so I have no idea what happened during the show at this very moment. With that said, I am working under the assumption that Cody Rhodes ends the weekend by defeating Roman Reigns to win the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship.

Even though Roman hasn’t exactly been a full-time performer for the last three-plus years, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that he would be going away for a while if he loses the title at WrestleMania. He won’t be heading off into retirement or anything, but he wouldn’t be the first major player to get a bit of a vacation after WrestleMania comes and goes.

If he does, in fact, take some time off, what happens to Jimmy Uso, Solo Sikoa, and Paul Heyman? What happens to The Bloodline?

The more I think about it, the more I want to see something similar to what we saw with Degeneration X in the aftermath of WrestleMania 14. The group’s leader at the time, Shawn Michaels, dropped the WWF Title at Mania, and he had to go away (yes, we thought it was permanently at the time, but still), so the next-in-command, so to speak, stepped up and took over. Triple H brought Sean Waltman, Billy Gunn, and Road Dogg in to form the new version of DX, and they were off to the races.

If Roman is out of the picture, why not have Jimmy Uso, Solo, or even Paul Heyman stepping up to be in the “Triple H” role here? Hell, depending on what happens at Mania, and HOW Roman loses, you could even have The Rock be “Triple H” here. Then, to boost the ranks of The Bloodline, you can add Tama Tonga and/or Jacob Fatu to the group. Before anyone says anything… I’m aware that Tama Tonga isn’t an actual member of the Anoa’i family tree, but he is considered “family” by multiple members of the actual tree. He is the adopted son of Meng/Haku, who is referred to as “Uncle Tonga” by people like The Rock. One thing many people don’t understand about Polynesian culture is that “secondary family” is incredibly important and incredibly strong. This guy might not be your blood relation, but you’re “cousins” to everyone that knows you. “Uncle” and “Aunty” are names thrown around a lot, too, given to your neighbors, the parents of friends, people at church, and so on. Tama is easily a “family” member, and the explanation would be simple to make on-screen, as well.

Where the hell was I?

Oh, yeah.

Tama Tonga and/or Jacob Fatu as new additions to The Bloodline. Throw in Jimmy Uso, Solo Sikoa, Paul Heyman, and possibly The Rock… you have a group that can continue to cause a lot of damage moving forward. Then, as an added bonus, you can either have Roman join up with them down the road, or you can have Roman oppose them, giving him the insane face turn after one of the best heel runs that WWE has ever seen.

I like it.


Gimme A Turn, To The Left Or To The Right: Give me a heel turn. Give me a face turn.

Just make it something good.

Something newsworthy that the WWE Universe can sink their teeth into. It doesn’t have to be an all-time game-changer like Hulk Hogan turning heel or anything along those lines, but something like a Zoey Stark face turn or a Cruz Del Toro heel turn isn’t enough to be exciting.

A lot of people have been fantasy booking a Damian Priest face turn, usually involving him being kicked out of The Judgment Day, and that’s something that could be fun. In a similar fashion, the same could be said about a Rhea Ripley face turn, although that’s a little more difficult to do unless we’re getting a new female member of the group, or unless Triple H is REALLY going to go back to the Attitude Era style and we get the male members of the group beating the hell out of Rhea to solidify her turn. (Writer’s Note: Now that Mania is over, I suppose Priest being the new World Heavyweight Champion makes any sort of turn this soon pretty difficult to pull off and explain.)

Perhaps the most popular fantasy booked turn right now is Chad Gable turning heel on Sami Zayn. I’ve seen people say it should happen when Sami beats Gunther to win the Intercontinental Title, only for Sami to give the first shot at his title to someone else. I’ve seen people say Sami, as the new champion, should give Gable the first shot, only to beat Gable, which causes the Alpha Academy head to finally snap. I’ve even seen people say that Gunther should defeat Sami, and Gable, so consumed with the idea of someone… anyone… defeating Gunther, snaps and attacks Sami because Sami “failed” everyone on the biggest stage.

In too many Vince-led years, WWE would hit a post-Mania lull for a few months before attempting to pick the excitement back up again in the build to SummerSlam. That doesn’t need to be a thing anymore. Actually, it shouldn’t have been a thing in the first place. Ideally, you would want to deliver a strong 12 months of putting the best shows and storylines together, but hey… Vince McMahon is a fucking moron, so skibbidy beebo, away he goes. Putting something like a big face/heel turn together is an easy way to keep the momentum going after WrestleMania.


I don’t think I’m asking for too much. Do you? What are you looking forward to possibly seeing on the Raw and/or Smackdown after WrestleMania this year? As always, feel free to hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.

Now, let’s switch things over to my Weekly Power Rankings. Because of the super busy week, I won’t be adding any extra thoughts, just to keep this from sprouting another several thousand words. At the end, like I always do, I will be listing the songs I was listening to as I put this column together.



Weekly Power Rankings

Roman Reigns vs Cody Rhodes: Okay, I lied. I’m going to talk about this a tiny bit. The whole “Avengers: Endgame” thing was well done, with what seemed like the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe coming together to finally defeat the seemingly unstoppable Thanos. I know some people were hoping to see “Stone Cold” Steve Austin involved, but storyline wise, those we saw made sense. Jey Uso, John Cena, Seth Rollins, and The Undertaker have all had their issues with Roman Reigns through the years. Austin has not. My favorite part of the whole thing, though, was the finish. Chair in hand, Roman had the chance to finish Cody off, once and for all. Then… he looked over and saw Seth Rollins. In a flash, his mind went back to 2014, when Seth turned his back on The Shield and joined The Authority. The hurt. The anger. The sadness. Everything came back to him as he stood behind Rollins while Seth was dressed in his old Shield gear, and he was consumed by his emotions as he sought out true revenge. That one moment… one decision… cost Roman the match, and cost his character everything. That is immaculate storytelling. In a storyline full of some of the best storytelling that the business has ever seen, that may have been the pinnacle.

Gunther vs Sami Zayn

Oba Femi vs Dijak vs Josh Briggs

Damian Priest

Eddie Kingston vs Mark Briscoe

Kyle Fletcher vs Lee Johnson

Paul Heyman

Iyo Sky vs Bayley

Cody Rhodes & Seth Rollins vs The Rock & Roman Reigns

Athena vs Hikaru Shida

Undisputed WWE Tag Team Title Ladder Match

Rhea Ripley vs Becky Lynch

Logan Paul vs Randy Orton vs Kevin Owens

Bron Breakker & Baron Corbin vs Axiom & Nathan Frazer

Bryan Danielson vs Lance Archer

Mei Seira, Mina Shirakawa & Maika vs Tam Nakano, AZM & Saya Kamitani

Will Ospreay vs Powerhouse Hobbs

Drew McIntyre

Billie Starkz


Clash At The Castle in Scotland

Ricochet vs Ivar

FTR vs Top Flight

Trent Beretta

King & Queen Of The Ring in Saudi Arabia



This Week’s Playlist: “7 Minute Drill” by J. Cole… “Locked Up” by Sam Hunt… “This Is Nowhere” by The Black Keys… “I Forgot To Be Your Lover” by The Black Keys… “White Jesus” by Rittz… “Bloody Murdah” by Rittz… “Please Don’t Fall In Love With Me” by Khalid… “Good As It Gets” by Blanco Brown… “We Are Shadows” by Kittie… “Kill Me” by Zero 9:36… “Keemy Casanova” by Akeem Ali… “Cutie Pie” by One Way… “Oh Sheila” by Ready For The World… “Love You Down” by Ready For The World… “Let’s Chill” by Guy… “Don’t Disturb This Groove” by The System… “Sensitivity” by Ralph Tresvant… “Do What I Gotta Do” by Ralph Tresvant… “I Like The Way” by Hi-Five… “She’s Playing Hard To Get” by Hi-Five… “I Can’t Wait Another Minute” by Hi-Five… “Quality Time” by Hi-Five… “Never Should’ve Let You Go” by Hi-Five… “Unconditional Love” by Hi-Five… “Agora Hills” by Doja Cat

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