We’re in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton. WrestleMania is rapidly approaching and with the company having made it over the speed-bump that was the Roadblock Network Special the ‘Mania card is coming together. Here’s how it looks so far:
Triple H vs. Roman Reigns
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose
The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon
Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks
IC title defence
Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Not the most enticing of line-ups but then last years ‘Mania looked pretty awful on paper and still delivered. The biggest issue they face is there’s no major singles match where I actively care who wins. Perhaps I’m pulling for Shane to win his match, just so RAW can get an overhaul. Although the lead-in to ‘Mania is usually quite exciting as it becomes a little more unpredictable. We’ll see if that holds true tonight.
WWE Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The League of Nations (Alberto Del Rio & Rusev)
The New Day have been roasting the League of Nations on Twitter with stuff that’s more entertaining than anything on TV of late. New Day had a numbers advantage at Roadblock because WWE ran a house show the same night and both Del Rio and Rusev were on it. Main event for that show? Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles. I’ve seen that match, it was solid. Seeing as the Freebirds are going into the Hall of Fame, Cole is actually allowed to reference the Freebirds Rule. WWE makes itself sound odd for not referencing stuff like this all the time. Only when it suits them. Xavier Woods actually wrestles here, which leaves Kofi standing at ringside holding Francesca II. It’s perhaps not the best use of Xavier. Or Kofi. After all Xavier drops into the heat segment like Kingston would but now there’s no one to blow the trombone. Does Kofi play a musical instrument? Drums or a banjo or something? Del Rio does some impressive work in getting Big E out of the way, blocking the spear through the ropes and dropping double knees on the apron. Meanwhile Kofi sees off both Sheamus and King Barrett on the floor, thus rendering the numbers game useless, before distracting Rusev so Xavier can roll him up. The League gets a four on three beatdown after the match but they’ve already lost to New Day twice. Perhaps some seven-man shenanigans at WrestleMania are in order. The beating goes on for ages, uncomfortably so, but at least it shows the League are pissed off about all the mockery they’ve faced in recent weeks.
Final Rating: **3/4
Promo Time: Dean Ambrose
The pop this man gets is shockingly loud. The announce team replay the controversial finish and, despite the set up for it being really clunky, Dean did indeed have his foot under the bottom rope on the pin. They seem really pleased that it worked. Ambrose can barely get a promo started before Brock Lesnar shows up. The logic of Paul Heyman here is that he won’t let Lesnar kill Ambrose tonight because it might effect buyrates for WrestleMania. However Brock wants a scrap and Dean came prepared. He’s got a crowbar. The ‘Mania match is a street fight. I don’t know why Lesnar, who is unbeatable in a regular match, would even want to have a no holds barred match. Or why Heyman would allow Dean this window of opportunity.
Ryback vs. Sin Cara
Sin Cara has badass new gear. It’s all black. Unlike Ryback switching gear, it’s a refreshing new look. Although it doesn’t really fit in with the Lucha Dragons smiley, happy outlook. Ryback in this new heel role is only entertaining if he’s squashing people. This is an extended squash. It’s tedious. They shouldn’t give the match as long as they do, nor should Sin Cara get any offence, which he does. Ryback hits a couple of Shellshocks while staring at Kalisto. He’s clearly wanting that US title that’s over Kalisto’s shoulder. That’s shaping up to be a singles match but there’s no way that should make the ‘Mania card, which is what Ryback asks for.
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Stephanie McMahon
I thought we’d dodged this bullet when the show opened with a match but here comes the long-winded McMahon family promo. Steph can’t even walk to the ring without irritating me. She tries to do a little dance to her music and it’s so half-hearted it makes no sense to even attempt it. As it happens she’s only out here to introduce…
Promo Time: Triple H
“Hope is not a strategy” says the champ trying to compare the people to Ambrose, which works, and Roman Reigns, which draws boos. Hunter draws some genuine heat by explaining how life works and why everyone in the crowd is a complete failure at life. It’s unerringly accurate, which makes it quite painful to listen to. When faced with the comparison, Hunter has definitely done life better than me. He looks better, he’s achieved more and the son of a bitch is even perfectly happy in his private life. “The Authority always wins” says Hunter and that brings out Dolph Ziggler. “Speaking of failures” Steph says as he hits the ring, cutting his nuts off immediately. Dolph thinks he’s got nothing left to lose. But he’s talking to his employer. There’s his job, his livelihood. Does he not see that? Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Steph books Ziggler in a match tonight, which if he wins he’ll get any spot he wants at WrestleMania. The match is with Triple H. Steph can’t of asked her husband if he was cool with that beforehand. The worst part of this segment was Steph lifting the Daniel Bryan “yes” taunt. That’s not yours. This was going fine until Ziggler hit the ring. The Hunter stuff about hope was very strong. Nobody cares about Ziggler. If you wanted to push Ziggler you should have done it two years ago when he was hot.
Sami Zayn vs. The Miz
Has Sami been snuck onto the main roster? He keeps appearing on main roster shows. Kevin Owens joins commentary to point out “Sami Zayn doesn’t belong in the same ring as me”. Sami is eager to thrill and inserts a moonsault off the rail. I feel bad for Miz. He seems to be positioned as the guy who takes spots off new guys who are trying to get themselves over. Owens is terrific on commentary, shutting down Byron for reminding Kevin of Sami eliminating him from the Rumble match. “Do you want to be eliminated from this commentary table?” The finish of this is seriously clunky with Owens getting into it with Miz, over Owens abandoning Miz on SmackDown in a tag, and Zayn wins with the Helluva Kick.
Final Rating: *3/4
Video Control takes us backstage where the League of Nations offer the New Day a match at WrestleMania four on three.
Brie Bella & Alicia Fox vs. Team BAD
Before we get underway Lana appears. Are they angling for Brie vs. Lana at WrestleMania? It feels like they’re trying to get something out of Brie before she leaves. Lana’s distraction allows Team BAD to get the double team and pin Brie. The only good thing about this match was Lana’s skirt, which was on point.
Final Rating: ¼*
Video Control takes us backstage where Paige, the forgotten woman, gets interview time. Lana comes in for a bit of fiery European arguing. They’d be better off as a team but another team, Team BAD, show up to have Lana’s back. Elsewhere Charlotte chats about ‘Mania. She points out Sasha puked before her first NXT match. “She’s a scared little girl”. Ric Flair puts over Sasha and Becky but that Charlotte is better. They don’t need to build that triple threat up more than showing clips from the NXT matches. I don’t see why they can’t use that background to sell it.
The Usos vs. The Social Outcasts (Adam Rose & Bo Dallas)
To add to the confusion The Dudley Boyz are out here to do commentary. It’s a really short match where the ‘Casts get superkicked a lot. It’s a Superkick Party! Superfly Splash finishes for the Samoan brothers.
Final Rating: N/R
Video Control takes us backstage where Mick Foley shows up to give Dean Ambrose some advice regarding street fights. Foley has a gift for the street fight, a passing of the torch. Ambrose has himself a barbwire bat for ‘Mania. While I don’t really see Ambrose as the logical replacement for Foley, he’s more like an unhinged Austin, it’s nice to have a logical reason for that bat to make a ‘Mania appearance.
Triple H vs. Dolph Ziggler
There’s no consequence for Dolph if he loses this match but if he wins he gets to pick his spot at WrestleMania. WWE Championship match aside, naturally. Ziggler has become so worthless since his hot streak ended in early 2015 that they might as well have turned him heel tonight and had him join the Authority. It’s not like they have a dog in the fight right now, apart from Hunter himself and he’s only got a finite number of matches left. As was evidenced by the clunker with Ambrose at Roadblock and the pacing of this contest. To call it methodical would be polite. Hunter has this obsession with length. Longer is better. It’s more worthwhile if it’s longer. So he can’t have an entertaining ten minute match with Ziggler. It has to be longer. Dolph can’t structure a long match either, relying heavily on taking heat in every single match. So while it makes sense here, against the champion and a larger opponent, he does it in every match. Hunter shows a suitable amount of ass, giving Dolph big near falls where his desperation last gasp kick outs pop the crowd. It makes you wonder why the company couldn’t do anything with Ziggler over the past year and a half. Eventually Dolph loses because that’s the least interesting of the two options available to them. A third option would have been Ziggler selling his soul. But no, Ziggler looks good and loses, which is a story they’ve been telling for a very, very long time. Good match eventually though.
Final Rating: ***
Post-Match: Roman Reigns shows up, on the entrance ramp, instead of through the crowd. The reaction is decidedly mixed with definite boos ringing out whenever Roman stops off to breathe in his violent successes. Roman continues the beating into the backstage area where Hunter bleeds from the back of his head. Some babyfaces eventually pull Roman aside to stop the beating. This segment didn’t work.
Video Control gives us the latest inductee into the Hall of Fame; Jacqueline Moore. Another Texan as they’re trying to pile in the Texas based competitors for a Texas based show.
Elsewhere Goldust and R-Truth talk about penguins and stuff. They’ve flipped this story around and turned Truth into the weirdo. Why can’t they get their heads around the concept that they’re both odd and shouldn’t be teaming at all?
Chris Jericho vs. Neville
Jericho cuts an inferior version of Hunter’s promo from earlier. Cole reminds us that Neville and Jericho worked a match on the Beast in the East show. It was really solid, the best Jericho match in a long time. This one is a lot shorter with Neville getting injured and Jericho getting disqualified for shoving the ref. Jericho runs his mouth some more so AJ Styles comes out here to shut him up with the Phenomenal Forearm, which is what they’re calling AJ’s springboard elbow smash.
Final Rating: N/R
Promo Time: Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon and the Undertaker
Seeing as we opened with a match our main event is a promo. Vince once again says something odd by claiming that Shane will be “impotent” after ‘Mania. At least no one will be raped…of their dignity. Vince grovels to Undertaker to prevent getting choked again. The question here is why would Undertaker do as he was told in this situation. Shane shows up and botches his promo. “You’re going to go to hit me and I’m going to miss….you’re going to miss”. Crowd laughs. Shane was never that great on the microphone in the first place but he’s clearly out of practice in front of a live crowd. Shane addresses Taker’s motivation for the match, claiming he’s Vince’s bitch. That gets him a beating but no questions are answered. Shane’s comeback on Taker is embarrassing. This segment achieved absolutely nothing. They’re not doing a good job of selling this match up.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Kevin Owens
Least Entertaining: Shane McMahon. Welcome back, Shane-O!
Quote of the Night: “Go ahead Paul E, let the beast off his leash, I dare you” – Dean Ambrose. “I’m looking at Brock, he’s doing his bouncy thing. He’s all bouncy and ready”.
Match of the Night: Triple H vs. Dolph Ziggler
Summary: An okay show, unless you were trying to assemble a WrestleMania card. At the moment the PPV of PPV’s is looking like a car crash. The card has very little quality about it and the big matches are bouts people aren’t invested in. I don’t want to see the Undertaker wrestler Shane McMahon, ever. Maybe something like Ambrose vs. Lesnar could be a sleeper hit and the women’s three-way should be good but the builds on those are falling into the shadow of the top two matches, which are horribly built up so far. This probably doesn’t end well.