After a month of anticipation, WWE’s historic and innovative, Mixed Match Challenge, will finally debut live, tonight, Jan. 16 at 10 p.m. ET/7 PT, exclusively on Facebook Watch.
What is the Mixed Match Challenge?
Allowing WWE the chance to feature its programming outside of the traditional means of television or the WWE Network, the Mixed Match Challenge (MMC) is a 12-week long event that pits 12 intergender teams, five from each Smackdown Live and Raw, head-to-head in a tournament-style, mixed tag team competition, where the winning team receives $100,000 for a charity of their choosing.
It is worth noting that in their press release regarding the event, WWE has said they will donate $10,000 to each of the losing teams’ charities as well.
Each week/show will be approximately 20 minutes long and will feature one match. The tournament is mainly single elimination, however, one of the final four teams will be decided via a second chance fan vote, adding to the interactive nature of the program.
The three-man/woman commentary team will be anchored by Raw’s lead announcer, Michael Cole, Raw and Smackdown’s color commentator, Corey Graves, and making her WWE announcing debut, Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix. Phoenix will join Graves as the color commentators, while Cole will resume his role as lead commentator.
While the show will air live as part of a Facebook exclusive, WWE has also announced that it will be accessible on the network two days after each episode first airs. This will allow viewers in the UK and elsewhere, who don’t have access to Facebook Watch, to still be able to see the tournament.
The first episode will pit the team of Finn Balor and Sasha Banks against the team of Shinsuke Nakamura and Natalya. The rest of the matchups are outlined below.
— WWE UK (@WWEUK) January 12, 2018
Braun Strowman and Alexa Bliss (RAW) – Representing Connor’s Cure
— Alexa Bliss (@AlexaBliss_WWE) January 10, 2018
Announced as the first team to enter the fray, Braun Strowman and Alexa Bliss are being considered one of the favorites to win it all. For starters, the team is representing a WWE-owned charity, which could have some impact given the still-scripted nature of the competition. More than that though, Strowman is one of the hottest acts going on Raw right now and Bliss is currently the brand’s women’s champion as well as being the first woman to hold the Smackdown and Raw women’s championships. With his, well, braun, and her brains, it’s hard to imagine this duo not making a deep run in the tournament.
Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode (SD) – Representing Girl Up
— WWE (@WWE) January 9, 2018
Undoubtedly the most glorious team in the field, Smackdown’s first team announced might also be their best, as women’s champion Charlotte Flair joins up with former NXT champion, Bobby Roode. Aptly nicknamed the Robe Warriors given their penchant for lavish clothing, Roode and Charlotte also share in common, an incredible pedigree in this business. The daughter of two-time Hall of Famer Ric Flair, Charlotte has been at the forefront of the women’s revolution, already carving out an incredible career herself, as the only woman to win the NXT, Divas, Raw and Smackdown women’s championships. Roode is no slouch in the title scene as well as he is a former two-time TNA World Heavyweight champion and six-time TNA Tag Team champion. With their combined talent and experience, Roode and Charlotte should be considered among the best duos in the tournament.
Finn Balor and Sasha Banks (RAW) – Representing Special Olympics
Get ready to #BankOnTheBossClub TONIGHT when @FinnBalor and @SashaBanksWWE team up to face @ShinsukeN and @NatbyNature on #WWEMMC, premiering tonight at 10e/7p on @Facebook Watch! pic.twitter.com/RQqz2tcLQr
— WWE (@WWE) January 16, 2018
With Finn Balor’s patented charm and Sasha Banks’ star-studded qualities, you can bank on it that the Boss and the Demon are one of the fan-favorites of this tournament. PWI’s second-ranked wrestler in 2016, Banks is a four-time Raw women’s champion and one-time NXT champion. Alongside Charlotte, she produced some of the most groundbreaking women’s matches in history, including being part of the first even women’s main event, at Hell in a Cell. With no shortage of history-making moments himself, her partner, Finn Balor, was the first ever Raw Universal champion, the longest-reigning NXT champion, and a three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion. Balor’s personality and masterful use of social media should bode well for this team if they happen to need the second chance vote, but they could just as well win the whole thing without it based on the talent level of the two teammates.
Natalya and Shinsuke Nakamura (SD) – Representing Make-A-Wish
— Nattie (@NatbyNature) January 9, 2018
One of the more interesting pairings is that of Smackdown’s resident artist, Shinsuke Nakamura, and former women’s champion, Natalya. That being said, if ever there was a team to pull off a surprise upset, it could be this duo. In addition to her recent reign as Smackdown Women’s champion, Natalya is also a former Divas champion and has been with WWE for over a decade. Her partner is a Japanese legend, having held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship three times, the IWGP Intercontinental Championship five times, and was the first ever two-time NXT champion. Nakamura’s resume speaks for itself and with him being considered the odds-on favorite to win the Royal Rumble this year, a nice run in the MMC might be exactly the way to book him.
Apollo Crews and Nia Jax (RAW) – Representing Susan G. Komen
— Nia Jax (@NiaJaxWWE) January 13, 2018
When the MMC participants were first announced, it seemed certain that Nia Jax and Enzo Amore’s on-screen flirtation was going to result in the two being paired together and possibly even winning the tournament. However, Enzo was removed from the competition due to the flu and Titus Worldwide’s own Apollo Crews, was named in his place. Both Jax and Crews have had their moments on the main roster but neither have really been able to showcase their abilities all that much. The MMC is another platform for them. Plus, the team is representing Susan G. Komen, another charity with close ties to WWE. It remains to be seen if this will have any impact on final results.
Lana and Rusev (SD) – Representing Global Citizen
— WWE (@WWE) January 15, 2018
While Lana is still pretty green in the wrestling business, the MMC will definitely be her biggest opportunity so far to showcase her ability and fortuitously, she’ll get to do it alongside husband, Rusev. A two-time United States champion, Rusev was one of WWE’s most dominant superstars in 2014 as alongside Lana as his manager, went on to an undefeated streak that lasted several months. The audience quickly became fans of the duo, especially Lana, chanting “We want Lana” anytime Rusev would take to the ring. While the two are seen as underdogs, the power of Rusev Day could propel the couple to surprise results.
Goldust and Alicia Fox (RAW) – Representing Hire Heroes USA
— Mith Gifs (@MithGifs) January 16, 2018
Another of the MMC’s somewhat outthere pairings is that of Goldust and Alicia Fox. Two veterans of the business, Goldust and Fox don’t exactly have much in common, with the exception of Cedric Alexander, who Fox managed and who Goldust currently manages. Over his future Hall of Fame career, Goldust was a three time tag team champion, three time WWF Intercontinental champion and nine time WWF Hardcore champion. Fox, the longest tenured female performer with the company, is a former Divas champion and is coming off captaining the Raw team at Survivor Series.
Carmella and Big E (SD) – Representing KaBOOM!
— MS Money in the BANK (@CarmellaWWE) January 10, 2018
One of the interactive elements of the competition was allowing fans to choose which member of the New Day would serve as Carmella’s partner and MMC don’t you dare be souwa because Big E is that guy. The current and first-ever Ms. Money in the Bank, Carmella is riding a bit of a push whereas Big E, a four-time tag team champion and one-time Intercontinental champion, is just coming off an incredible feud with current Smackdown Tag Team champions, the Usos. Unfortunately for these two, they face the toughest opening round of the tournament and likely won’t be around past their first match.
Elias and Bayley (RAW) – Representing Americares
— Bayley (@itsBayleyWWE) January 12, 2018
The WWE Universe chose Samoa Joe to be Bayley’s partner however she’ll be walking with Elias as Joe was forced to pull out of the tournament with an injury sustained a few weeks ago. Elias, who received the second amount of votes, has been a staple of Raw ever since his debut a few months back, and has received several opportunities to face high-profile talent like John Cena and Roman Reigns. His partner is the most huggable person on the roster, one-time NXT Women’s champion and one-time Raw Women’s champion, Bayley. While not a favorite to win it all, Bayley and Elias have the talent and fan support to perhaps be a darkhorse in this competition.
Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn (SD) – Representing UNICEF
— Sami Zayn (@SamiZayn) January 9, 2018
One of the more spot-on pairings features two of WWE’s biggest underdogs in Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn. Lynch is the first-ever Smackdown Women’s champion and one of the fan-favorite women on either brand’s roster. And while newly-turned-heel Zayn has been serving as the lackey/guardian angel for best friend Kevin Owens, he’s not that far removed from being a beloved fan-favorite babyface himself. A two-time PWG World champion, one-time Ring of Honor TV champion and tag team champion, and former NXT champion, Zayn is an incredibly talented superstar in his own right. When it comes to the fan vote, there’s almost no doubt of which team should be the favorites to win it.
The Miz and Asuka (RAW) – Representing Rescue Dogs Rock
— The Miz (@mikethemiz) January 14, 2018
At least for the MMC, the A in A-List stands for Asuka, as Miz will be teaming up with the former NXT Women’s champion in a partnership that has be one of the most dominant of the tournament. The Miz has an extensive championship resume, as he is one of just 14 grand slam champions (seven Intercontinental titles, two United States titles, one WWE Championship and six tag team titles) and is a former Money in the Bank winner. His partner, she’s undefeated since coming to the WWE and has the longest NXT Women’s championship reign at 523 days. It is worth noting that since this won’t be a singles competition, Asuka’s undefeated streak isn’t on the line, but even so, it’s hard to imagine she’ll be picking up a loss in this tournament given the skill possessed by both she and her partner.
Naomi and Jimmy Uso (SD) – Representing Boys & Girls Clubs of America
— WWE MMC (@WWEMMC) January 12, 2018
A husband to a professional wrestler himself, Smackdown General Manager, Daniel Bryan, saw fit not only to team Rusev and Lana together, but also Jimmy Uso and his wife Naomi. This dynamic duo features Naomi, a two-time Smackdown Women’s champion, and Uso, one-half of the Smackdown Tag Team champions, currently in their record-setting third reign. Naomi and Jimmy Uso are an explosive team with the chemistry of two individuals who train together and know each other inside-and-out. If the glow doesn’t do it, the Uso penitentiary might, as this team could definitely pull out some surprises.
What We Don’t Know
The biggest question mark regarding the Mixed Match Challenge, is whether it will incorporate current kayfabe or not. For example, will WWE tease Bliss and Asuka in the tournament as they have on Raw over the past several weeks? Will Zayn be working heel and if so, will his recent feud with Nakamura get ramped up? And if that’s the case, will we see a Kevin Owens appearance to help Zayn and Lynch cheat their way through? Will Carmella face Charlotte and tease a cash-in or will it be Charlotte and Asuka’s teams going head-to-head in the finals in a battle of Raw and Smackdown’s top women?
The possibilities for the match-ups are intriguing all the way down to the first week, which features Nakamura’s team taking on Balor’s in what is sure to be a great opener for the tournament. With or without the direct influence of kayfabe from Raw and Smackdown, if the build-up on Twitter (Follow #WWEMMC) is any indication, this competition is sure to be a great battle of top talent from both brands, as well as a chance for WWE to expand to a much larger market than is currently reached by the USA Network or even the WWE Network.