May 22 2016
Normally my excitement levels for WWE PPV’s are fairly low, unless it’s one of the Big Three (Survivor Series isn’t much of a deal anymore). However the Reigns-Styles title feud has got me all kinds of excited. I’m genuinely looking forward to how their title match unfolds this evening. Not just because of the booking, which has been excellent, but also because of the match they had at the last PPV, which was terrific. Expectations are high. We’re in Newark, New Jersey. Hosts are Michael Cole,JBL and Byron Saxton.
Tornado Tag Match
The Usos vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows
Tornado rules, if you’re not familiar, means there are no tags. Everyone is legal at all times. This gives the match a different dynamic to the series they’ve been having. In my head I have the Usos getting eliminated here to leave Roman on his own later tonight. Byron has been making good use of his New Japan World subscription and reels off information about Anderson & Gallows, while JBL makes historic connections between them and other gaijin legends like Terry Funk andStan Hansen. It’s usually a good sign when JBL is putting you over on commentary. The Usos get heavily booed, for their association with Roman. These two teams have quickly gotten their chemistry down and it’s another solid match up. Jimmy ends up accidentally frogsplashing the ring bell and the Magic Killer finishes him off. Solid start to the show.
Final Rating: **3/4
WWE United States Championship
Kalisto (c) vs. Rusev
Kalisto is coming in with a bad back and ribs (why does that sentence make me hungry?) after a vicious looking Accolade last week. However he doesn’t sell it at all, which is a shade disappointing. Rusev treats him like a bug, far more so than either Del Rio or Ryback did. Just swatting the poor boy out of the air, as if he’s an irritation not an opponent. The heel-ish crowd continue to be split, this time loudly chanting for Rusev. This is the age that we live in. Traditional heels are popular. Rusev uses the bearhug here, which is one of those spots that are considered lazy. It makes sense but it’s not much fun to watch. The crowd go to their usual protest chant during that: “CM Punk”. Rusev works the ribs a lot and Kalisto scores near falls from flashy spots. It’s very much in line with all the other Kalisto title defences only with worse selling than usual. Kalisto lands hard on the apron and they run a weird referee stoppage bit that wrecks the impact of the finish. Rusev murders Kalisto with the Accolade and the ref decides that’s fine and calls for the bell. Why even stop Rusev’s assault to just allow it? Odd.
Final Rating: **1/4
Video Control shills the potentially electric Shane McMahonshoot interview with Mick Foley after RAW tomorrow. As long as Shane shoots from the hip it’ll be quality entertainment.
WWE World Tag Team Championship
The New Day (c) vs. The Vaudevillains
The New Day have added to their props. Xavier has Francesca II, Kofi has the large Booty-O from WrestleMania and now Big E has a pair of “Hoe’s”. As in garden hoes, representing the Vaudevillains. “We’re about to put a couple of hoes in the ground”. Xavier actually wrestles here, tagging with Big E, leaving no one to play the trombone at ringside. JBL breaks out the old-timey references including Lou Thesz and Jim Londos, chaps from the Vaudevillains bygone era. The challengers isolate Woods and hit the Whirling Dervish for a two count, which absolutely felt like a finish. You’d question the wisdom of killing the Vaudevillains finishing move in their first big match. Kofi interferes and Xavier finishes with the Shining Wizard. I was hoodwinked here. I was certain the Vaudevillains were winning the titles. There’s no doubt the New Day are one of the most over acts in the promotion so that popularity has been translated into a lengthy tag title run.
Final Rating: **
WWE Intercontinental Championship
The Miz (c) vs. Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn
Cesaro has issues with his gimmick as he’s got a white jacket and black stripper trousers. Wardrobe issues. Sami clocks Owens with the Helluva Kick at the bell, which is brilliant because Kevin is completely unprepared for it. Unfortunately this leads to the gimmickry of two guys lying around selling while the other two work, a massive issue with WWE multi-man matches. Not that I’m complaining about getting Sami vs. Cesaro, which was a blow-away match in NXT. The little internal feuds within the match are multi-layered but the obvious one is Owens-Zayn. That’s where the meat is. Some familiar multi-man spots pop up including the Tower of Doom but the match has added craziness on top of that. Mostly surrounding Cesaro’s freaky power. A series of spots leads to a great false finish where Miz hits Skull Crushing Finale on Cesaro for a near fall. That’s the second unexpected finisher kick-out of the night. Are we in WrestleMania weekend again? Maryse saves the title when Miz is tapping to the Sharpshooter, thus earning her manager’s coin. The near falls in this are extremely well done as we get both last gasp kickouts and desperation saves. The crowd love the hell out of it and the “yes” chants say it all. Sami and Owens rivalry takes them away from the ring and Miz steals a pin on Cesaro after the Helluva Kick. Cracking midcard spotfest with outstanding timing and planning. It will be tough to follow.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Video Control gives us clips from the pre-show where Baron Corbin pinned Dolph Ziggler with End of Days. I’m thrilled this was on the pre-show where I didn’t have to sit through it.
Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho
The ‘Asylum’ is a cage match with weapons hanging on the inside of it. There are an assortment ranging from a potted plant to a barbwire 2x4. Both guys wear jeans to make it feel like one of those NWA Bunkhouse Brawl matches. The match has difficulty living up to its billing and the cage allows a lot of resting. Of all the weapons available they first go after a mop. A mop. The Cleaner Kenny Omega will be pleased. Also Perry Saturn. Dean goes all Bruce Lee with the nunchucks. Jericho retorts with a kendo stick. The match seems to have no rhyme or reason for these things happening and the work is poor. A Yappapi Strap Match breaks out in the middle of the contest. That does not improve matters. The impact seems brutal but at the same time unspectacular. An issue the entire match suffers from. Like these two men are getting hurt for no good reason. Worse still is the insistence of both men climbing to look for new weapons when there are weapons scattered all over the ring. As if once the weapon has hit the floor it’s dirty and can’t be re-used. When they get all the weapons nonsense out of their system they switch to a straight-up wrestling match and it’s far better. At the end of the day they’re fighting over a jacket. It’s Bret Hart vs. Jean Pierre Lafitte all over again. Ambrose has one insane spot lined up; an elbow drop off the cage, which doesn’t even finish. That’s because a relatively innocent looking plastic bucket actually contains thumbtacks. Jericho’s freak-out is sensational selling. It’s very odd to have a match with barbwire and thumbtacks and no blood. That is until Jericho takes a spinebuster into the tacks and Dirty Deeds finishes. This is likely to be the only Asylum match because it didn’t work in the slightest and pretty much sucked until the last five minutes or so. They should have rushed through the early weapons sequences and got into the meat of the match. The whole thing was way too long, at 26 mind-numbing minutes. I feel for Jericho though as he took a sickening bump into those tacks.
Final Rating: *1/2
Video Control takes us to the entire Foley family at ringside. Unfortunately Frank the Clown, the WWE’s worst superfan ever, is there too. If someone slapped the taste out of his mouth, they’d be massively over as a babyface with me.
WWE Woman’s Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Natalya
Ric Flair is banned from ringside and if he shows up Charlotte has to forfeit the title. Considering how many Charlotte wins have come via Flair interference it creates an interesting dynamic for the match. One small issue; everyone is just waiting for the spot where the ref is bumped so Flair can come down and interfere. There’s a nagging doubt that Natalya probably doesn’t deserve this spot and that there’s no way she’ll win the belt. The feud has been a placeholder for Charlotte until someone else is ready to challenge her legitimately. The match is relatively heatless and the fans don’t bite on submissions that aren’t the Sharpshooter and Figure Eight. Nattie gets the Sharpshooter and Ric Flair’s music kicks in. Natalya immediately breaks the hold, thinking she’s won like an idiot, but it’s Dana Brooke in drag. Charlotte uses the distraction to win with the Figure Eight. This was hugely disappointing. Adding Dana to Team Flair is an interesting wrinkle in the storyline but the match suffered from being storyline over action.
Final Rating: *3/4
Extreme Rules Match
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Roman Reigns (c) vs. AJ Styles
Styles is cheered loudly, Roman gets enormous heat. The WWE Universe is at a polar opposite to Vince McMahon’s thinking on what a company leading babyface should be. He’s going to have to come to terms with that. Sooner or later. The mentality of WWE’s approach is that a big reaction is a big reaction, regardless of what it is. Roman currently gets the biggest reactions in the company so that’s a positive. The first match these two had was great but the emphasis is heavily on the booking now and where WWE go after a solid two-month feud. “It’s a big fight feel” chirps Cole and he’s right, although this would have benefitted from not having two sluggish matches beforehand. The crowd is up for it, regardless. AJ getting theDaniel Bryan treatment while Roman is treated like John Cena. They use the stipulations to have a different match to last month, brawling all over the building. AJ has a back injury and got pulled off house shows over the past week. That doesn’t stop him taking enormous moves on his spine including a huge backdrop onto the announce table, Splash Mountain and a powerbomb through another announce table. The carnage around ringside is insane. It feels like an absolute war. Roman’s offensive moves look like those of a madman. When he jumps over the ring steps to hit a spear the feeling is that of desperation. Like he’ll do anything to keep that belt.
The booking kicks in with both guys fatigued. The Club comes out to floor Roman and the Usos run in to save. Those two groups offset each other. AJ hits the Styles Clash! But Roman kicks out! Styles Clash on a chair! Roman kicks out again! This time thanks to an Uso holding AJ up on the pinfall. AJ killing Roman and the Usos with chair shots is just magnificent and gets loud crowd support. Roman counters the Phenomenal Forearm into a spear in mid-air though and retains. Styles may have lost twice to Roman but he’s looked completely at ease as a main event star. He looks more ready for the spot than Roman himself.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Post Match: Seth Rollins makes a dramatic return and hits the Pedigree on Roman! Rollins was forced to relinquish that belt because of injury. Reigns never beat him. Now Reigns has a fresh challenge.
Summary: Obviously this was a rollercoaster of a show. The highs were very high and the lows were very low. The two stand-out matches were both as exceptional as everyone hoped they would be. The disappointments were headed up by the awful Ambrose-Jericho cage match, which went way too long and accomplished very little in front of a dead crowd. The one final bump was sickening but I can’t help but feel Jericho took a sick bump to finish a bad match. Rather than enhancing a good match with a great finish. WWE has taken to booking big talents together on PPV though and the four-way IC title match and the main event will both be in my thoughts when it comes to WWE’s Match of the Year.