Cole and Page Steal the Night, Ripley as a Heel, More Friday WWE and AEW Takes

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2022

Cole and Page Steal the Night, Ripley as a Heel, More Friday WWE and AEW Takes

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    Credit: WWE

    Wrestling fans get three hours of programming every Friday between WWE SmackDown and AEW Rampage, but this week's block of shows ended an hour earlier than usual due to the NBA game on TNT. 

    The earlier timeslot may have affected viewership for fans on the west coast who might not have set their DVRs or watched on a delay, but the show still delivered a fantastic main event with Adam Page defending the AEW World Championship against Adam Cole

    During SmackDown, WWE confirmed a big match for WrestleMania Backlash when RK-Bro accepted the challenge from The Usos for a tag title unification bout.

    We also saw Rhea Ripley take on Naomi, Drew Gulak make his debut as a backstage interviewer and another promo from Lacey Evans.

    Let's take a look at some of the biggest moments from Friday's pro wrestling programs. 

The Brand Split Is Probably Ending Soon

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    SmackDown opened with Riddle, Randy Orton and The Usos engaging in a war of words. This segment eventually led to Orton accepting their challenge for a winner-take-all match for both sets of tag titles at WrestleMania Backlash.

    Nothing is official or even heavily rumored at this point, but it looks like WWE is setting up to end the brand split and unify the brand-specific titles.

    With WWE decreasing the size of its roster significantly over the past two years, it would make a lot of sense to merge the brands, especially when it comes to the tag team division.

    The number of teams on both brands would make for a robust and competitive division, but neither show has enough duos to keep a set of tag titles interesting.

    The downside to ending the brand split is fewer people will be highlighted across both major shows, so others further down the card will not get as many opportunities. 

    Then again, this might all lead to nothing. WWE may decide to split the belts up again at some point and keep the brand split going. 

It's Time for Rhea Ripley to Turn Heel Again

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    Ripley scored a win over Naomi in a singles match this week, giving her and Liv Morgan a bit of momentum as they prepare to face Sasha Banks and Naomi for the Women's Tag Team Championships.

    While the challengers have both picked up victories over the champs in recent weeks, they do not seem destined to win the belts. This is heading toward a breakup.

    Morgan and Ripley have meshed well since they aligned, but it feels like the right time to turn the Australian Superstar back into a heel and put her back in the hunt for one of the top titles. 

    After they lose, Ripley will likely decimate Morgan and leave her for good. Once that happens, a lot of fans are hoping she joins up with Edge and Damien Priest in their new group.

    The women's tag team division losing one of its only duos would be a bummer, but WWE has never put any effort into it anyway. Ripley and Morgan are both more valuable as solo acts, and their eventual feud after their breakup should be fun to watch. 

This Thing with Drew Gulak Had Better Be a Joke

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    Before Madcap Moss took on Humberto, the former stooge for Happy Corbin was interviewed backstage. The interview itself was nothing of note, but the man conducting it was a bit of a shock.

    Gulak, one of the best technicians of his generation, appears to have been turned into a backstage correspondent. Let that sink in for a moment.

    Not only was he one of the best talents on 205 Live for years, but he has proved he can do the comedy stuff and still maintain a reputation as a great worker. 

    Unless this is leading to some sort of gimmick change and return, this feels like a huge waste of Gulak's talent. He could be so valuable in NXT or even as a trainer at the Performance Center. Using him as an interviewer is a baffling decision.

    Even his PowerPoint gimmick would be better than not being a wrestler anymore. Later in the night, Charlotte ended up attacking him during an interview, so this is clearly not something designed to make him look good. 

Lacey Evans Might Make a Good Babyface After All

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    WWE has been slowly reintroducing Evans to the WWE Universe with a series of vignettes. While this week's promo was another heartbreaking and relatable story from her childhood, WWE made one crucial mistake during this segment.

    As the Marine Corps veteran spoke, WWE allowed the crowd to be heard over the pre-recorded video. Since most of the crowd did not seem into it, it took what could have been a genuinely emotional moment and almost ruined it.

    However, these promos from Evans are going to help her connect to anyone who has ever experienced something similar in their life. She is speaking about her real trauma, not giving some scripted speech about how she randomly hates someone else.

    If WWE can salvage this, Evans could turn into a much better babyface than she was when WWE tried it the first time. Her southern charm-style gimmick did not mesh with a heroic character, so the fans never accepted it.

    Allowing her to be the mother, veteran and survivor she is in real life is the best hope WWE has for getting her over as someone the fans will like. 

The Adams Stole the Show

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    This week's Rampage featured arguably the biggest match in the show's brief history when Page defended the AEW World Championship against Cole.

    The two Adams fought in a Texas Deathmatch, and they did their best to live up to that stipulation by employing various weapons such as chairs, tables, stairs, chains and even some barbed wire.

    Both men shed their fair share of blood, but at the end of the night, Hangman put Bay Bay away with a Deadeye right through a table on the floor.

    Not only did this match steal the show, but it may end up being the best match of the entire week. Every single spot was expertly performed, with the high level of danger making that all the more important. 

    Page hasn't wrestled a ton since winning the belt from Kenny Omega, but every match he has had since that night has been top-notch. Whether his reign ends tomorrow or in six months, AEW fans will be talking about some of his performances for a long time to come.