As the preliminary round of the WWE Mixed Match Challenge comes to end this week, two top names have been pulled at the last minute, leading to a situation where a competition may end up winning the tournament (and the #30 spot in the Royal Rumble) without having to actually take part in any of the previous matches.
As previously reported, Braun Strowman was written off WWE television this week in order to undergo surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow. He is expected to be out several weeks, with the hopes that he’ll be back before WWE TLC, but it could be as long as January.
Strowman’s replacement will be announced next week. The mystery man and Ember Moon will take on Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox in the first round of the playoffs, while Finn Balor and Bayley battle against Bobby Lashley and Mickie James to determine the semifinal contenders for the Raw side of the tournament.
Former WWE Champion AJ Styles has also been replaced at the very last minute. It is unknown why he was removed, although Styles did not appear at Tuesday’s Smackdown Live television taping. Instead, Charlotte Flair will team with Jeff Hardy to take on R-Truth and Carmella in the first round of the playoffs for Smackdown. Miz and Asuka will also face Jimmy Uso and Naomi.
Again, this creates a bizarre situation where both of the #1 seeds heading into the playoffs are “teams” that were never actually meant to be in the Mixed Match Challenge together in the first place.
One thing WWE hasn’t really solved is how some of these teams are going to competing in the finals of the Mixed Match Challenge at WWE TLC, as several of them will already have matches on the card that have nothing to do with the tournament.