In the world of WWE, it was not a good week to be a team or family member. It was a continuation of previous trends, but look at all the teams that either went by the wayside or seemingly continued in that direction. Bayley finally snapped and unleashed a vicious attack on Sasha Banks, breaking up their partnership. Andrade and Angel Garza drifted even further apart. Cedric Alexander turned on his friends to join the Hurt Business. The former IIconics faced each other one on one, and despite a post-match hug, their journey together is over.
Alexa Bliss' half-hearted reconciliation with Nikki Cross seems headed for its own disaster. Even NXT wasn't immune, as former friends Tegan Nox and Candice LeRae got into a food fight and disrupted any chance at peace between them. And then there's the inevitable fallout coming between Roman Reigns and Jey Uso, cousins who now stand as Universal champion and No. 1 contender. At least Kalisto's tension with the rest of the Lucha House Party seems to be on pause for the time being. But by the end of September there may not be any teams left. While the divisions get a full turnover, the Raw and SmackDown tag team champions have literally been left to face off with one another in the meantime.
It's no wonder why the Mysterio clan felt the need for some family bonding time, as they closed out Monday Night Raw with a four-on-one kendo stick attack on Murphy. That may have been the final straw between disciple Murphy and "Messiah" Seth Rollins, but that'll have to play out another day. For now, let's look back at a busy week in the world of WWE.
Bayley finally turns on Sasha Banks
There were periods of great success and a tight bond that won Bayley and Sasha two women's tag team titles and drove each of them to singles success. But there was always a timer hanging over the heads of them, invisibly ticking down to the inevitable conclusion of a violent break and a return to tensions that put both women on the fast track to success back in 2015.
Banks capturing her fifth Raw women's championship under dubious circumstances appeared to be a bonding moment that strengthened their friendship and partnership, but it was ultimately the undoing of everything. Banks once again failed to register a single successful title defense on a night where she stepped in to absorb Asuka's momentum and allowed Bayley to retain her SmackDown women's title. But Bayley would not do the same to help Banks.
Within a week, they had lost the women's tag team championships to a brand new, unproven team of Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler, and once Bayley and Banks failed to regain their titles in a rematch, Bayley's paranoia kicked in. She wouldn't be dragged down and lose her record-setting SmackDown women's title reign, and so at Banks' moment of vulnerability post-match, Bayley attacked Banks' injured legs, ragdolled Banks around the ring and then stomped on a chair with Banks' head trapped in it.
Bayley vs. Banks is the biggest women's match that can be made in WWE right now, but with the extent of Bayley's attack, it would be nice to see some time taken to address the injuries. On Raw, Drew McIntyre absorbed three punt kicks from Randy Orton in one night -- a move that has seemingly put stars of the past out for weeks or months -- and despite walking away with a "fractured jaw", was back to deliver three Claymore kicks to Orton a week later.
If Banks can take at least a little time away to sell her injuries -- even a few weeks, enough time to get through one pay-per-view -- the growing tension of a Banks return for revenge hanging over the head of Bayley would only fuel the fire between them. A quick return would simply cheapen the effect of the violence of what Bayley did.
Regardless of when it does play out, Banks vs. Bayley will be another great chapter in their story and a tremendous match. If they are given the creative freedom to shape their own trajectory and match(es), as they did in 2015, we are likely on the path to something very special.
Roman Reigns keeps it in the family
Despite the manipulative and underhanded way Roman Reigns won the Universal championship at Payback, the chance to hear at least part of the story from Reigns and Paul Heyman after the fact was a can't miss moment at the start of SmackDown.
Within the first couple of minutes, Heyman had the world hanging on his every word. He seamlessly blurred the line between real life events and the story being told on screen -- alluding to being fired from a creative role without specifically saying so, and talking about Reigns' work through "life-threatening illnesses" and his temporary departure from WWE over health concerns and the birth of his children while digging just deep enough.
And then came the most interesting wrinkle -- Heyman insisting that he had nothing to do with dragging Reigns to the dark side, and that Reigns had pulled Heyman back into relevancy and been the source of corruption. Reigns slipped seamlessly into an endlessly cocky and confident champion, and the monster that has been created as a result will be very difficult for anyone currently on the SmackDown roster to destroy.
What followed was the obvious question -- who would be the first sacrificial offering to the new Universal champion? A Fatal 4-Way between King Corbin, Big E, Sheamus and Matt Riddle was the solution, until Sheamus sidelined Big E before the match. Strangely, there were no consequences for Sheamus for such an attack, but it did leave an opening into which Heyman pulled the puppet strings and got Jey Uso into the match.
Reigns had a couple of brief, somewhat friendly interactions with his cousin backstage, but with Uso pulling out the shock victory, he has a Universal championship match at Clash of Champions in a few weeks. This seems to put them on an inevitable path towards Reigns destroying his cousin, taking another step towards darkness, and sending a clear message of anything friendly or kind being swept away.
There's been a lot of talk in recent weeks about Brock Lesnar's free-agency status, and no one can say for certain what the future holds. But would anyone be surprised if another (former?) Heyman client stepped back into the picture once everyone else who could step up failed to stop Reigns?
Finn Balor as NXT champion just makes sense
After last week's "Dusty finish" to the Fatal 4-Way Iron Man match for the NXT championship, Finn Balor and Adam Cole fought for the title to open up NXT's second Tuesday special. The match itself was, predictably, a high-energy clash in which both men showed signs of wear and tear from seven days prior, but still pushed perpetually forward with everything they had. Finishing moves were hit, and countered, and Balor eventually had to hit an eye-opening, elevated version of his 1916 spike DDT from the top rope to win the title (perhaps they had an eye on the match between Sasha Banks and Asuka a few weeks ago for inspiration).
Balor is the third two-time NXT champion in the title's history, following Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe, and his second reign starts more than four years after his first came to an end. And it was the right call.
Cole had done everything imaginable during more than 400 days as champion, vanquishing foe after foe and carrying the brand on his shoulders. What happened after the match was far more surprising. After keeping the Undisputed Era away from the ring during their match, Cole congratulated Balor and offered a "too sweet" greeting for him backstage and called Balor the better man on this night. Cole reiterated those thoughts later in a backstage interview, and then closed it out by dropping the ultimate good guy trope: he insisted that Balor better hope that Cole doesn't get another shot at the title, or things will turn out differently the second time around.
Compare that to the actions of Cole's Undisputed Era teammates Roderick Strong and Bobby Fish later in the night. Fish consistently interfered in Strong's match with Killian Dain, and then the pair attacked Dain together after Strong won the match. There may come a day shortly down the line in which the UE has to decide what's next, and can't get on the same page.
The rest of the week at a glance
McIntyre went eye for an eye (not literally, thankfully) with Orton by delivering three Claymore kicks to balance out three punts. Things seem to be on level ground heading into Clash of Champions. But one thing is clear -- Keith Lee has gotten everything he can from being in the middle of this conflict, and the sooner he can get out from under it, the less momentum he'll lose. He avoided a clean loss to Orton on Monday, but ate an RKO for his troubles. Any future match will likely go even worse for him. Time for Lee to stack up some wins.
Retribution finally sent an actual message, interrupting the second half of a series of handicap matches between The Riott Squad and Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler. The group promised to threaten stars as well as fans, and that the "darkness of retribution will seep into the pores of every superstar." Let the speculation continue for whose masked faces are behind the message.
Despite the strain in logic behind Alexander joining a group that blindsided him 3-on-1, 15 minutes after that attack, Alexander joining up with MVP, Shelton Benjamin and Bobby Lashley could do good things for him moving forward. Let's hope that Ivar's injury during the ensuing 4-on-4 match isn't too serious.
Putting Aleister Black vs. Kevin Owens on Raw Underground, with the audience only seeing three brief segments, was a huge letdown. The culmination of the match being both stars getting destroyed by Dabba-Kato was even more disappointing.
The cage match that closed out NXT between Rhea Ripley and Mercedes Martinez was a wonderfully violent showcase for both women, and likely a launching pad for Ripley re-entering the NXT women's championship picture.
Bray Wyatt advertised a brand new guest for the Firefly Funhouse next week -- is this the moment when Bliss officially enters the picture?