25th October 2015.
You’ll have to excuse the lack of attention I pay to this show to begin with as time is tight, I’m way overworked and I need to eat. Food is more important than wrestling. Most of the time.
We’re in Los Angeles, California. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Jerry Lawler. It could be worse, it could be Mark Madden, Stevie Ray and Tony Schiavone.
US Championship Open Challenge
The “John Cena sucks” chants drown out his music, which takes some doing. This is a rarity; an actual PPV surprise where a match is anticipated because we don’t know what it’ll be. The challenge is answered by…Zeb Coulter? He introduces the opponent for Cena…Alberto Del Rio! Shit, that was a surprise. What’s Del Rio doing hanging around with Coulter anyway? They’ve got nothing in common.
WWE United States Championship
John Cena (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio
This being LA, half the crowd are of Hispanic descent and Del Rio is a big favourite. The fact he’s returning after being AWOL, almost on a break slumming it on the Indies, makes him even more popular. Del Rio is a guy I basically missed during my WWE boycott. I did see him work in Japan during his time off though and he sucked. Big Match John starts to actually get effected by the crowd, selling the importance of the moment. Del Rio looks out of sorts and mistimes a few moves off the ropes where he seems to switch to a safer spot in mid-move. Plus he throws in a lengthy chinlock. It’s not the best of performances. The crowd amuse themselves anyway by doing the “boo”, “yay” business for the back and forth punches. Del Rio wins the belt out of nowhere with the First Flash. I might be in the minority but I wasn’t keen on this match.
Final Rating: *1/2
Video Control takes us backstage where the Authority mug for the cameras. The ever reliable, and peppy, Korporate Kane owns the segment. He’s been so good in the role, it makes the stipulation tonight make zero sense. Why would you want to get rid of something that’s working? The cracks in that façade here are completely unwelcome and shows the WWE on their way to abandoning everything good about that angle. It’s almost like they don’t know what they’re doing.
Hell in a Cell
Bray Wyatt vs. Roman Reigns
This feud hasn’t done a lot for me but the last few minutes of their ‘feud ending’ match on Raw were terrific. If they can hit those levels throughout this definitive feud-ending contest, we could be on to a winner. For the past year the best thing about Bray Wyatt has been his entrance. Gotta love those fireflies. I wish he wouldn’t wear his t-shirt during matches, and that goes for anybody. Sure, you’ll sell more merchandise but you look like an asshole, wearing a t-shirt with your own slogans on it while you compete. Compare that to his awesome all-white trousers, with the flock of buzzards flying up the one leg. That’s ring gear. Some of the early pre-planned spots look REALLY pre-planned. Bray isn’t quite in place for a few either and they look super awkward. Bray picks the pace up by wailing on Roman with a kendo stick. The Cell needs that brutality. It’s a pity we’re in a bloodless PG era (main event aside) as a Hell in a Cell with no blood barely makes sense. Bray must wear himself out because he pulls out a chair so he can sit down and wail on Roman with the kendo stick some more.
Credit Wyatt with the creative juices to use the cage differently, setting up a chair and the stick between the links. Roman’s response is just punches and lots of them. Credit to both guys for just beating the shit out of each other. No holding back, just intense, no nonsense beatings. They step it up with tables and Bray destroys Roman with a Rock Bottom off the apron through a table. It’s a pity the WWE tried this big Roman Reigns push earlier in the year because he’s still paying for it among the men-folk and may never recover. Unless they turn him. I would. Have him as Seth Rollins’ bodyguard. Instant heat. Then they could slow burn him back face and do it properly, without trying to make him Cena 2.0 (Sufferin’ Suckatash!) as that doesn’t suit him at all. They pull out another table and Bray tries for a superplex only to get creamed through the table with a powerbomb. That totally feels like the finish but Bray leisurely kicks out. Where do you go from there? They go to finishers with Sister Abigail being countered into a slick roll up…for 2. Superman Punch…for 2. Not sure I really dig all the finisher kick-outs. Unless they’re leading to something amazing. Spear off the apron through a table! That’s pretty amazing. Not to mention dangerous! They both struggle back up. Roman tries for a Spear and it’s countered, beautifully, into Sister Abigail’s Kiss. I do love that move but Roman just kicks out. They do a little business with the kendo sticks in the corner and Roman finishes with a spear. The ending is a little deflating but this was easily the best match of the feud. By a country mile.
Final Rating: ***3/4
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz
No Xavier Woods, thanks to a table spot from Raw. That’s a bad thing. In the real world he’s off getting married so was unavailable to entertain the people of Los Angeles and got written off the show. The “Magic Unicorns” get way too much crowd support so stop off to get some cheap heat. Kofi is upset at the loss of the trombone so promises to play the bongos on D-Von’s head. Big E will be playing the bass drum on Bubba’s belly “like a Caucasian Kamala”. When we get going the match is by-the-numbers because there’s no Xavier Woods to play trombone and the New Day seem less creative without him. The Dudley Boyz attempt a double team, which goes horribly wrong and JBL calls it “butt ugly”. This is the problem with an old tag team trying to do new things. New Day get their chuckles by stealing Dudley Boyz spots and breaking up the Dudley’s attempts to get tables. Kofi even breaks out a sensational Eddie Guerrero spot by throwing the trombone to Bubba and pretending to be hurt. The ref buys it but can’t make the call because he didn’t see it. Big E then waffles Bubba with the trombone and Kofi hits Trouble in Paradise to retain. I’m surprised they didn’t switch the belts here, with Xavier not around, but I’m pleased they’ve kept the red hot New Day in the prime position in the tag division. They’re the best right now so they deserve the straps.
Final Rating: **1/2
WWE Divas Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Nikki Bella
In losing her title Nikki finally looked like a champion, dismantling Charlotte’s leg. Unfortunately the psychology disappeared in the conclusion with Charlotte just winning with the Figure Eight anyway. Everyone is banned from ringside, guaranteeing a one-on-one match. Nikki once again picks a body part (the back) and dissects it, surprising the crowd, especially with her improved mat work. They leather each other with strikes too. It’s like Nikki has finally realised she needs to bust her ass to compete in the division she was coasting through for so many years. Her pretzel style half crab is devastating. Are we sure that’s Nikki Bella? She wimps out on taking some chops but Charlotte doesn’t care and just chops whatever is in front of her, whether it’s chest, arms or whatever. Poor Nikki attempts two things way beyond her skill level. One of which is dropping off the top rope and landing on her head. Figure Eight doesn’t finish because Charlotte can’t hold it with her bad back. Psychology! Nikki gets back on the spine with an ALABAMASLAM ON THE APRON! Holy crap! Nikki tries for the Rack Attack but Charlotte hauls her down into the Figure Eight, just barely holding on for the submission. This was more like it. Best divas match since the NXT girls (Charlotte, Sasha and Becky) moved up to the main roster. In losing her title Nikki Bella has actually shown a lot more class and skill than during her entire run with the strap. If only she’d tried this hard while she was champion.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us backstage where Dean Ambrose congratulates Roman Reigns for getting the big win. Dean teases “what happens next” but Reigns doesn’t want to talk about that…yet. Intrigue!
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Kane
I don’t particularly want to see Kane getting a title shot but the angle with Korporate Kane and Demon Kane being dissociated characters has worked so well that I’m looking forward to this. Seth gets a pretty decent pop. Since when was LA such an edgy crowd? Kane might be great at playing the director of operations but he’s still a big, old guy that’s not been good in the ring for ages. The match therefore rests on Seth’s shoulders. He has to bounce around to make Kane’s dominance entertaining. Rollins is totally game for that and his offence is wild too. All fearless dives and high impact. There are a pleasing lack of rest holds and Kane looks to be in decent shape. Kane is too powerful and big to get caught in most of Seth’s potential finishing holds. When Seth attempts a Pedigree it looks ridiculous. Likewise Seth is too athletic and agile to get caught in Kane’s bigger spots, although he does eat a chokeslam. They have a pretty cool announce table spot where Rollins slips out of death by table and powerbombs Kane into the Spanish table, which refuses to break. I expect a cackling table to make an appearance on the next Botchamania. Rollins bizarrely uses the First Flash, twice, the move that pinned Cena earlier. Big Match John won’t be best pleased about that. Seth even adds in a frogsplash and can’t get the pin. Lots of love for Eddie Guerrero tonight. Pedigree finally puts Kane away and sends Korporate Kane packing from his Director of Operations job. Boo! Still this was one of Kane’s best matches in ages (since the Daniel Bryan one at Extreme Rules 2014), courtesy of Super Seth.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control takes us to Rene Young, Corey Graves, Booker T and Byron Saxton to chat about the show so far. I’d take any and all of them over Jerry Lawler right now. There’s been some serious blowing off of stuff tonight, providing they don’t just carry on with all the feuds ignoring their obvious conclusions. We get clips from the Kickoff show where Cesaro, Ziggler & Neville won against Barrett, Rusev and Sheamus. Cesaro & Neville are a cracking tag team. Neville is like a better Tyson Kidd. Although I still want Cesaro to get pushed to the moon in singles. It’s long, long overdue.
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Ryback
Big pop for Owens. The Ryback brings a load of power, combined with blind charges and stupidity. He’s never going to change but I don’t mind. He’s a niche guy. The two trading on power moves gets over with LA. It’s lots of meaty back bumps and a war of attrition. Owens tries for an assortment of cheap finishes like count-outs, roll ups and outright cheating. Owens sneaky eyerake isn’t even spotted by the commentators, nor the referee, and the Pop Up Powerbomb finishes in spritely fashion. Total filler. Owens looked like the star coming in and going out.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control gives us a quick shill for Breaking Ground. I watched episode #1 and it’s a surprisingly intriguing show. I found myself drawn in to the struggles of Tino Sabbatini and Nhooph (Jasmin Areebi). I didn’t like the cliff-hanger finish but as far as reality TV goes, this worked perfectly well. I can see it going into my NXT-based viewing rotation on the Network.
Hell in a Cell
The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar
This is billed as the “final” meeting of Taker and Lesnar, a story that goes back to 2002. Although the hype video has “chapter one” as Lesnar ending Taker’s streak at Wrestlemania XXX. I suppose they don’t want to remind people that these guys have a) already had a long feud and b) blown it off in a Hell in a Cell. I guarantee far less blood this time around. They even mention Lesnar is 1-0 in Hell in a Cell but don’t mention it was against the Undertaker. How is that not relevant? You have to give both guys credit, this immediately has a big match atmosphere. But then all of both men’s matches have felt that way for a while as they’re such special attractions.
The match gets special treatment too regarding blood as Brock bleeds off the ring post. He doesn't blade, but the way he deliberately headbutts the post makes it fairly clear it was intentional. He did the same thing against Roman Reings at Wrestlemania. They send a doctor in to clean the blood off Lesnar’s head, which is just odd and the crowd hate it. Brock takes out his frustrations on Taker and batters him with a chair to the side of the face. The noise of the impact is deeply unsettling. Taker bleeds too and the match has been absolutely brutal for the opening ten minutes or so. And then Brock Lesnar takes the Undertaker to Suplex City. “Suplex City, bitch” as the crowd count along. Lesnar feels a cheeky quick finish coming on but the F-5 only gets 2. The doctor comes in to treat Lesnar, so Brock throws him out of the ring. F-5…for 2 again.
This pisses Brock off and he takes it to the next level; destruction via ring steps. This leads to an awkward spot where Taker is supposed to kick the steps into Brock’s face but Lesnar gets nervous about Taker’s reaction time and pauses in an odd place. This baits Lesnar into Hell’s Gate, the Summerslam finish. Lesnar fucking HAMMERFISTS HIS WAY OUT. UFC, motherfucker! Lesnar then changes tack again by destroying the ring, giving us a rare look at the boards under the padding. Taker does the zombie sit up and chokeslams Lesnar on the exposed boards. The crowd chant “holy shit” but it’s basically just a normal bump with an inch less padding than usual. Tombstone…gets 2. Taker moves in for the kill but Brock, looking for some Summerslam revenge, punches him in the balls. F-5 finishes and Brock The Conqueror wins the feud! Second cracking Hell in a Cell match tonight.
Final Rating: ****
Post Match: Taker gets a standing ovation for his 25 years of in-ring effort but he’s interrupted by the Wyatt Family. Bray’s still pissed he lost at Wrestlemania earlier in the year. “I don’t want to see this” says JBL. That’s a shoot, brother! The crowd do not care for the Wyatt Family beating Taker down and the whole thing feels pretty weak.
Summary: Both the Cell matches delivered. The Taker-Lesnar match is easily my favourite match from their recent three bout series, blowing Wrestlemania and Summerslam out of the water (although other people enjoyed Summerslam way more than I did). Bray-Roman is a feud I didn’t enjoy at all but they capped it off in fine fashion. I don’t like the ending to their match because it was so flat after the big table spots but the match was good. Also delivering were a few surprise contests. Rollins-Kane was better than expected and Nikki Bella proved a few doubters wrong, despite the odd mistake, with a very solid match against Charlotte. One of the best main roster ladies matches in a long time. Albeit not a patch on Sasha Banks vs. Bayley but it shows the promise in the division. All in all it was probably the best non-big four PPV of the year. An easy recommendation.